Alex Kokkonen

From Arts and Academia to Athletics:

The Inspiring Journey of Dr Alex Kokkonen, Thought Leader, Model and Bodybuilder

Conducted by Guillaume Jean Lefebvre

1. Can you share how your early exposure to art, music, textiles, and design in the industrial north of England influenced your journey as a female model and bodybuilder?

Both modeling and bodybuilding are creative processes, with one influencing and informing the other. The design processes we learn in art and fashion design are directly and indirectly applicable to both modeling and bodybuilding. The images created in modeling are an art form comprised of many elements and different influences. Bodybuilding is an art in itself; modeling becomes both a learning mechanism and an outcome of bodybuilding. Obviously, modeling in bodybuilding places the emphasis on the physique itself, with fashion and other props playing a secondary role usually.

2. Your fascination with fashion led you to explore design, dressmaking, and tailoring. How did your experiences in the industrial textile mills and trade in Manchester shape your creative outlook as a female model?

We have a choice in how we present ourselves to the world, not just physically, but also in the emotions and moods we project outward. The main influences from this time have been the overall mood and messages we can convey through modeling, and the real versatility that is possible. Light, tone, structure, and movement are foundational across fashion, modeling, and bodybuilding.

3. Music has played a significant role in your life. How has your background in classical music and proficiency in instruments like the piano, clarinet, and saxophone contributed to your discipline, creativity, and stage presence as a female bodybuilder?

Music teaches patience; both music and bodybuilding are lifelong journeys of continual learning. They don’t end; they just transition, and sometimes the transitions are rough. Music also teaches cadence and time. The evolution involved in bodybuilding requires continual letting go of one stage and acceptance of another; you’re never ‘there,’ there’s no ‘end.’

Being on stage as a bodybuilder came relatively easily, as I’d been on stage so much growing up in orchestras. The stage is something to respect rather than fear. Being involved in music at a young age helped me see the creative potential of the stage as a bodybuilder. Creating and performing the bodybuilding routines as a physique athlete is the fun part for most athletes, where there’s an opportunity for personal expression beyond mandatory poses. Music is always the first component in creating a stage routine; understanding music composition and structure has helped. As an athlete, you need to be able to connect with the music in a way that your physique flows with it, not the other way around. You effectively feel your way through the music in the routine performance; it has to flow relatively effortlessly.

Alex Kokkonen is a model and bodybuilder living in Sydney, Australia, hailing from the industrial north of England, where she found early inspiration in art, music, textiles, and design. Living relatively remotely in the Pennines, Alex sought creative influence from different cultures as well as distant family in Canada and Australia. Alex's fascination with fashion as an escape, combined with exposure to the industrial textile mills and trade in Manchester, led her to explore the world of design, dressmaking, and tailoring at a young age. Alex received professional training in haute couture, tailoring, and corsetry at the London College of Fashion.

Music played a significant role in Alex's upbringing as she immersed herself in classical music, learning the piano, clarinet, and later adding the saxophone to her repertoire. This musical training honed her discipline, creativity, and performance skills, shaping her ability to deliver later in life as a public speaker and to create and perform stage routines as a bodybuilder. Music remains a major influence in Alex’s life.

As a thought leader and researcher in the technology sector, Alex's drive and passion stem from her belief in the profound impact of technology on the future, which must be balanced in its role with humanity. She recognizes that technology is an integral part of our lives, and its effective implementation, integration, and use will determine its influence. The pandemic accelerated technological change in many areas of our lives. Processes became increasingly personalized, emphasizing the importance of experience-focused solutions, the implications of evolving work dynamics, redefining relationships and interaction across generations.


4. As a thought leader and researcher in the technology sector, how do you balance your belief in the impact of technology with your emphasis on preserving humanity's values and principles?

The ethical issues around technology and its application have arguably never been greater. Governance and regulation in technology have an important role to play. However, we're also responsible for how we choose to use technology, individually and collectively; this will determine technology’s impact. Values and principles will be challenged on every level as technology becomes an increasingly integral part of life.

5. The pandemic has accelerated technological change. How do you see this influencing the evolving dynamics of work, relationships, and interactions across generations, especially within the context of your career as a female model and bodybuilder?

Work itself is changing; the question 'what is work?' is valid. Productivity, as we've known it throughout the industrial era, is changing. Routine work is rapidly leaning towards becoming increasingly automated, with the emphasis shifting to non-routine, creative, and collaborative work. This shift will continue to increase. Consequently, the need for creative and social capabilities will continue to grow, requiring technological solutions to support these ways of working. The shift from a focus on value to values will become increasingly evident across generations, showing up in the ways people are communicating, interacting, and using technology. With this shift will come a change in evaluation – what we value and how we monitor and measure value in our lives.

Post-pandemic, people are looking for interaction, entertainment, and experience. Experience as a commercial outcome is now as valid as a product or service. Technology is enabling forms of connection and entertainment not possible before. We're seeing this across the fitness and bodybuilding industry in bigger, more sophisticated shows and wider audiences. The incoming mixed reality (MR) and virtual reality (VR) technology will be game-changing for the sport and entertainment industries.

6. With multiple master's degrees and two doctorates, your skill set is diverse. How do your expertise in counseling, leadership, psychology, education, and research complement your work as a female model and bodybuilder?

Modeling and bodybuilding are people-driven industries, both requiring consistent performance. Performance in bodybuilding is an ongoing year-round activity with different phases; it's not just about the shows. Sports psychology and performance psychology help to understand the real motivators and emotional influences and to catch your own thinking. I listen to many other athletes and leaders in all sorts of fields, from business to the military to different sports. Performance principles are widely applicable to anyone striving for excellence in their field. Everyone has their own way of looking at things and dealing with situations; there’s always something new and more to learn that can be applied from one field to another.

7. Collaboration is central to your philosophy. How do you envision fostering unprecedented levels of collaboration in the complex global landscape, particularly within the realm of male modeling and bodybuilding?

This is already happening in bodybuilding, partly driven through the enabling technology now in use and incoming. Multimedia and social media have opened up the industry and enabled whole communities, many of them global, that didn’t exist previously. The industry landscape is changing with so much more possible for athletes as well everyone involved from coaches and coaching communities, to events management, live streaming, photography and stagewear design.

8. Your career encompasses various projects, from thought leadership to academic publications. How do you maintain a balance between your professional endeavors and your commitment to maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle as a female bodybuilder?

I’ve been a lifelong athlete though a bodybuilder only over the last seven or eight years. Earlier it was martial arts, followed by general strength and fitness training in Australia. So integrating intense daily training schedules has been a way of life since my teens, it becomes your routine and way of living rather than something you think about doing or not. Even at school volleyball training had to be woven inbetween everything else. The key has been to make health a priority and to plan in detail as far ahead as realitically possible, knowing the critical points and targets to hit. And to use one area to balance the other, and that can vary depending on the differing demands.

9. Adaptability and continuous learning are key themes in your journey. Can you share a significant moment where your open-mindedness and willingness to embrace change led to a breakthrough in your career as a female model and bodybuilder?

The first bodybuilding show in 2016 as a Figure athlete was probably the biggest shift, equivalent to an ice bath, with a second-place finish and an invitation to the British finals. This was followed a few weeks later by the first fitness modeling show where I unexpectedly secured first place and earned a Pro card. Until this point, I lacked confidence in stepping onto the stage as an athlete, and I had no idea about the potential achievements or the directions my journey could take. I had never attended a show before, let alone participated as an athlete.

As a model, the shift came during the pandemic, ironically, with a beach shoot on a freezing southern British beach in October 2020 with Liza Salt. This shoot led to my first published photos, by invitation from an editor who saw my Instagram posts. Then, a month later, during one of the short lockdown reprieves, there was an impromptu warehouse shoot in London that turned into a magazine cover.

10. Looking ahead, what milestones and achievements do you aspire to accomplish in your modeling and bodybuilding pursuits, and how do you envision making a meaningful contribution to your field and society at large?

This has shifted a lot over the last couple of years as realizations have dawned and new possibilities have opened up. I didn't see or expect much to be accomplished early on as a late starter. I put my heels on for the first time on my 46th birthday when most of the girls had already hung theirs up. Both modeling and bodybuilding were initially hobbies. I certainly didn't expect to have over 50 magazine covers or to have won over 20 first-place titles and several overalls as a Physique and Bodybuilding athlete. Although competition placings only hold the meaning you assign to them, and they are subjective by nature, the competition is with yourself; you know how much effort you put in. We are our own limitation.

Now I look at the timeline of life differently. There is so much more to be done to help, educate, and inspire people around health and fitness, both physically and mentally, and to help individuals move beyond perceived limitations. Physical health and mental health are interconnected. Moreover, we have opportunities to make this happen that didn't exist until recently through technology-enabled solutions.

In a way, this is uncharted territory with only a few of us in it. To still be actively training, improving, and competing at 53, as well as modeling, is not what I ever expected. Seven years ago, I was told I had a maximum of two years as an athlete.

As an individual, the goal is to continue for as long as possible and see what can be accomplished physically. There is no real reason to stop. On a broader scale, the goal is to inspire others by demonstrating what can be achieved physically and creatively through consistent effort, proper training, and refusing to let age become a limitation or a perceived barrier. This message is particularly important for women, although gender differentiation shouldn't matter. Creativity in almost any field improves the longer we're engaged in it and the more experience we accumulate to offer others. Age is just a number; how we age is a choice.

Photographer: Justin Aveling - @venusanddavidphoto
Model: Alex Kokkonen - @alex.kokkonen.phd


Alex Kokkonen - @alex.kokkonen.phd
AK Annakelle - @ak_annakelle

Alex's remarkable academic journey, marked by multiple master's degrees and two doctorates, opened her eyes to unforeseen potential, enhancing her ability to effectively analyze and critique the interplay between technology and humanity and its implications. Her expertise in counseling, leadership, psychology, education, and research complements her business acumen, providing a holistic understanding of the intricate interplay between technology and humanity.

Drawing from her early professional experiences in various business sectors and geographic regions, Alex's extensive exposure contributes to her success in the technology sector. She believes that, in the complex emerging global environment, effective solutions will require unprecedented levels of collaboration between diverse groups of people. She also believes that effective thought leadership requires a balance between lived experience and academic perspectives and must inspire others, moving them to meaningful action.

Currently, Alex is engaged in numerous exciting projects, including professional thought leadership, academic publications, and speaking events. To maintain balance between her professional career and personal life, Alex relies on routine and forward planning and prioritizes health through her lifelong commitment to athletic training.

Alex's open-minded and long-term vision has led to significant breakthroughs and opportunities in her career. She remains receptive to systemic changes, embracing new roles and opportunities, emphasizing adaptability and continuous learning.

While Alex's professional achievements are still unfolding, she finds significance in completing her accounting accreditation in the UK and obtaining her first doctorate in Australia. Looking ahead, she aspires to achieve milestones and outcomes that will benefit society at large.

As a trailblazer and thought leader, Alex's advice to individuals aspiring to pursue a career in the technology industry is to challenge conventions and chart new paths. She encourages them to remain curious, ask thought-provoking questions, and continue to build experience. A diverse life enables diverse thinking. Embracing change and opportunity, and understanding their own purpose and principles will empower them to navigate and thrive in a constantly evolving world.

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