NASCAR In Heels: Talking Racing and Fashion with Nelson Piquet Jr

Credit: Rainer Ehrhardt/Getty Images for NASCAR
Nelson Piquet Jr., the Brazilian sensation making his presence known in NASCAR, is in his second full-time season in the Camping World Truck Series. He had an impressive 10th place finish in points last season with Kevin Harvick Incorporated, and with two top-10 finishes and one top five in four races this season, he is fifth in points. At Rockingham Speedway Piquet picked up his first pole award, and he also scored his first NASCAR win in his first-ever K&N East Series start at Bristol in March.

There is absolutely no doubt that Piquet has a impressive racing resume, having experience in not only NASCAR, but the GP2 Series and Formula 1, but I recently became aware of his impressive resume off the track, within the world of fashion.

While Piquet was racing in Europe he spent some time modeling, and I had the pleasure of speaking with him about the topics of racing, fashion, and his personal style.

“I was starting to have a lot of sponsors, and racing in Europe, and getting involved with brands sponsoring the team, and automatically they wanted the driver to represent the brand,” Piquet said on meshing the worlds of racing and fashion.

“Alpinestars was sponsoring me, and they have their line of casual stuff. Basically at the time they wanted to mix a bit of the race tracks with fashion and style. It was a good combination.”

While Piquet was competing in the GP2 series, he did a photo shoot for Vogue Italy, and “did a few things here and there…just a bit everywhere.”

In 2008 he participated in Naomi Campbell’s Fashion for Relief catwalk show at London Fashion Week. He modeled alongside many well-known names including Naomi Campbell, Tyson Beckford, Cheryl Cole, and Vivienne Westwood.

“Obviously it’s not natural for me. I get a bit nervous and I don’t know really what I’m doing."

On his relationship with Naomi Campbell, Piquet said, "Naomi is more of a friend. I don’t see her as a supermodel; I know her very well. She’s very good friends with my mom and I’ve known her since I was a little kid.”

Walking in the 2009 Amber Fashion show
in Monaco. 
I asked about the seemingly chaotic atmosphere at such large catwalk events. “That scenario of people changing and the clothes flying all around, you see stylists and makeup guys running all around. At my high point I was doing it maybe once or twice a month. It wasn’t enough to get used to. I always felt a bit intimidated and a bit shy,” Piquet said of the "glamorous" life.

In 2008 and 2009 Piquet walked in the Amber Fashion show, which took place at the Monaco Grand Prix to benefit the Elton John AIDS Foundation. He wore clothing by Bernie Ecclestone’s daughter, Petra’s, clothing company FORM. Ecclestone is considered the primary authority in Formula One racing.

“In F1 every year they would take the top five drivers and they would do a big catwalk show around a very fancy hotel in Monaco with the Prince and with, you name it, all kinds of important people.”

Even with all of his experience Piquet would still get nervous. “I’m made to be a racing driver, not a model. But these things you have to do because it’s important for sponsors and its important for your image. I think the most memorable probably is the one I felt the most, not embarrassed, just shy, to do it in front of so many people that I knew, especially in Monaco because I lived there for a long time," Piquet said speaking on his most memorable modeling experience over the years.

During his career racing in F1, Piquet had other fashion companies sponsoring him through his team as well, designers like Versace and Pepe Jeans. Anyone else agree that sponsors like this should make their way into NASCAR? Nelson thinks so too!

“In a way NASCAR is more hardcore, about a lot of fans, and is a lot more simple. You don’t see clothes brands using the drivers’ image. I think it is something that companies should take advantage of because there isn’t only redneck drivers. There’s a few good looking drivers out there, and I think they should take advantage of this and do something with them because it’s something that not a lot of people have done. In Europe they use that a lot, over here they focus more on auto parts and everything related to cars. They are still a little laid-back, old-fashioned, they don’t have this European culture of being as elegant or sophisticated.”

Most recently Piquet modeled for the 2011 Daslu catalogue in Brazil. Daslu is an upscale store that sells designer clothing in Sao Paulo, and is very famous in Brazil. He doesn’t have any modeling opportunities lined up for 2012, but Nelson said he would be open to it.

For all you “fashionistos” out there, I asked Nelson about his own personal style, and how he dresses on a day-to-day basis. I loved his answer, and after chatting with him, it is totally understandable how your style would have to change if moving from Europe to the United States.

“I have to be very careful with what I wear because I cannot show up to my race team over here wearing slim fit jeans and a pair of moccasins or Prada shoes. You have to blend in a way with what people around you are used to seeing. I’m obviously not going to wear some baggy pants or some black old trainers, but I have to kind of compromise depending on where I go. In Europe you always go with a very slim cut and are always very presentable. But over here, the more you go presentable, the weirder you’re going to look, and people are going to look strange at you. It’s the opposite of Europe; if you go with a t-shirt and a cap on your head, they’re looking at you like ‘what are you doing here?’ ‘Are you supposed to be here?’”
That would definitely be culture shock if you ask me.

“I try to be as neat as I can. I like to dress up well, but I need to compromise a little bit because the culture over here is very different and I wouldn’t expect them to understand. It’s from night to day. So I prefer just blending with them a little bit, but in a nicer way,” Piquet explained on his personal style. 

The culture, racing, and fashion Nelson has been exposed to over the years is amazing, and he’s only 26 years old. His career is still so young, and there is so much ahead for him. It was a joy to talk racing and fashion for a little while and, I’ve been saying it for months, these are two worlds that need to mesh more often! I wish Nelson the best of luck this season, and with the finishes he’s had lately, a win isn’t far off.

Photos courtesy of Rebecca Banks/Captivate Communications

Holly Strain is bringing her spin on the NASCAR world to Skirts and Scuffs, as she says, it is The Great American Sport through the eyes of a single girl. Holly is a Canadian born writer currently studying Publicity and Public Relations through the University of Toronto. Feel free to contact Holly on Twitter and via e-mail at
NASCAR In Heels: Talking Racing and Fashion with Nelson Piquet Jr NASCAR In Heels: Talking Racing and Fashion with Nelson Piquet Jr Reviewed by Unknown on Tuesday, May 01, 2012 Rating: 5