Amanda Russell R’07 is a quintessential example of the commonly-used idiom, when one door shuts another opens, but Russell’s rise to success is anything but common. 

Russell, who is 25 years old and just three years out of her undergraduate experience at the University where she majored in business administration with a concentration in marketing and economics, has a contract with Wilhelmina Fitness.  She has starred in ads for household brands like Nike, New Balance, and Under Amour, just to name a few. 

Most notably, though, is Russell’s selection as the newest spokesperson for ZICO Coconut Water as the winner of their 2010 “I am Natural” search, where she replaced supermodel Molly Sims.  Last month, a billboard of Russell’s campaign was revealed in SoHo outside the Holland Tunnel at the entrance to Manhattan, NY.

Don’t let the glamorous billboard and high-profile brands on her resume fool you. Russell’s climb to fame has been anything but easy.  During her senior year at the University of Richmond, Russell (who ran cross country and track all four years of college) suffered a minor injury, but after graduation she decided to start running again. 

Russell, who had hopes of winning an Olympic gold medal, immediately dove back into training. “I started training at a very high level, and my body wasn’t built for the training. I ended up re-injuring myself but to a more severe level (fracture in my femur). I was told I would never run again and that I would need to adjust my lifestyle,” she explained.

At that time, Russell immersed herself in anything and everything related to fitness.  “If I couldn't pursue my Olympic dream, I wanted to do something that I was equally as passionate about.  I spent every spare moment I had learning other means of fitness and researching every aspect of the topic. I also gained eight different certifications and attended every fitness seminar and workshop I could,” Russell said.

Today, on top of all of these commitments, Russell is also an MBA candidate at New York University (Class of 2011). She is also heavily involved in pioneering her own fitness brand, which expected to come to fruition in 2011.

Through it all, Russell’s ties to the University of Richmond have been a source of guidance and inspiration in her remarkably (early) successful career.  Dana Lascu, Ph.D., in particular, has served as a mentor for Russell.  “[Dr. Lascu] has continued to keep in touch with me and to motivate and support me.  She taught me to have confidence when the confidence wasn’t there yet,” Russell said.

Lascu thinks just as highly of Russell.  “She is bright, creative, driven, and can pack more challenges into her week than anyone else I know.  Mentor? I am thinking she has been mentoring me. I found it always rewarding when I was able to keep up with her pace,” Lascu said.

Having passion for what you do is something that certainly applies to Russell’s own life and career and is a value that was reinforced for her during her days at the Robins School. “To this day, some of my professors at Richmond have been the ones to motivate me and support me,” Russell said.

“I have observed her progress from a hard-working student to a driven and skilled professional who took her understanding of branding and applied it to create her own successful brand,” Lascu said.