Anne Cebula is no stranger to Paris. The 25-year-old Brooklyn native has lit up the City of Lights as a professional fashion model, sporting labels like Marc Jacobs, Tory Burch and Khaite during the city’s iconic fashion week.

This summer, though, Cebula will return to Paris in a different sort of ensemble: the mask, knickers, and traditional head-to-toe white threads worn for centuries by elite fencing athletes. And instead of strutting the runway, Cebula will be scorching the strip at the 2024 Paris Olympics, representing the United States as one of the top epee fencers in the world. 

“It looks like an opera,” Cebula told Access Daily of what initially drew her to the sport. “People are ripping off their masks yelling and screaming, and you really only see that in most sports at the end of a match. But in fencing it’s during the whole thing.”

Cebula came to fencing much later than most Olympic-level competitors. Whereas several of her American teammates are the children of former fencers and coaches and have studied the sport since early childhood, Cebula did not pick up fencing until she turned 15, enrolling in a public high school that offered fencing.

“I actually first saw [fencing], my first visual representation was Beijing 2008,” Cebula said. “I was like, ‘This sport is beautiful! I want to do that and I want to do that there.’ And so, I asked my parents to try it out and they shot it down. They were like, ‘This is really expensive.’ But I tried it five years later in high school, and for free.”

Cebula didn’t start competing at high-level tournaments until she turned 18, but quickly became a force on the strip. She won the 2019 NCAA Championship in women’s epee while competing for Columbia University, and qualified for her first world championship team in 2023, where she advanced to the Round of 16. She earned her spot in Paris by ranking among the top-three Americans in women’s epee. 

In addition to competing as an individual, Cebula will feature on the U.S. women’s epee team alongside Hadley Husisian, Margherita Guzzi Vincenti, and replacement athlete Kat Holmes.

Cebula has temporarily put her modeling career on hold this year in order to maximize her focus on the Paris Games. However, after her pursuit of an Olympic medal runs its course, she’ll make her return to the runway as one model nobody will want to cross blades with.