Free Spirit

26 year-old Stefanie Millinger has been described as a contortionist, an athlete, an acrobat or a daredevil, but if there’s one thing that the young Austrian does, it’s defy categories. A free spirit with a unique talent, we recently spoke to her and took her for a photoshoot at the Salinas de Janubio.

I’m as happy walking on my hands as I am on my feet…

How did you start performing, Stefanie?
I started out in equestrian vaulting, which is a discipline involving gymnnastics on horseback. I won a bronze medal at the European Championship in Aachen (Germany) 2015.

Where do you perform nowadays?
All over the place. I do a lot of galas and company events, and my Instagram account, which now has more than 200,000 followers is hugely important. I love travelling and meeting new people, but the heart of what I do is the extreme things People ask me why I risk death, but for me this is life.

Does it take a lot of practice to stay so supple and balanced?
I practice for an average of 6 to 10 hours a day – maybe a bit less when I’m on holiday. But it’s got to the point where I don’t feel comfortable if I’m not training. I’m as happy walking on my hands as I am on my feet.

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Does it hurt?
It’s not painful for me at all. My body’s perfectly normal – just like anyone else’s. It’s just very used to doing this.

You’ve just done a handstand in our office window, with a 20-foot drop outside and we’ve seen photos of you balancing right on the edge of the cliffs of Famara. Are you never frightened?
I love an adrenalin rush, but I don’t take silly risks. I know my body and what I’m capable of.

What’s the highest point of your career so far?
I was given the Golden Buzzer on the Germany’s Got Talent TV show in 2017, which meant I got straight through to the finals. That was a great feeling. I eventually came 6th in the show.

That’s amazing for such a unique act. You’ve done plenty of photoshoots – are there any that you remember particularly fondly?
I did one with a bear in Russia, which was amazing and received coverage all over Europe. And I can’t wait to go paragliding off the cliffs of Lanzarote.

Is this your first time here?
No, it’s my second visit to Lanzarote. I love it here.

If I wanted to do what you do, what advice would you give me?
Stretch every day. Spend 10-20 minutes at first, but do it. You’ll see a real improvement in three months. It also helps to train with weights – it takes a lot of strength as well as flexibility.