One Simple Formula
After seven years working alongside Lewis Hamilton, Angela Cullen describes herself as part of the Formula One furniture. But with close to half a million Instagram followers, the New Zealander hardly lives in the shadows.
Like sporting ambrosia, Formula One's intensity, glamour, and high-stakes competition are irresistible. For most, being part of the world's biggest travelling circus is the ultimate goal – many will work years to get the chance to join.
F1, however, wasn’t even a pipe dream for Angela Cullen. The New Zealander didn't own a television, let alone watch racing.
“I literally bumped into an old colleague on a French ski field, and if I hadn’t decided to live in France, I’d never have ended up working with Lewis,” she says.
Is it down to happenstance, hard work, or both? Cullen's life has been a remarkable series of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities she has seized every time. “When people talk about finding their purpose, I feel like my purpose found me,” she explains.
A former age-group New Zealand hockey rep, Cullen's approach to life is akin to taking a shot every time she sees the goal.
“I'm present in the moment. I don't have a plan for the future, so I'm never thinking about the anxiety of the future. I feel like I've always been really focused on work. I always give 100% to everything I do in every job, and I guess that's how you create opportunities.
“I've been really focused on following my dreams and my gut. I've left two or three jobs, purely because I wanted to go to live somewhere else; to go travel and seek out new challenges and experiences.
“My whole life has been an amazing journey. I've gone from working with the British Olympic team to coming back and working in high-performance sport in New Zealand, and then finally working with Lewis,” Cullen says.
Hailing from Devonport on Auckland's North Shore, Cullen's unrelenting urge for adventure meant she missed her own graduation as a physiotherapist because she couldn't wait to start working as a physiotherapy locum in the UK. Before long, she was the physio for Britain's top 100-metre sprinter, Dwain Chambers.
“I didn't even know who he was!” she laughs. “It was the first interview I'd had in London; I'd treated rugby players all my life, so I knew how to treat these big thighs. But I didn't know who he was, so I wasn't intimidated by him. I remember we talked through the whole session. We laughed, we joked, and yet I got selected for that job, and that was my very first sport physio job.”
Before long though – and true to form – Cullen was soon looking for her next challenge.
“I've always been very driven. Not solely career-wise, but very driven in terms of my own happiness and my own personal journey and finding what I love and making sure that I'm always following my own dreams.”
After helping the British 4x100 relay team achieve Olympic gold in Athens, Cullen swapped the Aegean for South America and a six-month long cycle tour which saw her riding from Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego Province at the bottom of Argentina all the way to Colombia in the north.
“Over that time, I was like, right, what am I going to do next? I thought well, I want to work in holistic health. So, I came back to New Zealand and got a job in High Performance Sport New Zealand.”
The move to France was about new adventures, learning a new culture and experiencing life in a different language. And of course, it led to that chance meeting on a ski field and her role as physio-turned-confidante to F1 great, Lewis Hamilton.
“He quite often jokes, 'Angela, you're like the smallest person from this small country on the other side of the world. So, how did we end up together?'”
Hamilton has hailed Cullen as 'one of the greatest things that's happened to me in my life.' The seven-time world champion praised her as “the hardest-working woman I get to be around. She's focused, selfless, and she makes my weekends peaceful.”
Unrelenting positivity is another quality Hamilton has identified as a considerable part of Cullen's 'x-factor', something she puts down to a love for life.
“People often ask, is it authentic? Well yes, it’s absolutely authentic. I have a love for life that I can't explain. It's easy because I love my job so much. I think being positive has a lot to do with general health and wellbeing.”
Cullen attributes much of this mindset to her Kiwi upbringing.
“Coming back to New Zealand this time, I'm really aware of how much the country shaped me in terms of my values, but also in terms of my love for life. I guess my ‘no fear’ attitude in terms of taking on challenges and searching for adventure stems from growing up in New Zealand. But also fundamentally, the way that we celebrate sport in this country is insane in a positive way."
She still refuses to make plans, but Cullen says she is always thinking about new challenges. Now, the broader health and wellbeing sphere has become a particular focus.
“For the first time ever, I'm starting to have a think about my legacy. I would love to be working in a health and wellbeing ambassador role, promoting health and wellbeing products and ideas and inspiring people on a daily basis. I would love to continue working with top athletes in a holistic way.”
Whatever and wherever Cullen's next adventure leads will be decided by a straightforward formula. “When you feel you want to do something, you do it because that will mean that you're, you're always happy. It's about following happiness… chasing dreams."
Cullen, it would seem, is proof that dreams definitely can come true.