50-year-old Sayagh Jacques has a rather unusual hobby for a homeless man – bodybuilding. Although he’s been living on the streets of Paris for years, he hasn’t let his homeless status stop him from training harder than most people, and maintaining his six pack abs. I suppose it goes to show that if you’re really passionate about something, you can make it happen under any circumstances.
Jacques has no qualms about working out right in the middle of the street. When people give him money, he doesn’t use it to smoke or drink. Instead, he tries to eat specific foods that will help him gain muscle. He’s also managed to procure a few pieces of makeshift equipment – a cable and a few ropes – that he ties to lamp poles and park fences. He uses these to do basic bodyweight exercises like pull ups, push ups, pullovers and rows.
Last year, French director Julien Goudichaud happened to cross paths with Jacques on the streets of Paris. As he observed Jacques exercising, he became intrigued by the man’s habits and began speaking to him on a regular basis. “He told me he was sleeping in his tent, he used cardboard to keep the heat and at the same time he spoke of diet, lifestyle, daily training, and concern for his physical appearance. The contrast was striking,” Julien said.
Soon, the director decided to make a short film about Jacques and convinced him to star in it. A short, six-minute video featuring Jacques and his unique training routine was released on Vimeo in November last year. Titled Street Fight, the video was an instant hit and soon went viral with over 4 million views.
“I just posted this video on my Facebook so my friends can see it and I intended to keep it to present it as an example of personal work,” said Julien. “Within a week-and-a-half, it received 500,000 views, so I was overwhelmed!” And thanks to the video, Jacques was reunited with his son Rémi – they spent Christmas together and Jacques even got to meet his grandchildren.
Julien now serves as a buffer between Jacques and media outlets who want to feature the bodybuilder in a host of TV shows and news reports. “We must not forget that he is someone who lives on the street,” Julien said. And although Jacques has refused several proposals, Julien convinced him to appear in a TV interview on a French show called Salut les Terriens, which translates to ‘Hi Earthlings’.
The show featured a short video clip of Rémi, Jacques’ son, as well, in which he said: “Whatever you think, I’m proud of you.” He also appealed to viewers to support his father in fulfilling his passion. “I would like him to live his passion, but differently,” he said. “Who knows, he may fulfil his dream and go to train in the United States, or just have a pick up or camper to sleep outside his tent.”
Julien is now working on a longer documentary about Jacques the amazing bodybuilder, which will be released later this year.