At just 17, Laurie Hernandez hasn’t even graduated high school yet, but she’s already accomplished more than most people could even dream of doing in one lifetime. As an athlete, she competed in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games and brought home a silver medal for her routine on the Balance Beam and a gold medal for her work in the Team All Around. As a dancer, she and partner Valentin Chmerkovskiy won the coveted Mirror Ball Trophy on season 23 of ABC’s Dancing with the Stars. And, as a writer, she made the New York Times “Best Sellers” list with her book called I Got This: To Gold and Beyond! This Sunday, October 15 in Freehold, New Jersey, you can meet this remarkable individual at iPlay America’s Warehouse 100.
This is not Laurie’s first time at iPlay America, the born and raised Jersey girl has been to the family-friendly venue quite a few times. One of her favorite memories is when she went with her sister to play laser tag.
“The part of Jersey that we live in is extremely calm, there’s a lot of trees and I adore that. I love the calmness and how quiet it is around here,” Laurie told Entertaining Options. “But just about an hour away, there’s New York and I do really love New York, too.”
It would seem that the vibrancy of The City That Never Sleeps is a much better match to this dynamo’s personality. Hernandez is a charged jewel who radiates an infectious thrill for being alive. After doing Dancing with the Stars and playing different characters on the dance floor, the young celebrity is considering the possibility of pursuing a career in the entertainment world once she finishes high school.
Regarding her meteoric rise, Entertaining Options wondered, does Laurie feel the fame?
“Every so often, when I am walking around, people do recognize me,” she informed. “But I’m just a girl who did gymnastics. Having that mindset and also coming home and having my family say, ‘You know you have dishes to do, right?’ or, ‘Don’t forget to take out the trash,’ I’m always staying pretty grounded. That’s never going to change.”
When asked which is her least favorite household chore, Laurie quickly replied, “Dishes. Because if you’re washing them and then you touch a nasty piece of food… That’s cringe worthy!”
Although emotionally, she is well grounded, physically, Laurie is anything but. Just look at her Twitter bio for proof. For location, it reads: “probably on a plane.” With the constant traveling and appearances, which does she find harder, being a gymnast or being a celebrity.
“They’re both pretty difficult,” she laughed. “Gymnastics is strenuous on your body and sometimes mentally it can be very tough, too. But it’s something that I really enjoy. I also truly love traveling and getting to work with a lot of kids. I think they are adorable. I have so many cool opportunities now where I get to teach kids everything that I know about gymnastics. So, both are very tough, but I love them both.”
One of the first things a contestant on Dancing with the Stars typically notes is how rough dancing is on your body. You’re working out muscles you’ve hardly ever used before so it can be quite a painful experience. How does dancing compare to training for the Olympics?
“I would say gymnastics is harder on your body because it involves a lot more pounding. But dancing in heels? You could easily roll an ankle! You do have to work so hard for dancing and it does get extremely tiring, but the pounding from gymnastics can hurt a little more. At least it did for me.”
“The bars hurt the most,” she added. “They hurt a lot more than the beam. The floor hurts because of the pounding and the vault hurts because of the pounding, as well. It’s really easy to get hurt on any of the four events.”
“Which is the scariest?” Entertaining Options asked.
“The balance beam is definitely scary. Especially when you’re nervous because you only have four inches to work with. If you get shaky when you’re nervous — like I do — it’s not the best situation to be in.”
The Olympian went on to speculate that finishing high school, getting her driver’s license, and going to college would probably be scarier than competing on the balance beam. However, Laurie couldn’t say for sure because she hasn’t really run into any situation in life that has given her pause. She has a rather fearless, live-in-the-moment type of personality.
“Writing a book was nothing like anything I’d done before,” Laurie admitted. “It was pretty difficult, but since I was writing about things that I truly enjoy — gymnastics, traveling, and dancing — I’m not gonna say it was easy, but it was enjoyable. I got to relive my memories and pour my heart out into the book for everyone.”
“Do you think doing gymnastics taught you anything about how to handle different situations in your life?”
“Absolutely. It taught me to be patient. Sometimes in gymnastics, the other girls get skills a lot faster than you do — that happens both in and out of the gym. Just because someone is doing something different than you, it doesn’t mean you have to change. You have to find things that make you happy and learn to be patient with yourself.”
The itinerary for Laurie’s October 15th event at iPlay America’s Warehouse 100 is as follows:
11:30 a.m.: Meet and Mingle check in
Noon: Meet and Mingle starts/Doors open for Q&A session
1 p.m.: Q&A Starts
Note: Ticket holders will receive an email asking to submit questions for consideration for the Q&A portion of the event. Nina from Thunder 106 will be hosting the Q&A
In closing, Laurie expressed, “I’m grateful for everything that has happened to me. I think it’s super cool that I have these opportunities and I get to go to iPlay America to meet everyone and interact with them. It’s going to be exciting!”
Fun Fact: Of all the different talk shows she has been on — “All of them were incredible!” — The Ellen Show was Laurie’s favorite because that’s when she got a shout-out from the cast of Law & Order, her favorite show.