Our Olympic Champion Nastia Liukin Takes on New Heights
Nastia Liukin is our latest cover girl and here’s why: she won five medals at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, including the coveted All-Around Gold medal. She has since been inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame, USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame, and the United States Olympic Hall of Fame. After achieving her biggest dream in the sport, Liukin set out to make her mark on the world beyond her athletic career.
For the past decade, she has been the lead female gymnastics analyst with NBC Olympics, she founded one of the most prestigious events in the sport of gymnastics, The Nastia Liukin Cup, and has become a motivational speaker sharing her learnings and practices with Fortune 500 companies. Tapping into the loyal fan base she has cultivated over the last 13 years, Nastia launched her influencer business, which has led to collaborations with world-leading brands and retailers. As a five-time Olympic Medalist, Nastia has dedicated her life to setting dream-worthy goals and working tirelessly to achieve them. Nastia hopes to inspire and empower the next generation of young women and athletes, and encourages her local community to do the very same. Next up, Nastia will be putting herself to the ultimate test in FOX’s new Survivor – meets- Fear Factor-like competition series, Special Forces, which aired on January 4th.
Here at Galore we are tremendously inspired by her accomplishments, grit and motivation. We had the pleasure of interviewing Nastia Liukin on various topics ranging from the Olympics to Special Forces and Dancing with the Stars; we are excited to have you dive in with us!
You are the only child of two former Soviet champion gymnasts: 1988 Summer Olympics double-gold medalist Valeri Liukin and 1987 world clubs champion in rhythmic gymnastics Anna Kotchneva. What inspiration did you draw from your parents?
My parents were and remain my inspirations, my mentors, and my biggest idols; and not just because of their accomplishments in the sport, but more so because of everything they have taught me outside of the sport. I have been so, so lucky to witness their career and business come to life through the highest of highs and some very low lows. For the last 30+ years, I’ve had a front row seat — watching, learning, and being inspired by the everyday life of two of the hardest working, passionate, loving, and fearless human beings I have ever met.
My parents moved across the world with an infant. They did not speak a single word of English, and they had pennies to their names. But what they did bring to this country was a dream; a dream fueled by passion, and not a single fear of failure. And that was the way I was raised: find something that ignites your passion and brings you happiness, and once you find it, work hard, never be afraid to fail, and never, ever quit on a bad day. They taught me every single day to believe in yourself, because nothing is impossible.
In 2005, you won your first senior National Championships and, once again, earned gold medals on the bars and beam. At the 2005 World Championships in Melbourne. How would you summarize this experience?
It was the best. My parents actually met in Australia, and this event was the first time they were able to go back — this time with me, at my very first world championships. I remember a lot about that trip, but one specific moment that stands out was after the uneven bar finals. I won my first ever gold in that event, and became a world champion for the first time. I had the morning off from training so my parents and I went across the street from our hotel to get a cup of tea. We got our tea, sat down outside, and I remember looking at my parents and all of a sudden it hit me that we are ALL world champions! I thought it was literally the coolest thing in the world because all I wanted to do was grow up to be just like them.
If you could choose 3 emotions associated with the championship, what 3 ice cream flavors would they be?
Wow, I LOVE this question. So the first one would be Bittersweet Chocolate, because I won the silver medal in the All Around, which was my first ever World medal, but I was .001 away from winning the gold.
The next flavor would be Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough; an absolute favorite, a memory of your childhood that you often revisit. And finally, Ben & Jerry’s “Americone Dream.” As the daughter of immigrants, I had dreamed about that moment since I was a little girl. Walking into that arena, with “USA” stitched to the back of my jacket and leotard, I felt so proud to be living my dream.
What does a typical training day look like?
Leading up to the Olympics, I used to train 7 hours a day, 6 days a week. These days my training schedule is drastically different. I used to train with the goal of winning an Olympic gold medal. Now I train with the goal of overall health; not for “looking good” but for feeling good.
What routines are you recognized for?
I would say the uneven bars. I was always more flexible and artistic as opposed to being strong, quick, and powerful. So I excelled on events and skills that I could take advantage of being a little more flexible. That being said, I was also really “tall” for a gymnast; being 5’3’’ and having longer legs was at times a disadvantage on bars because the distance in between the two bars had to stay the same, no matter how tall or short you were. The amount of times I would hit my feet on the bottom bar was pretty much countless, ha!
In 2015 you competed on the 20th season of Dancing with the Stars. You later returned to Dancing with the Stars during season 27 to be a trio partner to Mary Lou Retton and Sasha Farber. What were some of your favorite moments about being on Dancing with the Stars?
SO many amazing memories were made from the show. It was a true test of time management and also mind over matter at some points. I was in school at NYU full-time during the season, and my partner Derek was headlining a show at Radio City. He had 13 shows a week, and I was taking a full-time load of classes. The show obviously tapes live in LA, so that meant redeye flights every single week. But to be completely honest, I don’t regret a single moment of exhaustion or frustration with only having hours to learn dances—sometimes via Facetime. I was able to create some of the most amazing, lifelong friendships and relationships with the cast. Sasha stepped in when Derek got injured halfway through our season, and he was just incredible. We became super close and have remained close; he is like the brother I never had. There are certain types of people and relationships that you just drop everything you’re doing in that moment to be there for someone and help them however they may need, and that is the type of friendship Sasha and I have. Any time my boyfriend and I are in LA, we see him for dinner or a hike or just a quick coffee/drink. He has become family.
One of my all-time favorite dances and moments was the Vietenze Waltz with Derek. Once he was healed from his injury. It was so special for many reasons, but we were able to include head judge Len Goodman in our dance. I finished the last few steps with Derek, who passed me off to Len, and it was super special for him to be part of a number, and also an honor for me to have had him be a part of it.
In 2017, you launched your own line of gymnastics equipment. As a female entrepreneur, what advice do you have for young women starting their own business?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Everybody has to start somewhere, and everybody makes mistakes. Utilize the people in your life, the relationships you have built, and the mentors you have to ask those questions. I promise you, they will want to help. Most importantly don’t be afraid to fail. As long as you have a deep burning desire to succeed, and you don’t give up when things get tough, then it’s all worth it.
You will be putting yourself to the ultimate test in FOX’s new Survivor-meets-Fear Factor-like competition series, Special Forces, airing January 4th . What can viewers expect to watch?
To be completely honest, it’s nothing like anything that has been on television before. What you see is actually the way it was, cameras on or off. It was one of the most intense, gritty, emotional, scary, and profound experiences of my life. When I was asked to be part of the show, my immediate reaction was yes. Then I thought about it, and was like Oh my god, why do I think I can do something like this? And that’s exactly why I did it. I wanted to prove to myself and myself only that I could push myself to limits that I wasn’t sure I had in me anymore. I wanted that feeling again, the same feeling I had in 2008 at the Olympic Games. I wanted to learn to be OK with losing control, and most importantly, to be OK with being vulnerable, something that hasn’t really ever come easy to me.
I think the best part of this show, along with the insane tasks that we were asked to complete, were the relationships that were forged amongst a group of strangers from different walks of life. There is nothing like stripping you of your possessions, your lines of communication to the outside world, and any preconceived notions you might have of yourself, to really get to the meat of who a person is. I think people will be surprised to learn who these individuals that they see on their TVs really are.
Interview: Shirley Reynozo @moyamusic_
Photographer: Jasper Soloff @jasperegan
Cover Art Perrin Johnson @editsbyperry
Styling: Vanessa Powell @vanessalpowell
Makeup: Hailey Hoff @makeupbyhaileyhoff
Hair: Reagan Link @reaganlinkartistry
Pink dress – Aje dress (@_aje_), Jennifer Meyer necklace (@jenmeyerjewelry), The Last Line necklace (@thelastlinela)
Orange look – Aje skirt(@_aje_), Aknvas sweater (@aknvas), Larroude boots (@Larroude), Lack of Color hat (@lackofcoloraus), Angara jewelry (@angarajewelry)
Green look – Sweater, Skirt, Belt – MVP Wardrobe (@MVPWardrobe), Hibourama x MVP Wardrobe shoes (@Hibourama, @MVPWardrobe), MVP Wardrobe shoes (@MVPWardrobe)
Blue feather look – Ivan Young (@IvanYoungOfficial), Jennifer Meyer necklace (@jenmeyerjewelry), The Last Line necklace (@thelastlinela)
Special Thanks: align PR (@alignpr)
The Aster @theasterlosangeles
JRNY Travel @jrnytravel