Inspiring Women: Meet Real Life Wonder Woman, 'American Ninja Warrior' Star Jessie Graff
The 'ANW' record-setter tells us about her latest goals and what living beautifully means to her.
While everyone's freaking out about the new Wonder Woman movie, we're over here in awe of real life superhero Jessie Graff — the American Ninja Warrior athlete who conveniently enough set an ANW record last summer while wearing a Wonder Woman costume. Another big first? She's the first woman ever to be chosen for ANW’s USA Vs. The World, which is currently airing, and became the first woman to finish stage 2 in Las Vegas as part of that competition. (If you haven't watched it, check it out here and be prepared to scream at your screen in excitement.)
Graff, 33, seems like she can do anything she puts her mind — and body — to, and is an inspiring role model for women of all ages. After all, you don't scale the 14.5-foot Warped Wall by spending all of your time watching Netflix on the couch or obsessing over social media.
We asked Graff to tell us about how her life has changed since her ANW success, what she's going to do next, and what living beautifully means to her. Oh, and you'll never guess what her least favorite day of the week is...
Livingly: What excites you about ANW USA vs. The World?
Jessie Graff: There has never been a woman on any team from any country in Ninja Warrior's USA vs the World. We've talked about the idea of an all women's version, which would be really cool too, but I made a goal for myself to do well enough in the regular season to qualify for the men's team. I just never imagined it would happen so soon!
How has your life been changed by your ANW successes?
Kids come up and hug me. Parents send me pictures and videos of their daughters doing pull ups and obstacles, and showing off their muscles. I always dreamed of playing a hero, but now, it's like I get to be one!
What are your next goals?
I still have A LOT of goals in stunts, but I really want to try acting too. I've always wanted to play an action hero. And of course there are still several stages of Ninja Warrior that I have left to conquer.
In your ANW career, there's inherently a lot of "losing" or "winning". How do you handle the ups and downs?
I've been extremely lucky so far. I've had a lot of really high highs, and they are wildly exhilarating, and worth all of the lows. But the lows are crushing. I hold it together pretty well in public, and then have a really good cry at home...sometimes a few. Then I journal about it. What went wrong? What could I have done better? How can I prevent it from happening next time? What action can I take right now to get back on track...maybe cry again, but then create an action plan, and get started right away. It's important to process the feelings, but nothing makes me feel better than positive action. But most importantly, whether I break another record or fall on the first obstacle, training for Ninja Warrior has made me stronger, healthier, and more capable. The strength and confidence I've gained is more important than fame or winning.
What does a typical day look like for you?
No such thing. I have to stay on my toes, because work pops up at the last moment, with crazy hours and my workouts revolve around who else is available and wants to train with me that day. My stunt friends have schedules as chaotic as mine, but they're all experts in different disciplines, so I ride the wave, and learn everything I can.
What are three things that helped get you to where you are today?
Passion for challenging my perception of impossible
What is your advice for other women looking to achieve a lofty goal?
Let that lofty goal inspire you, but stay focused in the moment on those baby steps of beating your current best at whatever you do. And don't be afraid to let the goal change. I was devastated when I failed to become an Olympic gymnast...and a world record pole vaulter...and the most freakishly awesome stuntwoman on the planet. (There are quite a few of unbelievably talented, hardworking stuntwomen). But the pursuit of all of those goals set me up to achieve amazing things in Ninja Warrior, beyond what I had originally imagined for myself. Never let fear of failure stop you from giving it your all. But if it doesn't work out, have faith that all of your hard work will pay off in your next goal.
Your profession is incredibly physically demanding — what do you do to relax and give your body a break?
Honestly, I hate rest. My hardest obstacle is rest day. It helps me to think of it as active rest. I foam roll, lacrosse ball roll, sports massage, acupuncture, physical therapy, laser, ultrasound, shock wave, grasston, and take Epsom salt baths. Or I'll go for a walk or light swim/paddle board with a good friend to chat. That's always fun and relaxing.
When do you feel most confident?
When I step up to an obstacle (or stunt) and say, "Yup. That's impossible. Let's do it". And then I prove to myself that I'm capable of more than I imagined. It feels like anything is possible.
At Livingly, our motto is "live life beautifully." What does living beautifully mean to you?
Life is a wild ride. Appreciate the quiet moments, enjoy the rush of the roller coaster, and do your best to have a positive impact.