Olympic Champ Laurie Hernandez Talks Fame, 'DWTS,' And What's Next – EXCLUSIVE
It's hard to believe it's been almost a whole year since the U.S. women's gymnastics team, aka the Final Five, dominated the Summer Olympics, earning a record-breaking total of nine medals and stealing America's heart in the meantime.
This time last year, Laurie Hernandez, along with teammates Aly Raisman, Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, and Madison Kocian, were preparing to head to Rio.
Hernandez, just 16 years old at the time, emerged from competition an Olympic champion -- winning gold in the Team All Around and silver on beam -- and a hero to young athletes and aspiring gymnasts across the country.
Earlier this year, she became a New York Times best-selling author with her book I Got This: To Gold and Beyond.
While she hasn't made any official announcements on whether she wants to compete again at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, she's currently taking a break and engaging with fans outside the gym.
"I feel there is a big responsibility on my shoulders knowing that lots of kids are watching my every move," she told Elite Daily, "but I realized I can use that platform to motivate the kids to step out of their comfort zone and try something new!"
After watching Hernandez so at home in the spotlight, it's easy to forget she's also a 17-year-old dealing with normal teenager things -- like family, friends, and internet hate.
"My advice to overcoming internet criticism would be to do your best to ignore it," she said. "At first it seems hard to just shrug it off, but do your best to stay positive!"
Whether flashing her signature smile while competing at the Olympics or lighting up the dance floor with a perfect 10 routine, the 5-foot athlete seems to epitomize positivity.
Summing up her reality show experience, she said,
Dancing with the Stars was an incredible experience! I was able to learn how to walk/dance in heels, and I got to wear extremely bright and beautiful dresses! After the season ended, I went on a nationwide DWTS tour with the professional dancers, so I definitely remember and would love to use some of those dance moves in the future!
Hernandez had so much fun, she even said she'd be willing to do more reality TV in the future.
"I would love to do more reality show competitions!" she said. "I think every new experience in life is beneficial and I love getting to meet new people."
It's not all TV and dancing, though. Hernandez is also taking the opportunity to lend her voice to support causes close to her heart.
Recently, in honor of Alzheimer's & Brain Awareness month in June, she partnered with the Alzheimer's Association for its Celebrity Champions video, in which she tells the personal story of watching her grandmother suffer with the disease.
After her grandmother died in November, it's particularly important to Hernandez to bring awareness of the disease to millennials. She said,
A message I would send to young people would be to cherish every moment with your family. Be kind to them. Spoil them. Give them hugs every chance you get because one day you can look back and know you gave them all your love and support.
Whether Hernandez goes for the gold again at the next Olympics or finds another reality show competition to dominate, it's safe to say fans can expect exciting things from the athlete in the future.