Laurie Hernandez: “I feel like I have a lot more to give to the sport”
It's hard to believe Laurie Hernandez is only 16 years old. Her confidence, poise and dazzling smile won over the hearts of fans around the world during the 2016 Rio Olympics, earning her the nickname “The Human Emoji.” Now, the Latina gymnast has scored her first major endorsement deal with Crest and Orgullosa. The breakout star of the Summer Games spoke to Chica about representing Latinos, her love of French fries, and what she's got planned next.
Chica: How does it feel to have won a medal in the 2016 Olympics?
Laurie Hernandez: It feels amazing, it's something I wanted to do as a little girl and to actually come here and win a gold and silver medal at the Olympics is absolutely fantastic. Especially now, I turned professional and I'm with Crest and Orgullosa as an ambassador. I think that's something that's exciting for the future.
Chica: What were your goals going into Rio? Were you aiming for gold?
LH: We train so hard day in and day out for gymnastics so I was hoping I'd just go out and do what I do in workouts and I did exactly that.
Chica: What will you be doing as an ambassador for Crest and Orgullosa?
LH: Just showing off my smile in general and telling everyone when they ask me, ‘Oh my goodness, your smile is just so radiant, how do you get it to look like that?' I'm going to tell them that Crest has really helped me make my smile look brighter than ever!
Chica: How did it feel to represent Latinos at the Olympics?
LH: It feels amazing. I hope that little girls will be able to look up and say, ‘Oh Laurie's Hispanic. She's Puerto Rican. I could do that in the future as well.'
Chica: You've reached 1 million followers on Instagram! How does it feel?
LH: I'm a social media freak so hitting 1 million is a really big deal for me.
Chica: Speaking of social media, did you have any celebrities reaching out to you showing you love?
LH: I actually watched a video yesterday that Eva Longoria had sent me I wasn't able to watch it beforehand. It was just amazing. It was a video saying good luck, we're rooting for you and all the Latinos are rooting for you too. Also, I had Tori Kelly follow me and tweet me a couple of days ago. That was really exciting because I'm a really big fan of hers.
Chica: Do you have anyone that you'd like to meet after the Olympics?
LH: Tori Kelly! [Laughs] I love her so much. Any other celebrity would be a bonus too.
Chica: So what's next? Do you see yourself going to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo?
LH: That would be the goal. Me and my coach were talking about training professional and going pro for a really long time. I'm just 16 this year and this is my first year as a senior in the gymnastics world. I feel like I have a lot more to give to the sport, especially with such a high level, so that's the goal in a couple of years.
Chica: You had planned to go study, is that not in the plans anymore?
LH: Well, college is 100% in the plan for the future. Doing all these sponsorships and keeping my head in gymnastics as well. Once everything slows down a little bit and I'm older, I'll definitely be going to college.
Chica: What was the first food you spoiled yourself with after the competition?
LH: It was french fries. [Laughs] We had to do a lot of interviews [after competition] and they had given me grilled chicken and Edamame. My coach was just like, ‘No, she's done with workout, she's done with competition. Somebody get some french fries.'
Chica: And where are your favorite French fries from?
LH: That's a really good question. Oh boy, I think I just like French fries in general; they all kind of taste the same to me.
Chica: Did you have any doubts or nerves in Rio since it was your first time at the Olympics?
LH: I think coming out here, I just had a very open mind. I'm a crowd pleaser and going out there and competing, I definitely enjoyed it and embraced it showing off my smile.
Chica: So did you see the GIFs with you on the Internet?
LH: [Laughs] Yes I did! It's pretty cool. The ‘Final Five' is really blowing up on the Internet right now.
Chica: Your dad mentioned how proud he was of you in an interview, how is your family doing after all of this?
LH: My family is doing really, really well. It's nice to have all the support that I have. Even, my mom, who is right here in front of me and always smiling because she knows what's happened. We just went out there and won a gold and a silver medal at the Olympics. She thinks that's pretty cool too.