Laurie Hernandez on Guest-Starring in Disney Channel’s “Stuck in the Middle” and the 2020 Olympics

Teen Vogue-

STUCK IN THE MIDDLE – “Stuck In a Gold Medal Performance” (Disney Channel/Ron Tom)

Ever since she gave a powerhouse performance (and issued that devastating wink) at the 2016 Olympics, Laurie Hernandez has had a whirlwind year. She won the mirror ball trophy onDancing With the Stars, hung out with Zac Efron, and taught the Dolan twins how to do gymnastics (sort of). All the while, she’s stayed tight with the other members of the Final Five. That’s enough to make anyone’s head spin, but 17-year-old Laurie’s handling it all in stride. And up next? A role on a Disney Channel show, NBD.

She’s guest-starring on a special episode of Stuck in the Middle as herself. The cameo definitely throws Georgie Diaz, played by Kayla Maisonet, for a loop as she tries to navigate what it means to be a Latinx teen in America, and how much of her culture she and the rest of the Diaz family should be experiencing in order to feel truly Latinx. But as she finds out, there’s no one right way to celebrate your heritage, and you can bond with other members of your community in a genuine way.

Teen Vogue caught up with Laurie ahead of the episode’s premiere on Friday, June 23, to talk about what made acting different from anything else she’s done before, and why the episode’s message resonated with her as a Latinx gymnast. She also clued us in on what’s coming up next for her, including a return to gymnastics. Does this mean the 2020 Olympics are in sight? Well, Laurie’s taking it day by day, but you should never say never.

Teen Vogue: How does it feel that your episode of Stuck in the Middle is about to premiere?

Laurie Hernandez: It feels amazing. I’m so excited. I really can’t wait for the day. I’m definitely going to sit by the TV and just stare at it the whole time.

TV: Between the Olympics, Dancing with the Stars and now Stuck in the Middle, you’ve been a fixture on TV lately. How does it feel to catch yourself there?

LH: I definitely am not used to it yet. I haven’t even gone back to the Olympics and watched all the routines. For Dancing, it was like if we came home early enough we got to watch the show, but even now it’s still a little different.

TV: You’ve said in the past that being on the Disney Channel was kind of a dream for you. How does it feel now that the dream is reality?

LH: Well, when I had the opportunity to be on this show, I was so excited because I really do love Disney. I had the opportunity, and I definitely took it. I know the cast is so sweet and they were so accepting. It was definitely an exciting week for me.

TV: What was the process like of preparing for the episode?

LH: We woke up really early, basically every morning. I was there for about a week. The first day we had to pick out our outfits and how I was going to look and whatnot. We had quite a few different outfits. It was a lot of fun, it was kind of like playing dress up. It took a little bit of time to get used to saying lines over and over again, because it has to feel very real and authentic. After a little while I got used to that, but towards the end I felt very comfortable speaking with everybody. We all got pretty close.

TV: You share a lot of scenes with Kayla. Did the two of you bond to prepare for that?

LH: Yeah, we did bond a little bit. I think we definitely bonded over our hair, because we both have very curly hair. I got to go to the RDMAs a few weeks ago and we saw each other. It was really sweet being able to have that little reunion.

TV: One of the themes of this episode is really about Georgie learning to embrace her Latinx heritage. How did you feel about that message?

LH: It was exciting. It really got the point across of connecting to your roots and making sure that they live on for generations. You enjoy that and you embrace that, because it’s definitely a really big part of you. I felt like I could relate to it, which is really helpful.

Ever since I was a little girl my parents always kept that culture alive. Over the holidays my mom would make her typical, authentic food. She is really good at making rice and beans. My dad is always playing music and we’re always dancing. That’s something that I definitely look forward to every year.

We would also have our family come over. A big thing about our culture is it’s family and we’re very close to everyone, even if we’re not even blood-related. You always make family wherever you go. This is definitely found in the episode.

TV: One of the lines that you say in the show is about how great it is to see other Latinx athletes. Is there anything you hope that Latinx athletes take from this episode, and from the work you do as a gymnast?

LH: I hope that they see that it’s OK to embrace your culture and you shouldn’t be ashamed or afraid to step into your roots and be proud of that. Honestly, if anything, you should go out there and you should own it. You should show the world who you truly are and show the world how passionate you are about your country and about your culture.

TV: Do you think you could reprise your role on Stuck in the Middle in the future? What other roles would you like to take on?

LH: Well, I mean, that would be incredible. I’m definitely looking forward to any open opportunities in the future, but for right now, I am doing a lot of traveling. I do a lot of speaking with kids, but if I had the opportunity, I think I would take it in a heartbeat.

I know I’ll probably be easing my way back into gymnastics by the end of the summer, so that should be interesting and also it should be a lot of fun. I finished my junior year of high school, and I’m looking forward to senior year.

TV: How has it felt to take such a well-deserved break from gymnastics?

LH: It definitely feels different. I’m not used to taking so much time off of my sport. They always say as a gymnast, one week off is two weeks to come back. I definitely taken a lot of time off, but it was something that was well-needed. I needed a mental and physical break, and I feel like I’ve had that. I’ve definitely enjoyed it, but I don’t want to take too much time out. I should start easing my way back into it.

TV: Have you even thought about the next Olympics yet?

LH: I do think about it often. I had such an incredible experience in 2016. I’d love to experience that again, but, again, I’m just taking it day by day. I want to make sure when I come back I do it the right way, and I don’t have any errors. I’ll definitely just take it slow in that sense.

Olympic Medalist Laurie Hernandez Hosts Boys & Girls Club Award Event At MSU

Montclair Patch-

Olympic medalist and gymnastics champ Laurie Hernandez knows that it takes hard work to succeed. That’s why she made the perfect master of ceremonies for the Boys & Girls Clubs of New Jersey annual NJ State Youth of the Year gala earlier this month at Montclair State University, the nonprofit’s staff say.

Hernandez – who is also known for her eclectic performance on “Dancing with the Stars” – told the evening’s teen awardees that their extraordinary achievements and hard work led directly to their success.

“My goal of making it the Olympic Games motivated me to work very hard in my sport,” Hernandez said. “I am honored to serve as Master of Ceremonies of BGCNJ’s Youth of the Year gala, and celebrate New Jersey’s most inspiring club teen leaders who have also worked so hard to achieve success.”

Boys & Girls Clubs State Director Susan Haspel said that she was thrilled Hernandez could lend her name to the event, which recognizes the organization’s “most exceptional” teen members, who embody the values of “leadership, service, academic excellence and healthy lifestyles.”

“We know the NJ Youth of the Year finalists will be inspired by Laurie’s tremendous passion, hard work and dedication towards achieving her dreams,” Haspel said.

A total of $60,000 in college scholarships were awarded to the evening’s awardees.

Scout Bassett Went From An Orphanage In China To The Paralympics And She’s Not Done Yet

Team USA

 Scout Bassett competed at her first Paralympic Games in Rio in 2016. 

Scout Bassett nearly dropped out of UCLA her freshman year. 

The 4-foot-9 amputee — who spent seven years in a government-run orphanage in China after being abandoned on the side of the road following the loss of her right leg in a chemical fire — had earned a full-ride presidential academic scholarship.

But she was in way over her head.
She was homesick. She was in an unfamiliar environment. She was surrounded by strangers.

She told family and friends she’d drop out and never come back again.

Refusing to give up easily, Bassett stuck it out another year.

That’s when she got a call from U.S. Paralympics High Performance Director Cathy Sellers about attending a development track and field camp at what is now the Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center in California.

Bassett had never stepped on a track before — her high school was so small it didn’t even offer track and field or cross-country as sports — but she had nothing to lose.

“I totally dig this,” she said instantly after her first sprint down the stretch. “Who knows if Cathy would have found me if I hadn’t stuck around.”

The new sport transformed her from the inside out, and its affect was apparent immediately.

“When I found the Paralympics as a sophomore, my whole life really took a totally different path,” Bassett said. “I saw a future and a hope that I never really had before then. I think before that point, I was just floundering and lost, searching for a purpose and an identity. I tried to be an athlete all my life, and up to that point was told I wasn’t worthy of that, and then I found a place with the Paralympics. That really took me to a new place as a human being and helped me overcome the hardships I had growing up in an orphanage.”

Fast forward nine years, and Bassett’s returning to UCLA this week to compete in the U.S. Paralympics Track & Field National Championships as the American 100-meter record-holder in the T42 classification. The championships will take place from June 2-4 at the major Division I institution, a massive upgrade for the event that is typically held at smaller-tiered colleges.

At 28, Bassett will be going for her fifth consecutive 100-meter national title and the first in the long jump — still a newer event for her — as she attempts to qualify for July’s World Para Athletics Championships in London.

Her journey to the U.S. podium has been grueling and tenacious, dating back to her infancy when she spent her days in a Chinese orphanage mopping floors, washing dishes and taking care of the younger children before being adopted by an American couple from Michigan in 1995.

“I had never left the orphanage once during that time,” she said. “I came here when I was almost 8 years old, so I wasn’t an infant and was adopted. I had known a whole life before I came to the States and had a lot of memories and experiences. I remember what growing up for eight years in an orphanage in China was like.”

Bassett arrived in Harbor Springs, Michigan — a small conservative town of roughly 1,600 people — as an outlier.

She was the only Asian. She was the only person with a disability.

“As a kid, I struggled just knowing I had a path and a story that for other kids was hard to relate to, and to come here and have to explain that and my disability to these kids and my social environment after not speaking a word of English was so hard,” she said.

Bassett turned to sports as a way to fit in with her peers — a way of transcending social and cultural barriers. She began with softball and soccer before Challenged Athletes Foundation gave her a grant at 14 to fund her endurance sports training.

She went on to compete in triathlons, becoming a three-time world medalist and returning to China for the first time since her adoption in 2011 for the ITU Paratriathlon World Championships.

With the call from Sellers during her sophomore year at UCLA came the transition to track and field, which was a sport on the Paralympic Games program at the time, unlike paratriathlon, which was added for the 2016 Games.

Bassett fought through shin splints her entire first full season, ultimately deciding to go full throttle in her attempt to qualify for the 2012 London Games.

So when she failed to make the U.S. Paralympic Team, she was devastated. 

Bassett had finished dead last in the 100-meter at the U.S. championships, which served as the Paralympic Games qualifier. 

She nearly quit track and field. 

She told family and friends she’d drop out and never run again.

“I came in last place in the 100 meters, and I didn’t come in last by a little; I came in last by quite a bit,” she said. “I remember just being so devastated in Indianapolis at those trials, and that was really my very first big Paralympic competition. It was very humbling, and a bit overwhelming, too, because I realized everyone else was so good. That’s what really made me have so much respect for Paralympic sport.”

Bassett laid low for a while, working in corporate America as a marketer in an Orange County-based medical device company.

But, in 2015, she couldn’t hold back her tenacity for the track any longer.

Wanting to become a Paralympian, Bassett moved to San Diego, where she lived out of her car and on friends’ couches for nearly five months so she could afford to train full-time.

Almost on cue, she started breaking national records in the T42 classification, and with that, Citi and Nike jumped at the chance to sponsor her and allow her to move out of her car. 

Bassett qualified for the 2016 Rio Games nearly a decade after taking up the sport. 

She left her first Games, though, with a sour taste in her mouth, finishing fifth in the 100-meter and 10th in the long jump.

But this time, unlike previous times, she told friends and family she would come back.

“Nobody trains to finish in fifth place, off the podium,” Bassett said. “But every year, I’ve gotten better and better. A lot of times we see these stories of people almost having overnight success, coming out of nowhere and showing up at the Paralympic Games and winning a medal. And that’s phenomenal. But I also want young kids to know that it’s hard, and it can take years before you get to that level. I was almost 27 years old when I made my very first Paralympic team.

“A lot of times it doesn’t happen overnight, and for me that’s really been the reward of my journey, having to persevere deep within, to fight day after day, week after week and year after to year with the passion that I have.”

So now, here she is, unyielding as she embarks on her third Paralympic cycle, readying for a trip to nationals, likely followed by a trip to the world championships.

She won’t be running away from UCLA this time. She wants to be there. It’s where she first learned to persevere. 

“For me, as important as it is to be a champion on the track, it’s more important to be a champion in life and an advocate for others,” Bassett said.

“A lot of people get an injury or get in a challenging situation and they see it as a death sentence and just stay there and wallow and not fight. I want people to know they don’t have to be perfect all the time, and that they can get through it and overcome it. There is light on the other side. 

“That’s what I want people to know about my story and my journey.”

Angela Ruggiero inducted into IIHF Hall of Fame!

COLOGNE, Germany — American Angela Ruggiero was formally enshrined into the IIHF Hall of Fame here today, along with players Saku Koivu, Uwe Krupp, Joe Sakic and Teemu Selanne, and builder Dieter Kalt as part of the the IIHF Hall of Fame Class of 2017.

The Class of 2017 is the 20th in the history of the International Ice Hockey Federation. Ruggiero has been previously inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame and U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.