The March 2015 IG features an interview with Toronto native Stella Umeh, who remains one of the most inspiring figures in gymnastics. She and her husband, Sam Nicholas, are expecting their first child in August, which means Stella might have to slow down a bit. She's certainly accomplished many things: Olympian, UCLA Athletic Hall of Fame member, actor, performer. She's retired from various performance roles with Cirque du Soleil (see photo as a clown), and has started her own business, which you can check out here.
For now, however, here are a few excerpts from her amazing interview.
You turn 40 on May 27. How do you view conventional age milestones?
Yep, turning 40 is right around the corner. With regards to conventional age milestones, what are those? I’ve hit some pretty profound ones and I’ve blown past a couple of the conventional ones. I am a healthy and happy adult. I made it through an elite gymnastics career and I can still walk, bend over and even jump every now and then.
When did you know you wanted to perform in front of people?
I have known I have wanted to perform in front of people from the moment I did it, when I was 4 and I started dancing. The interesting thing, though, is I see it less about performance and more about having such a burning desire to share something with people. I yearned, and I still do, for that opportunity on a regular basis.
Any advice for a gymnast who is considering Cirque du Soleil?
You might as well try it; there is a place for everybody. Push yourself to the edge of your skinny branch, throw yourself outside of your box, don’t look down, always look ahead and dream huge.
What do you think of Simone Biles? She seems to have your unique and individualistic attitude.
Well, first off let me thank you for comparing [me] to Simone Biles. She’s kind of ridiculous! She smiles more than I did. She is definitely unique and … an individual. She let’s her light shine through and I commend her for that. I am inspired by her fierceness. We both have the same favorite events: vault and floor. Way back in 2013 she said she wanted to work on her dance skills. I’d love to have a dance up with her. I think she’d hold her own.
What inspired the name of your new company, The Ivory Elephant Group?
Elephants did. They are such majestic animals. They show grief, humor, compassion, cooperation, self-awareness, playfulness, and they have excellent learning abilities. Elephants are social and tactile. They are a matriarchal herd and their commitment to one another is mind-blowing.
To close, check out Stella's four floor routines while she was a UCLA Bruin. Each is unique and entertaining … and so Stella.