Katelyn Ohashi | The 2019 MAKERS Conference
Katelyn Ohashi, UCLA Gymnast and 2018 NCAA Floor Exercise Champion, speaks with Dyllan McGee about burnout, bouncing back and viral fame after scoring a perfect 10 (for the sixth time in her career!) from 2019 #MAKERSConference at Monarch Beach Resort.
[APPLAUSE] DYLLAN MCGEE: Please welcome the perfect 10, Katelyn Ohashi. [MUSIC PLAYING] Oh, Katelyn, you're in your comfies, too. We're starting this conference off right. So how many of you saw that? Woo! I mean, how many people viewed that video? KATELYN OHASHI: I think it's at 100 million-plus views now? [SHRIEKS] So-- DYLLAN MCGEE: I mean, I'm sure we all have our theories and know why that is, but I'm curious, why do you think that is? KATELYN OHASHI: I think I saw a lot of comments about the joy it brought people, and the smiling and, just, the teammates in the background I think added a nice touch to it all, too. DYLLAN MCGEE: Yeah, it's incredible watching your team cheering and dancing with you. God, oh, my God, I can't stand it. OK, so, all right. So, I mean, we all look at that. It does look like perfect joy, Katelyn, but I have to believe that there's a shit load-- that was the word that came to my head, sorry. A lot of pressure, right, going into that. And so I'm curious, and I-- we could learn. We could all learn how do you deal with that kind of pressure? KATELYN OHASHI: I think being able to trust the process and everything that I prepared to do helps a lot. And being able to have my teammates to lean back on-- DYLLAN MCGEE: Yeah. KATELYN OHASHI: --every time I go out there. And honestly, I really do have the time of my life every time I step on the floor. Like, I love what I do. DYLLAN MCGEE: Like, that's real joy? KATELYN OHASHI: Yeah, that's-- that's all real. DYLLAN MCGEE: It's funny because people think of gymnastics as a, you know, there are a lot of individual events, but yet you keep referring to the team. KATELYN OHASHI: Yeah. [? Inner ?] league gymnastics is very individual, and so coming to college after my league career was something you have to kind of get used to because you're not used to having people that really care about you and, like, love you unconditionally, and support you. And everything you do really affects them. So learning that was a transition, but being able to have that was so amazing. DYLLAN MCGEE: And you mentioned that transition. I know that when you were younger, you had a shoulder-- injury-- [LAUGHING] --and decided at some point you weren't going to do gymnastics anymore. Can you tell about that? KATELYN OHASHI: Yeah. So when I was 16 years old, I was in the top prime of my career. I had just come off of winning 2013 American Cup, and I was told I might not ever be able to do gymnastics again because I had a horrible back injury. And during that time, I got my shoulder cleaned up, and then I had another shoulder surgery. So hearing those words at 16, when I had the Olympics as my path and that's what I was going to pursue, was hard to hear. But at the same time, I had been kind of miserable for a while. So it was like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. And I was like, wait a minute. I might not ever have to do this again. Like I might not ever have to put on a leotard and it was, like-- DYLLAN MCGEE: Aren't they comfy? KATELYN OHASHI: I mean, I used to sleep in them when I was a kid. So, like, I used to love them. [LAUGHING] But then you start hearing about, like, all the negative comments about your body and your legs. And you're like, I don't want to put it on anymore. DYLLAN MCGEE: I mean, that's interesting. I know that, you know, part of internet fame, I mean, you've had some fun moments. I love Gabrielle Union making you your Wednesday crush or whatever it's called. And, I mean-- so-- but tell me about the body shaming piece of it, because it's fun to have all that social media love, but there's a downside to it. How do you tune that out? KATELYN OHASHI: Well, you know how everything is energy, right? And so everything that you read, you can let either affect you or not. So I kind of-- if I ever read anything negative, like, I let myself take it in, and then kind of just wipe it out. But it took me a long time to be able to do that. And during that time, I did a lot of writing, and I actually have just recently done, like, a photography session and had like five models, smashing mirrors to break beauty standards. And I got so much negativity for it, which was crazy because I'm like, I'm trying to do something here. Like, I don't know. But actually, I would love to share a poem, if I can. DYLLAN MCGEE: I mean, what do you think? Yes! Please. KATELYN OHASHI: It's called "Your Daughter." I stopped looking in the mirror out of fear of not liking what was staring back, for the words that might formulate an attack striking at the confidence I lack. Wishing the mirror would just crack and shatter into a million pieces like my heart towards myself. Finding all the right words to cut deeper until I'm negative, according to the scorekeeper. But who keeps count is me, and as far as I see, I don't like what I see. And I need to be what I think I should be, yet it is me who keeps the score. So why do I keep counting? Why do I keep hating? Why do I keep rating, inflating, debating, and dictating? Why am I waiting to look in the mirror and hear the words I'd tell my daughter if I caught her hating herself, and what would I tell her? What would I show her? How can I show her that we are so much more than our weight, and the number on the scale or the image we see should never create hate. It's time we recreate our thoughts to generate love. Rising above the hate we have felt and the hate we have dealt, and put on our seat belt and crash into love. [APPLAUSE] DYLLAN MCGEE: Woo-hoo! You get a hug for that. KATELYN OHASHI: Thank you. DYLLAN MCGEE: That's beautiful. KATELYN OHASHI: Thank you. DYLLAN MCGEE: Thank you, Katelyn. I didn't even know she was going to do that. That's amazing. You know, I know a big inspiration for you has been your coach. What is it that is her special sauce? I know the two of you are such a dynamic duo. KATELYN OHASHI: Yeah, so I think, one, she's never done gymnastics in her entire life. Yeah. DYLLAN MCGEE: OK. [LAUGHING] KATELYN OHASHI: So there's this book that's, like, all about geniuses and how they've all immigrated-- integrated and have a new perspective, and a different one. So I think that's one of the biggest things that I could take away. And she always tells us if there's one thing that I've taught you, it would be that life is a series of choices. And the choices we make dictate the life we will live. And so I think that this discussion now is, like, super intentional because I think I've built myself up. And now that all these doors are opening from this viral video, I've been very intentional with my choices. DYLLAN MCGEE: Well good. I'm glad one of your intentional moments was coming to Makers. [LAUGHING] And speaking of-- I'm so curious. I mean, you have a room filled with all of these incredible people representing so many industries. So I'm sure they all want to offer you a job. What do you want to do? You're a senior, right? This is it. You graduate in May? KATELYN OHASHI: June. DYLLAN MCGEE: Or June, OK. KATELYN OHASHI: Yeah, so I basically-- so because I'm writing a lot of poetry and I love to write in general, there's a couple works in progress. And then on top of that, I would really love to go out to Players' Tribune and intern for the summer. And then maybe, potentially, "Dancing with the Stars." DYLLAN MCGEE: Nice. OK. You've got your to-do already. Put that on your action list, people. KATELYN OHASHI: And then eventually, I would love to do a lot of work with domestic violence. That's something I'm super passionate about. DYLLAN MCGEE: Great. OK. You've got your volunteer, everybody. Take advantage. [APPLAUSE, MUSIC PLAYING]