Natalie fences on the FIE Women's Epee World Circuit for Team USA. A 2x US National Champion and a hopeful for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, Natalie was the 4th alternate for the bronze-medal winning 2012 Olympic team. Natalie is also a talented artist. Her creative prowess is unequivocably manifested in her fencing.
The One X Ten Interview:
1. Where are you from and where do you currently call home?
I was born in Long Beach, California and raised in Phoenix, Arizona but I moved out to New York City 5 years ago to fence with the rest of the U.S. Women's Épée team. I've been living in Bushwick, Brooklyn ever since.
2. How did you get started in your sport and when did you realize you wanted to pursue it professionally?
I started fencing the summer after I graduated from High School. My senior year I was reading the Catcher in the Rye and the part of the story where Holden Caulfield was the fencing team manager just sparked a curiosity in me about the sport. From day 1 of fencing camp (my introduction to the sport) I fell in love with it! I grew up dancing and there were a lot of similarities between dancing and fencing.
3. What is the biggest setback you’ve suffered as an athlete?
My biggest defeats have been some of the most important lessons for me. The obstacles were stacked against me even before I first stepped foot in the fencing gym. At 18 years old and at 5'5" many would have said I was too old, too short and too broke to be have a shot at developing into a top athlete. However, all of those things just fueled my fire to push forward. There are big lessons in my defeats and piece by piece I continue learning how to be the best I can be.
4. Best piece of advice from women starting out in your sport?
"Your greatest weaknesses are also your greatest strengths!" This idea has helped me through some dark obstacles in my path.
5. What’s the biggest misconception people have about being a female athlete?
A lot of people see me as either an artist or an athlete but don't understand how those two selves can coexist equally within me. They exist equally because they are interdependent on each other. The me that's an athlete is actually an artist with a need to be creative on the fencing strip. The artist me is an athlete that needs focus and discipline to work on sculptures and to push through structural obstacles. But these "me's" are just temporary. In this embodiment I am a female able-bodied athlete but in the next I may be someone totally different.
6. Whom in your sport do you admire the most and why?
I admire my sister Jerica. She's in college now but when we're together we fence, drill & she has always motivated me to keep my head up. When she's at tournaments with me she's my cocoon. I always feel safe and focused when she is with me.
7. What’s in your gym/workout bag?
I have a hot pink fencing bag from Sword Masters that I'm actually carrying now! Inside is my Negrini fencing uniform, 3 BF Blue epees, a resistance band, a homemade target practice ball, my tool kit, a note that my little sister wrote to me years ago, fencing shoes and a Nutella packet. Not sure how the Nutella got in there though.
Breakfast is a feast for me!! If I'm cooking at my place a typical meal would be red curry lentils with steamed greens, eggs, sprouted sunflower bread, avocado and a side of chia seed-hemp milk pudding paired with whatever tea or juice I'm feeling that day. If I'm at my boyfriend's in the Rockaways he'll feed me the most scrumptious veggie breakfast burrito with roasted potatoes and chimichurri sauce and a fresh salad of dark greens. I have been a vegetarian since I was 6 and eating food that is vibrant and free from a system of suffering and abuse but also socially and ecologically responsible is extremely important.
9. Favorite workout or workout tip?
My trainer Ahmed Yilla is a saber fencer. He always emphasizes form especially when we're weightlifting. The dead lift is one of my favorites though because it never seems hard at the time but I'll definitely feel the burn the next day. I'll be walking around the city feeling good that I put in work.
10. We define “The Wonder” as the state of reaching the truly extraordinary—the achievements that most people, including you at one point, could not fathom. What is your Wonder and what has it taken—or what will it take—to reach it?
I haven't reached my ceiling so I don't think I know my Wonder yet. Sometimes I look around me and I feel grateful at the people I have around me, the sport I love and have excelled at and the amazing places I get to go. As long as I stay grateful I want to be present at every moment of this journey. I believe that that level of presence and unbreakable focus can lead me to discovering my Wonder.