The balancing act

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UCLA Athletics
Irvin began acting at four years old.

Freshman LaNiesha-Jopré Irvin twisted through the air and finished her vault routine with a solid landing, instilling a balance she has been working on all her life.

She is a gymnast, but she is also a TV actress. And she said balancing between the two roles has never been an easy thing to do.

It all started when she was 4 years old.

Fascinated by the Olympic gymnastics competition on TV, Irvin would jump around on the furniture in the living room, mimicking the skills. Her mother, Kristy Irvin, sent Irvin to practice gymnastics. As she recalled, it was an attempt to “drain some energy” out of her.

That same year, Irvin was also initiated into show business.

As an energetic girl, Irvin used to have a habit of walking around and following other people when she went to the mall with her mother.

“The person I followed happened to be my manager today,” Irvin said. “So she just thought that my mom should put me into acting.”

When Irvin turned five, she went to her first audition for a Disneyland Resort commercial in Los Angeles, and she got the part. Irvin played the daughter of a family who was watching a firework show in Disneyland. After that, she would go on to appear in a 2004 episode of the TV series “ER”, become a regular cast member on “Day Break” in 2006 and act in several other TV series and commercials.

It was also in 2004 that Irvin made her debut in gymnastics competition as a 7-year-old girl. She remembered it was a level five competition and she advanced to state.

At first, Irvin wasn‘t overloaded with acting and gymnastics as both were extracurricular hobbies then.

“Back then gymnastics hours weren‘t as intense as now. So it was only a few hours a week,” Irvin said. “My mom put me in different things just to see what I like. So I did dancing, acting and gymnastics. And the two that just stuck for me were gymnastics and acting.”

Performance is a big factor. You have to perform in gymnastics, like on floor, just like on all the events. And you have to perform in acting too. Whether it‘s in front of a camera, or in front of a crowd.
— LaNeisha Irvin

As her hobbies got more serious, it became harder to balance her schedule around them.

“I‘ve had to miss a couple practices before in the past just for auditions and things,” Irvin said. “Once I missed gym and my coach got kind of mad at me because we shouldn‘t miss gym that much.”

But Irvin said she would usually focus mainly on gymnastics. When it was competition season, she would give up some audition opportunities, trying out for parts only after gymnastics season ended.

There was always a way to run to and from auditions and practices until the final years of high school when Irvin had to make a decision.

“I just kind of wanted to base my decisions on my future. And I really wanted to come to college, obviously,” Irvin said. “I decided that I just needed to focus more on gymnastics so I could get into UCLA.”

Because Irvin skipped a year in third grade, the 17 year-old is the youngest member on the UCLA gymnastics team. Coach Valorie Kondos Field said Irvin is like the youngest sister whom everyone wishes to see the best performance out of.

“She‘s got a tremendous amount of talent. [She‘s a] really, really talented athlete,” Kondos Field said. “She‘s realizing probably about 75 percent of that talent right now. So we are trying to help her realize just how great she can be.”

Irvin also has a knack of generating laughter in the gym and motivating her teammates.

“She definitely has a funny side to her. She always has a way to make me smile,” freshman JaNay Honest said. “We pump each other up.”

To Irvin, college years will work like a break from acting. She said she is certain she will pick it up again after graduation.

Nevertheless, Irvin is not neglecting her acting skills. Through her experiences in acting, Irvin said she has learned how to focus on herself and her facial expressions, and how to make other people feel her emotions, all of which can be channeled into her gymnastics, as she finds the two activities similar in nature.

“Performance is a big factor,” Irvin said. “You have to perform in gymnastics, like on floor, just like on all the events. And you have to perform in acting too. Whether it‘s in front of a camera, or in front of a crowd.”

This article was from ULoop/UWire and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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