No one could ever accuse Kristi Yamaguchi of being a slacker. At 41, she has under her belt an Olympic gold medal, a New York Times bestselling book and a Dancing with the Stars championship. She has also worked as a television commentator, is a philanthropist, is married and has two young daughters.
She can now add another title to her name: fashion designer.
Most recently, she unveiled Tsu.ya, an activewear line for women who are on-the-go and can wear their “fitness” clothes to work and/or to run errands.
“I wanted (the clothes) to be functional, I wanted them to be presentable so that (the wearer) could do things than just be at the gym and working out,” Kristi said to MotherTalkers over the phone on Friday. “They are functional for women who have lives, and are comfortable and stylish as well.”
This past Friday, Kristi took some time from her busy schedule to talk clothes, ice skating, the Olympics and life, in general, with the MotherTalkers community. Here is how that conversation went:
MT: What is the design concept behind your new clothing line? I know that they are fitness clothes, yet they look like suits you could go to work in.
KY: That was a key element that I wanted….I wanted the clothes to be functional, I wanted them to be presentable so that (the wearer) could feel like she could do things than just be at the gym and working out….They are functional for women who have lives and are comfortable and stylish as well.
MT: Why clothes? Has fashion always been a passion of yours?
KY: Yeah with skating, costumes always played a major role in our sport, depending on the feel of the program. I am very involved in (Tsu.ya’s) designs. Like any woman out there, my husband calls me a professional shopper (laughter) and I am always looking for clothes that fit in with my everyday needs.
MT: I understand that a certain percentage of your clothing sales will go to benefit your Always Dream Foundation, which promotes childhood literacy.
KY: Absolutely. We don’t have a set percentage as we are just starting out. The collection is just launching so we’ll have a better idea in a few months. But we are really hoping, have always dreamed and have always focused on early childhood literacy. We’ve been researching and developing programs right now looking in many different areas in education. The California public school system is trying to close the achievement gap for those kids that need more attention or more help. These reading programs are going to areas that are underserved and would get kids that don’t have books at home or haven’t been exposed to reading as a preschooler to develop a love of reading and love of books.
MT: At MotherTalkers we have members who love South Park. We were wondering “What would Brian Boitano do?”
KY: (Bursts out laughing.) What would Brian do? He’d want to do something really good and have fun. He is my friend and he’s just an awesome guy. He has a good sense of humor. (She pauses for a moment.) He would live life to the fullest.
MT: We also have a political flavor to our site. We were wondering why you endorsed Mitt Romney?
KY: Well, I didn’t really endorse Mitt Romney…I am not a political person and I don’t usually discuss my politics.
(Editor’s Note: At this point I interject, “That’s cool.” -Elisa)
MT: On athletics, in general, we were wondering how much parents should push back on the inevitable “I want to quit” phase?
KY: Well, I think that’s a tough question. I am learning as a parent and trying to take advice from my own parents. But I think ultimately the activity has to come from within the child. There are times when you need disciplining and encouragement when things get tough. If it’s a constant battle, then maybe this activity is not for them. But you definitely want to instill the value of starting something and following through. If you started a season for a sport, then it’s not okay to quit halfway because you have to think of your teammates. It depends on the situation.
MT: How did you balance school and a social life while training at a young age?
KY: Mostly, skating and school were no. 1 in my family. I had to make sure to maintain a certain grade point average. The other times I was focused on the skating. It was a choice for me not to have a social life, especially in high school. I was going to bed by 7 and 8 to be up by 4. It was a tough schedule, but I had goals that I wanted to accomplish. It was a tradeoff.
YouTube Video: The performance that earned Kristi Yamaguchi the gold medal in the 1992 winter Olympics in France.
MT: Do you still skate? How often?
KY: For fun, I go out (on the ice) to get exercise in. I haven’t performed in a couple of years. Sometimes I go out with my daughter and skate a couple times a week.
MT: Do your daughters (ages 8 and 6) skate?
KY: Just the younger one. She’s been skating since last November. It’s not anything intense, not too competitive.
MT: What do you think of the new scoring system in the Olympics?
KY: It has its merits. It has its downfalls, too. It’s really changed our sport. It’s a lot different and unless you compete in it, it’s hard to say which one is better. In some ways it’s changed the sport where the creativity is harder to come by. The top skaters can continue to be creative, but it’s harder because there are so many rules. It’s more of a math game now than going out and performing.
MT: Would you have changed your strategy under the new system?
KY: Oh yeah, it’s completely a different ball game now. It has its good points and bad points. I don’t love it yet, it’s a work in progress. I think the goal of it was to take as much of the subjectivity out of the sport as possible. Yet, the judges are still able to do what they want. They are under the radar…you don’t know what they want. The judges are protected under it.
MT: One of our moms in North Carolina is wondering whether your husband (former professional hockey player) Brett (Hedican) thinks there will be hockey this year? She’s really ticked about the lockout.
KY: Yeah, as most fans are. I know he is hoping there is hockey this year. It would be really tough for the sport to lose another full year because of the lockout….He does analyzing for the San Jose Sharks. He’s hoping there is a season.
MT: At MotherTalkers, we are concerned about young girls and body image. Reflecting back on your own youth, what advice would you give to young girls who are interested in fitness, but also feeling pressured to look a certain way?
KY: Yeah as an athlete, some of the good things that come out of sports training is you do develop a respect for your body and the strength in it. You need to listen to your body, whether you are feeling strong when performing, and the level you perform at….What I would worry about is if you are trying to look a certain way or meet a certain body image. If you are an athlete, it is important to learn healthy eating and a regiment…eating plenty of fresh foods and protein and before certain events doing a carb load. It’s important to educate yourself on what a healthy diet for an athlete would be.
MT: Would you encourage your child to be an elite ice skater?
KY: If they are passionate about it, for sure. I would support them 100 percent. But I know that it has to come from within them. I know it’s not an easy road. I thank my lucky stars every day I was able to come away with Olympic gold. If they chose skating, great. It would be fun.
MT: What advice would you give a mother whose child is in competitive ice skating?
KY: I think it’s all about being there for support and encouragement. In skating, the skaters have a unique relationship with their coaches because it’s a one-on-one sport. Put your trust in your coach and be there for encouragement when your child needs it. It gets intense at times, but there are a lot of great life lessons in skating and sports in general.
Editor’s Note: At the end of our interview, I thanked Kristi for her time and succinctness — something this scribing journalist certainly appreciates! She reminded us that we can purchase any of the Tsu.ya activewear online and in certain Lord & Taylor stores. The pieces range from $40 to $150 and are available in extra-small to large. -Elisa