Ever since she gave a powerhouse performance (and issued that devastating wink) at the 2016 Olympics, Laurie Hernandez has had a whirlwind year. She won the mirror ball trophy on Dancing With the Stars, hung out with Zac Efron, and taught the Dolan twins how to do gymnastics (sort of). All the while, she’s stayed tight with the other members of the Final Five, including BFF and fellow DWTS contestant Simone Biles. That’s enough to make anyone’s head spin, but 17-year-old Laurie’s handling it all in stride. And up next? A role on a Disney Channel show, NBD.
She’s guest-starring on a special episode of Stuck in the Middle as herself. The cameo definitely throws Georgie Diaz, played by Kayla Maisonet, for a loop as she tries to navigate what it means to be a Latinx teen in America, and how much of her culture she and the rest of the Diaz family should be experiencing in order to feel truly Latinx. But as she finds out, there’s no one right way to celebrate your heritage, and you can bond with other members of your community in a genuine way.
Teen Vogue caught up with Laurie ahead of the episode’s premiere on Friday, June 23, to talk about what made acting different from anything else she’s done before, and why the episode’s message resonated with her as a Latinx gymnast. She also clued us in on what’s coming up next for her, including a return to gymnastics. Does this mean the 2020 Olympics are in sight? Well, Laurie’s taking it day by day, but you should never say never.
Teen Vogue: How does it feel that your episode of Stuck in the Middle is about to premiere?
Laurie Hernandez: It feels amazing. I’m so excited. I really can’t wait for the day. I’m definitely going to sit by the TV and just stare at it the whole time.
TV: Between the Olympics, Dancing with the Stars and now Stuck in the Middle, you’ve been a fixture on TV lately. How does it feel to catch yourself there?
LH: I definitely am not used to it yet. I haven’t even gone back to the Olympics and watched all the routines. For Dancing, it was like if we came home early enough we got to watch the show, but even now it’s still a little different.
TV: You’ve said in the past that being on the Disney Channel was kind of a dream for you. How does it feel now that the dream is reality?
LH: Well, when I had the opportunity to be on this show, I was so excited because I really do love Disney. I had the opportunity, and I definitely took it. I know the cast is so sweet and they were so accepting. It was definitely an exciting week for me.
TV: What was the process like of preparing for the episode?
LH: We woke up really early, basically every morning. I was there for about a week. The first day we had to pick out our outfits and how I was going to look and whatnot. We had quite a few different outfits. It was a lot of fun, it was kind of like playing dress up. It took a little bit of time to get used to saying lines over and over again, because it has to feel very real and authentic. After a little while I got used to that, but towards the end I felt very comfortable speaking with everybody. We all got pretty close.
TV: You share a lot of scenes with Kayla. Did the two of you bond to prepare for that?
LH: Yeah, we did bond a little bit. I think we definitely bonded over our hair, because we both have very curly hair. I got to go to the RDMAs a few weeks ago and we saw each other. It was really sweet being able to have that little reunion.