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Texas State University
Texas State University

Laurie Hernandez

U.S. Olympic Gymnast, Bestselling Author
and Dancing with the Stars Champion

Laurie Hernandez holding her Olympic medals


Tuesday, October 20, 2020
6 p.m. via YouTube Livestream

Moderated by DaLyah Jones

About the Event

Texas State University’s Common Experience Insight Series will present an online event featuring U.S. Olympic gymnast Laurie Hernandez on Tuesday, Oct. 20 at 6 p.m. Central Time.

The conversation will focus on Texas State's 2020-2021 Common Experience theme of Dynamics.  Hernandez is among the authors featured in the university’s 2020-2021 Common Reading book, American Like Me: Reflections on Life Between Cultures, edited by actress America Ferrera. At age 20, Hernandez will be the youngest speaker in the history of the Common Experience.

The event will be livestreamed via YouTube, featuring a discussion and Q&A moderated by Texas State alumna DaLyah Jones, writer at The Texas Observer.

About Laurie Hernandez

Laurie Hernandez is known for her dazzling floor exercise routine, which earned her the nickname “The Human Emoji” for her outgoing facial expressions, and for her grace and artistry on the balance beam.

Hernandez is a second-generation mainland American, as her grandparents are from Puerto Rico, making her the first U.S.-born Latina to make the U.S. team since 1984. She credits her hard work, leadership skills, and her never-give-up attitude to her mom, who was in the Army Reserves while Hernandez was growing up.

At the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, Hernandez earned team gold and individual silver medals as part of the U.S. gymnastics team that also included Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, and Madison Kocian. That same year, she won the coveted Mirrorball Trophy on Dancing with the Stars Season 23. Her first book, titled I Got This: To Gold and Beyond, was published in January 2017, hitting The New York Times Best Sellers list. In October 2018, she released a children’s picture book, She’s Got This, which also made The New York Times Best Sellers list. She also landed several television roles, co-hosting American Ninja Warrior Junior and starring in the series Middle School Moguls on Nickelodeon.

She is currently training for the 2021 Olympics, to be held in Tokyo.

When not in the gym, she enjoys spending time with her family, which includes her mom and dad, her older brother, and older sister. She travels the country speaking to the next generation about following their dreams, and she is a fierce advocate for the importance of mental health awareness.

Laurie Hernandez casually smiling

We live in such a diverse country. [M]y Olympic team in 2016 was one of the most diverse in history. We had a Latina (me!), a Jewish gymnast, and two African-American gymnasts. Some kids have had to struggle to figure out how they fit in, who they are, or what their heritage means to them. But I've been so lucky to have permission to be exactly who I am. To continue doing it the way I want. Nothing less or nothing more.

—Laurie Hernandez

Essay excerpt from American Like Me:
Reflections on Life Between Cultures

Our 2020-2021 Common Reading Book

Career Highlights

  • 2016 Rio Olympic Games, Gymnastics Team: Gold Medal
  • 2016 Rio Olympic Games, Balance Beam: Silver Medal
  • Dancing with the Stars Season 23 Champion
  • Dancing with the Stars Live! Tour 
  • Two-time New York Times Bestselling Author
  • 2016 Kellogg’s Tour of Gymnastics Champions
  • 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials: All-Around, Silver; Balance Beam, Gold; Floor Exercise, Bronze
  • 2016 National Championships: All-Around, Bronze; Floor Exercise, Bronze; Balance Beam, Bronze; Uneven Bar, Bronze
  • 2016 Pac Rim Championships: Team, Gold; All-Around, Bronze
  • 2016 City of Jesolo Trophy: Team, Gold; All-Around Bronze; Balance Beam, Gold; Vault, Silver 
  • 2015 Junior National Champion
  • 2015 U.S. Classic Champion
  • 2015 City of Jesolo Trophy: Junior All-Around Champion; Uneven Bar, Gold; Floor Exercise, Gold
  • 2015 International Junior Japan Meet: All-Around Champion; Vault, Gold; Floor Exercise, Gold; Uneven Bar, Silver; Balance Beam, Silver 


  • 2020 Rose Bowl Parade Grand Marshal
  • 2019 New Jersey Hall of Fame Inductee 
  • 2018 Nickelodeon Kids Choice Sports Biggest Kid
  • 2017 Nickelodeon Kids Choice Sports Favorite Newcomer
  • 2017 ESPY Nominee 
  • 2017 Teen Choice Awards Nominee
  • 2017 Sullivan Award Finalist
  • 2017 Jefferson Award Winner
  • 2017 Hispanicize Award Winner
  • 2017 USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame Inductee