Olympic Gold Medalist. 4-time World Champion. Wilhelmina Model. Daughter. Sister. Girlfriend. I recently had the opportunity to speak with USA Track & Field star Natasha Hastings about her journey to the 2012 London Olympics, posing for ESPN The Magazines's The Body Issue, and dating Arizona Cardinals cornerback William Gay.
Tamara: Let's start off by talking about something BIG that's happening this summer, the 2012 London Olympics. You are already an Olympic Gold Medalist, having won the 4x400M relay in Beijing. What would it mean to you to represent the US in the London Olympics?
Natasha: It would certainly mean a lot more for a couple of reasons. Obviously having gone before, I have a little bit more experience and I'm hoping to compete in the open 400. Also, my Mom was actually born in London and left when she was 13 and hasn't been back since, so it will be an honor to be able to take her back. And of course, add a couple more medals to my collection. So, it's special for a few reasons.
Tamara: The Olympic trials begin in June. What is your training schedule and what is involved in a day of training?
Natasha: Right now it's kind of tricky, because we've started competing. We train about 3 to 4 days a week. Two days a week I'm doing weight room in the morning, so I'm lifting and then I do Pilates once a week. I'm on the track just about 3 to 4 days a week. Right now we're kind of in a speed phase of training, so I've been running a couple of 4x100s and 200s lately just working on the speed component of my race. We go through different phases at different times of the year, but right now we're working on speed and power.
Tamara: We’ve all seen that you have an a-ma-zing body. What is your diet?
Natasha: (laughs) I'm working on it. I'm trying to eliminate processed foods. In the mornings, like this morning, I had some steel cut oats with two hard-boiled eggs and then I always have something warm to drink, so tea or coffee, something like that. I drink lots and lots of water. I love coconut water. And then throughout the day it's more lean meats, chicken, fish, lean beef, that sort of thing. Lots of veggies. And I'm not going to lie. I do have my cheat days. Some days I may indulge and have a piece of cake or some ice cream, but for the most part I try to be pretty good about it.
Tamara: Since we’re talking about your body, of course, I have to ask about the ESPN The Magazine's "The Body Issue". Were you nervous about posing nude and was there any hesitation about doing it?
Natasha: Extremely. When I initially got the call I was so excited, because I knew what it was and I'd seen a couple of track athletes do it in the two previous issues. And then after the initial excitement set in, I was like, "Wait a minute. I have a 13 year-old brother (at the time) who is getting ready to start high school. How is my grandfather going to feel about this? How is my boyfriend going to feel about it?" So, I did obviously have to talk to everyone. Everybody pretty much gave me their blessings, but I just felt some sort of way about my brother being so young and getting ready to start high school and not knowing how his classmates would treat him. You know, kids can be mean, so that was a major component of my hesitancy, but in the end I ended up going through with it. It turned out really well and everyone, including my grandfather, loves the picture, so it worked out for the best.
Tamara: Good. I love the photos and I thought they were tastefully done.
Natasha: Thank you!
Tamara: Since then, I know that you’ve done some more modeling as one of the newest faces of Wilhelmina Models. What has that experience been like for you?
Natasha: Well, right now we're in the process of trying to build my portfolio up, so we're working on getting some beauty shots done. Kind of difficult obviously, because of my schedule with training and competing and everything being hectic, so we're trying to figure out how to make both work as well as building my portfolio so that I can be shopped around more than just as an athletic or sports figure.
Tamara: When you're not modeling or training for the Olympics or World Championship, what are you doing? What do you like to do in your spare time?
Natasha: Well, right now, I'm shopping. (laughs)
Natasha: So, shopping, watching reality TV…I try to do a little bit of reading. I have a boyfriend that I spend time with and I'm really big on spending time with my family, so any of those things, but I'm really a homebody, so I like to spend time with my family.
Tamara: Well, it sounds like we've got a few things in common. I love shopping too. And I read that you love the color pink.
Tamara: That's my favorite color as well, and as you just mentioned, you love reality TV, which I love as well. It's a guilty pleasure. (laughs)
Natasha: Yes. (laughs)
Tamara: What are some of your favorite reality TV shows?
Natasha: Well, right now I have to say my all-time favorite is probably The Braxton Family Values, even though that's been over for a few weeks. I really like their show. All of the Housewives. It's kind of neck and neck between Jersey and Beverly Hills, which one is my favorite. I think Jersey might take over with this season with the way it's looking, like a lot of drama is coming.
Tamara: I missed the first episode, but I'm excited to see it.
Natasha: Yeah, it was pretty good. The storm is coming. (laughs)
Tamara: I bet. (laughs)
Natasha: Yeah. Craziness. Basketball Wives…I watch, but I'm kind of not that into it anymore. It's getting to be a little bit…I like the drama, but it's so overdone now. So, those are pretty much my shows.
Tamara: I do like Basketball Wives, but I think I am getting tired of the same thing over and over again.
Natasha: There has been a fight on every single episode since this season started. Like, come on.
Tamara: Could you ever star in a reality TV show if presented with the opportunity?
Natasha: Depends on the capacity. I've done something to allow people into my life around training. Personally, as much as I am an open book, I do believe some things are best kept private, and sometimes doing a reality show opens things that you're not necessarily prepared to share.
Tamara: You mentioned earlier your boyfriend, Arizona Cardinals cornerback William Gay. Are you a big football fan?
Natasha: Wow. I have to get used to hearing that now. [Last season, Gay played for the Pittsburgh Steelers.] People always ask if I’m a football fan and you know, I didn’t really get into football until I went to college. Going to school down South, you know, life is football, so when I got to college is pretty much when I got to learn the sport. So, obviously, my favorite team collegiately would have to be my alma mater, the [South Carolina] Gamecocks, but from there, we had a good time in Pittsburgh and I'm Team Gay, so Go Arizona. (laughs)
Tamara: (laughs) I understand that. What is it like dating another professional athlete and how do you two make it work?
Natasha: It certainly has its pros and cons, the pros being that we understand the level of commitment that has to go into our careers. Sometimes it may be harder for your partner to understand why you can't make certain things or do certain things. The cons are the distance and not being able to see each other as much as we would like to, but we have a rule that we would never go more than 3 weeks without seeing each other if we can control it. Of course, the phone and text messaging, Skype…those things all help.
Tamara: Do you attend a lot of his games?
Natasha: I do. I was a horrible girlfriend this last season. I missed a couple of home games, but I plan on being at all of his home games, God willing, I'm home early enough. The tricky part of our seasons is that right when I'm finishing, he's beginning and right when he's finishing, I'm beginning. I missed his first home game last year, but I'm usually pretty good about being at his games and he's usually at most of my meets too.
Natasha: Well, I have to say that I'm one of those girls that…I do dress up. I mean, I run in fake eyelashes, so why wouldn't I go to a football game dressed up? (laughs) But, in Pittsburgh it was cold and I'm from New York, so my favorite season is fall fashion. I used to love to put on my boots and a nice coat or a nice sweater. It's going to be interesting now that we're in Arizona and we play in a dome, so that'll change things a little bit, but I had a little faux fur hat from the Gap and he talked so bad about me. It's almost like a ski hat and I used to put it on with these tall, brown boots and he used to be like, "I don't know where you're going with this hat on" and I was like, "A. It keeps me warm and B. I get so many compliments on it in the stadium, so I don't know what you're talking about." I love to dress up and usually if we have a night game, we'll go out to eat afterwards, so it helps to look a little nice to go out to eat afterwards.
Tamara: My last question is when you're ready to hang up your track shoes, what do you see yourself doing?
Natasha: I see myself starting a family. A family has been something that I've put off specifically for my career, because I feel like when I do have children I want to be able to be as best a Mom as possible without feeling like I'm missing out on anything or jeopardizing my career, so I would love to start a family. And I think I would like to open a gym. I know I want to stay around athletics and being physically active. I majored in exercise science in college and I am a certified personal trainer, so that's something that's dear to my heart. Being a coach seems like the natural thing and sometimes I catch myself with younger kids coaching, but a lot of people don't realize that coaching is probably even more demanding than being an athlete, and like I said, I really would like to have a family, so I don't know if that's a commitment that I would want to make. But, you never know what God has in store for you so I'm not going to say never.
Natasha Hastings competed at the 2012 Penn Relays in the 4×400 meter relay with Allyson Felix, Francena McCorory, Sanya Richards-Ross, where they set a record time of 3 minutes, 21.18 seconds. You can follow Natasha on Twitter @natashahastings and learn more about her on her website.