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First Friday Interview: Gigi Gustin, American Grit Season 2

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Tune into on FOX this summer and you may catch a familiar face. Glassboro, New Jersey’s very own Gigi Gustin competes in the new season of American Grit, the military-style competition TV series starring WWE John Cena. Watch as sixteen competitors undergo a series of team challenges designed to test their ability to work together, strategize and lead.

For our First Friday Interview, we had the opportunity to chat with Gigi to learn more about her life prior to seeking her grit. The youngest competitor shares her journey and lessons learned from the survival-themed challenges.

Photo credit: Michael Becker/FOX

PPRG: Congratulations on being one of the contestants of FOX’s AMERICAN GRIT! Let’s start with what your life like prior to the show as a sales associate from Glassboro, NJ? Can you share what your “day to day” life looked like?

GG: My life before American Grit consisted of having one to three mental breakdowns, arguing with my ex boyfriend on the regular, shopping with money I didn’t have, going out too much for my own good, and often missing work.

PPRG: Sounds like there was no “typical” day for Gigi. What pushed you to try out for this extremely challenging show?

GG: I was so fed up with the route my life was going and saw the show as an opportunity to get away and better myself. Not only that, but I was desperately seeking guidance in my life. I’ve never had a role model in my life or someone I looked up to that I could go to for help.

After watching the first season of American Grit, I loved the concept of the show, and the challenges the show presented to each contestant both mentally and physically. Even though I definitely didn’t think my level of fitness compared to those of season one, I’m a huge believer in mind over matter. Plus, I needed a little adventure in my life!

PPRG:  American Grit certainly sounds like an adventure! What was the audition process like to make it on the show?

GG:  The audition process was a lot of fun. During the interviews, I noticed people were amused by my reckless choices in life so far, which reminded me to be myself throughout the process. I loved that they wanted raw, unapologetic Gigi. Since I was living in my friend’s basement at the time, I considered the hotel room a treat and probably jumped on the bed more than I laid in it. I was too anxious and excited to fall asleep, awaiting to hear if I made the final cut!

PPRG: Let’s fast forward to once you heard you’ve landed a spot as a contestant on the show! What were your expectations for the show?

GG: When I found out I was going to be one of the 16 contestants on the show, I was more concerned about meeting the other contestants than I was competing in challenges. I’m used to being misunderstood and misjudged, especially when people first meet me. Thankfully, it only took a few days for me to start realizing why I was really there, and what a rewarding experience the opportunity could be. The way I looked at the entire experience ahead of me shifted in a matter of days. This wasn’t just about life at camp Grit but how to go about life after Grit.

PPRG: You definitely can’t judge a book by its cover. What challenges did you face throughout the show? How did you physically and mentally prepare for the show?

GG: The process moved so quickly. I didn’t find out I would definitely be on the show until a couple days before we flew out to Georgia. Although I physically did not have a lot of time to train, I was mentally preparing myself for anything. I didn’t know exactly what I had signed up for, but I knew I was excited and ready for the new experience. Adapting to the environment was the most difficult. There were a lot more bugs in Georgia than New Jersey! Also, things were constantly changing throughout the show, especially when I began getting comfortable.

Photo credit: Jeffrey Neira/FOX

PPRG: That’s great you were able to just pick up and go so quickly. How would you describe your cadre and teammates?

GG: My cadre took pride in our team’s closeness, with the goal of making four strangers feel like family. While other teams were working out and training like crazy, you could often catch my team eating ice cream, bonding or fishing together. Throughout the show we were able to work extremely well together because we trusted and valued one another, which came in handy in high stress situations. My team, as well as the rest of the camp, nicknamed me “Gigi on that beat,” from the song “Juju on that beat!”

PPRG: Love that! With the new season premiere airing on June 11, what can viewers expect from both you and the show?

GG: All I can say is to always expect the unexpected! There are a lot of twists and turns. You cannot predict most of the events that will unfold on-air. I learned multiple life lessons through the show.One thing I’ll always remember is that there are people who are just as important as your blood, and that’s chosen family. They are just as special, if not more.

PPRG: What was the most memorable experience you had from being on the show?

GG: I’ll never forget my first interaction with John Cena. I walked up to him to introduce myself and as I began saying, “Hi I’m…,” he chimed in and said, “Gigi, nice to meet you.” All I was thinking was HE KNOWS MY NAME! Another memorable (sentimental) moment was when my fellow competitor, Mel, wrote me a letter after seeing me down and discouraged. I still have her letter, which I often read to lift my spirits.

Photo credit: Jeffrey Neira/FOX

PPRG: With a grand prize of a quarter of a million dollars, what would winning Season 2 mean to you?

GG: Considering the biggest issue in my life right now revolves around the almighty dollar, winning would mean everything to me. I lost my job for a period of time, as well as my apartment and car, and on top of all that, got hit with crazy debt. This money would help me A LOT.

PPRG: We wish you the best of luck! What are some of the biggest lessons from the show that you’ll take with you? What does the future hold for you?

GG: Because of American Grit, my future is a lot brighter. I found the guidance I was lacking. I learned priorities, value, balance, and overall, just how to be happy. One advantage to being the youngest competitor was also being the most coachable. I want other people to know that no matter what situation you’re in, or what tragedy you’re experiencing, there is life beyond that. I have a new outlook on life thanks to John Cena, the cadre, and fellow competitors and teammates. I am back and I’m better than ever.

Photo credit: Jeffrey Neira/FOX

Catch the season premier of American Grit on FOX, Sunday, June 11 to watched Gigi’s experience, as well as the 15 other competitors! Join the official watch party at Monarch Philly* starting at 7 p.m. Use the hashtag #ShowYourGrit on social media to participate the show’s discussion.


What are you most looking forward to seeing on the show? Let us know in the comments section below!


* Monarch Philly is a client of Philly PR Girl.