We chatted with Taekwondo champion Rayna Vallandingham, and she’s just as awesome as you’d think
Rayna Vallandingham is a 13-time world champion and fourth degree black belt in Taekwondo.
RAYNA VALLANDINGHAM: For me, when they would say, you kick like a girl, I would take it as a compliment. To me, that was my battle cry. Yeah, I kick like a girl. Girls kick so beautifully. We have the most flexibility. But as I got older and I learned about how poignant that topic is in this industry and every single male-dominated industry, it became really difficult because I would go to a shoot where it would be all stuntmen. And there would be no women there.
And I would really have to prove myself and prove my talent. I mean, no other guy there had to prove their talent, but I did.
I'm Rayna Vallandingham. I'm 20 years old. And I'm a 13-time world champion and fourth-degree black belt in taekwondo. I started taekwondo at two years old. My parents put me in it because I was just really timid. The beginning of my martial arts journey though, it was actually really, really funny. And I love hearing all the stories about it because I would hide underneath the chairs because I was so shy for like six months.
And the instructors would try with me every single day, just saying like, Rayna, come out. Just try a class, see if you like it. I'd be like, no, just crying. But eventually, I gained the confidence to be able to do it.
And the rest is history. But doing martial arts for 18 years, I think the more I've done it, the more my confidence has been able to build. And it's honestly been in situations where I've had some sort of loss or failure that's really helped me to build confidence because after that loss or after boys taunted me, and I decided, you know what? No, I'm going to persevere. And I'm going to go through with this.
And sometimes I would even have to compete against them. And it would take a lot of grit. But it was in those moments where I was really able to look at myself in the mirror and be like, I'm proud of you. We just did that.
The wins were amazing too. But I think that it's just really humbling to be able to endure those losses and still pick myself back up. I want to celebrate what it is to be a woman in this industry but also the little boys who have had a really tough childhood with dads that are like, you're not masculine enough, you're not this, you're not that. I wanted to inspire them.
If you want to do martial arts in cute clothes and makeup, go do it. That's what you're here on this Earth to do. You're here to break barriers and push the envelope, and through your passion as well, which I think is so powerful.
I think what was really remarkable for me is, all the records that I've set in the music video industry or social media or martial arts, it's always been like, Rayna, you were the first Indian-American to do this, or Rayna, you're the first female Indian-American to lead a music video. And for me, that was so crazy because it's like, Indian women are so incredible. They're so beautiful.
I never got to see that as a kid. I never got to see a female Indian lead in an action movie. And that's why I want to be that. I want to inspire so many girls who don't see people that look like them. And for me, the closest thing was like Lucy Liu. And I absolutely adore her because I know she inspired so many little Asian girls that are now kicking ass.
And yeah, that's just always been my mission statement. And that's absolutely what I want to do in this life. I think now my journey has come to a place where I feel confident enough to walk into any room and feel like I have a good place there and that I have a lot to offer as a human being but also as a martial artist and as an athlete.