On a special episode of In Depth, female athletes and artists including Billie Jean King, Misty Copeland, Bryce Dallas Howard and Lindsey Vonn share some of the pivotal moments that propelled them to greatness. These “Wonder Women” – along with Danica Patrick, Nikki Glaser and others – are testaments to what happens when boundaries are pushed and trails are blazed.
Nikki Glaser: A “gross” lesson from MTV’s Jenny McCarthy
Stand-up comic Nikki Glaser pinpoints early influences of Jenny McCarthy, Sarah Silverman, Amy Schumer and Howard Stern, among others. Plus, she remembers attending a Dave Chappelle event in 2002 – before Chappelle found mainstream fame – and her reason for ducking Conan O’Brien’s guest booker until the time was right.
Nikki Glaser: Not taking “No” for an answer as an aspiring comic
Comedian Nikki Glaser recalls her low expectations during an early audition on NBC’s “Last Comic Standing.” Nikki – along with her dad EJ – remember how she turned an initial first round rejection into an eventual trip to Hollywood for the show’s semifinals, and EJ reflects on how that moment showcased her will to succeed in the industry.
Misty Copeland: Intense ballet pressure pushed me to therapy
Misty Copeland – named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by TIME Magazine – explains how her upward trajectory in the ballet community was met with resistance from its predominantly white industry professionals. She says the resistance spiked her anxiety and led to her seeking therapy from a sports psychologist. Plus, the prima ballerina takes us back to her childhood, including the influence of her mother Sylvia DelaCerna and when Misty spent weeks as a wallflower before mustering up the courage to engage at her first-ever ballet class.
Misty Copeland: Hiding pain of 6 bone fractures to break barriers
Misty Copeland – the American Ballet Theatre’s first African-American principal ballerina in its 75-year history – remembers pushing her body to the edge as she trained for a career-defining performance as principal dancer for American Ballet Theatre. The famed ballerina remembers how her opening night performance at The Met brought in an atypical audience and several ovations, but then reality set in the next morning that the immense training had taken a toll – she later learned the pain she overcame was from six fractures in her tibia.
Misty Copeland: Having a child earlier would have hurt career
Misty Copeland – the first Black woman to be promoted to principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre – talks through the challenges of balancing a commitment to ballet with having a life beyond the art form. She says ballet companies question the level of commitment from ballerinas who attempt to have experiences outside of ballet and generally treat their adult dancers like children. Plus, Misty explains why she waited to have a child until later in life and shares the story of how actor Taye Diggs introduced her to her first boyfriend ever – and eventual husband – Olu Evans. The American Ballet Theatre principal dancer goes on to tell us how life has changed as a new mom, as Misty and Olu welcomed their son Jackson to the world earlier this year.
Maya Gabeira: Discouraged from pursuing my dream
Brazilian big-wave surfer Maya Gabeira reveals that she’s never had an easy relationship with surfing brands and looks back on the severe lack of opportunities for women when she first entered into the sport. Her surfing partner Sebastian Steudtner also joins the conversation, pointing out that while Gabeira eventually earned respect within the surfing community, she frequently had to brush off doubters.
Maya Gabeira: Pressuring WSL to recognize women surfers
Brazilian big-wave surfer Maya Gabeira looks back on her first world record-qualifying surf in 2018 that was initially snubbed by the World Surf League, until Gabeira took it upon herself to rally public support. After a petition to acknowledge her world record feat was signed by more than 20,000 people, she was eventually granted the Guinness World Record for the largest wave surfed by a female (68 feet high). Gabeira also talks of her second Guinness World Record, landing global recognition in 2020 for the largest wave surfed by anyone that year – 73 feet. She also explains her push for the industry to adopt a scientific method for judging Biggest Wave submissions.
Lindsey Vonn: I saved a girl from suicide
An emotional Lindsey Vonn opens up about using her sport, and her position as a star athlete, to help others. The Lindsey Vonn Foundation provides scholarships and programming for education, sports, and enrichment programs for young people. Vonn recounts connecting with one girl who attended the Strong Girls camp, and later wrote to Vonn, saying prior to camp, she self-harmed, and wanted to kill herself. The camp and Foundation helped her, and Vonn says that made all of her career struggles worthwhile. Plus, Vonn talks about “career day,” a program she developed during quarantine to help mentor and inspire young people.
Lindsey Vonn: I’d probably die skiing against men
To make herself a better athlete, Lindsey Vonn would train against the men. After clocking mere 100ths of a second behind the great Norwegian skier Aksel Svindal, Vonn wondered if she could compete against them as well. Her petition to the International Ski Federation to ski against the men was met with hesitation, Vonn said she was sure some male competitors were afraid she’d beat them. Ultimately, though, Vonn said she knows she’d do well, but wouldn’t come out on top, and may actually get herself hurt.
Working out with Lindsey Vonn
Olympic athlete Lindsey Vonn takes show host Graham Bensinger through her workout routine. At the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Center of Excellence, Vonn recounts the meeting with former-Olympian Picabo Street, that made her want to step up her competitive game. Vonn also challenges Graham to join in her exercise routine.
Danica Patrick looks back on her introduction to karting and her family’s dedication to racing as a child, including her father driving her to races up to 20 hours away.
Danica Patrick: Sexy photo shoot a pivotal move
Danica Patrick reflects on how she gained confidence after a photo shoot with FHM, saying she went from intentionally not standing out as a woman to using her attributes to her advantage and sharing the message that it’s OK to be both a respected contender at the race track AND highlight her femininity.
Caroline Wozniacki: They said soccer was for boys
Caroline Wozniacki recalls her parents’ creative way to introduce her to tennis and how competitiveness fueled her to eventually beat everyone in her family. Caroline shares that her brother will no longer play against her and how she could’ve also been a competitive swimmer.
Caroline Wozniacki: My dad is coach
Caroline Wozniacki on hiring her father, Piotr Wozniacki, as her professional tennis coach, how her dad learned about competitive tennis along the way and a “stupid exercise” that forced Caroline to storm off during practice.
Caroline Wozniacki: I play to win, not to look pretty
Caroline Wozniacki denies the claim that she plays a defense-first approach, saying she caters her approach to her competition and finding an approach that wins matches is all that matters.
Billie Jean King: Battle of the Sexes impacted all women
Billie Jean King on the enormity of the Battle of the Sexes match against Bobby Riggs, plus addressing women’s rights issues then and now.
Billie Jean King: I want men and women playing together
Billie Jean King discusses the origins of Mylan World TeamTennis (WTT), the benefits of men and women competing together and why WTT is more fan friendly than other professional tennis matches.
Billie Jean King’s tennis lesson for Graham
Billie Jean King offers Graham tennis lessons from the court of an upcoming WTT tournament.
Annika Sorenstam: Helping Tiger Woods handle success
Annika Sorenstam reflects on her historic entry into the Colonial PGA Tour event in 2003, including the scene of fans climbing trees to catch a glimpse of her rounds and how she is proud to have stepped into an uncomfortable position, to see what she’s made of. Annika also shares details of her relationship with Tiger Woods and how they would lean on each other as two professional golfers at the top of their respective leagues.
Annika Sorenstam: I thought my career was over
Hall of fame golfer Annika Sorenstam – who won 72 LPGA tournaments during her career – shares stories from her path to eventual excellence as the winningest female golfer ever. She offers impactful advice from her dad that helped shape a winning mindset and tells of moving to the U.S. with only two suitcases and a golf bag, second-guessing everything after a failed attempt to qualify for the LPGA Tour and how practicing more than competitors led to less social time as she tallied wins.