Florence Griffith Joyner, exercise entrepreneur the Olympic star shows her mettle via video, fashion design, and more.
Flo-Jo did my nails. True story. She may be the fastest woman ever, the athlete who won three gold medals and a silver at the 1988 Olympics, and the personality known for her one-legged, brightly colored, Lycra-to-lace outfits. But she is also one helluva manicurist. The 35-year-old track star, whose first fitness tape, The Flo-Jo Workout: Mind, Body and Spirit (Paramount), hits stores this week, is tickled by the fact that she’s often recognized more for her elaborately painted fingertips than her athletic prowess. ”The other day, the guy in the Chinese restaurant came up to me and said, ‘You have nails like what’s-her-name from the Olympics,”’ she laughs. So when I offered to discuss her latest project over a manicure, she opted to give me one instead, intricately painting in Day-Glo glitter, gluing on faux-diamond studs, and applying a funky palette of polish to my formerly boring nails.
This scenario proves two simple truths. One: There is no celebrity attitude within a marathon of Flo-Jo. Two: She likes things just so, and whether it’s cleaning the house, designing her running outfits, or creating an exercise tape that includes aerobics and nutrition tips — Florence Griffith Joyner would rather do it herself.
Flo-Jo is in basic black, a favorite when she’s not competing, as she sits in her office conference room ticking off just what she’s been up to since her 1988 windfall. The condensed version includes developing clothing lines in Japan, establishing a youth foundation, creating a variety of Flo Jo Nail products, cochairing the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, starring in a thriller for Japanese TV, creating artwork used on Discover credit cards, designing a series of Olympic jackets for Starter, and most important, collaborating with husband Al (he’s a gold medalist too, in the 1984 triple jump) to create Mary Ruth (Mom says, Don’t call her Mo Jo) Joyner, now 4.
Which leads us to Joyner’s most recent labor, the video. ”I wanted to put together a package with everything I believed in all of my life that I could share with others,” she says. ”This is for those 40 million Americans who haven’t got a clue how to get up off their couch, who want to become fit and take better care.” One such person is her lifelong best friend, Denelle Sykes, who is part of Flo-Jo’s class in the video.
Joyner is a woman of many mottoes. ”Believe. Achieve. Succeed” not only comes up on the video, it’s framed in her office. She pastes her favorite sayings on the fridge (”I can. Because I believe I can”), on the computer…anywhere to remind her what she’s working toward, which is winning the 400 meters at the ’96 Olympics. Al continues to serve as her coach, and she takes on that role for him as he trains for the decathlon and the triple jump. Both would love to win a medal with Mary looking on.
”[Flo-Jo] is a coach’s dream,” says Al, who’s come in to oversee the nail action. ”She always gives 150 percent.” Flo-Jo stops polishing to describe a contrasting scenario. ”I always tell Al we would have been home sooner if he hadn’t cried all day in practice, if he could just get on the track and take it like a woman.” He laughs. She leans over and confides gleefully, ”I love telling him ‘Gimme one more.”’ Spoken like a true fitness-video pro.