It can be said that nostalgia attracted viewers in droves to the revamped edition of American Gladiators (8 pm/ET, NBC) — whether that be for wrestling superstar Hulk Hogan, the adrenaline-pumping events, or the scantily clad gladiators themselves — but it will undoubtedly be the appeal of the new energy that keeps them coming back for the second season. TVGuide.com recently engaged gladiator Valerie Waugaman, aka "Siren" in a little Q&A to discuss some of the elements that comprise such a successful revival.
TVGuide.com: So, how did you become a gladiator?
Valerie Waugaman: It just fit into the path of who I've been all my life. I've been very competitive and athletic since I was a child, and I competed in volleyball in college, and then I went on to compete in professional figure competitions in the IFBB, the same federation that made Arnold famous. They found me because I was a fitness model, and they were looking for female physiques just like mine. They called me and said, "Would you try out to be a gladiator?" I grew up watching the show, so I was just like, "Heck yeah, this is great." [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: How did you form your gladiator persona?
Waugaman: After the first couple of weeks of training camp, the network said, "Listen, it's not about creating a character that is like a fantasy character, it's really just yourself, but amplified about 10 times for TV." So you bring your own personality, but up to the next level. Siren is just me, amplified.
TVGuide.com: I watched you dominate a contestant in the gauntlet recently. Is that your best event?
Waugaman: I wouldn't say that's my best. It's fun, but I really enjoy powerball. I thought I wasn't going to like that event because it's really prone to injury, but I didn't let one girl go by without tackling her. I was going for the jugular. My best event besides the powerball was the rings. I was really able to focus and block out everything around, and not think about the water and how difficult the rings are — they're very difficult to travel around. It's a very small set, so if you make one wrong move or lose your momentum, you're done. I was really able to hone in on my skill and just glide. I was undefeated on the rings.
TVGuide.com: It looks as though all of the gladiators feed off each other. Do you get along well and help each other? It seems there's quite a diverse area of expertise there.
Waugaman: I actually knew two females and two male gladiators before we started filming. I knew them from the fitness and figure and bodybuilding industry, and we all formed a family. You're with these people practically 24 hours a day, so you kind of have to be a family. We were really supportive of each other. It was so much fun. We helped each other on events, like, "Hey, this is a great way to get somebody on this event," or "Hey, be careful on this, it's easy to slip." It was awesome to have that family.
TVGuide.com: Did you have any time to get used to the events before you started filming?
Waugaman: To be honest with you, only a few of them. That was just the challenge of having a new show, and a very short time to get ready. The set is incredibly difficult to build, so some of the things weren't ready for us to practice on until it was game day. We had to look like we were pros at these things, when we were just doing it for the first time on national television. I think we were better gladiators in the later part of the series, and now the next one going in we're just gonna rock.
TVGuide.com: You're also an inspirational speaker and you own your own business. Can you tell us a little bit about those ventures?
Waugaman: I own a restaurant called Octane Café, and that's what first started me in the fitness industry. I started competing so that I could promote my restaurant and we could franchise it across the country. That branched off into a flourishing career in fitness, where I've built my confidence, and now I hold fitness camps. I do motivational speaking for corporations as well as for schools. And my company that I'm formulating right now is called Fit Mission. It's a group of my closest friends that believe in the same mission of inspiring others to dream really big dreams and go after them, but to do that you have to constantly feed your mind with positive information and educate [yourself] on what you need to do to get there, and how to take care of your body with proper nutrition and exercise. You can have a great big dream, but if you don't have energy or health to go after it, you're not gonna get there. So my mission is all about body, mind and spirit wellness.
TVGuide.com: And a large part of that focuses on children. Correct?
Waugaman: Children of today's world are in a tough spot. There are so many diseases, and we have obesity problems, and diabetes, because they're not being fed the right nutrition and they're not getting the activity that they should be getting physically. They're playing video games and eating junk food, and they don't know any better. It's the convenience. It's marketing. So my mission is to create a superhero character for kids called the Green Goddess, a role model they can look up to. She teaches them all about proper nutrition and exercise, and going after their goals, and improving themselves in a way that they can say, "Mom, I want to be like the Green Goddess."
TVGuide.com: Timing seems to have served you well so far, so why not strike while the iron is hot, right?
Waugaman: That's right! That's my motto. [Laughs] You only get a few minutes of fame in this business, and you have to work with it.
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