Natalie Duran: the First Pinay American Ninja Warrior competitor!

If you missed “Kababayan Today’s” airing last Friday, August 12, we featured Natalie Duran. Natalie Duran  is a 25-year-old second-generation Filipina living in Los Angeles. Natalie choose the medical route and is a scientist! She has a degree in neuroscience and currently works as a clinical researcher in gastroenterology at UCLA Health.

Along with a strict academic tract, Natalie has been professionally climbing for the past six years and has won over 20+ competitions around the state of California and is frequently seen in books and outdoor magazines as an athletic model. Her intense training and loud personality have led her to be cast as a competitor in the hit NBC obstacle course television show “American Ninja Warrior.”

This show is a favorite of my family so one evening when we were watching, I spotted her and lo and behold she was local. “American Ninja Warrior” has an average of 6 million viewers per episode and  in this past 8th season out of 120 athletes in Los Angeles City Qualifiers, Natalie was one of two women to qualify for City finals in the top 30 athletes. The first Filipina at that!

Natalie carries herself with confidence as a strong woman both physically and mentally. She can be always seen sneaking into Hollywood parties, including the Golden Globes and multiple movie premieres. She says anything is possible with confidence. We had a great conversation on the show that you can view on our Kababayan today YouTube Channel. She also answered some questions for the Asian Journal.

G: What does it mean for you that you are an American Ninja Warrior?

Natalie: Now that I have successfully completed and competed on the American Ninja Warrior, I can truly appreciate this amazing opportunity that I have been working so hard for the past few years. This is the one outlet where I can truly flourish and express my entire personality and ability. Even though it is a competition, American Ninja Warrior is a reality television competition show. This means you have to hit certain requirements in order to be considered to compete, let alone get air time. I feel like I finally have an outlet to truly express my entity. Where I get to be myself, have fun and laugh out loud and at the same time perform to my greatest athletic ability.

As much as this is a personal experience for me, it is important for me to express what I truly believe in. I want to let everyone know it’s ok to grow up to have priorities yet preserve the inner youthful spirit in everyone. Never stop exploring and don’t let the influence of others change you. I also want to be a strong female character in the media along side with athletics. We are more than our beauty. Climbing is a male dominated sport, which can be intimidating to a lot of women entering the world of climbing. My motivation is to prove others wrong, and show that each person has their own strengths and weaknesses. I may climb a rock a totally different way than a taller, physically stronger male can. But by manipulating my body in space a specific way, I can position my feet higher and pull through moves to get to the top of a climb. Which is why I love climbing, where there is one related goal to get to the top of the climb but we all have our own unique ways to get to the top. Didn’t you know buff is the new black?

G: You pursued your professional goals in the medicine field but continue to pursue your passion for rock climbing. How do you balance the time?

I truly learned the difficult task of life balancing early on in my undergraduate years. Learning the art of prioritizing is a difficult beast, but it is important to take a step back and look at scheduling from a day-to-day, month, to year goals. For me climbing was more than a sport, it became a lifestyle where I could see it being a part of my life for the rest of my years. Reasoning because climbing became a form of therapeutics for me. Training in the gym provided me with exercise, mental challenges, and placed me in a social environment where i’ve meet some of the best people I know.

I know the importance of finishing my academic responsibilities, and now my work projects but I will always find time for climbing because it is what keeps me at a homeostatic sane level. Being active allows me to exercise out all my day stresses. As much as climbing has put me in the peak physical fitness of my life, it moreover has placed me in the best state of mental well-being.

G: What do you hope to do more of in the future?

After years of fighting and legitimizing the sport of climbing, the International Olympic Committee successfully introduced climbing into the 2020 Olympic games in Tokyo, Japan. For the first time in my life I have tangible opportunity to become an Olympic athlete. This is a game changer. If not representing USA, being considered to be a part of the Pilipino Olympic team would be a dream come true.

G:Your message to Filipino American fans, like me?

I have always had an unapologetic loud personality, which goes along with my culture. If I had any message to Filipino American viewers it would be: keep striving to impress. Be known for something positive whether it be an academic accomplishment or for entertainment purposes. Keep respect, and always carry yourself with class and surround yourself by a positive attitude. Never forget where you come from, appreciate the sacrifices family members have made for you and always stay humble yet grateful.

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