Words by Katie Ferraro:
I will never forget how I felt after I read Gus Kenworthy’s story about his coming out to the world in ESPN The Magazine last year. The words that Alyssa Roenigk used to tell his beautiful story painted a perfect picture to show how empowering it is to be your true, authentic self. Alyssa not only inspired me and so many others with Gus’ story, but also single handedly reignited my passion for writing and it made my heart sing.
When I looked back to research Alyssa after Gus’ story was published, I realized that I had met her during one of the STOKED weekend mentors in Los Angeles. Turns out, Alyssa has been a STOKED Igniter and supporter for years, but is also a compassionate, fearless, and inspiring woman.
We couldn’t think of a better person to give the spotlight to for our women’s history month series than Alyssa.
If you could pick 1 thing that you would be remembered for, what would it be?
As a person who put more light into the world than she took from it.
One piece of life advice for young people?
Relationships matter. The way you treat people, interact with colleagues, live up to your word and have integrity in your work is just as integral to progressing in your career—and in life—as talent and skill. And don’t be late. If a story is due on Thursday, turn it in Wednesday night.
What don’t people know about you? What’s your secret talent?
I like to walk on my hands. I grew up in gymnastics and was a cheerleader at the University of Florida. I’ve always felt very comfortable being upside down.
If you given an award what song would you walk out to?
One of my favorite songs is Alison by Elvis Costello. When I was a kid, Alyssa wasn’t a common name. The first time I heard “Alison”, I mis-heard the lyrics and thought he was singing my name. As a writer, your byline matters, but mine is often misspelled and I’ve shown up to many events picked up credentials with the name Alison or Alisa or Elissa printed on them. There’s a good chance my name would be misspelled on this award, too. So this song would make me laugh. And be perfect.
Who’s your She-ro?
Growing up, I don’t remember having a particular woman I looked up to, because I didn’t know I was supposed to differentiate between the men and women I admired. When I was 5, I wanted to be Terry Bradshaw. I credit my mother for allowing me to believe it was possible that I could one day become quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers. She never told me that was a silly dream. Of course, at some point, society began reminding me—far too often, I should add—that I am, in fact, a girl and that I should begin altering my dreams to fit this handicap. So “my mom” is the answer to this question, because I always chose to believe being a girl was badass. This week, in fact, at 64, my mom and I attended a Harley Davidson Riding Academy and got our motorcycle licenses. My mom hadn’t ridden a motorcycle in nearly 40 years and pushed past her insecurities about handling a 450-pound motorcycle (she weighs about 120 pounds) in front of a group of judgmental strangers and she did wonderfully. Then she kicked ass on the test. What better role model could I ask for than her?
Check out our previous Profiles of Ann Kaatz, and Meg Hale
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