Since winning the all-around gold in the 2008 Olympics, gymnast Nastia Liukin has appeared on a Wheaties box and two television shows, designed a line of leotards and hosted her own gymnastics competition.
A Supergirl, indeed.
Now Liukin, 20, is bringing some of that superheroics, spandex and sparkle to back-to-school fashion. A new clothing line, Supergirl by Nastia, launches this season at JCPenney. The clothes, aimed at the 8-to-12-year-old crowd, are comfy, classy (no super-short skirts or midriff-baring tops here) and reasonably priced, retailing for $12 to $38.
They're also designed, Liukin says, to empower the girls who wear them -- maybe to dreams of Olympic gold, maybe just through the first day of school. The line is available exclusively at JCPenney, whose Plano, Texas, headquarters are just a few miles from Liukin's childhood home. (Browse the collection here.)
Liukin was in Chicago Friday promoting the launch, and we caught up with her to talk about clothes, competition, her "Gossip Girl" cameo, and whether we can expect to see her in London in 2012.
Want to meet Nastia? She'll be signing autographs and meeting fans at the JC Penney at the Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg Saturday from 2-3:30 p.m.
What have you been up to since, you know, you fulfilled the dream of every 5-year-old who's ever put on a leotard?
A lot of different things. [Winning the gold] was such a high point and I've been trying to keep that feeling going. I took the year off from competition, but I've been staying busy and involved in the gymnastics community. I have my own leotard line, and held my own competition [the Supergirl cup] last spring. I got to be in some of my favorite shows, like "Gossip Girl," which was really fun and so completely different from what I'm used to.
I hear this isn't your first venture into fashion. What got you started and what were some of your influences for this particular line?
I've designed every leotard I've ever competed in, so I guess I've always had passion for it. With this line, I wanted it to be fashionable and trendy and for girls to feel cute, but there's a bigger message, too. I want them to feel empowered and inspired when they're wearing these clothes. My experiences and my accomplishments all started with a dream -- to go to the Olympics and win a gold medal -- and I want them to realize that that's how all big things start, with a dream. I want them to feel like they can do anything.
The S-shield is such an iconic symbol. I feel like boys have always had Superman and Batman and all these superheroes, but girls haven't really had that one superhero to relate to, to look at and think, 'I'm inspired by this.' That's the idea behind Supergirl.
You've had the opportunity to meet a lot of girls promoting the line. What's been the best part of the promo tour?
We've had girls from local gyms come out, which is always neat for me. They're my fan base, the ones that have inspired me my whole career. There were times when I didn't always believe in myself, but I knew that they did, so it's great to meet them and hear what they're doing.
What's next? Can we look forward to seeing you in 2012?
I haven't decided yet. I'm a very goal-oriented person and I like to be able to give 100 percent to whatever I'm doing, and that's how it was with this clothing line. I have an gymnastics show in October that I'm getting ready for, and I'll probably decide about 2012 around then.
What's on your Chicago schedule?
I'm hoping to get to see some of the city. I was up early this morning for some TV appearances, but hopefully some shopping this afternoon. And then [Saturday] I'll be in Woodfield signing autographs and meeting fans, and then I fly out Sunday. A quick trip, but it's been great so far.
(If her Twitter feed is accurate, looks like she snuck in that shopping trip...)
Looking for something to do on Saturday that's far, far away from the Lollapaloozamadness? Head out to the Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg between 2 and 3:30 p.m. to meet Nastia, then duck into JCPenney to check out the new clothing line.
See more of Liz's stories here.