Imagine walking into Niketown and buying a pair of running shoes…from Mary Joyner!
It’s happened. Long before she won our hearts on AMERICA’S GOT TALENT, the up-and-coming musician supported herself working odd retail jobs around Los Angeles.
“My dad is willing to financially support me in school,” says Mary, 21, who is an honors student at Santa Monica College.
“But with music I have to financially support myself. He’s not going to catch the fish for me. He is going to teach me how to fish.”
Mary — the daughter of Olympic champions Al and Florence Griffith Joyner — was eliminated from the NBC talent competition after letting nerves get the best of her during Vegas Week.
But she isn’t giving up on the dream of having a career in music.
Tonight (June 28), she’ll perform the National Anthem at the Olympic Track and Field trials in Eugene Oregon.
We caught up with her this morning to find out more.
Q: How are you doing after being eliminated from AGT?
I am doing good. I am getting ready to perform at the Olympic Trials, actually. I am doing better than I thought I would be doing.
Q: It had to be pretty heartbreaking to go out the way that you did.
It was heartbreaking, but you have got to pick yourself back up and continue the hard work.
Q: A lot of people are pulling for you to be a wild card act.
When life gives you a different deal of the cards, hopefully you get a wild card!
Q: How poetic is it that you get to be a part of the Olympic experience — and as a singer!
It is really mind blowing. When I was little I would picture myself running or doing gymnastics. Because gymnastics was first in my background. I thought I would be at the 2012 Olympics competing in gymnastics. But then over time music really took over my life and really became the only thing I was passionate about. When you love something, you want to work hard at it. So to be able to have the experience to sing at the trials, I am pretty honored. It is just a blessing that the world got to see my voice on TV and the world got to see my ups and downs and to come back and sing the National Anthem…
Q: Lots of singers forget the words to that song! Are you nervous?
I am nervous because it is a pretty big song and a very emotional song for our country. But I am not nervous about the lyrics, because I have sung it before at many different basketball games, at my school. A lot of people sing the song and they know the melody. I break the song down and I write out the lyrics. So it is not just me singing the National Anthem. It is me telling a story about a special moment for our country. So that gets me prepared and takes all my nerves away.
Q: Your mom wanted you to do music. Was it something you wanted to do early on?
You know what? Since I always loved gymnastics so much, gymnastics and dancing were things she always supported me in so much. She would always drive me to my meets and my practices… At the age of 2 I would sing and watch the National Anthem on TV. I saw it at the ’92 Olympics and it was a song I have always really gravitated to. My mom had many talents. She wrote children’s books. She was a designer. But singing was something that she couldn’t do. My dad jokes that she couldn’t sing a note. But it is something that I am willing to start my own path in. So it is great to have not only track in the Joyner family, but it is my honor to bring music to the Joyner family.
Q: Is it tough trying to get out of your mom’s shadow?
It’s been tough. Especially when I did track and field in high school. There was a lot of pressure, because if I did well it was expected and if I didn’t do well, it was like I was letting the whole family down. My mom was the fastest woman in the world. My dad, a gold medalist. My aunt, the greatest female athlete… I didn’t really know how to do track without thinking so much. So that is when I would take out my emotions and my feelings through music. I did different talent shows with dancing and singing. I looked up to people like Mariah Carey, Beyonce, Ella Fitzgerald. And I really set the initiative to study music. And so that is basically where everything comes from . So not just living in the shadow of my parents, but I learned to take the pressure off and use it as an inspiration. OK, they did great at what they love, I am gonna do great at what I love.
Q: Besides the death of your mom, what has been the biggest obstacle for you?
Probably weighing which way I wanted to go, what career I wanted to have. Was it track? Or did I want to do music and go full out? It is basically hard for me to show people my talent without them thinking that I just have that talent because of my parents. I have a lot to prove. It is not just my parents that got me my experiences and my fan base. It is my talent and my voice. That is all I want to share with the world.
Q: A lot of people were caught off guard by your elimination. Looking back, what do you think happened?
I look back on that moment as basically I got my nerves in a battle and my nerves won. It happens to all singers. Performing is really hard to do. If you let yourself sing too much, you don’t sound your best. It was a long day and I just wanted to hopefully do my best. Nobody is perfect. It is a mistake I made in not being better prepared. All I can say is that I was just nervous.
Q: Some people think you should have gone through anyway. Do you think you deserved to go through anyway?
You know, many people can have their opinions. I would like to have gone through. But the judges had to make their decision and I respect them.
Q: What is next?
I have just been recording and writing songs. So my next project will probably be working on EP. Then I will start performing later in the fall.
Q: Have you always been able to support yourself as a musician?
Yes. I saved up to buy my own equipment. I made a home studio. I put myself through school. I am in my school’s music honors program. Basically I wanted to be educated in music not only of my genre, but of different genres. I love jazz. I love classical. I listen to everything. I think that is where my unique mind comes from. Education was always number one on my parents list. They made sure I was educated and knew about the music business. My dad is probably one of my biggest pushers on education. If education is not in there, he is not going to be very supportive.
Q: Are you putting yourself through school by choice?
My dad supports me in education 100%. My parents came from nothing. They came from a really tough neighborhood. They had to live off financial aid. So I am blessed because in this economy, I know people struggle. I am so lucky that my dad is willing to financially support me in school. But with music, I have to financially support myself. He is not going to catch the fish for me. He is going to teach me how to fish. If I show him hard work, he will help me however he can.
Q: Do you make your money by gigging in clubs?
I used to try to perform wherever I could. But mostly it is just through saving up. I worked in retail for a while. I worked at the Nike store. And when I was younger I was a gymnastics coach in Orange County.
Q: People had no idea who you were and you were selling them running shoes!
I am as normal as they come. It never got to me who my parents were. To other people they were Olympic athletes, but to me they were just my parents. And that is where work came in. I was just a normal person working in retail.