A year out from the 2016 Olympic Games and her Dancing with the Stars season 23 win, gymnast Laurie Hernandez has been keeping plenty busy — especially as she studies for her senior year of high school. But with Halloween just around the corner, she's got other big plans on her plate. Like how best to get in the spooky spirit. "[Last year,] me and my friend were binge watching [the] Freddy Krueger [movies] and we made hot chocolate and what not and sat on the couch," the 17 year old shared. This year, she's looking to do more of the same. "I haven’t seen too many scary movies lately, but I do know that It is trending… I’m already scared to watch it." And cuddling up with a friend is the perfect way to not get too terrified.
Horror movie marathons are a classic Halloween move — especially when you're not sure that trick-or-treating is really your thing anymore. But that doesn't mean Laurie won't be dressing up for the season. Actually, she's already got the perfect costume in mind: Moana from the hit Disney•Pixar flick. With her big, expressive eyes, the teen's already been compared to adorable emojis and cartoon characters — and her grit and determination would be pretty spot on for the costume, too.
Halloween isn't the only holiday the gymnast has been celebrating, though. From Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, she made sure to save plenty of time to hang out with her family. After all, it was Hispanic Heritage Month, and celebrating her culture is something that's especially important to her. "Hispanic Heritage Month is just being with your family and friends, celebrating your heritage and your culture and being together… It wasn’t until this year that I’ve been traveling so much," she admitted. "It’s been a little difficult to spend as much time with [my family] as I usually do, but at the same time we really just like to get together and kind of watch movies." They also like to cook — though Laurie leaves most of the hard work to her mom on that front.
This year, she teamed up with the American Egg Board to help get in the spirit of things. And since one of her favorite ways to celebrate her heritage is to eat her mom's Spanish rice, complete with an egg over easy popped on top, it seemed like a match made in heaven. "I'm not the greatest cook and [my mom is] really the mastermind." Together, they'll make Spanish rice for the holidays — or other Puerto Rican dishes that include mixing all kinds of different vegetables and spices together. "My mom also likes to get really creative, so sometimes instead of making meat empanadas, she’ll take out the meat and put cheese and tomato sauce, so it turns into a little like pizza empanada and it’s really good."
She's also been watching this season of DWTS — and even went back to visit the set earlier this month so she could root on her former partner, Val Chmerkovskiy, in season 25. "[He's] like my brother," the 17 year old shared. "But at the same time, I mean, I just love being able to see all those dances. After doing season 23 and then we got to tour right after, I feel like I really have a special bond with all the dancers."
And she's kept up dancing in her free time. "Whenever I’m home, I like to do ballroom dance classes." Her favorite style? Rumba — though salsa's up there, too. "Val and I… didn’t get to do rumba on season 23, but [I've] been working a lot on that. And I like salsa, salsa’s a lot of fun… I just feel like I understand the rhythm of it. I don’t want to say it’s natural ‘cause it’s not, it’s not that natural, but at the same time I feel very comfortable when I’m dancing it." Maybe it runs in the family. Around the holidays, you can find Laurie's parents throwing a party and getting their boogie on in the middle of the dance floor. And when it comes to just having fun, the gymnast loves to shake her stuff to artists like Portugal The Man, Lorde, and Lauv.
(Photo Credit: Getty Images)
But don't worry, there's still plenty of time for gymnastics. Laurie's just getting back into training so she can gear up for competitions again — and she's got her eye set on the 2020 Olympics. "I’ve started conditioning a little bit already. We’re not going to rush the process at all just because we want to make sure that I’m coming back slowly and safely." Her top priority? Coming up with a killer floor routine that combines her love of the sport with her love for music and dancing. Considering that she's already got two Olympic medals and a Mirror Ball Trophy under her belt, we think she'll do just fine.
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