Off the Cuff with Claiborne: Jackie Joyner-Kersee
Having participated in four Olympics and World Championships where she won 10 medals—seven of them gold—there’s no doubt that Jackie Joyner-Kersee is one of the all-time greats. While she may not be hitting the track these days, she’s still giving her all, only instead of competition, her focus is on helping others.
What have you been doing since retiring?
Building the youth center and foundation are a big focus of mine. As I’ve evolved as a woman, I’ve also been doing motivational speaking to empower women and girls to reach their full potential. I don’t want to be a hindrance, telling people what they should and should not do. All I can do is share my own experiences and how they’ve allowed me to carry on my own journey.
Tell me about your foundation and youth center.
I started this work back in 1988, and we built the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center in 2000. At the center, we provide transportation, meals, and an enrichment curriculum about social and emotional responsibility of my own design. We also do STEM activities, including an agriculture program through the University of Illinois. The university, along with the Danforth Foundation, are working with us to develop an innovation center around food and nutrition. Our long-term goal is to build an indoor field house so we can have track meets and students don’t have to train on tile during the winter months like I had to do when I was coming up. For me, all of this connects to who I am and what I do outside of East St. Louis.
What did you learn as a competitor, and what do you try to pass on to other women?
I think it’s important to build a community of like-minded people who don’t just agree with one another but are honest. Seeing the women of today take things to the next level has been really inspiring. As great of an athlete as I may be considered, myself and other female athletes never got the recognition I felt we deserved in my day. It’s great seeing Candance Parker be the first woman to appear on the cover of the NBA 2K video game.
What are some of your favorite places you’ve traveled?
I love going to Italy and being able to visit the Vatican. I was able to compete in Athens where the Olympics began and see the Colosseum. I’ve seen how Beijing has transformed, and I’ve visited Moscow and seen the Kremlin. I’ve been so blessed to get to go to all of these places.
What’s your go-to meal?
I’m really a pasta girl, so that’s one reason I love going to Italy. I also love a good cheeseburger.
What’s your favorite place for a cheeseburger?
That’s tough. Everywhere I go, I try to find one. I like Shake Shack, and if everything else fails, I’ll go to McDonald’s and get my cheeseburger with pickles and light mustard only.
Favorite places to shop in St. Louis?
I love going to Plaza Frontenac, but I’m a discount girl as well, so you’ll also find me in Walmart and Target.
Favorite restaurant in St. Louis?
It’s gotta be Surf & Sirloin. Love it, love it.
What outfit would you not be caught dead in?
You’re not going to see me in Daisy Dukes.
What style do you wish would make a comeback?
I love big shoulders, so shoulder pads.
Photo: Suzy Gorman