Fashlete™ of the Month

  • Maddy Curley : Balancing Act : Finding Success as an Actress and Athlete
  • Author avatar
    Sarah Wilson

Maddy Curley : Balancing Act : Finding Success as an Actress and Athlete

Name: Maddy Curley
Occupation: Coach at Brick CrossFit, Actress, Writer, CrossFit L1 Instructor 

Maddy Curley has some impressive CrossFit stats including a 5th place team finish at the 2011 Reebok CrossFit Games, and finishing 11th in the world in the 2012 Reebok CrossFit Open. In 2013 her team (Brick Nation) qualified for the Games for a second time, but was DQ'ed after failing to meet eligibility requirements. Brick Nation is back and stronger than ever for the 2014 season. The team finished 11th Worldwide and 2nd in their Region during the 2014 CrossFt Open. This impressive finish has earned the team a spot at Regionals and a chance to qualify for the 2014 CrossFit Games. 

With stats like that and a background in competitive gymnastics, I figured an athlete like Maddy took to CrossFit right away. Wrong. So very, very wrong.

"Maddy" I asked, "What first drew you to CrossFit?"

"Nothing. Nothing at all."

Several years ago a good friend was trying really hard to get Maddy to come out and try a WOD with him. And how did this now elite athlete respond?

"That sounds really dumb. I don’t lift weights."

Finally, she gave in after being told that the workouts were fun and catered to soccer moms. Her first WOD was "Chelsea": 5 pull ups, 10 push ups, and 15 air squats performed every minute on the minute for 30 minutes. Sounds like a piece of cake for a former collegiate gymnast, right? Wrong again.

“I was killing myself to finish! I was yelling 'This is not for soccer moms! This is for elite athletes!'” 

One month passed before Maddy did another WOD. This time it was modified Grace (30 Clean and Jerks w/65lbs) and much to her surprise, she really like the Olympic lifting and decided to commit to CrossFit. Maddy quit Gold’s Gym, swapped her cardio workouts for CrossFit WODs, and became an L1 Certified CrossFit Coach later in 2009.

Maddy recently became an L1 Instructor for CrossFit and is now leading the very course she took when she started CrossFit so many years ago. She's come a long way since her own certification back in 2009...

"I couldn't finish Fran under the 10 minute time cap!" she recalls laughing. "I couldn't understand why so I called my coach trying to figure out what happened. He said 'Maddy, you've never done it RX before.'"
It took some time for Maddy to realize the potential she had as CrossFit athlete. She went to Aromas in 2009 to watch the first ever CrossFit Games and thought “I’ll never be that good.” She continued to train for the love of the sport and it wasn't long before her competitive side kicked in again for the first time since her college gymnastics days. She was beating her friends... her male friends... and realized she was really good at this.

“If I’m winning, I’m a happy girl”.  

Over the course of the past five years, Maddy has transformed herself into an elite CrossFit athlete. There was a time where she struggled with a 65lb thruster, and now (at a bodyweight of 117lbs) Maddy can deadlift 245lbs, back squat 200lbs, clean and jerk 170lbs, and has a Fran time of 3:11.

Still, as far as the CrossFit world is concerned, she is small.

"CrossFit doesn't care!" she laughs "Of course I would love it if a clean and jerk max event took bodyweight into consideration, but it really doesn't bother me. I know I just have to get stronger." 

Getting stronger is definitely a priority for Maddy in the CrossFit world, but this is not the only world that she lives in, and making it to the Games is not her only goal. Maddy is also a working actress who wants to make feature films. She has been struggling to find her place in Hollywood because even though she is small compared to other CrossFit athletes, she “feels huge” compared to the actresses that she is competing with for parts. Bigger is better in CrossFit, but not in Hollywood.

“I meet with people and they say things like 'You’re like Amy Adams… but with muscles. We don’t know what to do with you!'”

In some cases, Maddy's muscular build has been beneficial as an actress. She landed a role on Cold Case as a military woman, and has done stunt work for CSI and Legally Blonde 3.

"It's not been easy, but I've decided to embrace this as my niche. My first feature film was the Disney film Stick It, this was before I found CrossFit and I actually worked really hard to get back in shape for this movie. CrossFit would've made my life easier! 

In other cases, and unfortunately more often than not, Maddy's muscles are not an asset to her acting career.

"I've got two movies coming out this year that I filmed in the last couple years (Not for Human Consumption and Starting from Scratch). Ironically, in one, I play a drug counselor and the director and producer sat me down to tell me they would have me in cardigans the rest of the film because I looked more fit than my male costars. I was bummed that a woman playing a drug counselor couldn't look strong. I would think that would be an appropriate profession for it to make sense."  

Maddy's fit look also became a point of contention with her (former) acting manager. He told her that her strong arms made her unmarketable in Hollywood and that she couldn't be strong and muscular if she wanted to be a successful actress.

"I know girl's don't want to get bulky, (I don't either) but when I had this conversation I weighed 115lbs at 5'4", aka, not bulky, just defined."  

In an attempt to appease her manager, get smaller, and land more acting jobs, Maddy stopped doing CrossFit and switched to strictly cardio. The results...

"I ended up gaining weight and being MISERABLE. That's when I decided to choose strength. In an industry where rejection is a daily part of life, for any actor or writer, CrossFit was the one thing I had that gave me a daily chance to succeed, to finish a WOD, to PR on a lift, to compete. I didn't want to take away the one thing that gave me confidence and happiness." 

Maddy's decision to choose strength ended up costing her a manager, but it has not cost her a career in acting or kept her from pursuing a life that is fulfilling on all levels. To watch her compete and to hear her speak so passionately about the things she loves, you know this woman is not a quitter inside or outside the gym. 

We all know what happens when you tell a CrossFit woman that she can't do something.... she takes matters into her own, callused hands. Maddy is writing her own script... literally and figuratively. She and a partner wrote and filmed a trailer for Chalk It Up, the next great gymnastics film. After running a campaign on Kickstarter, the duo found two investors for the film's production. 

Maddy believes strongly in changing the perception of women through film. One way to get more strong female figures in mainstream media is through independent projects such as Chalk It Up. Not only does Maddy want to get more athletic women in front of the camera, she also wants portray them in a different light.

"Gymnastics has been a part of my life since age four. I'm a very girly girl at heart, but I've also been athletic my whole life. I can't remember a time when I didn't have calluses. I don't think athletic girls need to be pigeon holed as jocks or "tough girls". I think this film shows that you can have a balance between being in love and valuing a relationship with a man and also valuing your own goals and achievements as a strong woman."  

Finding work as an actress while training at the elite CrossFit level has proven to be challenging. Maddy's dedication to both disciplines has been tested over and over again. Too big. Too small. Too fit. Not fit enough. Success here. Failure there. Maddy has learned to trust her own instincts, to choose strength, and is figuring out how to make that choice work for her on all fronts.

We are extremely proud to welcome Maddy Curley to the Fashletics family. As our April Fashlete of the Month Maddy is receiving the sterling silver I Choose Strength charm. We are also excited to announce that Maddy is joining our team as a Fashletics Ambassador. Stay tuned for more from Maddy on training, nutrition, and her experiences balancing her life as an athlete and actress. Click here for updates!

  • Author avatar
    Sarah Wilson

Comments on this post (1)

  • Apr 11, 2014

    I had the pleasure of meeting her personally. She is one of the sweetest person I’ve known. She deserves good.

    — Dario

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