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Meryl discussing dyslexia

“Dyslexia never goes away, but it is more of a positive than not…. Patience with oneself is the key to learning how to be your best self in any case. Just because things come differently to you doesn’t make you any less.”

Meryl Davis
By the time ice dancer Meryl Davis arrived at the 2014 Sochi Olympic games, only being the best in the world would do.  Along with partner Charlie White, Davis danced a dramatic, daring routine to the music of “Scheherazade,” the Arabian Nights tale of seduction.  Together they captured the heart of a worldwide audience and the first American gold medal ever for Ice Dancing.  The grace and ease Davis displays on ice are in stark contrast to her younger years in school, where her struggles with dyslexia taught her that grit and perseverance can give you the strength to shine on and off the ice.
Davis’s triumph was seventeen years in the training.  While many athletes on ice have juggled school and skating (some got by skimming through textbooks while the Zamboni resurfaced the rink), Davis believes the extra challenge of her dyslexia actually gave her advantages.  Her schoolwork took her at least twice as much time every day, but built immeasurably more character.  “From an early age I realized that if I wanted to achieve things and I wanted to be successful, I had to put in the work.  And I think that’s really translated on to the ice.”

Meryl Davis and ice dancing partner Charlie White on the medal podium at the 2014 Sochi Olympics
Before the international panel of meticulous Olympic judges, Davis’s high-wattage smile and convincing charismatic execution were the demeanor of a woman born believing in herself.  In fact, off the ice, Davis earned her self-esteem the hard way—proving herself to the toughest judge in the world: Meryl Davis.  Her first hurdle was overcoming the secret assumption of stupidity that accompanied her dyslexia.  “Self-confidence is really a big deal, as is feeling intelligent.  It took me a really long time for my parents to convince me I wasn’t unintelligent.  I feel so lucky and blessed to be born into a family who helped me.  And I am stronger today because of it.”
Little Meryl first found herself wobbling on blades on the frozen lake behind her family home at age five.  By six she was excelling at lessons and liking it.  Early school, by contrast, was a fuzzy puzzle.  Meryl didn’t understand why everything reading-related took so long.  “I was spending a lot of time getting the homework done.  My parents said, ‘You have to go to sleep.'  I’d wake up to do it in the middle of the night.  I was embarrassed not to have it done.  I never showed up without the work done.  And I always took pride in never quitting.”
Davis can’t account for her precocious drive except to say that “It was always just there—I’ve never been anyone else.”  But her determination didn’t remove the drudgery.  “It was always the reading; I just couldn’t rattle through it.  And my writing was discombobulated.  I had to focus really hard and go through things over and over to make sense of them.”
Fortunately, Meryl was born to a special-education teacher.  By third grade, Meryl’s mother had taken her to a specialist for her official dyslexia diagnosis.  With the help of her mother’s insightfulness and tutoring and with willing, supportive elementary school teachers, Meryl got through public school.  Meryl still had to put in the extra effort, every day, even as her practice time on the ice also increased.
At age ten Meryl switched to ice dancing, partnering with a little boy at the rink named Charlie White.  They were still at an age when the opposite sex “had cooties.”  Their coach wisely put smiley stickers on their foreheads so each could avoid looking into the other’s eyes.  They hit it off.  For the next seventeen years Meryl would trust Charlie not to steer her wrong.
Skating practice consumed more and more of the day as the pair moved up in competitions.  For Meryl, so did her homework with each progressive school year.  Comprehension was never the problem.  It was the sheer mechanics of getting through written material.  Meryl would doggedly complete school assignments, with her parents trading off nightly tutoring.  It never came naturally.
“I learned how I learned and how my brain worked. It helped me adjust and compensate for my differences…. It opened me up to problem solving, seeing things differently, and how I can help myself overcome things.”
Skating, on the other hand, became a labor of love—an escape from the arduous task of reading.  “With skating I could feel it more than see it,” Meryl described.  “I fell in love with it because it made sense to me, partly because I see things differently.  I learned to enjoy it, worry free, in terms of moving with the music.  It’s been a really beautiful part of my life.”
By high school Davis had made an enormous leap with her homework misery—gaining insight that would allow her to graduate with honors.  “I learned how I learned and how my brain worked.  It helped me adjust and compensate for my differences…. It opened me up to problem solving, seeing things differently, and how I can help myself overcome things.”
It was on to the prestigious University of Michigan for Meryl.  Away from her parents’ help, she saw just how much she had really progressed from her early years of struggling with the words on the page.  For the first time, she was reading books on her own.  “My roommates thought I was spending much more time on the homework than I should, but at UM, I started loving school…. I finally got a lot of joy from learning new things.” 
With her training and competition schedule, she would become one of the school’s slowest Anthropology majors—at age 28 she is a junior—but not for a lack of desire or intelligence; her training schedule did not allow enough time for a full course load.  For most of what would have been typical college years, she was on the ice.  Practice ballooned to ten hours a day.  Training was “more boot camp than ballet.”  There were many days Davis didn’t see the sun. 
After five years of those demanding workouts and travel and competition schedules, with a singular focus on their dream, Davis and White became America’s first World Ice Dancing champions.  By the Sochi Olympics, the gold was theirs to lose.  It takes one kind of determination to reach the top, and another kind of cool to stay there.  Davis proved she had both. 
In a tempestuous sport, filled with artistic temperaments, Davis stands out for not being a diva.  She has the exceptional reputation of being a “soothing partner."  Between her showmanship and nerves of steel, she stays remarkably calm, even under pressure.  For this, she thanks her dyslexia.  “It [dyslexia] never goes away, but it is more of a positive than not…. Patience with oneself is the key to learning how to be your best self in any case.  Just because things come differently to you doesn’t make you any less.  You have to rely on the people who are there for you.  I have come out the other side.”
Davis is also on the other side of winning that gold medal.  It’s been a thrilling ride.  Shortly after the Olympics, Davis won ABC’s Dancing with the Stars18th season to take home the mirror ball.  Her partner this time was the very sexy professional dancer Maksim Chmerkovskly.  Davis went from wholesome Olympian to steamy stunner overnight.  Fans are still awaiting confirmation of an off-screen romance that Davis denies.
Davis and Charlie White continue to work out together on free days, but laugh through it—the pressure is off, for now.  They agreed not to decide their joint athletic future for at least a year.  It may be back to defending their gold, or going professional and really seeking fame and fortune.
In the meantime, they’ve traveled the world, accepted endless awards and honors, done countless media appearances, taped television shows, gone on tour with the “Stars on Ice” program, and been the commentators at competitions.  Davis keeps a bag nearly permanently packed, lives close to the Detroit airport, and could play the same recorded plea to each TSA agent begging them to allow her to carry on her skates.
But even road weary and exhausted, Meryl also carries with her empathy that springs from her battle with the printed page.  That empathy has led her to visit sick kids in hospitals, and help young students in classrooms across the country.  She didn’t talk about her dyslexia in depth before the Olympics—not because she was ashamed, but because she wanted the skating to stay center stage.
Post-Olympics, Davis’s view of the world has broadened.  Win or lose, gold medal or no medal, struggling with dyslexia or having reading come easy, the point, Davis tells students, is to set goals and strive.  Real success, Meryl Davis now believes, is finding happiness.  And by that definition she absolutely declares herself successful.

theCHICagolifeblog: Chatting with Meryl Davis

It’s no secret that I love doing a good celebrity interview!  However, it’s not everyday that I’m contacted about a celebrity interview, and the celebrity is somebody I sat next to in college.  Yet, that happens to be exactly the case with Olympic ice dancing gold medal winner (and don’t forget Dancing with the Stars champion) Meryl Davis.  Ten years ago we sat next to each other during our freshman year Italian class at The University of Michigan, and then went through sorority rush together the same fall.  I remember thinking Meryl was incredibly nice, and very smart, but had absolutely no idea she was an Olympic caliber athlete- None.  She never mentioned it!  In retrospect, her modesty doesn’t surprise me at all, it just speaks to the genuinely sweet and sincere person she is.  What did surprise me, was years later when my parents called me into their family room because Olympic coverage was on and, “There’s a girl from Michigan on TV!”.  I instantly recognized Meryl, casually bragged to my whole family that I knew her (though obviously not very well- again, I had no idea about the whole ice skating thing until that moment), and have loved following her career ever since.
Fast forward to last week, and I had the pleasure of catching up with Meryl at The Four Seasons here in Chicago.  We reminisced about U of M (unfortunately, neither one of us remembers much Italian) and she indulged my endless Dancing with the Stars questions (yes, she stays in touch with Maks).  It was fascinating to hear about all the things she’s been doing since she and partner Charlie White won Gold in Sochi, and we even had fun talking fashion- Meryl has an exciting new partnership with Vera Bradley which is what brought her to Chicago that day in the first place…

Well 10 years later, now that I know you as a world famous Olympic ice dancing champion… I’m curious to hear how skating has influenced your taste, specifically in areas like fashion and music?
People should ask that more often, it has a huge impact!  It has an impact on everything, but especially music and fashion.  I started skating when I was five, and I played the flute for awhile, but I think hearing classical music your whole life whether it’s Vivaldi or Mozart, despite a lack of classical training you really appreciate the beauty of the classics.  So often we’ll do an interview and people will ask what’s on my iPod and I’ll say maybe some different opera- people don’t expect it, but nothing quite gets to your soul like the classics.  I’ve definitely developed a taste for that.  As for fashion, my mom and I have pretty much been designing my costumes my whole life so I think I’m a little more conscious of shapes and colors I gravitate towards, and I definitely really like experimenting.  I think because in skating we get to play different characters, so even if something is more risque than what I would normally do I feel like I can experiment with it because it’s for a character.  In real life I don’t take it quite as far, but the eagerness to experiment is still there.

I can’t imagine anyone goes into ice skating thinking they’ll end up being the major celebrity you’ve become- How has adjusting to life in the public eye been?  Do get recognized whenever you go out?
I think I get recognized more often because I have a unique look, at least that’s what Charlie keeps telling me.  He seems to fly under the radar very well!  I’m finding it really nice though, because people have been very warm.  I think as an Olympian you take representing your country very seriously, so to come back to the US and have people not only recognize you but appreciate and want to talk about the Olympics is a real honor.  People feel involved in your career because you’re representing The States and that’s really cool!

What’s your schedule like these days?  How have you been spending your time since the Olympics and all the vigorous training?
Our schedule now is much more irregular than when we were training.  When we were training for the Olympics we were either at home training 5 days a week, very regimented, or at competition.  Now, everything changes daily.  It took a bit of getting used to, but I’m liking it!  It’s different to wake up and have a different routine everyday, rather than the regimented routine of a competitive athlete, but I do like it.

What is going into your decision whether or not to compete in the next Olympics?  Are you and Charlie discussing PyeongChang 2018 yet?  
Charlie and I keep saying to each other now that we’ve had a chance to step away we realize how much actually goes into preparing to fight for a medal in the Olympics.  Having come away with a Silver in 2010 and a Gold in 2014, I think we realize that if we decide to go back in 2018 we need a real reason, and we need to feel that that’s really where we need to be.  We’re allowing ourselves a little bit of time to explore and to see if we find that, and then that will really be our deciding factor.  At the core if we feel that’s where we need to be, then we’ll go back, otherwise we’ll go on to other things.
How was training for Dancing with the Stars?  Everybody always talks about how rigorous it is, but what was your experience like having come from the world of competitive athletics?
It was interesting!  The time that went into it was similar.  It was more challenging than Charlie and I expected because you’re using different muscles, and we’re so comfortable in skates that, for me, putting on high heels was really, really challenging.  But looking back it was the most fun I’ve ever had in my life!  Skating is my passion and it’s what I love to do, but because of the level I was at after winning Olympic Gold the pressure and burden of having to be the best was a lot.  Then, with dancing I had no experience, I had no training, so I was able to get on the dance floor and have fun performing without feeling that pressure to be the best, and that was a nice change.

Since the Olympics and Dancing with the Stars has there been a standout surreal moment or someone who’s left you starstruck?  I’m sure you’ve gotten to meet so many amazing people and have some fabulous experiences! 
One of our coolest experiences was meeting Ralph Lauren!  We were sponsored by Ralph Lauren going into the games, so we had been working with the company which was great. Often times, you meet important and impressive people who are just that: important and impressive, but don’t necessarily take the time to have a conversation with you.  But when Charlie and I walked into the Ralph Lauren headquarters he greeted us like we were long lost friends and took the time to give us a personal tour.  He turned what could have been a 10 minute meeting into a 2 hour meeting, and he has an empire to run!  Charlie and I were both just so honored and so impressed that he would take the time to talk to us that it has to be one of our most special moments since the Olympics.  Plus, I really love fashion, so hearing him talk all about his evolution was amazing!
Speaking of fashion, you’re the first celebrity spokesperson for Vera Bradley.  What can you tell us about the partnership? 
They’re a company whose product I’ve carried for years!
Did you have the “maize and blue” patterned pieces (which are now retired) like we all did at University of Michigan?
I did!  I had all the maize and blue, on campus, of course!  Their pieces are so nice and light to carry all your really heavy books and things.  It’s perfect.  So, being from Michigan I think a lot of people have always lovedVera Bradley, it’s a Mid-Western company.  But now, getting to know the company and the people I’m realizing how truly special it is.  They’re growing, and getting into new things, and evolving into the fashion world, but they always stay true to their roots which is so special and admirable.  Charlie and I try to do the same thing, as we evolve we try to stick true to our roots, and so to be partnered with Vera Bradley and to carry their products isn’t just cool, but a huge honor!

Do you have a favorite Vera Bradley piece at the moment?
I do!  I’m obsessed with their leather and faux leather right now!  I’ve always carried their patterns, and they’re great, but I feel like the fact that they’re expanding into these pieces that transition from day to night is very cool.  They’re so chic!  I love the different shapes, and I’m so excited to be partnered with them as they continue to expand into other areas.
Before we wrap up, I know I’m going to get a whole bunch of tweets and emails, if I don’t ask… Do you still keep in touch with Maks?
I’m still very close with Maks!  He is a truly unique and very impressive person, and I think that when you’re thrown into an experience like that with someone, I didn’t know anything about him beforehand, it forces you to get to know each other and peel back the layers.  The more I got to know him the more impressed I was with him, and it’s so special to be able to maintain that friendship.  He’s a great guy!
[Photos By Hallie Duesenberg]

Worlds appearance: Shanghai

WGN interview

AAU Sullivan Award

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Olympic Ice Dancers Dish on Their Beauty Routines

Olympic Ice Dancers Dish on Their Beauty Routines
Meryl Davis and Charlie White spill their beauty secrets from the ice. (Photo: Getty Images)
I’m not going to lie, every time I see ice dancers perform, I want to be one of them. I want to dance in sparkly sequins and leap into my partner’s arms. Since it isn’t likely in this lifetime, I’ll be living vicariously through real life couple and Olympic Gold Medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White. I caught up with the pair at the opening of the flagship store of Airweave mattress toppers in Manhattan. The American all-stars talked ice beauty with me, sharing their take on grooming, beauty mishaps, and makeup for men.

Yahoo Beauty: What are your beauty and grooming regimens?Meryl Davis: Our regimen for looking good either at home or on the road is very simple. We make a very conscious effort to eat good food, get enough sleep, stay active and keep our skin healthy.

How much makeup do you wear during performances?I definitely wear more makeup for a performance than I’d ever wear day-to-day.

Do you apply it yourself, and how long does this process take?It takes me about 20 minutes, and I apply it myself. I find the ritual rather therapeutic as I prepare for competition or a show.

How many items do you typically carry to performances, in your beauty kit?Makeup brushes, one blush, one bronzer, one mascara, one tinted moisturizer, lots of eye shadow, a few shades of long-wear lipstick, liquid eyeliner and lots of hairspray.

Have you had any beauty mishaps while performing?When I was about 13 and skating singles, I had a fake hairpiece fall off of my bun and fly across the ice. I gave up on fake hair forever at that exact moment!
Charlie, is makeup a part of your competition routine?Charlie White: Looking good under the bright lights of ice rinks is very difficult without the help of makeup, so luckily I’ve always had Meryl around to put some bronzer on my face right before we head out to compete.

How long does this take?It usually only takes a couple of minutes, but it’s become such a part of our pre-competition routine. It would be weird to miss it.
What’s the most interesting beauty product you’ve been introduced to abroad?Probably my Fusion ProGlide razor. It’s crazy the technological advancements they’ve made with razors, but there’s nothing worse than traveling somewhere and realizing you’re going to have to hope some random razor can get the job done.

Airweave-SOHO opening

Well-Rested Davis And White Help Open First Airweave Sleep Store
NEW YORK -- More than 17 years of training together, superb coaching and choreography, and good, old-fashioned hard work led Meryl Davis and Charlie White to the first U.S. ice dance gold at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games.
A good night’s sleep didn’t hurt, either.
That’s where United States Olympic Committee sponsor airweave, the top-selling brand of premium bedding toppers and pillows in Japan, came in.
airweave’s innovative products are made of three-dimensional, entwined resin fibers, with air occupying more than 90 percent of the material. The ergonomic, breathable design and highly resilient material allows users to roll over easily, and maintain a deep and restorative sleep.
Mao Asada, a 2010 Olympic silver medalist in figure skating from Japan, a huge star in her native country, introduced Davis and White to the mattress toppers when the Michigan natives traveled to Japan to perform in Asada’s ice show.
“The first year we did Mao’s show, in 2011 or 2012, she arranged for everyone in the cast to get a free travel topper,” Davis said at the grand opening of airweave’s store in the fashionable Manhattan neighborhood of Soho on Wednesday. “It gave us a great night’s sleep and it was great to use on the run. We became huge fans.”
When the skaters headed to Sochi last February for their second Winter Games (they won a silver medal in Vancouver in 2010), they brought airweave travel mattress toppers, rolled up snugly in carry cases, with them. They weren’t alone: nearly one-third of medal-winning athletes at the Sochi Games were members of teams given mattress toppers by airweave.
In Sochi, Davis and White added two Olympic medals to their résumé, including gold in the individual ice dance event and a bronze in the team event, featuring the top 10 figure skating countries.
“Many Olympic committees use airweave,” Motokuni Takaoka, the company’s president and CEO, said. “We told Lisa Baird (USOC’s chief marketing officer) we wanted to provide mattress toppers to Team USA. Of course, the muscle density of all athletes is not the same, so we supplied (customized) toppers for each.”
Takaoka created airweave nearly a decade ago when he took over his uncle’s company manufacturing fishing nets and lines. After discovering that the resin used in production had previously been used in mattress stuffing, he was inspired to create the mattress toppers.
In 2007, Takaoka brought 40 airweave mattress toppers to the Japan Institute of Sports Sciences, to be tested by athletes. Many Japanese Olympians asked for mattress toppers to take to the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, so Takaoka produced a portable version. After the strong response, he ordered additional testing at Tokyo’s Waseda University, as well as Stanford University, to help further refine the product.
In Sochi, Davis and White won gold with a stirring free dance set to Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade,” the tale of a young bride who postpones her execution by keeping her Sultan husband enraptured each night by her storytelling. But while “Scheherazade” stayed up weaving stories, the skaters knew they needed eight good hours of sleep before tackling the demanding, four-minute program.
“Just knowing when we got to the Olympics, we would be sleeping on something we are familiar with, was incredibly comforting,” Davis said.
“It was very, very helpful to our mindset,” White said. “It’s always challenging to travel to different cities and get enough sleep, and it was so refreshing to have that consistency.”
Lindsay Thornton, a USOC senior sport psychophysiologist, thinks it’s difficult to overestimate how important proper sleep is to elite athletes.
“It is an essential and often under-utilized recovery modality in sport performance,” Thornton said. “When athletes regularly get adequate, quality sleep, they can minimize the negative effects of training and travel-related fatigue on performance, and execute world-class performance when it counts.”
When Takaoka heard about Davis and White’s devotion to his company’s products, the skaters were invited onboard as brand ambassadors. (Fellow U.S. figure skating team bronze medalist Gracie Gold is also a brand ambassador.) The avid sportsman jets all over the world watching the skaters, as well as tennis pro Kei Nishikori; golfers Bubba Watson and Paula Creamer; and other airweave brand ambassadors and users.
“Our product fully supports athletes’ bodies when they sleep,” Takaoka said. “You can change positions very easily, without using many muscles. You can rotate easily. Athletes can recover from tough training and competition.”
airweave has operated in Japan for seven years, with 140 shops inside department stores as well as an e-commerce site. The Soho site is its first stand-alone “bricks-and-mortar” store.
“We are thrilled airweave chose New York City for the home of its first retail store and flagship location,” said the USOC’s Baird. “Our athletes have responded well to airweave’s bedding toppers, and this is an exciting opportunity to increase the visibility of our partner’s phenomenal product.”
The Soho location won’t be the sole U.S. store for long.
“The buzz has been so incredible, we’re adding two more New York stores by the end of the year,” Allen Cohen, airweave’s communications director, said. “We’re also planning stores in other cities, including Miami and Los Angeles.”
Of course, Olympic athletes aren’t the only ones who can benefit from airweave technology. Takaoka, who hails from the bustling Nagoya, one of Japan’s largest cities, is thrilled to bring his brainchild to citizens of the city that never sleeps.
“Soho is full of my kind of people,” he said. “They are very busy, and they need a good night’s rest.”
Lynn Rutherford is a sportswriter based out of New York. She is a freelance contributor to on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

Live in the D: 3/6/15

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Live in the D: 3/5/15

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Meryl Davis & Charlie White On Jeopardy! by Codebear2