Whether it be circumstances, relationships, or a competitive spirit, these two female alumni from Academy of Art University are both driven to be intense athletes. And, not just in the standard array of competitive sports. Both Jasmin Guinn and Nikkie Neal have followed different paths that first intersected at Academy of Art University, and now bring them to compete as two of the 64 athletes chosen for the new NBC game show “The Titan Games” inspired and hosted by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
The show, which first aired on January 3, 2019, is inspired by Johnson’s desire to motivate global audiences to reach their potential both mentally and physically. This new athletic competition provides an opportunity for men and women from across the country to push their bodies and minds to the limit while battling opponents in “innovative and forgiving head-to-head challenges,” all designed by Johnson himself.
Male and female victors will move through the competition until they face the ultimate challenge of Mt. Olympus, which will be a stunning crucible of agility, endurance, strength, and speed. Guinn and Neal are uniquely equipped to face these mental and physical challenges, as their stories reveal.
Jasmin Guinn is a 2017 graduate from Academy of Art University’s School of Animation & Visual Effects. A 2016-17 NCAA Woman of the Year nominee, Guinn was the first Urban Knight to earn All-PacWest First Team in two different sports. She won twice in basketball (2014-15, 2015-16) and once in track (2014). In basketball, Guinn was named the PacWest Defender of the Year twice. She was also twice voted MVP by her coach and helped Academy of Art University win the first two PacWest Conference Tournament titles (2012-13, 2013-14). In track, Guinn competed in more than 20 meets with her top long and triple jump performances coming at the 2016 PacWest Conference Championship.
“Doing two sports throughout college actually really helped prepare me for the level of intensity I needed to have while I was training,” said Guinn. “There was so much work required to be able to compete in both sports and so much adversity I had to face to even get a chance to compete the way I knew how.”
Growing up in Redondo Beach, California, Nikkie Neal enjoyed playing volleyball, soccer, swimming and running track. But it wasn’t until her grandfather’s death in 2012 that she became laser-focused on getting and staying fit. While struggling through the difficult days, a friend encouraged Neal to go to the gym and work out. She graduated from Academy of Art University in 2016 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Fashion Marketing.
“Whenever I have a hard time or I’m going through something, I at least know the gym will be there,” said Neal. “Even if I can’t get better in the aspect of life or I feel I can’t, I know that I can put in the work that is needed to jump higher or lift heavier or do something physical I can do better in.”
While at Redondo Union High School, she played indoor volleyball during the team’s fourth visit to the Southern California Regional finals in 2010. Now a fitness model, she works for national fitness brands.
It’s not only sports that drives these ladies to be intense competitors. Key relationships and motivations played a part in both of their journeys. Neal’s relationship with her grandfather was pivotal in her young adult years. She was raised by a single mom in a family with four older siblings. It wasn’t an idyllic childhood.
“My mom was always working, my older sister kind of raised me as well as my siblings,” recalled Neal. “My mom wasn’t really around because she was always doing some type of hustle to make sure we had something on the table.”
As she got older, she became closer to her grandfather, Neal, eventually changing her birth name to match that of her mentor. They even continued to communicate by phone and letter when she went to college in San Francisco at Academy of Art University. Her grandfather’s death from cancer brought about a complete change in her focus and lifestyle, to one of fitness and success.
After completing her degree at Academy of Art University, Guinn found herself connecting with an article about Dwayne Johnson’s struggles with depression. “I was at an extremely low point myself and the article actually helped me see that no matter what kind of hole you’re in and how much you’re struggling, you just have to keep on pushing and have faith in yourself. After about a year hiatus, I got back on Instagram and instantly followed him (Johnson) hoping to see more inspiring stuff and the first post on his page was: ‘The Titan Games is looking for women.’ It was this epic promo about how they were looking for strong women who can rise to the occasion that made me think about how I used to be when I competed and I wanted so badly to feel that again.”
Intensity for the Arts – Academy of Art University
Both Nikkie and Jasmin will find themselves competing against other intense athletes in The Titan Games, but they both share the experience of exposure to an intensity for the arts at Academy of Art University. Founded in San Francisco in 1929, AAU is the largest private art and design university in the nation. Creatives can gain a world-class arts education through over 40 programs in 22 disciplines ranging from Architecture to Motion Pictures to Visual Development.