Saturday, September 12, 2009

Octagon Girl takes reporter on longboarding adventure

By Anthony Fenech

Saturday, Sept. 12, 2009 | 2 a.m.

She walks down a flight of stairs with a longboard curled up under each arm, both plausibly bigger than her 5 foot, 2 inch frame, but significantly smaller than the smile that stretches from ear-to-ear.

Her black v-neck t-shirt and complementing frazzled jean shorts give her the sophista-ordinary look of the girl next door.

But above the smile and the style is hair that can’t be classified as ordinary.

“It kind of has it’s own little world,” Natasha Wicks says as she picks and prods at the short blonde and golden brown mix of craziness. “It’s fun and it’s different. I love my hair.”

Wicks kayaks, long boards, dances, runs, models and when she’s not running on empty from all of that, she’s walking around the UFC octagon with her arms held high above, displaying the round number as the newest of the Octagon Girls.

“It’s so exciting,” she says. “It’s rocking up there with people who already know your name and know who you are. I think I was smiling the whole time.”

Far from your prototypical Octagon Girl, Wicks is as petite as they come, all-natural and wasn’t really bred for the role, but rather kind-of-sort-of fell into it.

A native Las Vegan, she grew up on a farm on the outskirts of the city with seven siblings along with horses, pigs, chickens, lambs, the whole nine yards.

“But not cows,” she says, laughing.

By her own admission, she lived somewhat of a sheltered life early on, her parents encouraging the kids to decorate their coloring books rather than let their eyes stray to the billboards while riding through the downtown areas of the city.

The 24-year-old graduated from Cimarron-Memorial High, went to Northern Arizona University on a running scholarship then moved to Hawaii when a stranger’s simple comment got her thinking.

“Someone stopped me and said, ‘Hey, you should get into modeling,’” she says. “I said I’d love to but I’m too short. That’s kind of where it got started.”

“I always wanted to, like when I was a little girl I was like, ‘Oh, I want to be a model. I want to be a singer,’ but I was always really short so ...”

So she moved back home, got in touch with agencies and started modeling.

“The whole modeling thing I was like, ‘I’m gonna try it and if it doesn’t work out then something else will happen.’”

It worked out and while modeling and working as a dancer at Encore’s XS nightclub, a friend convinced her to join the UFC’s Octagon Girl contest.

More than 2,000 girls applied for the gig online. 40 were picked to come to the UFC Fan Expo on July 11 – “Oh my, there’s 40 and they’re all beautiful,” she thought – and from that 40, five were picked to come on stage. Wicks was one of them.

One by one they were eliminated until Wicks was the last remaining, beaming and holding up the winner’s card.

“Oh my God I was so excited,” she says. “I was standing up there and all of a sudden all these people wanted pictures and there were people interviewing me and I was thinking ‘This isn’t just a little bikini contest, this is huge!’”

Longboarding with Natasha

Standing on the third floor of the garage, Wicks gets on a longboard and hands me the other one. I know fully well what’s about to happen. To explain, pick any combination of fall, slip and injury.

Slowly riding around me as I run and chase my board a few times from near-falls, she talks of how this Octagon Girl thing almost never happened.

Five months earlier, Wicks was with her friends at the Hard Rock when she took a spill on the stairs thanks to her high heels and broke her foot.

On crutches for two months and having to wear a boot cast for another, she needed help to get on stage at the Fan Expo when she had to wear heels.

“The fact that we wear Pumas and not heels is awesome,” she says. “When I found out I was like ‘Yes!’ because I knew it wouldn’t be any problem.”

Instructing me to stay on the board would, however, prove to be a problem.

Struggling to balance myself and falling on my back a time or two, Wicks picks up her speed, slows down her speed, weaves in and out of metal beams, makes sharp turns and stops on a dime.

“I like to think I started the whole long boarding fad,” she quips, followed by a laugh.

Finally, I’m on the board and moving around, albeit like a turtle.

Oblivious to Natasha Wicks first tip of long boarding – “Don’t do anything crazy when you’re first starting” – I try to roll down the second floor ramp.

Simultaneously picking up speed and losing control, I realize this is not going to end well. I jump off, skip a couple times and eat concrete.

“Did you make it?” I hear her say from the ledge above. She looks over and sees me sprawled out on the ground. She laughs.

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