Interview: Lolo Jones Discusses the ESPYs, Fame, and Beyoncé

Lolo Jones also talks about Russell Wilson, Red Bull, and America's favorite couple.

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Lolo Jones is not your typical Olympic athlete, which is to say that the dedication and sacrifice we normally associate with members of Team USA only defines one side of her personality. Certainly, the two-way track/bobsledding threat has made competition her life's mission, committing and re-committing herself to Team USA while in pursuit of an Olympic medal. But with her personality and presence, Jones has also stolen the spotlight as one of track and field's most visible stars. Whether she's popping up at the BET Awards or making waves on Twitter, Jones hasn't allowed her public profile to be defined by an Olympic schedule. 

We're not the only ones to notice how big Jones has become, either. Red Bull has partnered with Jones to make her one of their signature athletes in a move that only speaks to the company's ever-expanding reach. What started out as an energy drink now has a definitive presence in sports and culture, and Jones' relationship with the company is proof of their savvy approach to brand-building

At Soldier Field in Chicago last week, Red Bull played host to Jones and her fellow Red Bull athletes, NBA star Anthony Davis and professional snowboarder Louie Vito, who were all on-hand to take in Beyoncé and Jay Z's concert that evening as a part of the power couple's On The Run Tour. Sitting down to talk with Complex Sports, Jones discussed her recent trip to the ESPYs, the spotlight that comes along with being a professional athlete, and her future after professional sports. 


So, just to start off, what's your partnership with Red Bull like?

I’m one of their athletes, so I get to drink Red Bull before races to get amped up. Obviously, as a track runner, I have to respond to a starting gun, so I use it for my reaction time.

Really? You drink it right before the race?

I time it out. 45 minutes before my race is when I start drinking a can of Red Bull. In Europe, they have the twist ones which you can screw on and off, but that hasn’t hit America yet. And I’m always nervous before races so I’m like spilling my Red Bull all over myself.

[Laughs] That's caffeine for you. But speaking of your career, you competed in the Olympics in February, what’s next for you?

Right now, I’m in the middle of track season. I’m on the Diamond League tour and we have a few more races. So, I'll just finish out this track season and keep training for track. The Rio Olympics are coming up in a few years and I want to focus on that.

You’ve been training and competing for most of your life now. What do you want to do when your career is over?

Well, I want to go to Rio and get a medal and then I'll probably transition into TV. Every year, I try and do something to put on my résumé because I know that I can’t be a track athlete forever. So I’ve done some stuff for ESPN. I’ve done World Championships for track and field, NCAA championships for track and field, and other stuff I can put on my résumé. I’d really like to see how far I can go with that.

So how did you like the ESPY​s?

The ESPYs were good. They were super fun. For all the best athletes in the world to hang out like that, it was just a blast. It was completely different from the BET Awards, which I went to a week or two before the ESPYs. With the ESPYs, it was just a completely different vibe.

How did this year's show compare to past years when you've gone?

There were a few athletes that weren’t there this year because they were in-season. So some of the female soccer players, there were more of them in past years. But the men’s soccer team was there hanging out, kicking it. I had a lot of fun this year. It was probably my favorite ESPYs. With Drake hosting and singing, this year was definitely my favorite.

What was your favorite bit that he did?

Clearly, "Side Pieces." Also, I was in the song "Honorable Mentions." I don’t know why I'm proud of that, but I am.


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So, people saw you and Russell Wilson at the ESPYs and the rumors that you two were dating started immediately. Does the speculation you get about your romantic life ever bother you?

Not unless it's with the wrong person. Russell is actually a really nice, funny guy, and I wouldn’t mind being linked to that. But if it's with someone you don’t want to be linked with, it can be a little frustrating. I think it can be hard for celebrities just because if they're talking to somebody and they are respectful about it—they could literally just be saying “hi” to that person—it still gets blown out of proportion and it could kill something before it even starts. So I can see why people are cautious, but you can’t really do anything about the rumors. I’ve had rumors about so many different situations and just have to tell yourself that it’ll blow over with time.

How do you feel about the spotlight that comes with being a professional athlete? Does it bother you, does it excite you, do you not feel any type of way about it?

Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's annoying. Athletes aren't actors and actresses; we don’t think we're going to become famous. When actors and actresses make movies they know that they're going to become famous. As an Olympic athlete, I never in my wildest dreams thought I was going to be famous. Most people can’t remember an Olympic gold medalist’s name four months after the Olympics happen. It fades quickly. So when people do recognize you, you're not prepared for it like other people are. It’s different. I don’t rely on people to buy movie tickets for me and I’m not trying to sell them albums, so that really means I’m not trying to push something on a fan. I’m just trying to open them up about my sport and what I go through. You don’t see the Olympics like that.

For example, let me show you how I train. So, yeah, we have different spotlights, but you're still expected to handle fame like Angelina Jolie, and we’re not as prepared as someone like her.

I feel like you're expected to handle the spotlight even better than movie stars. Like, an athlete is supposed to be on a Wheaties box, but if you see an actor or actress at a club, it’s no big deal.

You’re absolutely right​. Yeah, it doesn’t matter for them. Like, I could actually mess up my sponsorships. They might not get a certain movie role, but then some other movie that wants a "bad" person will hire them.

It’s a weird double standard. So moving on to the concert tonight, what are you expecting? Have you seen Beyoncé and Jay Z before?

I saw Beyoncé when she was with Destiny’s Child; it was amazing. I know she is going be late. Everyone around the country who has gone to her concerts before knows she’s like an hour late, minimum. But it’s Beyonce. Of course she's going to be late. Regardless, I think it's going to be a really good time. I’m looking forward to it.

What song do you want to hear the most?

I mean, Beyoncé was absolutely amazing, but you really have to be in love or with somebody for that CD; it’s such a sensual CD. I wasn’t at that point when it came out, so I was just like, “I can’t listen to this. This CD is a little too much for me, and my loneliness, and my single nights." [laughs] "Drunk in Love" was an easy one, though. I think anyone can campaign behind that song. Who doesn’t want to be crazy in love where they just feel like they are absolutely high and/or drunk in love? I’m definitely looking forward to seeing that one.

When you're training, what’s on your playlist?

Right now, I listen to a lot of dance music. It’s good for a beat. I like to have a beat when I'm running. I listen to Martin Garrix. Even though I may tweet about her, I will listen to Rihanna. She’s good for warming up. If I'm lifting weights, I could listen to more hip hop, but mostly I just like dance music. I’m all about rhythm and my feet hitting the track. And it’s not necessarily words, I just want a really fast beat to get me going.

Gus Turner is a News Editor for Complex Sports. He tweets here.

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