It was an honor to interview Jenn Brown, a two-time Emmy winner, host of American Ninja Warrior and host for the NFL Network and UFC. She's smart, an absolute sweetheart, and so much fun to talk to. With her first baby on the way, the finals of ANW airing next week, a husband in the Hunger Games, and a new ninja baby clothing line, there was so much to ask her! I was bubbling with questions, and she had just the perfect answers.
Jenn is an inspiration, and not the kind that you idolize, but a truly amazing person/friend/wife/mommy-to-be and everything in between. She's relatable, kind, and her passion alone will put a spring in your step.
Read the Exclusive ShareTV Interview below and enjoy getting to know the girl who is normally behind the interviews.
ShareTV: What’s you’re favorite sport to play? To host?
Jenn Brown: My favorite sport to play would probably be softball. That’s the sport I played all the way through college, although I did play many sports growing up. I started playing little league and tee ball when I was five, so it was the sport I played the most. And getting to play in college was amazing; the University of Florida is such a great school.
JB: My favorite sport to cover, I would say… gosh that’s tough! I absolutely loved, loved covering college football for ESPN. There’s something so unique about that game day experience when you go to these colleges across the country. Going to the University of Florida and seeing the way the SEC gets behind their schools, it’s second to none. Certainly I love covering football in general, I work for the NFL now. My role is a little bit different because I’m in studio, I don’t really get to be on the field for the games. As a sport, I would say football for sure, but you know what’s really cool? I’ve loved Ninja Warrior. I know it’s not typically what someone would think of when it comes to sports, but that has been so much fun to cover these past few seasons. It’s been such an exciting show to be apart of and I do consider the competitors on our show athletes. So that’s been a blast too. I feel blessed, I get to do so many things that I love.
ShareTV: What’s the wildest thing you’ve seen while hosting American Ninja Warrior?
JB: We certainly get some interesting costume choices! Noah Kauffman debuted his gold lamé onesie- that was really interesting- it didn’t leave a lot to the imagination, and that’s always fun. We had “baby ninja” this year, he went in the water and I had to turn away because I was like “Does he have anything underneath because that is just a white cloth diaper thing on the show!” (Thankfully he did have something underneath.)
JB: Those were some of the more interesting moments on the sidelines, but I would say my favorite moment this season was Kacy Catanzaro’s run. To be there for the qualifying and in the finals, to be on the side as she made it up the Warped Wall for the first time ever, and then to make it through our final course... it was just so cool to be there, to be a part of it, it was just exciting for me, it was awesome.
ShareTV: Yea, I know I watched the video like 20 times!
JB: It’s so inspirational isn’t it? It was such a unique experience to be there as it happened, and to see the reactions from the fans and the fellow ninjas and all of that. But also, to hear people I’ve talk to after the fact (like yourself) say, “I was standing up in my living room and I was screaming at the TV and I was jumping up and down.” It was really neat to hear about the same reaction we had in the moment, and that it was translated through the TV screen to the fans and the people watching at home.
ShareTV: Is there anything else specifically that we should look forward to?
JB: For the Ninja Warrior episode on September 15th, it’s USA vs. the World. We have the top 5 USA competitors, the top 5 from Japan, as well as the top 5 Europeans. And I can tell you I am so excited about this show because I know what happens and I saw it. I can’t give anything away, but it’s jaw dropping, amazing, edge of your seat programming that I’m so excited for people to watch.
ShareTV: What do you think is the most difficult obstacle on the American Ninja Warrior course?
JB: We introduce new obstacles in every city, so there are some obstacles competitors will never see. For example, Cannon Ball Alley that we had in Venice Beach that we saw Kevin Bull do that amazing penny drop where he decided to grab it with his legs and flip over. We were all flabbergasted and thought it was the coolest thing ever! So you have something that is extremely difficult for the competitors, but not every city will face something like that. But as a little teaser, I can tell you, there is a part of that type of obstacle in Stage 3 for Mount Midoriyama.
JB: I would say going back to our core signature obstacles like the Warped Wall and Salmon Ladder. In my opinion, I think those are two very difficult obstacles for different reasons. For the Warped Wall, you do see so many people have success, but it’s interesting when you can see someone like Kacy who’s five foot and can get to the top, and someone who’s like 6 foot like Akbar my fellow co-host, he can’t make it up the Warped Wall. It just goes to show that there is so much skill and technique involved and she really trained and understood how to make it to the top. I don’t think you can just go and do it, no matter how athletic you are. Obviously, Akbar is an NFL defensive end and very athletic. We see the Salmon Ladder take so many competitors down. I think what makes that so tough is that it’s always after having already done six obstacles. I think that at that point their arms are fatigued, they’re pumped out, and they’re staring down three new obstacles.
JB: And, of course the Jumping Spider at Mount Midoriyama. On day one (on Monday it will be more competitors attempting Stage 1), the Jumping Spider took out 40% of our competitors, just to put it in perspective. It’s a significant number and extremely difficult. Any time I would talk to athletes when I was down there, that was always the obstacle they were most nervous about.
ShareTV: I always thought the Salmon Ladder was the hardest, and I always think, “If I ever do the show… can I just skip that one?”
JB: I think that’s what is so neat about our show, you have to be well rounded. I’ve looked at the course and thought I could do some of the obstacles, but then there’s ones I look at and think, “There’s no way I’ll be able to do that.” It really shows just how you have to be able to do everything to really have success.
ShareTV: Have you ever tried doing any of the courses?
JB: Oh… yes. Last year (my first season on the show) I told the producers, “I think I’d like to try some of the obstacles, I’m pretty athletic, I think I could do probably do this.” I have a video on my website and it’s my Highlight/Lowlight Reel of My Attempt of the American Ninja Warrior Course. There’s a lot more lowlights than highlights, but I can say I did have some success on the obstacles. It gave me such a better appreciation for how truly difficult our course is and what these athletes are going through. I thought at the time that I was a pretty athletic person … there’s a lot that I couldn’t do, and it’s pretty funny!
ShareTV: What’s been the most memorable hosting or reporting moment for you?
JB: I get asked that a lot, and there’s a moment that I remember that was just awesome. I was working for Inside The NFL, and the Steelers won their sixth Super Bowl in Tampa. I was covering the game, it was the first Super Bowl I had ever worked, and at the end of the game I was in the locker room, it was the first time I had ever been in a locker room too, to do interviews post game. They sent me in and it was frenetic and crazy, champagne being thrown around, people were celebrating and trying to get interviewed. I was doing this interview with Troy Polamalu, and all of the sudden in the middle of the interview the Lombardi trophy gets handed to him from James Harrison or someone. Troy is holding the trophy and looks at me and he’s like, “You see all these sticky fingerprints that we’ve left on this trophy. If you look at that, it’s so symbolic because those fingerprints represent the hard work that we put in to having this moment.” To get to the pinnacle of your career in athletics whether it be at the Olympics or the Super Bowl or the world series or whatever it might be, to win it all is such a rare moment and to be there was so neat.
ShareTV: Can you tell us a little bit about your Ninja Baby clothing line?
JB: I’m pregnant, we just kind-of announced it. I was pregnant while we were filming Ninja Warrior (and no one knew!). So we’re expecting a little one, and I have so much fun when I was on Ninja. I get to be with the families when they get off the course and they run and embrace the cute little kids, people are pregnant, and babies are born. I get asked all the time, “My son wants a Ninja shirt, do you have one?” and we didn’t really have anything. And since the show’s been so popular I thought it would be so much fun to create little ninja baby onesies. I do aspire to do stuff around sports for kids, clothing lines, and books. Those are in the works, so the Ninja Baby line is just the first step.
ShareTV: That’s so fun, and congratulations!
JB: Thank you, we’re due in December. My husband was off filming for the Hunger Games and Mockingjay for like 7 months, so when he left I was just starting to be pregnant, and he came back and was like “Oh, you’re pregnant.” And I’m like, “Yeah, I told ya.” It was funny.
ShareTV: Yeah, we saw you posted a picture of his new poster! Do you get to see anything in advance or at the very least go to the premiere?
JB: They keep that movie very, very tight in terms of what they release. Wes went to Comic Con with Natalie Dormer and all the rebel warriors to release the trailer, and they weren’t even allowed to see it before it was shown. I imagine I will be very pregnant in November for the premiere, but we’ll get to go. He had such a great time working on that movie, and it was such a great opportunity. He’s become good friends with everybody; it sounds like a great cast. I’m looking forward to seeing the movie when it’s finished and all the hard work they put into it.
ShareTV: That’s so exciting, me too, I’m such a huge fan! Our whole office went to Comic Con and reported on everything so, we saw everything… I’m so excited.
JB: I am too! I read the books prior to him getting cast in it, so I remember when he got the call and I totally knew who he was playing and thought it was awesome! I was selfishly very excited.
ShareTV: With you and your husband having such a busy work schedule, do you have any plans for managing baby life, home, and everything in the next few months?
JB: It’s a new thing for me because it’s our first child. It’s going to be a lot of “figure it out as you go” and I actually have a lot of good friends who’ve recently had kids. Samantha Ponder, who is an ESPN sideline reporter and host, and I are close. She just had her first child about two months ago, and is working through it and I’m planning on doing the same. And luckily as I mentioned earlier, I’m in studio. I won’t have to travel as much, so that’s nice. I plan on taking the appropriate time off, and I know my mom and my husband are willing to help. What’s great about Ninja Warrior is that we only shoot in the summer for a handful of weekends. It’s a tough schedule in terms of nights, but it’s certainly doable. I’ve been doing a lot of reaching out, getting into the mom-space, understanding how people have done it before me, and getting advice. I’m planning on blogging about it and documenting my journey, I think it’s a natural transition for me, and I’ll just figure it out as we go.
ShareTV: I don’t know if you think of yourself as making an impact as a female in this generally male dominated sports industry, but how has it been? Do you notice it?
JB: I get asked this question a lot, and I do think about it seriously. I understand that there were stereotypes much earlier on associated with women in sports and the opportunities they were getting, but I really do think that’s changed significantly. You see women as analysts and play-by-play announcers on major NFL and college football games. You’ve got women in high executive ranking positions within major networks and organizations. I do know we have come a long way and I’m sincerely appreciative of all the women that have gotten us to where we are, paved the way for us and made it easier because I would say I don’t feel it, and I definitely think the opportunity is there.
JB: I think so many girls now study journalism and aspire to do sports reporting, sports broadcasting, TV hosting. And they work really hard at it. In this day in age, you’re not going to get very far unless you know what you’re talking about. Networks and companies aren’t going to put you in a position to be on national television if you’re not going to succeed. I think women have done that, I think it’s very encouraging and makes me proud if I am someone that is helping inspire women out there. If you’re good, you work hard, you know you’re stuff, and you’re easy to work with, you can go a long way in this career and I don’t think there’s a stereotype that can hold you back.