BREAKING GENDER NORMS

A new documentary introduces us to New Jersey’s “Supergirl.” Naomi Kutin is an Orthodox Jewish sixteen-year-old, who is breaking gender norms and powerlifting world records.

“Supergirl” debuts Monday, December 18th on PBS.

Aired on December 12, 2017. 

TRANSCRIPT

> NAMI IS A PRETTY EXTRAORDINARY TEENAGER.

A WORLD RECORD BREAKING POWER LIFTER WHO CAN LIFT ALMOST THREE TIMES HER OWN BODY WEIGHT.

PUT THAT INTO PERSPECTIVE, THAT'S TWICE MY WEIGHT JUST AFTER THANKS GIVEN.

THERE'S A NEW DOCUMENTARY COMING TO PBS, THAT GIVES US AN INTIMATE PORTRAIT OF A CHAMPION ATHLETE.

STRESS OF COMPETITION, AND HER STRICT RELIGIOUS OBLIGATIONS.

HERE'S A LOOK.

SHE'S BEEN POWER LIFTING SINCE SHE WAS EIGHT YEARS OLD.

THIS TIME, WHEN I SET THE ALL TIME WORLD RECORD FOR THE FIRST TIME.

WITH HER FAMILY BESIDE HER.

I WANT HER TO BE ABLE TO DO THINGS SHE'S REMARKABLE AT.

THIS IS THE BIGGEST COMPETITION SHE'S EVER BEEN AT.

I REALLY WANT TO BREAK THE RECORD.

CAN SHE BECOME THE STRONGEST GIRL IN THE WORLD?

SUPER GIRL.

I'M PLEASED TO WELCOME THE FILM'S DIRECTOR MANY AND SUPER GIRL HERSELF, NAMI TO THE PROGRAM.

WHAT'S THE THRILL YOU GET FROM LIFTING?

I GUESS JUST THE THRILL OF GOING OUT ON THE PLATFORM, COMPETITIONS, AND GETTING INTO THE MIND-SET OF LIFTING THE WEIGHT AND GOING UP AND GIVING IT EVERYTHING I HAVE EACH TIME I GO OUT ON THE PLATFORM, THAT'S JUST REALLY -- I REALLY ENJOY THAT, BREAKING NEW RECORDS AND GOING AFTER DIFFERENT GOALS AND ACCOMPLISHING THEM, ALL THAT IS -- I REALLY ENJOY.

WHERE DID IT ALL BEGIN?

MY DAD GOT ME INTERESTED IN THE SPORT WHEN I WAS 8 YEARS OLD, I HAD BEEN DOING SOCCER AND KARATE AND DIFFERENT ACTIVITIES TO TRY TO FIGURE OUT WHAT I REALLY ENJOYED DOING AND WHAT I WANTED TO INVEST TIME IN.

ONE OF MY KARATE CLASSES, MY DAD SHOWED UP, USUALLY MY MOM WOULD TAKE ME, HE SAW I WAS DOING PUSH-UPS REALLY WELL, JUMPING REALLY FAST, HE HIMSELF HAS BEEN POWER LIFTING FOR OVER 30 YEARS.

WE HAVE A GYM IN OUR BASEMENT, I GREW UP WATCHING HIM WORK OUT.

WHEN HE SAW THAT CLASS OF MINE, HE THOUGHT MAYBE THAT WOULD BE SOMETHING I WOULD BE INTERESTED IN.

WE COULD DO IT TOGETHER.

IT WOULD BE FUN.

SO YEAH.

I THINK WE HAVE SOME FOOTAGE OF YOU LIFTING IN YOUR PAYMENT AND IN COMPETITIONS, WHAT STRIKES ME IS THAT THE PREPARATION, THE FOCUS YOU PUT IN BEFORE GOING INTO THE LIFT IS INCREDIBLY INTENSE.

TAKE ME THROUGH THOSE MOMENTS BEFORE YOU'RE LIFTING?

IS IT PHYSICAL, IS IT MENTAL?

I GUESS MY QUESTION IS, WHAT ENABLES YOU TO LIFT MORE THAN YOU HAVE DONE BEFORE?

PART OF IT IS -- OBVIOUSLY WARMING UP AND MAKING SURE YOU DON'T GO STRAIGHT FROM ZERO POUNDS TO 500 POUNDS.

IT'S GOING TO THE HEAVIEST --

NOT FAR OFF.

DEFINITELY WORKING TOWARD THAT.

YOU CAN'T JUST GO STRAIGHT TO THE HEAVYWEIGHTS, YOU HAVE TO WARM UP.

A LOT OF IT IS PHYSICAL.

I WOULD SAY THAT THE MAJORITY IS DEFINITELY MENTAL.

I COULD WALK UP TO A BAR AT LIKE -- NOT A HEAVYWEIGHT.

IF MY BRAIN ISN'T IN IT, I'M NOT GOING TO LIFT IT, I HAVE TO FOCUS ON JUST TAKING WHATEVER I'M THINKING ABOUT SCHOOL, FRIENDS, FAMILY, ANY SITUATION.

TAKE IT OUT OF MY BRAIN, AND I HAVE TO TRY TO SOLELY FOCUS ON THE GOAL IN FRONT OF ME, THE WEIGHT AND I JUST FOCUS ON THAT, AND TAKE ALL OF MY ENERGY --

JESSE, LET ME ASK YOU THIS, WATCHING THE DOCUMENTARY IS PRETTY EASY TO SEE WHY YOU'D BE SO COMPELLED BY NAMI'S STORY.

I WONDER WHAT HELPED YOU FIND HER IN THE FIRST PLACE?

I WAS DOING RESEARCH ONLINE, AND I CAME ACROSS AN ARTICLE ABOUT NAMI IN THE JEWISH DAILY FORWARD, I WAS REALLY FASCINATED THAT THIS YOUNG GIRL WAS PARTICIPATING IN THIS MALE DOMINATED SPORT.

AND WAS ALSO FROM AN ORTHODOXED JEWISH TRADITION, WHICH I UNDERSTAND AS TRADITIONAL GENDER ROLES, NOT ONLY WAS SHE BREAKING THE GENDER STEREOTYPES, BUT HER RELIGION.

TO ME, I FOUND THAT INTRIGUING ANDEN WATTED TO FIND OUT WHAT WAS GOING ON BEYOND THE HEADLINES.

YOU MENTIONED YOUR RELIGION.

IN THE DOCUMENTARY, YOUR MOM MENTIONS IN YOUR CIRCLES, YOUR PARTICIPATION COO BE SEEN AS CONTROVERSIAL, IT COULD LEAD TO YOU BEING SHUNNED, HAVE YOU EXPERIENCED ANY OF THAT?

WHAT'S BEEN THE REACTION FROM YOUR FRIENDS AND TEACHERS ABOUT YOUR PARTICIPATION?

ALL MY FRIENDS AND TEACHERS AND EVERYONE IN MY COMMUNITY RALLIES AROUND ME AND IS VERY SUPPORTIVE, I HAVE AN EXTREMELY SUPPORTIVE GROUP OF FRIENDS.

MY SCHOOL IS VERY SUPPORTIVE OF WHAT I'M DOING.

WHENEVER I GO TO A COMPETITION AND BREAK RECORDS, THEY PUT IT ON THEIR FACEBOOK PAGE.

I'M THANKFUL MY COMMUNITY IS VERY OPEN AND ACCEPTING OF WHAT I'M DOING.

YOU MENTIONED THE COMPETITIONS YOU GO TO, MY FAVORITE PART IN THE DOCUMENTARY, WAS AT ONE OF THESE COMPETITIONS, WAS ONE OF THE COMPETITIONS WHERE YOU PERHAPS DIDN'T PERFORM HOW YOU WOULD HAVE LIKED TO THAT DAY.

NEVERTHELESS THE REACTION AFTERWARDS IS PRETTY SPECTACULAR.

TAKE A LOOK.

YOU SHOULD BE PROUD OF YOURSELF, THAT'S HUGE.

SHE CAN TAKE IT.

YOU SHOULD BE PROUD.

YOU ARE AWESOME.

YOU CAN LIFT ALMOST THREE TIMES YOUR BODY WEIGHT.

SEEING THE PEOPLE AROUND YOU THAT WERE STRUCK THE MOST.

I DIDN'T KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN WE STARTED THE FILM.

I WAS NOT FAMILIAR WITH THE POWER LIFTING COMMUNITY OR SPORT AT ALL.

AND I HADN'T -- THERE WERE STEREOTYPES, THOSE GUYS YOU SEE, YOU KNOW, THEY'RE THREE TIMES HER SIZE AT LEAST, AND THEY CAN BE A LITTLE INTIMIDATING TALKING TO NAMI, SHE SAID SOMETIMES AT LEAST WHEN SHE FIRST STARTED LIFTING, THEY WERE INTIMIDATING.

YOU MEET THESE GUYS THEY'RE SO WARM AND WELCOMING.

EVERYONE'S SUPPORTIVE OF NAMI AND HER FAMILY, AND EVEN THOUGH THEY'RE NOT THE TYPICAL LIFTERS THAT YOU SEE IN THESE COMPETITIONS, THEY'RE TOTALLY PART OF THE COMMUNITY.

THAT WAS REALLY GREAT TO SEE.

NOT NECESSARILY, I DIDN'T KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT.

IT WAS A NICE SURPRISE.

THE FILM ALSO TOWARD THE END COVERS THE ISSUE OF WEIGHT AND HOW THAT'S INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT WHEN IT COMES TO POWER LIFTING.

THE DIFFICULTIES THAT POWER LIFTING FACE WHEN YOU'RE GOING TOWARD THE COMPETITION, YOU WANT TO DEAL WITH A WEIGHT CLASSIFICATION, TIME IS SPENT MAKING SURE YOU COME IN JUST UNDER THE WEIGHT, BUT NOT OVER.

IT SEEMS QUITE STRESSFUL.

MY QUESTION IS, YOU FIND IT OVERWHELMING, HOW DO YOU NAVIGATE THE DANGERS OF POTENTIALLY BECOMING OBSESSED BY WEIGHT?

THERE IS THE WEIGHT ASPECT YOU HAVE TO KEEP IN MIND, THE TRAINING ALONG WITH THE WEIGHTS.

BEFORE I GO TO A COMPETITION, I SEE THE DIFFERENT WEIGHT CLASSES, IF I'M REALLY FAR AWAY FROM A WEIGHT CLASS, SAY IT'S A MONTH OR TWO OUT, I'M TEN POUNDS AWAY, I COULD MAKE IT, BUT THAT'S RISKY, DON'T RISK YOUR HEALTH.

AT THE END OF THE DAY, I COMPETE IN THE NEXT WEIGHT CLASS, THE WORLD DOESN'T END, EVERYTHING KEEPS GOING ON.

A RECORD IS A RECORD, MY HEALTH IS MORE IMPORTANT TO ME ALWAYS.

DEFINITELY MORE IMPORTANT.

CONGRATULATIONS FOR YOUR WORK.

FOR ALL OF YOUR ACHIEVEMENTS AND THANKS SO MUCH FOR JOINING US.

THANK YOU.

I WANT TO REMIND THE VIEWERS, SUPER GIRL, THE DOCUMENTARY DEBUTS ON PBS'S INDEPENDENT LENS THIS COMING MONDAY.

YOU CAN HEAD OVER TO OUR WEBSITE

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Denise Schwartz, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Janet Prindle Seidler, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

WNET

© WNET All Rights Reserved.

825 Eighth Avenue

New York, NY 10019