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Sadiqua Bynum Read by the Syncopated Ladies

Sadiqua Bynum is a three-time All-American gymnast and one of the youngest and most successful African-American stuntwomen in film. With power and grace, Sadiqua inspires girls around the world to take the first step and watch how far they go.

Get to Know the Syncopated Ladies: Chloe and Maud Arnold

Get to know tap dancing sisters Chloe and Maud Arnold aka the Syncopated Ladies! They brought us the story of stuntwoman Sadiqua Bynum. Listen as they break down how to choreograph a dance, start a dance group, and perform while feeling nervous.

This podcast is a production of Rebel Girls. It’s based on the book series Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls. This story was produced by Haley Dapkus with sound design and mixing by Mumble Media. It was written by Elena Favili and edited by Abby Sher. Fact-checking by Joe Rhatigan. Narration by Chloe Arnold and Maud Arnold. Joy Smith was our executive producer. Original theme music was composed and performed by Elettra Bargiacchi. Thank you to the whole Rebel Girls team who make this podcast possible. Stay rebel!

Transcript

[Chloe]
A young woman in a black leather cloak and mask sprints through an open field. She’s a superhero, a vigilante working with the police force to bring down a terrorist group. As shots ring out, the woman gets down on her stomach in the grass, slithering forward on her elbows.

Wait. One of the terrorists is escaping. She chases him past the field to a concrete parking lot, where she vaults up onto a car roof, gathers her courage and leaps….!
[Chloe]
I’m Chloe Arnold. And I’m Maud Arnold. And this is Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls. A fairy tale podcast about the real-life rebel women who inspire us.

On this episode, Sadiqua Bynum, a three-time All-American gymnast and one of the youngest and most successful African-American stuntwomen working in the film industry.
[Maud]
Sadiqua Bynam was born in Berkeley, California in 1993. While she didn’t always know she was going to become a stunt performer, she did always love to tumble and flip. She could barely sit still!Her parents enrolled her in a local gymnastics class. The coaches were stunned when they watched this 2-year-old holding herself up on the rings, elbows bent, hands by her ears. She breezed through routines and drills meant for much older kids. By the time she was 8, Sadiqua was competing in vault and floor exercises, and nailing them.At the same time, Sadiqua also felt a bit lost in the gymnastics world. She was one of only a few Black girls training in the gym. And at competitions, often she and her coach were the only people of color in the room. “I had to figure out my own identity,” she says, “in an environment where women and girls that looked like me weren’t really seen.”

Sadiqua pursued her passion all the way through school. And in 2011, she got on the UCLA college gymnastics team!The competitions were exhilarating. Picture this: Sadiqua sprints on the mat at full speed and then springs into a double back layout. Before landing, she sneaks in one of her signature moves, a double tuck pass—or two quick backflips with her knees tight to her chest. She lands on her feet, lifts her arms and smiles wide as the crowd cheers wildly.Sadiqua earned the title All-American three times, an incredible honor. But was she ready to devote her whole life to gymnastics?

[Chloe]
In between competitions, Sadiqua studied sociology. She loved helping people and thought maybe one day she’d become a social worker. But the idea of sitting all day made Sadiqua’s arms and legs restless. She needed to move.

“Maybe you should look into stunt work,” her gymnastics coach said. He told her about the legacy of UCLA gymnasts who had become stuntwomen and put her in touch with one of them. Sadiqua learned all about how stunt performers trained to do complicated or physically dangerous sequences in films, TV shows and even commercials. She could also become a stunt double, meaning she’d replace or double for an actor in action scenes.

Sadiqua was thrilled. She would get to help people and do gymnastics at the same time as a job??“Yeah, I can do that,” she said.
Sadiqua leapt into stunt-training. Her gymnastics background helped a lot. Not only in performing these intricate moves, but also for spacial awareness, and understanding where her body was in the air. There were some parts of stunt work that were extra challenging to Sadiqua though, like learning how to be less neat and precise. After all, in the middle of a wild fight scene, she couldn’t worry about pointing her toes!Sadiqua took all kinds of classes to strengthen and condition her body — Tae Kwon Do, boxing, judo and jiu jitsu. She learned how to ride a horse and fire a gun, tumble out of cars and race on motorcycles. And of course, she learned how to stay safe. Working as a stunt person can be a very dangerous job. Sadiqua had to get to know all the safety equipment and run through every scenario in her head to predict what might happen and how she’d react.
[Maud]
In 2016, Sadiqua landed her first major job, doubling for a famous actress on a TV show where she had to fall from the top of a spiral staircase! It was a tricky maneuver, but Sadiqua felt well-prepared. She was rigged and suspended several stories above, held up by a harness and wires. With the help of a stunt rigger and a lot of deep breaths, Sadiqua let go and fell back, halting just a few feet from the ground. She was calm, capable, and so excited to do that again!

Pretty soon, Sadiqua was booking job after job. She played one of the warrior protectors known as Dora Milaje in the film Black Panther, racing through the fields of Wakanda with a spear. She also became a stunt double for a very well-known actress in a hot TV series called Watchmen.These roles were more than just thrilling for Sadiqua. They were groundbreaking. In the past, Black women were not fairly represented in Hollywood, very often playing extras rather than the protagonist. Now, Sadiqua’s skills meant that Black women could have lead roles as action heroes. It made Sadiqua feel strong and powerful. Her work as a stunt double was changing the way people viewed Black women both on and off the screen.

Today, Sadiqua continues to score roles in TV shows and films. She loves the work she gets to do, and she knows it’s imperative to keep pushing past boundaries and expectations — to celebrate all kinds of bodies and skin colors and the superheroes that are inside us all.As she says, “Opportunities as a Black stunt performer and the diversity in productions is growing like rapid fire…And I think that now is the time for it to happen… Black women can be strong. Black women are strong.”

Rebels, Sadiqua wants you to know that no matter how different you feel from those around you, you are beautiful, and you can do whatever it is that brings you joy. And if you’re not sure what that thing is yet, do what Sadiqua says, “just take that first step and watch how far you’ll travel.”