Humboldt County native making a name for herself crushing watermelons, empowering women
For Fortuna native Kortney Olson, her signature trick started out as a dare.
Thursday night, the 36-year-old’s ability to crush watermelons between her thighs landed her a guest spot on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”
Olson appeared wearing her signature brand GRRRL Clothing — a brand Forbes called “the billion dollar brand in-waiting” this week.
“It was a dare,” she told host Kimmel when asked. “When I quit drinking about 8 1/2 years ago, my favorite hobby was to go into bars and shark drunk men and say I dare you to arm wrestle. I made a killing off of it.”
Somebody brought out a watermelon and the rest was history.
Since that dare, Olson has appeared on “Stan Lee’s Superhumans” proving her crushing force is greater than a reticulated python — an appearance that led to the comic book icon dubbing Olson the “woman with the world’s deadliest thighs.”
Olson’s dad to this day says “her legs are stronger than an anaconda’s crushing power.”
Talking to the Times-Standard Thursday afternoon while backstage at Kimmel’s show, Olson said she now uses her signature move for activism — the same goal she has for her clothing line.
“I have this little party trick and I use it as a symbol of female empowerment to remind women we are born for strength,” she said. “We are so much more than our bodies. We push babies out and go back to work. We are so strong and society tells us we are weak and vulnerable and all these things that are invalid. That is the symbolism behind that.”
It was a message she shared with two youngsters who were in her vicinity during the rehearsals.
“I stopped and I turned to these young girls behind me,” Olson said. “I said, ‘Do you see these dimples here? Is that going to stop me from being the woman with the world’s deadliest thighs?’ and they said ‘No.’ And I said ‘That’s right.’ ”
Olson, a 1999 St. Bernard’s Academy graduate, personally overcame multiple struggles. Some of those started right here in Humboldt County.
“It was a dark road of nine years of one thing after another — experiencing a rape ... being diagnosed with depression and an eating disorder by the time I was 21,” she said. “I believe the universe or Mother Nature has kept me here for this divine purpose to show other people that we are capable of overcoming adversity. We are not bad people that need to get good. We’re sick people who need to get well.”
Her father Evan Olson, who still lives in Fortuna, said some of those negative experiences have spurred her to work with youth.
“She just loves kids,” he said Friday morning. “She doesn’t have any of her own. She loves to work with children and young adults. She says that they’re the next generation coming up. If she can get them more self-assured, they will be better when they are older.”
He said her “special charisma” reaches those around her.
“Even as a young as high school you could tell that she had something special,” he said. “She had the special charisma. My wife calls it the Elvis charisma. I guess that helped her out in her business as well.”
Her current business venture — GRRRL Clothing — is making a mark in the fashion world. And it’s changing the way some view the athleisure market — for example, women won’t find traditional sizes on clothing listed on the web store. Instead, sizes are based on athlete’s names with martial artists at one end of the spectrum and weightlifting stars on the other end.
“We’re catching on,” Kortney Olson said. “Women are really smart. Women can smell a crock from a mile away. These other brands that are masquerading as being for female empowerment ... People buy from Reebok because they need a pair of shoes. People buy from us because they want to be a part of something. I just don’t see that happening with any other of our competitors.”
She said that while they are a bit short of the billion dollar headline in Forbes, the company is seeking its next round of funding. And celebrities are promoting the brand — Holly Holm, who trounced Ronda Rousey in a much promoted UFC match, sports the GRRRL gear.
And Olson’s got her eyes on the big guns.
“I’m hoping Serena Williams sees this and we find that next level of talent,” Kortney Olson said.
But Olson doesn’t forget her roots.
And after spending the past few months in Humboldt County — she’s headed back to her current home in Singapore now — she wants to make a difference in the place that is closest to her heart.
“I was just home for a few months and to see these people suffering with addiction ...” she said. “My goal is to bring back home some grassroots programs and to blow hope all over Humboldt County. We truly live in the most beautiful place in the world. I live in Singapore. I lived in Thailand. I lived in various places in Australia. I’ve visited Bali [and] Ireland. Nowhere speaks to me or impresses me. I’m just from Humboldt County. That is God’s county. I truly believe, as a community, we will be able to turn Humboldt County around.”
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