Olympic Gymnast Shawn Johnson East Flips for 'Blippi'

Gold medal winners—they're just like us. Why Johnson East says parenting toddlers is sometimes like the 'Wild West' and how she got involved with one of the top shows on YouTube.

Shawn Johnson East is no stranger to the spotlight. Her down-to-earth personality and prowess on the balance beam earned her a gold medal at the 2008 Olympics and the nickname "America's Sweetheart." Then, in 2009, she danced right back into our hearts—literally—as the champion of Dancing With the Stars.

These days, Johnson East does a whole lot of dancing and balancing as a working mother of two small children, Drew Hazel, 3, and Jett James, who will turn 2 in July. Johnson East is no stranger to sharing the rollercoaster ride of parenthood, from being open about a pregnancy loss in 2017 to breastfeeding struggles with her first. She sports a Mom bun and athleisure far more often than those flowy white dresses and flower crowns.

Shawn Johnson East on a balance beam with Meekah from 'Blippi'

Courtesy of Moonbug

Johnson East is the every mom. But she also recently made the ultimate "cool mom" move when she signed on to star in an episode of Blippi.

The episode drops on the Meekah YouTube channel on Saturday, May 13, and will feature Johnson East teaching Meekah how to jump on the balance beam, practice cartwheels, and do a round-off.

Johnson East shared some spoiler alerts, and chatted about parenting on Instagram and the inspiration behind her newest venture, FamilyMADE Media.

How did you get in contact with the people at Blippi?

Through social media, which I feel is the go-to these days. We followed each other, which is funny. My kids worship the ground that Meekah and Blippi stand on. As a parent, I was just doing some due diligence and research. I had to follow them, and we just got to talking. When they asked me to be in an episode...I was so excited. Olympics aside, this will be more meaningful to my kids than anything I have done in my life. I had to say yes.

What do your kids love most about the show?

A little bit of everything. My son is just getting into it. We are diehard Blippi fans. We are definitely on the Meekah train...they watch every episode. [I find myself] singing the songs all the time. When we were shooting, the kids got to meet Blippi and Meekah.

That's so cool you got to bring them along. How did they react to seeing the two in real life?

It was so cute. My daughter thinks Blippi is her best friend, and she still talks about him. It was really special.

What can you tell us about your character?

I just played myself. Everything we did was [about] nutrition, sports, gymnastics, being healthy, and having fun. It was like everything we do on a normal day.

Speaking of "normal," you had two under two for a while. What's the best advice you can give to other parents in the trenches of having an infant and toddler at the same time?

Honestly, just take it one day at a time. I feel like I get overwhelmed so quickly, just like any parent with toddlers. The best thing my husband and I try to do is laugh it off, one day at a time and enjoy the ride because it truly is the "Wild West." After a day of frustration, I feel like you have a day of complete wonder and awe, and it's the best thing ever.

You're incredibly open about parenting highs and lows on social media. What prompted you to get vulnerable about topics like pregnancy loss and nursing struggles?

I felt alone and isolated and like I was the only one going through these things. I felt like I went on social media, and these parents would look like angels. I was like, "How are you cutting sandwiches into the shape of Elsa? That feels impossible." Out of desperation, I was like, "Maybe there is someone out there like me, and maybe if I post about it, I will find it."

Shawn Johnson East and Andrew East

Jason Kempin / Getty 

What has the response been through the years?

A beautiful community has come forward and become friends and coached each other through their challenges and healing. It's been really special.

There are so many labels for parenting styles, from "gentle" to "helicopter" and beyond. What would you say your style is with your husband, Andrew?

I don't know all the labels. I think we're a mix of all of them. We try to let our kids be wild and live a dangerous life—in a cautious way. I can also be a helicopter parent because I worry about their well-being. I feel like we're all over the place. We just want to raise confident, able little kiddos.

You recently launched FamilyMADE Media, a collection of podcasts focused on families of all types—their joys, struggles, and realities. What do you hope comes of it?

A million things. It's a passion product and something we believe in wholeheartedly. We love families. We live in such a polarizing world, and we think family is a very unifying thing. We want to uplift more and more families. It's not controversial. It's not polarizing. It's not profane or crude. It's just that wholesome content that can get lost so easily in this world of clickbait. People have been like, "This makes sense."

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