Jess Bennette: True Grit
"When you are no longer here to speak for yourself, what will they say about you. Stand for something. Create your legacy." – Jess
This woman was born with a relentless inner flame that burns a dazzling white. When the odds are stacked against her she manages to scorch through all obstacles. It’s this flame that feeds her desire to prove her naysayers wrong.
Rough and tumble all the way, Jess’s first activity was running after her three brothers who wouldn’t let her play football. As a youngster, she enjoyed the individualism of gymnastics before she discovered the world of soccer. It’s no surprise Jess’s position was shot-taker and fierce defender, aka goalie. As a colleague of decorated Olympic soccer player Christie Rampone, she trained alongside the elite ranks. She would later be the only woman to play on the men’s soccer team in Puerto Rico during her military service.
Jess’s belief in putting herself in a better position today than she was yesterday lead her to enlist in the military to receive an education. Her ten years of military service encompassed tasks like jumping out of planes at Ft. Bragg and taking body counts as a medic in Iraq. Stuff ordinary people never do in their lifetime. All that hard training and mental strength building and yet it wasn’t until a few years ago that she let go of her thoughts about her own ideal body image.
Now Jess satisfies her mental and physical needs with an equal balance of yoga and crossfit. Yoga brings her peace and serenity; it teaches her patience. Crossfit feeds her passionately competitive side; it teaches her focus. Where we find Jess now is in the most mentally and physically balanced place in her life. She says “the best untapped motivation is the service to others.”
Of her tattoo work Jess says she was “committed before I even started.” Her ambition is a full body suit with the exception of her face and hands. She also likes the femininity of keeping her breasts uncovered. In a nod to the roots of traditional sailor tattooing, she adds to her suit every place she travels. For her, it is about the nostalgia of marking her destinations, achievements, and heartaches. Her favorite piece is the one on her arm from an original Sailor Jerry stencil. It was completed with the original stencil and powdered charcoal method. Of the piece Jess says it is her "favorite piece and worst competition."
Unless you know Jess well, you might not even know she is this covered. She is strikingly beautiful and has a demeanor that commands a room. Until last year, Jess had mid-back length blonde hair. It was her way to feel feminine in the bodysuit of the warrior. Jess cut her hair into a Mohawk in remembrance of her best friend, Andrea, who she tragically lost last year.
So how does such a robust woman describe her style? “Blended swag.” She prefers to dress conservatively and comfortably for her day job, but she brings out the fun in the yoga studio or crossfit box. When she shops, it is for pieces at Anthropology, Free People, Urban Outfitters and lululemon. Bright lipstick, a fresh face and mascara are Jess’s go-to accessories. She skips jewelry to keep things uncomplicated. She admires the iconic and timeless styles of Hollywood sirens like Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe. As a mother of one, she thinks it’s important to dress age-appropriately. But when you can rock a one-handed handstand in a badass lululemon swimsuit, you do it!
The woman that achieves anything she sets her mind to is always setting and tackling new goals. And she sets the bar high. Watching her float in handstand is incredible enough now, but she is working towards push pressing into her handstand. Her next Crossfit goals are to deadlift 280 lbs and push press 140 lbs.
In all things, Jess has a disposition to pursue long goals with passion and perseverance. She qualified for the Boston marathon while she was in Iraq by running 26.2 miles in under 7 hours– with 40 lbs strapped onto her back. Four other men attempted this run with her. She was the only one to finish.
This doesn’t come from a masochist place– she does it to remind herself that she is alive. In those toughest moments when the pack thins to only a few and you are left with only your inner voice is when you find divine inspiration. As she says, “Everything in life is a state of mind. Be right here, right now.”
Jess walks one marathon every year. She will be completing her fifth marathon this year. This woman lives life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Photo Credit: Brian Motzenbecker at Simply Photography simplyphotographynj.com
Written By: Elizabeth F. Murphy