Advertisement

UCLA gymnast Margzetta Frazier and Janet Jackson bring each other to tears

UCLA's Margzetta Frazier competes on the floor during a meet against Arizona State on Jan. 23, 2021, in Los Angeles.
UCLA’s Margzetta Frazier, pictured Jan. 23, recorded two personal-best scores in Friday’s meet at No. 3 Utah. The Bruins had a season-best score but lost 197.225-197.1.
(Kyusung Gong / Associated Press)

Sleeping before a meet against No. 3 Utah on Friday, Margzetta Frazier was jolted awake by a text.

“We’ll call in one minute,” it read.

The UCLA junior bolted out of bed, frantically wiped her eyes and fixed her hair. She picked up a FaceTime call and saw a woman whose face was covered by dark sunglasses, a mask and a scarf. But once Frazier heard the woman’s soft voice, she knew who it was.

Janet Jackson.

Advertisement

Frazier, whose viral floor routine is a tribute to the pop star, started to cry. Jackson wished her luck in the meet, asked for tumbling advice and called Frazier an inspiration. That made her cry again.

With Jackson’s support, Frazier put on a career performance with two personal bests as UCLA set a season-high in a 197.225-197.1 loss to Utah. Behind Frazier’s career-high 9.925 on beam, the 14th-ranked Bruins (4-1, 3-1 Pac-12) had a season-high 49.425 score on the event and tied their best score for any event this year.

“She’s never been like that on beam,” head coach Chris Waller said. “She was up there making it look flawless by making these tiny adjustments that weren’t deductible.”

Advertisement

When the score flashed on the scoreboard Frazier didn’t believe it was hers. It completed a strong comeback after she began the meet with a career-low 9.7 on bars. Frazier, a two-time All-American in the event, was angry after the mistake, but Waller pulled her aside with the perfect message.

Retracing the history of the internet’s favorite college gymnastics routines, including several by UCLA athletes.

“Janet didn’t make it to where she was by not bouncing back,” Waller said.

Frazier responded with a career-high 9.875 on vault then followed with a 9.85 on floor, where her routine is set to a medley of Jackson hits including “Nasty,” “If” and “Throb.” The former U.S. national team member mixes in her tumbling and leaps with iconic Jackson choreography.

Advertisement

The intricate steps from the famous dance break in “If” in which Frazier makes angular shapes with her arms while shuffling her feet in and out could easily trip up most dancers, Jackson said on the FaceTime call. But Frazier didn’t miss a beat.

×

Video of Margzetta Frazier’s floor exercise, a tribute to Janet Jackson, against Brigham Young on Feb. 10, 2021.

“I think you are incredible, I think you are beautiful,” Jackson told a teary-eyed Frazier on the phone call that was posted to Instagram.

“She is the reason why I love gymnastics,” Frazier said after the meet. “I really try my best to make it a performance to entertain and that’s because of her.”

Advertisement

Frazier’s score on floor helped UCLA cut into a large 0.25-point Utah lead after two rotations. Led by a career-high 9.95 from freshman Chae Campbell, UCLA outscored Utah 49.4-49.25 on the third event and trailed by one-tenth of a point entering the final rotation.

UCLA gymnast Nia Dennis is a viral sensation, with a floor routine that tells a deeply personal story: “I know who I am as a woman and a Black woman at that.”

The Bruins, who counted a fall on beam in the last meet against Washington, knew they had to have their best performance for a chance to win the meet. They did that and left the gym celebrating, despite the final score.

“We told each other that we were going to do it for each other,” said Campbell, who scored a 9.85 on the event and tied her career-high in the all-around with a 39.425. “Even though it didn’t end up winning the meet, we still proved that we can still hit a beam routine in any situation.”


Advertisement
Advertisement