Jolene Van Vugt is definitely one of the toughest and most talented women out there on two wheels. She is most known for her stunt videos and her appearances in Nitro Circus, but she proved her talent even before she teamed up with Travis Pastrana in 2005. At the age of 14, Jolene decided to take her women’s motocross career more seriously. She’s won multiple championships and even became the first CMRC Women’s Canadian Motocross National Champion.
Jolene was born in Ontario, Canada, and since her motocross career began, she was determined to be super successful in the motorsport. I’d say she’s done just that. Surprisingly, she decided to part ways with Nitro Circus in 2016 and has transitioned into her new career as a Hollywood stuntwoman. There’s a pretty crazy story behind it, so let’s take a look at what happened and where this badass and former Nitro Girl is today.
Jolene Van Vugt: From Nitro Circus to Hollywood
When she joined the Nitro Circus action sports collective (which spawned an MTV TV show and Nitro Circus: The Movie), Jolene Van Vugt shifted away from being a supercross and motocross racer and focused more on freestyle motocross (FMX). With some help from Travis Pastrana, she became the first female to do a backflip on a full-sized dirt bike.
Jolene spent a total of 11 years with the crew and, during that time, became a holder of multiple Guinness World Records, including being the first woman to backflip a dirt bike into Grand Canyon. On top of that, she became an icon for American and Canadian women throughout the action sports community. Jolene had tons of great times with Nitro Circus, but everything changed for her in 2015.
On that fateful day in 2015, Jolene Van Vugt was testing a new winch system, which would replace the 50-foot drop-in ramp. While doing so, she sat in a big whiskey barrel on wheels and prepared for takeoff. As the winch threw her forward, she let go of the rope and began to veer off course. Since she was in the barrel, she couldn’t do anything but brace for impact as her right arm collided with the scaffolding, causing her to slam her face into a nearby pole before crashing onto the concrete.
Jolene was seriously injured by the stunt, shattering her forehead, jaw, nose, eye socket, and right arm. There is actually a video out there of the crash, but Jolene says she refuses to watch it. You might think that the brutal injuries sustained were what made her decide to walk away from Nitro Circus, but that wasn’t the case.
After tons of recovery time and multiple surgeries, she claimed she was ready to get back to work with the circus. Now, Nitro Circus had been showing her crash video at many different events, but Jolene had been making it known that she didn’t support that. She claimed she didn’t want the video to be shown anymore and begged Nitro Circus CEO Mike Porra to pull it.
Porra explained to Jolene that they owned the video, and they refused to stop using it. Because of that, Jolene states she “felt violated” by the constant remembrance of the brutal crash. After trying countless times to change their minds with no success, Jolene decided to walk away from the team in an attempt to gain more control of her life.
After leaving Nitro Circus, Jolene started a new career as a stuntwoman, which was something she fantasized about doing since she was a child. She’s been involved in different films like The Dark Knight Rises, where she was used as the stuntwoman for Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman.
She was also featured in the season 2 premiere of NBC’s Blindspot, in which she was the stuntwoman for a motorcycle chase scene. She also did stunts in the S.W.A.T. TV show and the Sonic the Hedgehog and Birds of Prey movies. Film directors and movie writers are blown away by Jolene’s talent on two wheels, and they often add more action scenes into the movie once they see what she is capable of.
Given her love of motorcycles, Jolene has also joined forces with Indian Motorcycles. Talk about a match made in heaven!
It’s awesome to see Jolene follow her heart and leave the Nitro Circus crew. Although it was extremely hard for her and a huge part of her life, once the former action sports athlete started to land jobs in Hollywood, everything started to line up once again. She took what she learned from her action sports career and applied it into a completely different industry.
I completely understand her choice to leave and look forward to the action she’ll bring in future Hollywood films.
This post was originally published on May 11, 2020.