Jenna Grigsby is Cal Volleyball's Renaissance Woman
Nov. 4, 2002
BERKELEY, CA - It would not be her most popular choice, but if someone was to pin a label on Cal volleyball player Jenna Grigsby, it might be 'Renaissance woman.'
The Golden Bears' junior defensive specialist is a woman of many talents beyond just being an accomplished Division I volleyball player on one of the Pac-10's most improved teams, tallying 73 digs for a 15-8 squad that is gunning for its first NCAA postseason berth since 1989. Grigsby owns a 3.5 GPA as an English major with a dramatic arts minor at America's No. 1 public university (U.S. News and World Report). She was the 2002 recipient of the Golden Bear Academic Achievement Award as the team's top student-athlete and features a unique childhood that's been intertwined with the world of Hollywood.
Grigsby's parents, Daniel and Karen, both had associations with Tinsel Town as Jenna was growing up in Pacific Palisades. Daniel is a lawyer whose clients includes the Los Angeles Lakers and Karen is a freelance design consultant who has worked with various TV shows and has done album cover designs for numerous rock groups. As early as age six, Grigsby was in a Mattel toy print ad, holding a baby doll, and then did her first TV ad at age 14, appearing in a back-to-school advertisement for Levi's.
'Even when I was a baby, people would come up to my mom and asked her if I could be in commercials and ads,' said Grigsby, who is still a member of the Screen Actor's Guild and retains a talent agent. 'But my mother was reluctant to have me be too involved in that type of life and wanted to make sure I had a normal upbringing where I could concentrate on school. I even ran away from home when I was six because I thought my mom was working too much.'
Despite being approached by agents and scouts who wanted to represent Jenna, Grigsby's parents were adamant that she and her younger brother, Taylor, and younger sister, Channing, stay far enough away from Hollywood and become well-rounded individuals. Jenna Grigsby did, indeed, become well-rounded, growing up bilingual in Spanish and English, while acting, singing and learning how to play the piano and guitar. She also got to know Graham Nash of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young fame, as one of her friends in high school was Nash's daughter, Nile.
'My parents encouraged us to be involved in sports, but to have other interests as well,' said Grigsby, whose Bears host Arizona and Arizona State at Haas Pavilion this week. 'They wanted us to be well-rounded in sports, the arts and in school. My dad was obviously interested in us competing in athletics as he was an athlete, playing minor league baseball in the Kansas City Royals' organization. My mother said it was all right for us to be involved in sports, but all of us had to learn how to play a musical instrument as well. My parents would always be giving us books off their nightstands and encouraging us to read about all sorts of topics. They would always speak to us as adults.'
Obviously Grigsby's parents did an outstanding job of raising her, as she is now thriving as a student-athlete at Cal. Not only is she doing well in her studies, Grigsby is a member of the Cal Athlete Speaker's Bureau and has a job with the Athletic Study Center, tutoring two foreign athletes, Ukrainian Olga Volkova of the women's basketball team, and Yugoslavian Filip Filipic of men's crew.
Grigsby has also formed a close friendship with another Cal student-athlete who has similar acting interests and background - All-Pac-10 performer Conor Jackson, a junior on the Bears' baseball team. Jackson, who is Cal's top hitter and a member of the USA National Team, is a theatre major. His father, John Jackson, plays Admiral A.J. Chegwidden on the TV series, 'JAG.'
'I met Conor the last day of school my freshman year,' said Grigsby. 'It was right before we were both ready to head back to L.A. We found out we both were from Los Angeles and had both done some acting and modeling growing up. We hung out a lot that summer and it was fun sharing our experiences growing up in the Hollywood environment.'
Ever striving to expand her knowledge, Grigsby even attended classes at UCLA this past summer, taking an acting course and a class in African and Caribbean literature. She is also considering applying for a Rhodes Scholarship or attending law school when her undergraduate days in Berkeley are over.
'It was an adjustment coming to Cal my first two years,' explained Grigsby. 'I love L.A. and coming to Berkeley was so much different. The weather is different, the people are different and the ocean is not as close. But coming to Cal helped me grow as a person. It was an extra challenge for me to be at a college that had the best combination of academics and volleyball. I have been able to focus on athletics because everyone around me is involved in athletics. It gives me confidence and it also makes me realize that my experiences growing up were unique.'
That unique Hollywood childhood helps make Jenna Grigsby a true 'Renaissance women,' who just happens to be playing on a Cal women's volleyball team - with its best record since 1989 - that is enjoying a 'Renaissance' of its own this year.