San Diego

Female San Diego Firefighter Doubles As a ‘Ninja'

San Diego Firefighter, Ninja and Mother has a message for women

Selena Laniel has a habit of making hard work look like fun.

"I love my job. I love going to work every single day," she says.

In her day job, she's a firefighter with the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, a profession where she is almost always outnumbered as a woman.

She's used to it, however, because when she's not fighting fires and keeping San Diego safe, she's hanging from walls, and swinging from bars, or anything else she and her friends can think to do to one-up each other.

"I don't even know if we have a name for it. I just call it 'ninjaing,'" she says. "I'm going to go and play and do some ninja stuff."

Laniel is about to appear on NBC's American Ninja Warrior for the fourth time, another role where she is far outnumbered by men. On the show, contestants run, jump, hang and balance through an obstacle course they haven't seen or practiced on ahead of time. She admits, when the show called five years ago, she didn't know anything about it.

"I had no clue.  I had no clue what it was about," she says.

She's been successful in the competition, now coming back for the season nine taping this month, and has appeared on both seasons of the team version of the show.

She says there are a lot of parallels between firefighting and what she does on the show.

"Firefighting is very mental. You have to be able to make split decisions," she says. "The course is kind of that way. When you show up, and you've got the lights in your face, it's really stressful."

Laniel's resume would be impressive if you stopped at firefighter and ninja, but she's also a mother of two. She says other moms sometimes seek her out to tell her how impressed they are by what she's doing.

"If I can be a role model, and help other people out there, then that's awesome," says Laniel.

And her message is not just for women.

"It doesn't matter if you're male, female, whatever you want to be. It doesn't matter," she says. "I think that if you put  your heart and soul into it, anything can happen. And being a girl is not an excuse. It really isn't. You can do whatever you want."

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