By Nancy Cooper Contributing Writer

Noelle Berry, a junior theatre major, is a multi-sport athlete who lives and breathes fitness.

Berry, a Chicago native, said she began playing basketball at a young age. After basketball, she moved into practicing kickboxing and mixed martial arts. Berry said she is at the gym six days per week and plays basketball at the Goodman Center, 501 S. Wabash Ave., every Wednesday morning.

The Chronicle spoke with Berry about her passion for athletics, her background in theater and her decision to attend Columbia. 

THE CHRONICLE: How did you first get involved in sports? 

NOELLE BERRY: I started playing basketball when I was really young. Since then, I have dabbled in a couple [of] other sports because I love being athletic and being active. But from basketball came boxing. It was something that was really fun to do and I didn’t really think about doing it seriously until a couple years ago. One of my friends took me down to LA Fitness and the guys were really cool. I just kind of fell in love with the art [of MMA]. 

What is it like being a MMA fighter? 

It’s awesome. It’s just more than girl power. Women sell themselves short and you can’t. It’ll definitely take work. There’s a page on Facebook called Ripped Goddess, and it basically features so many [female fighters]. One of my favorite female MMA fighters is Massiel Arias. She goes by MankoFit, and has been doing it for about five years. She is phenomenal in lifting, in yoga, fighting and being a very physical athlete. I want to be like her when I grow up. I think that being a female athlete is just one of the most awesome things in the world. 

Why did you choose Columbia? 

I love this school. I love the diversity of the art that comes out of the school. When I was about 16 , I started doing general theatre studies at the Goodman Theatre, and the directors we had went to Columbia, so, I was like, “I have to get some more of what they learned from it.” I love the work that I have been able to do here on different spectrums, and I like bringing in what I do as an athlete into my work.

What attributes set you apart from your opponents? 

I have a lot of heart, I would say. I am not a selfish person, though I am pretty competitive. But I would want my legacy as an athlete to be that I did it because I love to do it.

Why did you choose to become a theatre major ? 

I’ve always known that I wanted to be an actor. I think I told my parents when I was 6, and they didn’t think I was serious until I was like, “Well, I’m going to Columbia to be a theater major.” I just breathe performance [art]. 

Why did you not to pursue sports on a more professional level?

It was kind of picking between two loves. Do I want to perform on stage or do I want to perform in my sport? I decided because of the work that you get to do performing on stage … I picked that because of how it’s evolving, but I definitely still love being an athlete. Being an athlete is a lifestyle for me, and the stage is really my passion. To be able to have your lifestyle and your passion really helps me do what it is that I do [every day].

What would you like to do with your time here at Columbia? 

I have met some pretty amazing people here, and I’ve been able to work with some pretty amazing people. To be able to carry those experiences with me into the professional world and be able to work with these people again in the professional world would be awesome. So just the experiences and the people that I’ve been able to work with, I want to take that with me.