She’s a decorated Gunnery Sergeant of the United States Marines, a mother, a philanthropist and an entrepreneur. But starting on Thursday, April 14, Tee Marie Hanible (full name: Tawanda “Tee” Marie Hanible) is one-fourth of “The Cadre,” the group of mentors assisting contestants on Fox’s new competition series, “American Grit.”
Hosted by WWE wrestling superstar John Cena, the 10-episode series puts 16 of our country’s toughest men and women into four teams as they combat in military-grade, survival-themed challenges.
The contenders push until they break—literally—while getting first-hand knowledge and guidance from real-life heroes like Hanible: Commander Rorke Denver, Special Forces of U.S. Navy Seals; Noah Galloway, Purple Heart Recipient of 1st Battalion of the 502nd Infantry; and Nick “The Reaper” Irving, the first African-American sniper in the U.S. Army’s 3rd Ranger Battalion.
AlwaysList.com caught up with the recently-retired military veteran to learn about her experience on “American Grit.”
When you retired from the Marines, you couldn’t have imagined that reality TV was the next chapter in your life. How did you end up on “American Grit?”
No not at all. Television as a whole was never on my radar as a matter of fact. Far from it! I remember feeling like, “Oh my God,” when I got the email about this project. And then of course my next thought was, “ok, is this a spam?”
Prior to signing on for this show, what other reality or competition-based shows did you watch and were a fan of?
I’ve always had a guilty obsession with “Real Housewives of Atlanta.” Aside from that, the competitor in me loves competition shows! “Big Brother” would probably be high on my list as one of my favorite competition shows, of course second now to “American Grit!”
Based on your own military expertise, how close are the challenges and obstacles set up for the contestants on this series to the things you experienced in real military preparation and/or combat?
They definitely did their homework and put a lot of thought into these evolutions (challenges). Many of them are in line with a lot of obstacle courses we do in today’s military and it will definitely give viewers, and the competitors alike, a glimpse into the training that we do!
John Cena is known for having amazing work ethic. What was your experience working alongside the most popular man in modern day professional wrestling?
He is definitely a perfectionist and the level of intensity that he brings to the table is damn impressive! There were times that he would encourage the competitors and have me and the other mentors ready to go “get some” ourselves! It was an honor to work with him on this project.
You’ve been recognized for your advocacy towards women in the military; as well as your work towards providing mentorship to teens. Tell me why your work with women and teens are both so important to you.
I come from a humble background where because of the love and compassion of my foster parents, I was able to have parents that loved and accepted me as their own. With that kind of compassion that I was able to witness and received firsthand I always look at what I do for others as a way to truly pay it forward and as a way of saying thank you for the blessings that I received.
What do you hope viewers will take away from “American Grit” after watching it?
We definitely hope that the viewers take with them more insight as to what kind of training that we as military go through, as well as the ethos of Never Give Up—a trait that military men and women try to live by but we also hope that they take with them just how important team work really is for us for both men and women!
See Tee Marie Hanible on “American Grit” when the show premieres on April 14 at 9pm ET.