The release of Tiffiny Hall's first children's novel marks the beginning of a new chapter in 'The Biggest Loser' trainer's life.
Before Tiffiny Hall exploded onto our screens as the fiery martial arts trainer on The Biggest Loser she was a journalist with a passion for fiction writing and a desire to see the next generation of children grow into strong, healthy and confident adults.
After years of writing and working with children, building their self-esteem and fitness through martial arts, she is finally seeing that dream come together in the release of her first children’s fiction novel, White Ninja.
It is no secret that Tiffany is a mad martial arts fan, having grown up in her parents’ dojang, surrounded by their love of ninjas, weapons, samurais and adventure. But what is less known about the 28-year-old Fifth Dan Taekwondo black belt beauty is her love of creative writing.
“I’ve been writing fiction my whole life and that’s been my number one passion,” says Tiffiny.
Having Australian author John Marsden as her year five English teacher left a lasting impression on the then ten-year-old.
I just didn’t want any kid to be as broken as my contestants ...
“He was the rock star of my childhood … he inspired me to write, to fall in love with books and characters,” she says. “He was the very first person to read the [White Ninja] manuscript. It was a nerve-wracking day but when he sent through the email and [endorsement] quote we all just screamed.”
The book is the first of three to be released over the next two years, and tells the story of 13-year-old Roxy Ran, a seemingly ordinary girl who discovers her secret ninja powers after a confrontation with the school bully.
“I wanted a strong female heroine because with a lot of adventure books it is left to the boys, and girls like adventure too,” she says, dressed head to toe in her Roxy Ran ninja outfit.
“I work a lot with girls in building their confidence and their self esteem, and I thought it was really important for Roxy to go on a journey that sees her transform into a strong, confident woman throughout the series.”
Bullying is a key issue explored in the novel and it is something that Tiffiny has spent many years helping kids overcome through martial arts. But she is quick to point out that the bullied kids are not the only ones who need help accepting themselves as they are.
“I have had both sides and the bullies lack just as much confidence as the kids being bullied. I really wanted to write a story where there is hope for Hero [the bully in White Ninja]. These kids can learn that the greatest gift you can have, and the greatest superpower you can have, is confidence – not flying, not flashing invisibility – and I think with confidence they can pursue their dreams.”
While Tiffiny was never tormented by bullies as a child, the contact sport lover always felt out of place amongst the graceful ballerinas, gymnasts and netballers of her all-girls high school.
Having what she calls the “trifecta of geekiness in school” – braces, acne and glasses – she admits to feeling different and unaccepted. But that is the negative message she wants to counteract with White Ninja’s characters.
“Being different is okay, and I hope that is something that kids embrace through Roxy Ran,” she says.
More than that, positive self-talk is another important message she wanted to take to her young readers.
“Every single person has experienced self-bullying – putting yourself down, unrealistic expectations, beating yourself up. I think we’re the greatest bullies of ourselves,” she says.
“Talking to kids about positive thinking is really important, and explaining that they have different voices in their head and making sure that the dominant voice is one that is positive.”
Tiffiny has seen the devastating impact of self-bullying through her work on The Biggest Loser.
“I was writing this while doing two series of the show and all of my contestants lacked confidence. They were all tormented by things that happened to them when they were young.
“I thought if I built strong characters that discover confidence and empower kids then hopefully when they’re adults they are strong, confident adults. I just didn’t want any kid to be as broken as my contestants,” she says.
Tiffiny also uses the novel as a vehicle to teach children the importance of keeping their body healthy. It is refreshing to read a book that focuses on healthy eating from the prospective that sugar slows you down, as opposed to the idea that it makes you overweight and unattractive.
“My personal health philosophy is never about looks,” states Tiffiny.
“I don’t care about weight, it’s not important to me, and even with my contestants [on the Biggest Loser] it’s about longevity and about the functionality of your body. When I am teaching children about health it’s about having energy. Sugar just makes you crash and slows you down.”
For Tiffiny, one of the most rewarding parts of publishing White Ninja is the opportunity to meet her young readers and take this message and her love of books to schools around Australia.
“It is so extraordinary to go out and meet my readers, and it is so thrilling to work with kids and to promote reading and writing in schools … and to tie in health and fitness to all that. I feel like everything is just coming together and that’s really rewarding for me.”
Perhaps it won’t be long before Tiffiny Hall finds herself endorsing one of her own student’s novels? History usually has a way of repeating itself …