Nerves of steel. Heart of a lion. Hands and feet of a kindergartner.
Lylah MacCall has been conquering “American Ninja Warrior”-style courses in her Northglenn home since 2015, when dad Gavin first posted a video of a homemade obstacle course he built for her.
“I started jumping around on the couches and chairs like they do on the show, (which was) the very first time,” Lylah said over the phone. “After that, my dad just started building.”
“I’ve always been handy as far as putting things together, so it wasn’t really difficult,” Gavin, 41, added. “It just takes time.”
The initial video of Lylah balancing on 2x4s, scaling easy chairs and crawling through duct-taped tires racked up 700,000 views and attracted positive comments from as far away as Japan — the original home of the Ninja Warrior concept, which predated the popular NBC series.
In September 2016, Gavin filmed Lylah navigating a new course in their nearly 3,000-square-foot backyard, complete with a zip line that flew over an audience of stuffed animals. That garnered more than ten times the traffic of the first one (now sitting at 111 million views) and more international attention.
Subsequent videos on Lylah’s 96,000-subscriber YouTube channel have also generated tens of millions of views, and an impromptu GoFundMe campaign from her dad raised more than $1,000 to build new and better obstacles.
So where does a little Ninja Warrior go from there?
Up, of course.
On June 14, Lylah will make her debut on Season 3 of NBC’s “Little Big Shots,” hosted by Steve Harvey. She taped the appearance late last year in Los Angeles and is excited to finally see it air. It’s a big week for Lylah, having also celebrated her 7th birthday on June 11.
“When we were at the hotel, there was a pool and a tennis court on the roof,” Lylah remembered of her L.A. trip. “I learned how to do tennis!”
“I have to admit, that was pretty cool,” Gavin said.
On “Little Big Shots” this week, Lylah will demonstrate her skills on a custom-built course with a Hollywood theme, featuring elements borrowed from the official “American Ninja Warrior” competition course. In the lead-up to the segment, Lylah also appeared last month on Harvey’s daytime talk show, where she burst onto the stage in a heroic red cape and American flag-patterned skirt and tights.
“This season I’ve met a lot of young, fierce girls who are are kicking butt and breaking down some gender walls,” Harvey said before inviting Lylah out. “The next young lady is no exception, folks.”
“I think it’s really cool,” Lylah said of her newfound mini-stardom, with dad adding that she signs “tons of autographs” when they’re at Ninja Warrior events.
Lylah has hosted Ninja Warrior stars at her house, just off 104th Avenue in Northglenn, and filmed videos in gyms and training parks around the country with Ninja Warrior fan-favorites such as Jessie Graff and Flip Rodriguez.
“I do gymnastics and I do hanging things from the ceiling,” Lylah said of her living room, which has been converted into a climbing gym with 26 hanging holds that can accommodate rings, cones and “bananas” (climbing holds curved like the fruit).
Lylah has become such a well-known ambassador for the burgeoning sport that Colorado-based Wolfpack Ninja Warriors, which counts most of the NBC series’ top competitors as members, have made her an official member — complete with her own page on their website, set to debut this summer.
“They haven’t announced it yet, but they’re doing a ‘Junior Ninja Warrior’ show,” Gavin said. “That’s ages 9-14, so she’s still got a couple years to train before she can get on there. But we are getting ready to go to Las Vegas to cheer on the Ninja finals at their taping (June 17-25).”
In fact, Gavin will also compete on “American Ninja Warrior” thanks to Lylah, having trained in the process of watching his daughter over the last couple of years.
“I’ve given up on having a nice house, with shoe marks and scratches all over the floors and walls,” Gavin said. “I didn’t have a house that was that nice anyway, but doing something like this is a lot of fun for her, and she’s getting really strong by doing it.”
Lylah and her dad’s goal is to get more women and girls on the show, having fielded comments from people around the world encouraged to see Lylah climbing on and leaping off anything she can grasp. She’s better at it than her 16-year-old brother Sebastian, she said, and can rattle off details of obstacles like the quintuple steps, the “incline over the shed” and “Christmas Tree Corner” (a pile of holiday decorations that marked a mid-point of the backyard course).
“I have two friends, one named Ada and one named Layla, and they like doing Ninja Warrior, too,” Laylah said.
Are they as skilled as she is?
“No,” she said. “But I’ve been doing it for many years, so that’s why I’m better.”