Bowie native Leatrice Bulls is a 2020 Harvard University graduate, a U.S. Figure Skater, and is only 22 years old.
Bulls started skating when she was 4-years-old and joined a synchronized skating team when she was 6.
She started skating at Bowie Ice Arena with the learn to skate program and said she’s been hooked ever since then. Now, Bulls is being recognized as one of U.S. Figure Skating’s top 100 contributors during the organization’s centennial anniversary.
Bulls remembers people talking about renovations at the arena since she was in middle school.
“I am happy they are moving forward with it, and if they could make the facilities nicer to accommodate more athletes is awesome to know,” Bulls said. “Skating in this area is more diverse than other places in the country; to know that this arena would be aiding in increasing the diversity pipeline in figure skating is exciting.”
Bulls’ classes were on Thursdays after school, and the local synchronized team practiced after hers, and she would stick around to watch them. “I fell in love with synchronized skating even more than individual skating,” she said.
Bulls went to Holy Trinity, an Episcopal school in Bowie, from preschool to eighth grade.
“School and skating consumed my childhood, and I still consider Bowie my home even though I don’t live there anymore,” Bulls said. “The diversity and community, I haven’t found that anywhere else that I have lived. I still love coming back to Bowie.”
Graduating from Harvard University made her mom proud.
“When you’re in the thick of it, you forget how big of a deal it is, but seeing the reactions I get reminds me of how incredibility hard I had to work,” Bulls said. “I am extremely grateful, and my support system helped me throughout my journey.”
Bulls is navigating her first professional job as a business technology analyst at Deloitte in New York. She said the transition from a small city to a big city had been a huge one.
“It is fun to have the opportunity to try and do so many new things, but I am a suburban girl at heart. I love having open grassy spaces and be able to walk through neighborhoods,” Bulls said. “It is definitely transition, and Bowie is the area I want to come back to later in life.”
Bulls has never been in her job’s office since starting there; she has been 100% virtual since last fall.
“It is has been an interesting transition and zoom fatigue is definitely a thing affecting everyone,” she said. “Sitting at home and working all day gets tiring and monotonous. It has been a challenge, but I am looking forward to working back in person.”
While working, Bulls trains up to 15 hours each week with the Skyliners’ senior synchronized skating team. Bulls is the youngest member of U.S. Figure Skating’s first Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) task force. With knowledge from her own experiences, social justice classes and a keen sense of America’s racist history, Bulls helped shape the group’s direction.
Bulls is one of the co-chairs of the task force and they will be coming up on their one-year anniversary in June. They have five major pillars they are working on: education, data collection, representation/visibility, outreach/support and policy/position.
“U.S. Figure skating has never invested into something like this, so I am happy to be in a leadership role; we are working to make sustainable, impactful change in those areas,” Bulls added. “I’m happy we are doing this work and it is time to do this work.”
Bulls is competing for Team USA as part of the synchronized team. But she previously joined the team during her freshman year in college before she took a break from it to focus on school.
“Skating for Team USA has been a dream of mine for a very early age, so making that team my freshman year was incredible,” Bulls said.
The Morning Sun
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, she realized she had time to get back into competing for Team USA. Bulls auditioned virtually for the team and made it after a three-year hiatus.
“I love it and one of the most challenging things I will ever do, it is very physically and mentally demanding to make your body do things it has to as a competitive athlete,” Bulls said. “During quarantine, I realized I still loved this sport and wanted to put more time into it.”
For this upcoming season, the skaters are adjusting to skating with masks on and ever-changing restrictions. The competition doesn’t start until the end of November.
“For a sport that is so reliant on being connected and skating in unison, this is something that has been challenging,” Bulls said.
The only reason Bulls continues to skate is because she wants to and has made it more enjoyable for her. “There is no external pressure, and it makes more about me and doing something I love entirely for me,” she added.
Bulls said her reasoning for doing so much is to inspire the next generations.
“There aren’t that many Black faces in the highest level of figure skating, and I know the few I seen growing up were integral in making me believe I could make it to Team USA,” Bulls said. “My presence in certain spaces could give one young Black athlete the hope and inspiration they need, is the reason I work so hard and push so hard. Just knowing I can help lower barriers even if it is just for representation and visibility for skaters is incredible.”