One doesn’t have to be a legendary Blaxploitation actress to win the Guinness World Record for Oldest Competitive Rope Skipper at the age of 79, but in Jeanie “Annie” Bell Judis’ case, it probably served as effective training, and it’s all been part of the same prosperous journey.
After earning the distinction of being the first Black woman to appear on the cover of Playboy Magazine in 1969, Jeanie (also known as Annie) tumbled, kicked and swayed her way through such 70s classics as “The Muthers,” “TNT Jackson,” “The Klansman,” “Black Gunn,” Martin Scorsese’s “Mean Streets,” Ivan Dixon’s “Trouble Man,” and “Melinda,” which was written and directed by luminaries Lonne Elder III and Hugh A. Robertson, respectively.
Although aided by a stunt double for particularly tricky martial arts maneuvers, Jeanie’s own athleticism was often called upon as a highlight in her scenes.
Later, she’d marry the man of her dreams, entrepreneur Gary Judis, and retire from acting, but her dedication to fitness and maintaining optimal health remained. She attended the gym regularly and lifted weights.
So, when the idea to jump rope came to her in a literal dream a few years ago, she got her gear together and put herself to the test. Judis has now beat her own record twice, most recently competing in the American Jump Rope National Championship at the University of Cincinnati over the summer.
It has been a bittersweet time, however. “Four months ago, my husband of 44 years died,” Judis reflected. “I felt lost without him.”
Jumping came in a handy. Judis recalled, “It’s amazing what a rope can do when you’re under stress.”
Since she started jumping rope, Judis has suffered her own health issues, including a detached retina that left her with a loss of peripheral vision in her left eye, and a car accident that required her to wear a neck brace for months. Skipping rope has helped her navigate these challenges. “It’s a wonderful sport,” she gushes. “Good for your memory, immune system; makes your upper body strong and toned, your calves…it’s good for balancing.”
In the national competition, Judis was only required to jump one time, but she jumped for longer than two minutes—just because she could.
Judis credits this ability to her active lifestyle. She trains 5 days a week, jumping rope for a total of 10 minutes and jumping continuously for a full minute. She encourages others to stay active as well, and she is the leader of her “Walkie Talkies” neighborhood group that meets weekly on Mondays on Santa Monica Boulevard near Canon and Crescent. All are welcome to join.
“Keep moving doing something you like to do,” she urges with joy in her voice. “I always kept moving, doing stuff. Eat well and sleep well. I go to bed at 9:00 and wake up early. After my workout, I paint.”
Having illustrated a couple of children’s books, Judis is now working on a book about jumping rope that will contain within it a brand new rope for young readers.
Ever learning new tricks, including her favorite “criss-cross” move skipping rope, Judis is a living reminder to all of us to move the body and stay young at heart.