REAL DEAL: Jessi and Theresa
June 10, 2016 – SO-CAL
A while back, while spinning through my Instagram feed, I scrolled across a meme, the kind of thing I usually roll right past, but for some reason I paused on this one:
There’s so much truth in this. You want leg muscles? Gotta do squats. Want to be a guitar god? Practice, practice, practice, every single day. Tired of the 9-5 grind? Quit making excuses and put yourself out there. Do something extraordinary.
Jessi Combs and Theresa Contreras have done just that.
Both women have built careers around what they love–a core principle they hope to pass along to others who want to push beyond the easy and find that thing to make them jump out of bed excited for the day ahead. So how do they plan on achieving such a lofty goal? Through their joint venture…
The internet is flooded with posts and memes and blogs about empowering woman. Heck, I would say the Motor Dolls blog sometimes falls into that category. So what makes REAL DEAL different?
LEADING BY EXAMPLE.
Jessi and Theresa don’t just spew phrases; they get tools into the hands of not just women, but men and kids as well, who might be held back from trying something new either out of fear or something else.
There is an internal confidence that grows when something is created and built with your own hands.–Jessi Combs
Jessi and Theresa launched their custom-designed REAL DEAL booth at Born Free 7 in 2015, complete with welding machines, paint-guns, pin-striping tools, and leather and jewelry crafts. They also showed at Chopperfest that same year.
Their goal is to get people excited about doing rather than watching, something achieved by taking away the intimidation factor and showing them, right there on the spot, how anyone can pick up a tool and make something.
In addition to the in-person events…
Our social media and our website showcase Real Deal women, so that we can inspire other women by showcasing these bad ass ladies who have worked their asses off to achieve the skills they have!–Theresa Contreras
And let me tell ya… these two know what they’re doing.
I met Jessi and Theresa at Babes Ride Out when they set up camp next to me. I was aware of Jessi because my pals Grease Girl and Pati Fairchild had crewed her team at The Race Of Gentlemen.
I introduced myself and we hit it off. Jessi even bump-started my Chromester at the MotoLady Anniversary party when my wasted battery left me stranded. What a hero.
Jessi has made a name for herself over the last decade as an automotive TV host (Overhaulin’, All Girls Garage, Mythbusters, and more), but she is so much more than a dynamic face and presence.
By trade she is a metal fabricator with a degree in Custom Automotive Fabrication…
… and by heart she is a Driver. As Jessi says,
If I could spend my life doing nothing other than be behind the wheel of a car doing something extraordinary (as opposed to being a taxi driver) I would be living the dream… wait, I am living the dream!
Jessi has podium finished at the Baja 1000 multiple times, and holds the titles as the Two-Time Queen of the Hammers and the Fastest Woman on Four Wheels, with a land-speed record of 398 mph (top speed of 440 mph).
Last year, Jessi drove in a 9-day all-female rally race in Africa using only hand-drawn maps from the ’60s and a compass, placing 1st in the First Participation category, and 10th overall.
Remember the Race of Gentlemen I mentioned earlier? Jessi was one of the first women to compete in the Oiler’s carnival event, racing down the beach in a 1913 twin-engine Model-T. Even when the steering wheel popped free, she never lost her cool. Not only did she keep driving, she won the race. That’s who Jessi is.
Jessi has just this week (June 18-26, 2016), Grand Marshall’ed The Great Race, plus, drove the entire time-speed-distance rally behind the wheel of a 1927 Bugatti T35B! So stinkin’ cool.
While she’s achieved a lot during her time racing, her goal is to become the Fastest Woman in the World by breaking Kitty O’Neil’s 1976 record of 512 miles per hour. If anyone can do it, it’s Jessi.
While proud of her racing accomplishments, she says her greatest accomplishment is NEVER GIVING UP.
This can-do spirit is certainly something she exudes. When I asked Theresa what she most admires about Jessi, she said:
Her heart, her energy, and her drive… but if I had to pick one, her drive.–Theresa Contreras
Theresa wears many creative hats: designer, builder, racer (in progress!)–and painter, with a Fine Art education from Cal Poly.
She wants to “change the world one color at a time.”
Oh, that tank. I have a mad crush on that tank.
Her custom Harley is a total eye catcher, a Zero Engineering frame with an ’80 Husky tank, and fabulous custom painted air cleaner (by her, of course). I can honestly say, I’ve never seen anything like it. Perfect balance. Mile-high coolness. A true original, much like Theresa.
Since 2001, her work has made regular showings at SEMA, and has been featured on the covers of numerous magazines, like the Ford Raptor she painted and designed, featured on the cover of Truckin‘ magazine.
The bumper she designed for that project is now one of the hottest in the market, inspiring her to want to start her own line of aftermarket products.
If she looks familiar, you may have seen her on Car Warriors as the first female lead.
Currently, she is a Designer and Custom Painter at LGE-CTS Motorsports. But it’s her work as a committee member for The Learning Centers at Fairplex–where she’s currently in charge of building the garage and programs–that truly speaks to the person she is:
The purpose of AXC is to bring high school auto shop back, since it seems to be disappearing in the school system. We offer a 2 year program that you can start as a junior in high school, get ROP credit for, and it’s free of charge. I have been a volunteer for the past 5 years, but last year I came on part-time as the “Auto Program Specialist.” … And recently, we just had a graduating class of 11 students!
On top of all that Theresa is also a wife and mother.
What Jessi says about Theresa:
Aside from her endless positivity and mad skills with a paint gun and out of the box thinking and desire for adventure… can you tell I adore this little bundle of joy… her project management skills are what keep us on track.
Jessi and Theresa Formed an Immediate Bond
The two met during the 2012 SEMA Business Women’s Network (SBN) Ford Mustang all-female build, an accomplishment Theresa is particularly proud of.
I’ve worked on a lot of projects, but not with women, and I don’t think I understood how these relationships would impact the rest of my life.When you get women together on a project, they really stop and listen to everyone, assess the situation, then decide together where to proceed from there.–Theresa Contreras
During the build, Jessi made a trip to Theresa’s shop to check on the paint.
[Jessi] walked in with a confidence and energy that I loved. It’s the way she tackles most things in life. It intrigued me… and when she told me she had a pre-runner Tundra …and that she liked my motorcycle that was sitting there, I thought… we might just get a long…–Theresa Contreras
Jessi remembers their meeting much the same way.
I joke it was ‘cus her chopper was sitting in the corner of the paint shop and when I suggested we go for a ride, she agree’d… and then when we rode, she kept up 😉 In reality, we saw each other’s devotion to detail and had similar vision on what we wanted to do with a project and how to accomplish them gracefully.–Jessi Combs
What’s Next for Real Deal
Jessi and Theresa plan to eventually have classes and clinics at their shop in Long Beach as well as other Real Deal locations around LA, and then hopefully around the world. Remember. They think BIG, and want others to do the same.
Our job is to excite people about the possibilities of a career in field they would have never really thought of before.–Jessi Combs
Down the road, they hope to have summer camps and retreats teaching girls the trades and “the skills to live life in confidence with self-reliance.”
I would love to see Real Deal sponsoring bad ass women in racing and having a community of workshops. When people see/say “Real Deal”, they associate our brand with empowerment, acceptance, diving in to your dreams, and never giving up!–Theresa Contreras
Some excellent words of advice from these two about pushing past fear and making the most out of life.
Twist [fear] around. It’s not about being afraid of what you can’t do, it’s about having this dream in your heart, and being afraid of NOT accomplishing it. Life is too short to worry, and not take chances. Life is also about learning… picking yourself up after you have failed, and try it again! Never give up!–Theresa Conteras
Make your own path. Be the star of your own show. Live in confidence. Wake up awesome. Charge life. Fear nothing. Learn everything. Be as brave as you are beautiful.–Jessi Combs
Pretty excellent blueprint for life, right?
KEEPING UP WITH JESSI AND THERESA:
- The I am the Real Deal Website
- Real Deal Instagram
- Real Deal Facebook
- Jessi Combs website
- Fairplex Automotive Program where Theresa volunteers
- Jessi can currently be seen on The List: 1001 Car Things To Do Before You Die on AOL’s autoblog.com, also airing on the Velocity.
- The Real Deal booth will be at Babes Ride Out 4! Tickets available now.
- In October, Jessi and Theresa will debut their BMW R nineT customization! Stay tuned for more on that.
Interested in having REAL DEAL at a show? Contact them!!
Until next time…