The Untold Truth Of TJ Lavin

No, TJ Lavin was not the first presenter of MTV's long-running extreme competition "The Challenge." The likes of Dave Mirra, Jonny Moseley, and Gladys Sanabria had all previously presided over the chaos in its first ten seasons on air. But the Las Vegas native made the series his own after coming on board in 2005 and all these years later he's still very much the host with the most.

Of course, Lavin had first made his name as a BMX rider, picking up two golds, a silver and three bronzes at the X Games and reaching the top of the podium at the Gravity Games, European Championship and DK Dirt Circuit among many other events. Little wonder he was dubbed the King of Dirt.

But there's more to Lavin than wheelies and reality show eliminations. From mellow weddings and heroic ambitions to creative talents and charitable endeavors, here's a look at his untold truth.

A BMX accident left him in critical condition

After nearly a decade of rotating hosts, TJ Lavin looked to have brought some stability to "The Challenge" when he took the reins in 2005. But producers were very nearly forced to once again look elsewhere four years later when the daredevil suffered a horrific BMX crash.

Lavin was immediately taken to hospital after falling from his bike at a Dew Tour race staged in Las Vegas. Per ESPN, the star broke his wrist and orbital bone, and the accident left him unconscious. And things got even more serious when after being placed into a medically induced coma he suffered a bout of pneumonia.

Thankfully, Lavin's condition began to recover and within a month he was allowed to go home. But he had to undergo speech therapy and he still suffers from various effects including double vision whenever he's lying down. The daredevil explained to GQ, "It's weird because I like my vision. I come up and reset, and when I lay back, I close an eye. It's just weird. If I try to read a text, I can't when I'm lying in bed." The near-death experience also prompted Lavin to quit his professional BMX career. As he told Entertainment Weekly, "I have to be healthy during filming ['The Challenge'], so two months prior to taking off to go film, I don't do anything dangerous so I don't get hurt and mess up the whole production."

TJ Lavin had a low-key wedding

After six years of hosting MTV's premier extreme reality competition, TJ Lavin could no doubt have chosen to splash the cash on a glitzy wedding, or landed a lucrative magazine deal to cover it. But the X Games gold medalist isn't one for grand public displays of affection.

In 2012, Lavin walked down the aisle with Roxanne Siordia in a low-key ceremony at Las Vegas City Hall. He later told People, "We thought about doing it at the drive-thru but we couldn't go through with it, so I said I was down for City Hall. Fancy weddings aren't our thing."

That doesn't mean that Lavin isn't an old romantic at heart. In fact, the former BMX rider told the same publication that he chose November 2 to get hitched as this was the same date that he and Siordia met, adding, "I knew I was gonna marry her the second I met her." The pair had actually started discussing marriage six years earlier but it was only when Lavin suffered a near-fatal BMX crash that they decided to grab life by the horns and finally say "I do."

TJ Lavin trained to be a firefighter

MTV reality TV fans were no doubt left wondering why TJ Lavin was absent from the finale of 2017's "The Challenge XXX: Dirty 30." And it seems fair to say that training to become a firefighter in Las Vegas wouldn't be everyone's first guess. And yet, it would be the correct guess. Yes, the extreme sports star gave the firefighting world a shot. As he said in a chat with the Las Vegas Review-Journal, "It's pretty ambitious. But it's something I feel like I need to get done before I die, so here I am."

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Lavin explained that he'd been pursuing this heroic sideline for four years before getting the opportunity. Unfortunately, the training just so happened to clash with his day job. "It was all agreed to before I went and then, all of a sudden, plans changed when we were [in Colombia] and the show got longer," he recalled. "I was like, 'Dude, I have to go.'" Sadly for Lavin, but perhaps to the relief of "The Challenge" producers and viewers alike, the star discovered that he wasn't cut out for a life on the emergency services frontline: "I'm very glad that I did what I did but it was super militaristic and I'm not that guy. ... I felt very bad for being there, but I tried my hardest."

He's a proud dad

After getting together with Roxanne Siordia, former BMX professional TJ Lavin adopted Siordia's daughter from a previous relationship, Raquel. And the MTV regular sure seems to be a very proud dad.

In 2019, TJ described Raquel, who works as a hairstylist in Las Vegas, as "the perfect daughter" in a 2019 Instagram post. He wrote, "She drives stick no worries, works two jobs, graduated from a bada** hair school, (that she paid for), continues learning and growing everyday, and has a really nice boyfriend that plays guitar." In another post he shared, "So lucky to have this bada** human for my daughter."

When Us Weekly reached out to the dads of "The Challenge" around Father's Day in 2018, TJ not only talked about what a good person his daughter is, but shared that she's picked up his love of extreme sports. "She's an amazing girl with so much empathy and compassion for everyone," he told the outlet. "She likes to surf, wake-surf, snowboard and travel."

TJ Lavin is a musician and actor too

TJ Lavin is nothing if not multi-skilled. As well as hosting MTV's "The Challenge" since 2005 and winning all kinds of medals in the daredevil world of BMX, the Californian is also pretty handy when it comes to tinkling the ivories.

Yes, the reality TV star first took up the piano aged 14 and having become an accomplished player he provided the soundtrack to "A Film About T.J. Lavin," a 2004 documentary about his early extreme sports career. Three years later he also released his debut album with the title of "The First Set" and composed the score for short film "Freak Accident."

Lavin has also racked up a few film credits in front of the camera, too. In 2013, he played Ely in low-budget horror "A Monster Among Men," while seven years on he joined the likes of Evan Rachel Wood, Caleb Landry Jones, and Jeremy Allen White in post-punk road movie "Viena and the Fantomes." Not that the latter was a particular stretch: Lavin was cast as a BMX rider.

Why TJ Lavin can't stand quitters

TJ Lavin didn't even try and hide his disdain for Brandon Tindel when he walked away from "Rivals," the 2008 season of "The Challenge," simply because he couldn't bear to be apart from his girlfriend any longer. "Don't take care. Hope to see you never," the host told the quitter in what has become one of the show's most memorable lines.

Any fan of "The Challenge" knows Lavin's tolerance for quitters is less than negligible, and his reaction to Tindel's departure was par for the course. In a 2021 interview with E! News, the former BMX rider explained why he feels so strongly about those who voluntarily drop out of the extreme competition show without much justification. "We have a million people who would die to be on this show, so you're taking the place of somebody that really wants it," he said. "That's not fair and that's not cool, so I don't like that already."

Lavin, who got the chance to repeat that infamous sendoff diss when "The Real World: Las Vegas" alum Arissa Hill withdrew from "The Challenge: All Stars," told E! News that his reaction comes from a place of tough love. He explained, "I'm hating on you right now because you are going to regret this decision you are making right now. This is the biggest mistake that you've ever made." 

TJ Lavin has only ever drunk alcohol once

Don't expect to ever see TJ Lavin stumbling out of a nightclub worse for wear in a tabloid. "The Challenge" host has only ever let alcohol pass through his lips once, and that was way back when he was 17 years old.

Speaking to Men's Health in 2021, the former BMX rider also revealed that he'd never smoked a cigarette or taken any other form of recreational substance. And it was his experiences of growing up with a father who struggled with alcohol use that deterred him from ever going down a similar route. "I just saw that it just wasn't a good path," he said. "And I also have a very addictive personality." Lavin insisted that peer pressure was never a problem during his time in the BMX world and that his teetotalism was respected. Well, apart from one occasion. "One time I did go to a championship and we were celebrating at a bar, and they gave me a Mike's Hard Lemonade," he told Men's Health. "I drank a whole one of those and I started feeling tipsy. They played a joke on me. I didn't even get mad, but [sobriety's] just something that's just part of my life."

And while the competitors on "The Challenge" have been known to tie one on, Lavin is never involved in the revelry. As he told The New York Times Style Magazine, "I'm off doing whatever I'm doing."

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

TJ Lavin once nearly drowned

It's fair to say that the early 2010s were precarious for TJ Lavin. Just months after suffering a serious BMX crash that left him in a medically induced coma, the MTV regular host once again faced a brush with death. And a seemingly safe dip in the sea was to blame.

Shortly after returning to work to film "The Challenge: Rivals," Lavin decided to take advantage of the Costa Rican waters during a production break. But he told radio show "Flip the Strip" (via People) that he'd underestimated just how strong the current was. Lavin recalled, "I almost drowned out there. There's a nasty undertow, and I went out into the ocean like nothing, like I was good, and I was like, 'No problem. I'm just going to go out here and go swimming.' Before I knew it I was like 100 yards off the coast."

Luckily, a surfer pal noticed that Lavin had gotten into trouble and came to the rescue. "We rode the surfboard together into the shore and we kind of just had to go wherever we could, and it ended up in the rocks," he shared. The X Games winner then quipped that such incidents come in threes, but thankfully he managed to see out the year without another near-death experience.

The charitable side of TJ Lavin

Many stars of "The Challenge" have taken to Cameo, the video-sharing platform in which fans can pay celebrities to record personalized messages, to make a few extra bucks. You can get a birthday greeting from contestant Devin Walker for $80, for example. Or perhaps a commiseration from quitter Beth Stolarczyk for the sum of $169. Or if you're prepared to stump up an extra six bucks you could even get seven-time winner Johnny Bananas wishing you a happy National Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day.

As you would expect, though, it's the MTV show's long-running host who will set you back the most. Indeed, you need to fork out a cool $225 for a message from TJ Lavin. But no doubt unlike most of his peers, the former BMX professional doesn't actually pocket the cash himself. No, in a sign that he's one of the good guys, Lavin donates every cent he makes from the platform to charity.

The star explained to Las Vegas Review-Journal, "It's just me. It's everything that I do. It doesn't have anything to do with a certain charity or a certain organization. I just spend the money on homeless people and giving it to people. Like, in Africa, for instance, I made about 6,000 bucks on Cameo, and I gave away about 7,000. So it was a very, very good time giving that money away."

TJ Lavin got The Challenge job thanks to some sweeping

TJ Lavin became the eighth host of MTV extreme elimination show "The Challenge" in its 2005-06 season "The Gauntlet 2." But the seeds for his appointment were sewn way back in the late '90s. While appearing on the show's official podcast in 2021, the Las Vegan explained that he'd first been approached by the network when he was 22. But it was for permission to stage a star-studded party at his desert-based home. Ashton Kutcher, Carson Daly, and Tony Hawk were just a few of the celebs who attended the MTV bash. However, it was a behind-the-scenes name that would change the course of Lavin's career.

The former BMX rider explained that the morning after, MTV production executive Vinnie Potestivo had taken it upon himself to sweep up. Touched by this gesture, Lavin struck up a conversation, and the pair developed a friendship. Some years later Postestivo determined Lavin was the perfect man to take over from the late Dave Mirra. And the rest is "The Challenge" history.

While hosting "The Challenge" year after year can be, well, challenging, Lavin remains humble all these seasons later. "[M]y job is the easiest job on the whole damn crew," he once said in GQ. "I'm dead serious when it comes to business and getting it done."

TJ Lavin always has the crew members' backs

Ever wondered why TJ Lavin appears to have it in for some "The Challenge" contestants when their on-screen behavior appears to have been relatively innocuous? Well, in certain cases the host's obvious disdain will have stemmed from how the participants have treated the crew.

In a 2021 interview with Us Weekly, the former BMX professional revealed that he always gets a heads-up from those behind the scenes whenever something has gone down. Every now and then the information he receives will inspire him to go a little easier on contestants. "If somebody's grandmother died or something that I know that I've gotta chill," he told Us Weekly. "If they're not feeling very good, you don't go in on them. And if somebody's pregnant during a final, you don't say, 'You're gonna quit? What are you doing?'" 

But woe betide if Lavin discovers that a challenger has been disrespectful to those who help put the show together. "If somebody's really bad with the crew and I see that then I'm a little bit different toward them," he shared with Us Weekly. "I'm like, 'Oh, that's what kind of person you are? OK. We'll see how it is.' I don't deal with that at all, and I'm not cool with that at all." Clearly, Lavin is forever loyal to the behind-the-scenes team. As he said in Entertainment Weekly, "[O]ur crew has been like family to me now for the last 15 years."

TJ Lavin is an animal lover

This won't come as a surprise to anyone who regularly peruses TJ Lavin's social media accounts. But yes, when he's not presiding over slightly ridiculous extreme challenges on MTV, the Las Vegan likes nothing more than cuddling up to his array of furry friends.

Lavin shares a number of pets, including one cat and three canines, with wife Roxanne Siordia. In a 2021 episode of MTV's "Cribs" reboot, Lavin spent a good chunk of the segment hanging out with pups Sonny, Hanky, and Cooper on his living room sofa before — brace yourself — grabbing a guitar and performing a duet with Hanky.

Just like his other half, Lavin is also a vegan, something which he'll also shout proudly about on social media. In one particular Instagram post about the best vegan burger he'd ever had, for example, he used hashtags such as #itsjustbetter, #noonewantstodie and #crueltyfree.

TJ Lavin had to work while grieving his father's death

While filming the 2018 season of "The Challenge," "The Final Reckoning," in South Africa, host TJ Lavin received some devastating news: His father died from lung cancer. Agonizingly, the Las Vegan was unable to head back home to his family, as he explained in an interview with Entertainment Weekly.

Lavin said, "It would have been an act of Congress for me to get back to the United States for the funeral and then go back to South Africa to film, not mention that it would have taken at least a week, since it takes two days to go there and two days to get back. It would have been just a huge cluster. So I just suffered in silence for a month and a half and finished filming, and then I got to deal with all that stuff."

In another chat with GQ, Lavin revealed that his dad, who'd earned a living as a craps table pit boss at Las Vegas Strip casinos, had encouraged him to concentrate on his career during the latter stages of his illness. "My dad's last words to me were: 'TJ, go to work,'" he shared.

TJ Lavin's made a good living

TJ Lavin might have walked down the aisle with Roxanne Siordia in 2012 and adopted her daughter Raquel, but there's still a part of him that appears to scream "sports-mad bachelor." And that side truly came out when he opened up his humble abode for a second time to the "MTV Cribs" cameras in 2021. It's the same house MTV toured in 2002, but it's been updated and reworked to better fit his and his family's lifestyle. "A lot has changed since the last time you were here," he noted. "It went from pianos and pool tables to now... I'm married."

Per People, Lavin's home features a loft space that's something of a mancave. "This is what my house used to look like before I got married," he quipped. The MTV personality proudly showed off his space packed with various sporting memorabilia including a Kobe Bryant-signed basketball, boxing gloves once worn by Oscar De La Hoya, and perhaps his most prized possession, a New York Yankees jersey bearing Don Mattingly's signature.

Clearly, the BMX star-turned-reality TV icon has done rather well for himself. According to Celebrity Net Worth, Lavin's net worth sits at $9 million.