Finding Our Folks: Crystal Hooks

Ambitious, hard-working, intelligent people aren’t hard to find throughout Emanuel County. From lesser-known citizens to well-known leaders, Swainsboro and other municipalities in the area are fortunate to call these folks, the ones who make a difference, “ours.” Of course, some of “our folks” have moved off and shared themselves with the world in various respects. The “Finding Our Folks” part of The Crossroads Chronicle aims to track down and catch up with our hometown people.

This week’s featuree is Crystal Hooks, whose profile was written by Halei Lamb.

If you’re looking for someone who lives life “pedal to the metal,” Crystal Hooks is your girl. The 33-year-old daughter of Karen Morris and Keith Hooks is a stunt driver—and she farms outside Atlanta! Talk about a unique story!

Hooks, in her own words, “grew up one of the boys” on a farm in Nunez. Most of her formative years were spent involved in agriculture and participating in typical boy activities. Her life, including all its experiences from childhood to adulthood, has come full-circle today.

“It was different being a girl raised like a boy,” she opened. “When you’re old enough to be a woman, people want you to fulfill the conventional woman role in the south. I think there’s a real truth behind gender expectations down here, and I didn’t necessarily fit that... But when I think about the things I’ve been blessed to be able to do and where life has taken me, I don’t think it’s a bad thing I’ve taken my own path.”

She graduated from Swainsboro High School in 2005. From 2005 to 2007, she lived in Tifton and studied animal science at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College on a 4-H scholarship. The plan was to get her master’s and maybe move cattle just like her father and grandfathers. However, life had other plans.

During high school, Hooks was introduced to sport bike motorcycles, a hobby she was discouraged from pursuing because it was “too dangerous for girls.” She bought her first bike for $900 during her freshman year of college and learned to ride. Soon after, she moved to Florida, first landing in Destin to work at a 4-H camp. The change of scenery did a number on her heart in a good way; Hooks fell in love with the fluffy white sand and turquoise waters of the Gulf Coast. Over the next few years, Hooks hopscotched around the Sunshine State, living in Palm Coast for one year and Tampa for another before finally somewhat settling down in Orlando, which turned out to be her own “land of opportunity” of sorts.

“I was never afraid to move around or start over a young age. It’s pretty crazy when I think about it... God really looked out for me and put good people, angels, in my life and put me in situations that would always lead to better things,” Hooks said. “I was completely on my own when I moved to Florida, just a foolish 19-year-old girl trying to find somewhere to live. I met some people on MySpace that ended up being my roommates for 2.5 years. I worked as a bartender and in some garages. Making that jump, moving across the state line, was different, enlightening, and challenging, and I feel really fortunate that everything has happened the way it did.”

As she made her way around Florida, Hooks became less interested in her agricultural pursuits and more invested in her inclination for all things with motors. She studied motorcycle mechanics at Wyotech and graduated in 2008, eventually becoming employed at a show called “Lights, Motors, Action,” a live drift car and supermoto show at Hollywood Studios. She spent five years there, overcoming the stigmas that come along with being a woman in a male-dominated field. All the while, she kept riding and improving her skills.

Her first big break in the entertainment industry, specifically the stunt sector, came when she was living in Orlando. The 23-year-old was recovering from a surgery to remove a benign tumor when she got a call “out of nowhere” asking if she wanted to come to Puerto Rico for two weeks to ride in a blockbuster movie, Fast 5. She immediately said yes, of course, and made the trip. As she thinks back to that moment from 11 years ago, Hooks is amazed at how far she’s come and how the industry works.

“I was just a girl that rode motorcycles,” she said in retrospect. “I did freestyle stunts. They called and asked me to come film. It’s about your skill set obviously, but since then, I’ve learned other aspects, like marketing and submitting your resumé. For the first two to three years, I thought producers just called you when they needed you. Now that I’ve been doing this for more than a decade, I’ve learned how to network and find work on my own.”

Two people, Debbie Evans and Andy Gill, were instrumental as she figured out the learning curve. In the years since then, Hooks has become a looked-to stunt woman in the entertainment world. Her IMDB portfolio credits her 107 times in various productions, most notably The Matrix 4, Black Widow, The Mandalorian, Outer Banks, Bad Boys for Life, Avengers: Endgame, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, What Men Want, The Mule, The Haunting of Hill House, Night School, Ozark, Fear the Walking Dead, Avengers: Infinity War, Game Night, Pitch Perfect 3, Stranger Things, The F8 of the Furious, Boo! A Madea Halloween, Bad Moms, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, Captain America: Civil War, Nashville, Allegiant, Teen Wolf, The 5th Wave, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Parts 1 and 2, The Divergent Series: Insurgent, NCIS: New Orleans, and The Vampire Diaries. Hooks has been nominated for Outstanding Action Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture a whopping six times for the Screen Actors Guild Awards, and she finally napped the trophy in 2020 for her work in the 2019 hit Avengers: End Game.

Hooks continues to work in the stunt industry, but she has found another love—or perhaps rekindled it in a way. As she became more and more versed in how to network herself and her skills, she realized she didn’t have to live in a certain area to be called upon for stunt work. Consequently, she moved to Atlanta and started renting houses there. Ironically, the hub of the industry itself shifted Georgia’s capitol near the time she moved. In 2016, she planted roots here—literally. She bought a 40-acre farm west of downtown Atlanta in Powder Springs, and she’s loving every minute of reclaiming the property. To date, she has built new barns, bought new equipment, and established good grass. She has also bought a few horses for pleasure.

“My love for agriculture has always been absolute. It was something I was born into, something my heart fought fiercely for. I have a career in entertainment, sure, and I diverted away from agriculture for a while... But my love for agriculture has never left, and it never will. I believe it is imperative that people understand where their foods come from and that they respect farmers and what they bring to the table. I bought my farm for that reason, sure... But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I bought it as kind of a playground, too.”

On that note, Hooks says she’s found that place to be a retreat from the craziness of life. It is the perfect spot to unwind, make time for the things her heart enjoys, and, most importantly, see the future. She wants her future children to have an agricultural haven like she did growing up, and Hooks Farm at Sweetwater, the official name of her investment, will be the perfect place to “teach them how to be better humans” through experiences and responsibilities that come with working and caring for livestock as well as running a farm operation.

While she wholeheartedly loves the life she gets to live and the farm itself, Hooks admits there’s no place quite like home. True, the farm is located outside the city limits, but working in and living near Atlanta contrasts starkly to Swainsboro. She misses the people and activities from home, but for now, she’s in the best place possible.

In closing, Hooks, who is a member of both the United Stuntwomen’s Association as well as the Georgia Cattlemen’s Association, would like to thank the community and the folks in it who helped mold her.

“I’d like to thank the people involved in my childhood and the many different facets of it. Thank you for my experiences. All those things helped me become the person I am. We don’t understand early childhood development as well as we need to; those early years are pivotal for our futures. I want to encourage parents and their children to become involved in 4-H and FFA. These organizations and the events they put on, the qualities you can develop through being apart of them... They can really change a person’s life for the better.”

Lastly, to the younger generation here in Emanuel County who have aspirations of leaving to chase a dream, Hooks says to just roll the dice and work hard. The rest will work itself out.

“I’m not a huge supporter of conventional education. Find something you’re passionate about, something that makes you want to live life! Run as fast and hard in that direction as you can. We have the ability to do anything we want if you work hard enough. I’m living proof of it. No matter who you are, you’ll have struggles. Whether you’re a child or an adult, the one thing we should always remember most is don’t give up! Continue to fight the good fight and you’ll be rewarded for it.”

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