One-Two Punch: From Marine Sergeant to Hollywood Stuntwoman

By Susan Johnston Taylor

| Photographs By Gregg Segal

After leaving the Marine Corps as a sergeant, Leaphy Khim launched a new career as a Hollywood stuntwoman. The first-generation Cambodian-American is hoping to carve out a niche with her martial arts expertise.

What got you interested in being a stuntwoman?
I was always active. With my career in the Marine Reserve and also working as an assistant producer at the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), I was constantly moving around. Because I like martial arts, I wanted to be a professional fighter, but then I realized I was getting older. A friend told me I should become a stuntwoman, and a light bulb went on in my head. It was two years ago that I started pursuing the career and training for it.

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How do you break into that profession?

In the beginning, it was a lot of research. I’ve been going through the acting route and learning the skills that I need to do stunts, like falling properly and safely. Different stunt folks have different types of skills. Mine are martial arts, kickboxing and boxing, so I train on that on a full-time basis. I have a coach, so if there is a role where they need a female boxer, for example, I want to make sure when I get on set I know what I’m doing.

Tell me about your transition from the Marine Corps to Hollywood. What was the toughest part?

Going into Hollywood, I really always believed the Marines prepared me as far as being disciplined and being focused. The thing that was the hardest is there are not a lot of women or veterans in general in the business. Putting myself out there as a female veteran, it’s hard for some people to relate to that. 

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Did USAA help with your transition into your new career?

Working as a freelancer, I have so many different jobs. Having it more organized is really helpful, because I’m technically a business now. Financially, I want to make sure that I’m organized and also saving. Having USAA help with that has been really good.

Use USAA’s Financial Readiness Score to chase your dreams and get a personalized action plan.

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