This is what an Olympian looks like ~ brown, buff, bodied & beautiful. Top U.S. gymnasts Gabby Douglas and Simone Biles each cover Teen Vogue’s August “Body Beautiful” issue. That’s a double dose of #blackgirlmagic & double trouble for the competition at next month’s summer Olympic games.
Black girls have been featured on the cover (and inside) of Teen Vogue a little more frequently in the past couple of years ~ models, actresses & activists mostly. But the cover girls typically fit a very normalized standard of beauty – fair(er) skinned, thinner noses… actual models…Black is beautiful. But in most media, not all black gets top billing on the cover.
So let’s just take a moment to just look at these two dark-skinned black girls – these two top athletes – with their hair braided & beautiful on the cover of Teen Vogue & smile for all the girls who will look at it and see themselves reflected back. That matters.
Now, we can get into these photos~
You might remember Gabby from the 2012 Olympic games in London where, at 16, she made history as the first woman of color to win the individual all-around title & lead the U.S. team to a gold medal. “It was just insane knowing that I had spent my whole life dreaming about this one specific goal and achieved it.” This year, “she is determined to make history again, as the first gymnast to successfully defend her all-around gold medal since 1968.”
In this month’s Teen Vogue, Gabby talks about how she handled some of the criticism she faced being in the public eye – people clowned her for not ‘doing her hair,’ said her arms were too muscular – and how it made her incredible self conscious at the time. Now, this Olympian has a new attitude ~
‘I don’t have to apologize to anyone about my body. My body is beautiful.’”
and built to help her dominate in this competitive, widely-loved sport.
“It took a long time for me to see my own potential — a long time…Finally something clicked and I knew I could be one of the best. It was a game changer. Now I’m like, ‘I am going for this. I’m going for it all.’”
If you’ve been on social media this past month, you’ve probably seen a video of Simone Biles’ high energy, electric floor routine. She may stand 4′ 8″, but this 19 year old is considered head and shoulders above the rest and establishing herself as the one to beat. Why? According to Teen Vogue, “she’s the only female gymnast to take home all-around gold at the prestigious World Gymnastics Championships three years in a row, her 10 golds there are the most of any female gymnast in history, and her 14 medals overall are the most of any American.”
But being twice as good doesn’t make her immune to racism, it makes the haters big mad ~ like an Italian gymnast who said, “Next time we should also paint our skin black, so we can win too,” after she lost to Simone in 2013. Like most champs, Simone has learned to shrug it off. She’s an Olympian, it’s part of the game.
“It went viral, but it didn’t bother me one bit. I guess I just have really tough skin. I was like, whatever.”
But even she has felt self-conscious about her body not being as slim and trim as other gymnasts. But she learned,
“I was built this way for a reason, so I’m going to use it.”
“To go out there and prove what I can do has taught me a lot about who I am. We can push ourselves further. We always have more to give.”