Gabby Douglas has accomplished more at age 16 than many others have in their entire lifetime. Not only did this young lady make it to the 2012 Olympics in London, but she was able to become the first American woman to win gold in both the team and individual all-around finals. However, what Gabby did wasn’t as important to some viewers, as how she looked doing it. Several people complained that Gabby wasn’t “representing” African American women well…because her hair wasn’t styled properly.
“I started hearing about [her hair] earlier this year actually. I started trying to be proactive about her hair before all of that happened. What is funny is I had someone come do her hair before the Olympics. We put all this effort into getting her hair done and they still didn’t like it!”
“At this level in her career, hair is somewhat secondary. It was actually her coach who told me that. I was trying to get her into a hair appointment and I wanted to move her training schedule around and he said to me, ‘She’s beautiful. You don’t need to change her hair. We need to focus on training. Hair is secondary. We make time for that after training. Don’t mess with my training time.’ ”
“I don’t think people realize sometimes that she doesn’t live with me. She lives with a white host family and they don’t know anything about taking care of her hair. And there’s no black salons in their area [in Iowa] – not one. We had to work really hard to find a stylist to come and do her hair.”
“It’s really been African American women that have come out and attacked her. They don’t know about gymnastics. She has to keep her hair in a ponytail 28-30 hours a week. In gymnastics you’re tumbling around on your hair. You’re falling backwards on it. You’re doing “timers” and your hair is constantly snagging on the mat, and for our hair that’s very detrimental. You’re going into foam pits – and any hair stylist will tell you that foam on African American hair is destructive. It breaks the hair horribly.
“We had to come up with creative ways to keep [Gabby’s] hair looking good. We’ve tried the short hair style, we’ve tried long. We grew her hair out because she preferred long hair. I’m not going to make her cut her hair just to please someone else.”
I’m upset that her mom feels the need to explain the way her hair is styled to the childish critics of the world. The people who think her hair is more important than what she’s just achieved can spend their time hanging out in the salon, while she continues to do the unimaginable.