*Looking beautiful ready to slay competition in Rio, Team USA Olympic gymnasts Gabby Douglas and Simone Biles grace separate covers of Teen Vogue for its August issue, and both open up about growing into body types that were outside of the sport’s traditional bone-thin build.
Douglas – the 20-year-old Virginia native who won the individual all-around title and led her “Fierce Five” team to gold at the 2012 Olympic Games – has been ridiculed for everything from her body to her hair.
“It was very tough,” Douglas said of the criticism she received. “Sometimes I would be in the bathroom, bawling my eyes out, wanting to quit. I felt like I was all alone.”
Gabby’s momager Natalie Hawkins remembers the teasing well. “Everyone was talking about her arms, and she became very self-conscious about how muscular they were,” Hawkins explained.
It took another pro-athlete to help Douglas recognize the beauty in her muscular body: Serena Williams.
“Gabrielle saw the elegance with which Serena Williams handled all the negative criticism of her own body,” Hawkins recounted. “It was liberating for my daughter to see that. She said, ‘I don’t have to apologize to anyone about my body.’ ”
“When I came through it, I felt as if I could overcome anything,” Douglas said.
Her 19-year-old teammate Simone Biles, expected to compete in her first Olympic Games this year, describes her body as “stockier” that her fellow gymnasts.
“I was built this way for a reason, so I’m going to use it,” said the four-time U.S. all-around gymnastics champion. “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.”
As for her haters – like Italian gymnast Carlotta Ferlito who suggested “we should also paint our skin black so we can win too” in 2013 – Biles is unbothered.
“I guess I just have really tough skin,” she told the magazine of the incident. “I was like, whatever.”
The U.S. Gymnastics Olympic Team Trials will be held from July 8 through 10 in San Jose, California. The Rio Olympics begin August 5.
Below, video extras with Gabby and Simone from Teen Vogue: