Gabrielle Douglas Olympic Gold Medalist

First African American Woman to Win an Olympic Gold Medal in Individual Gymnastics ~ and That Is Not All!

Gabrielle Douglas, at age 16, was the first African American woman from any nation to win the Individual Gymnastics Gold Medal and to help the U.S. bring home the gold as a member of the U.S Gymnastics Team – the first gymnastics team gold medal for the U.S. since 1996.

Before Douglas (affectionately called Gabby), Dominique Dawes, also African American, won the silver medal (1976) for Individual Gymnastics and helped bring home the gold medal in team gymnastics for the U.S. in 1996.

In the 2012 Summer Olympics, Gabrielle Douglas won gold medals in both the team and individual all-around competitions. That is correct, she actually won two Gold Medals. Gabrielle is the first woman of color of any nationality and the first African-American gymnast in Olympic history to become the Individual All-Around Champion. She is also the first American gymnast to win gold in both the gymnastic individual all-around and team competitions at the same Olympic games.

Read Gabrielle's incredible biography here: Just copy and paste the URL into your browser.

Gabrielle Douglas

Gabrielle Douglas, first African American woman to win the Olympic Gold Medal in Individual Gymnastics.
Gabrielle Douglas, first African American woman to win the Olympic Gold Medal in Individual Gymnastics. | Source

Gabrielle Douglas Won the Olympic Gold Medal but Received a Failing Grade On Her Hair

WARNING: This will no doubt be a controversial article and may not be for the faint of heart.

You might expect that most people’s concentration would be focused primarily on this momentous event and on the young woman who worked so hard to achieve winner status. You might expect people to be focused on this amazing young woman who has been working most of her young life towards this achievement. However, incredible as it may seem, the thing people were tweeting about and posting about on Facebook, was Gabrielle Douglas’s hair!

Perhaps the least important thing about Douglas was what everyone was excited about. Her achievement was forgotten and sidelined in favor of criticizing her hair. It would seem that a woman’s appearance, even in these enlightened modern times, is more important than anything else about her – not only to men, but to other women as well!

Swin Cash Weighs In On the Hair Issue

ESPN reports: "It makes me absolutely sick to see these comments about Gabby's hair," said Swin Cash, the decorated Team USA forward who is in London for her third Olympics. "What sickens me more is that it's mostly people from our own community. She is a beautiful, talented young lady. I hope she ignores the ignorance because she's an Olympic gold medalist. Enough said."

Will Women Ever Be Appreciated for More Than Looks and Entertainment Value?

How can women ever hope to be appreciated for their intelligence and their accomplishments if they are judged first and foremost on the quality of decoration they provide? How can any woman ever hope to escape the outdated belief that she was put here on this planet solely as a bit of decorative entertainment – and secondly a house frau and a baby maker?

That is not to say that women’s traditional contributions are not worthwhile, but women are capable of so much more. Yet it seems women cannot shed the idea that they must be sexy, beautiful, and dressed in the latest couture, and their hair arranged perfectly in the most current style before they dare to compete in any other venue lest they face the worst criticism even from people you might expect to be their staunchest supporters.

Did anyone ignore Michael Phelps’ gold medal in favor of criticizing his hair or any other physical aspect of him as he emerged from the water? Or as he received his gold medal? No, they did not.

Gabriell Douglas

Gabrielle Douglas proudly showing her Olympic Gold Medal for Individual Gynastics
Gabrielle Douglas proudly showing her Olympic Gold Medal for Individual Gynastics | Source

More Opinion On the Hair Issue

The Source reports: ‘”In her own words in a recent interview, Douglas stated, “I just made history and people are focused on my hair? It can be bald or short, it doesn’t matter about (my) hair.”’

Christina Pesoli of Huff Post Parents writes: “. . . before Douglas had time to feel the tug of those gold medals around her 16-year-old neck, the weight of unfair criticism began to pull her accolades down. Suddenly, when it came to Gabby Douglas, the main topic of conversation wasn't her breathtaking performance or her grace under pressure. Rather, it was her hair and her leotard. Instead of getting praised for her professional performance, she was getting pummeled for her personal appearance.”

Sexism Lives and It Is Even Used Against Women by Other Women! Move Over Don Imus!

It seems that sexism is so pervasive in our society that even women criticize other women the way men have always done. It does not seem to be sufficient in the minds of some women that men have always judged women primarily by superficial measures, but now women want to bash each other by the same standards!

Some people may recall how Don Imus, shock jock radio personality, back on April 4, 2007, made disparaging remarks about the Rutgers women’s basketball team calling them, “nappy headed hos.” CBS fired Imus for stepping over the line and canceled his show.

It is long past time for both men and women in this so-called post feminist era to get past superficiality and start judging people of both sexes on substantive issues.

Unbelievable that anyone, much less adult females, would dim the lights on Gabrielle Douglas’s achievements because of her hair. Achievements Douglas earned because she was often hard at work when other children and other young people were out goofing off. Achievements that will serve her well all of her life if people will just stop obsessing about her hair and appreciate instead, her courage, determination, dedication to excellence, and fortitude.

Gabrielle's mother talks about the sacrifices the whole family made for Gabby's interest in gymnastics.

© 2012 C E Clark

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Comments 34 comments

Au fait profile image

Au fait 2 years ago from North Texas Author

Shyron, thank you for shedding some light on this article and for sharing it!

Shyron E Shenko profile image

Shyron E Shenko 2 years ago

Au fait, I came back to share this again, what made me think of it was Walter was showing us pictures of Lake Tahoe and the building where the Olympics were held.

Did you get picked to be on a trial?

Have a good night

Au fait profile image

Au fait 3 years ago from North Texas Author

Thank you Sharkye11 for reading and commenting on this article. Agree with what you say. Gabrielle not only accomplished her own dream, but also furthered the possibility of other young women doing the same thing.

Au fait profile image

Au fait 3 years ago from North Texas Author

Moonlake, thank you for reading, commenting, voting on and sharing this article! Agree with you 100%!

Sharkye11 profile image

Sharkye11 3 years ago from Oklahoma

Wow. I remember watching one of her performances. My husband and I were both very impressed by her talent and her beautiful smile. I remember him saying "I bet that girl right there wins the gold. She is incredible." Later I read that she had indeed won, but I never read anything about her hair. Hope she never lets it get her down...because after all, she has accomplished something that most of the hateful and unhappy people of the world never will. She fulfilled her dreams.

Great hub!

moonlake profile image

moonlake 3 years ago from America

I heard this story and the comments that were made by about her hair, terrible. Interesting hub. Voted up and shared.

Au fait profile image

Au fait 4 years ago from North Texas Author

Thanks for your support, Shyron! Glad you like.

Shyron E Shenko profile image

Shyron E Shenko 4 years ago

Great hub!

Au fait profile image

Au fait 4 years ago from North Texas Author

Thank you rajan jolly, for reading and commenting on this hub, and for sharing your thoughts! I agree with you.

rajan jolly profile image

rajan jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

I've not heard of this Olympic Gold medallist. Reading this I cannot but feel disgust at the attitude of these men & women who have such weird thinking of denigrating her appearance rather than applauding her historic achievement.

Au fait profile image

Au fait 4 years ago from North Texas Author

Thank you tomdum for reading and commenting on my hub! The focus should have been on Gabrielle's accomplishments and honors, not on something so superficial as her hair.

tomdhum profile image

tomdhum 4 years ago from memphis tn

clearly all the girls had same hair style while performing. when they posed for casual picture the white girls styled their hair mrs douglas had the same hair style she wore while performing there was an assumption that the style mrs douglas chose reflected a hair style that represented the nappy hair style of low class blacks lets say it like it is

Au fait profile image

Au fait 4 years ago from North Texas Author

Giselle, agree with you totally. Mainstream media all seem to be in Gabrielle's corner, as they should be. I saw Gabrielle on a snippet of the Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Michelle Obama, and she is a very poised, confident young lady. She seems to be taking it all in stride very well.

I did get the impression that you thought I had gotten my information entirely from Facebook and Twitter, and I apologize if I was mistaken. Usually I state my sources either in my text or at the end of a hub, and I didn't this time because the same thing was being reported by so many sources that it didn't seem necessary to credit any one source, except in the case of the quotes.

The negative remarks on Facebook and Twitter were so numerous that they became a huge part of the news story, sadly overshadowing the real news, and what was really important. That of course was Gabrielle's win and her being the first African American woman from any country to ever win that particular gold medal.

I think we are pretty much in agreement on most, if not all of these issues.

I do appreciate your taking time for my hub and especially for adding information about the regulation hair requirements. I think people not familiar with gymnastics competitions may not be aware that there are any such regulations and that in fact there are regulations on a number of things to make sure all competitions are as fair to all participants as possible.

Thank you again Giselle, for clarifying your comments and for giving some of your time to do so.

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Giselle Maine 4 years ago

Hello AuFait - sorry if I caused confusion, I did not mean to make any criticism of you or your hub. I was actually very happy with your hub and your fair and unbiased reporting of it, including actual quotes too. I liked the topic and thought you did a great job with it. I was merely aghast that other people would focus on Gabrielle Douglas's hair instead of her superb achievements at the Olymics. Your article was eye-opening and very interesting.

When I commented about mainstream news sources vs social media, I was meaning that I was hoping that Gabrielle Douglas would put more importance on the the mainstream news (which in any case had a mostly positive slant), and be less concerned by negative comments by random people on social media. I was NOT intending to say anything negative about your hub at all. Your quotes from mainstream news sources are good - and they prove that many people are talking about her hair, yet they also show a supportive, sympathetic slant from the mainstream journalistic media, and show that the problem lies more within some people's attitudes on social media.

Au fait profile image

Au fait 4 years ago from North Texas Author

Giselle Maine: Thank you for reading and commenting on my hub!

Perhaps you didn't notice the quotes I posted in my hub on the right hand side? I know not everyone utilizes the capsules the way I did to put quotes on the side where advertising is often found so maybe you didn't think to look at them thinking they were ads. They were quotes from 2 people from main stream media and one from Gabrielle herself.

One was from Huffington Post and another from ESPN. In my research I also came across information from the Washington Post and USA Today. All are regarded as credible news sources, and are main stream media.

I did not take my information from Facebook or Twitter. I took my information from the above stated news sources that were reporting on what people where posting and tweeting about on those websites after Gabby's win. In fact, the issue of her hair was all over the Internet, and part of her interview on NBC's Today Show included the issue of her hair. I'm sorry if you missed all of that hoopla.

I very much appreciate your shining a light on the fact that there are rules about how she can do her hair for the competition and that she was following those rules. People who objected to her hair, especially in the face of her extraordinary win, well, there are no words . . .

Thanks again for adding to the information here.

Au fait profile image

Au fait 4 years ago from North Texas Author

Yes, it is a shame when people focus on the wrong things. Things that couldn't possibly matter less. Thank you for your comments, Shyron!

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Giselle Maine 4 years ago

I hadn't heard anything about her hair - in fact, all the well-regarded journalistic coverage focused on her sport and her ability. If people are saying negative things on Facebook, that is terrible - but it also shows up social media in a very negative light. I don't pay attention to what people say on social media as it is not an official journalistic source.

But above and beyond all, I was absolutely shocked that anyone would think there was anything actually wrong with the way her hair looked! It is tied back exactly in requirements for gymnastic competition, there are no escaping hair strands out of her ponytail, and (in my humble opinion) her hair looks really good!

In any case, I agree with what you said: her ability in the sport is the important thing - not her apperance (positive or negative).

Au fait profile image

Au fait 4 years ago from North Texas Author

carter06, thank you for reading, commenting, voting, and sharing! I saw a clip of Ms. Douglas from the Jay Leno Show and she has not let the ridiculous thing about her hair get her down and I believe she has a great future ahead of her.

Au fait profile image

Au fait 4 years ago from North Texas Author

Nicole S: Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment. Agree with what you say.

Au fait profile image

Au fait 4 years ago from North Texas Author

Glimmer Twin Fan, thank you for reading and commenting. Agree with you completely.

Au fait profile image

Au fait 4 years ago from North Texas Author

whonunuwho: Thank you for reading and commenting on my hub! She did indeed make us proud of her, and frankly, I thought her hair was just right for the occasion.

Au fait profile image

Au fait 4 years ago from North Texas Author

Thank you Bobby, for reading and commenting on my hub!

What is the success and fault of evolution? If you mean Gabrielle Douglas' Gold Medal, I think there used to be more people capable of what she did before we had so many conveniences that we can now be lazy. It takes someone with determination and willingness to sacrifice in order to be in peak physical condition like Gabby. The rest of us have 'evolved' into couch potatoes.

Au fait profile image

Au fait 4 years ago from North Texas Author

Peggy W, thank you for reading and commenting. Agree with you entirely that there are, or should be, more important things to consider when one wins a Gold medal than whether one is wearing the latest designer leotard or has one's hair perfectly coifed.

Au fait profile image

Au fait 4 years ago from North Texas Author

Thank you Alecia Murphy, for reading and commenting on my hub! I saw Ms. Douglas on the Jay Leno Show -- actually a video clip from that show since I don't have a TV -- and she is so poised and attractive and smart! If anyone can rise above this ridiculous obsession with her hair, Gabrielle Douglas can do it.

Shyron E Shenko profile image

Shyron E Shenko 4 years ago

great hub. showing the stupidity of the jealous. Disreguard all garbage about Gabby's hair and just be happy for her and us, that she represents AMERICA!

carter06 profile image

carter06 4 years ago from Cronulla NSW

Another sad story that should have been ridiculous that the emphasis was on her hair...sexism reigns in society when it really shouldn't any longer... well written hub Au fait...up. awesome & shared...

Nicole S profile image

Nicole S 4 years ago from Minnesota

Loved watching her on the olympics, such a talented young lady!

Au fait profile image

Au fait 4 years ago from North Texas Author

Thank you billybuc for reading and commenting on my hub! Agree that politically correct speech has it's ups and downs. In some respects it has merely driven the hate and racism under the carpet so that people express it differently but still hurtfully. However in this particular case, as I mentioned in my hub, the majority of criticism about Gabrielle's hair came from other African American women.

Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

The day after she won I read some online articles about her hair. So silly that all of her accomplishments were overshadowed by this topic and hopefully people have learned from it and gotten back on track. What she did was amazing. Luckily any new stories I have seen are back on the main focus of her medals. Great thought inspiring hub!

whonunuwho profile image

whonunuwho 4 years ago from United States

You can't make everyone happy all of the time(I believe a quote from Abe Lincoln may apply) Despite the nuts and long list of the "never-can -be-happy", this Olympic star made us all proud and happy that appreciate the goodness of the events, and to watch her win and be the best she can be.

diogenes 4 years ago

Hi Misty: It's all the success - and fault - of evolution.


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

This is the first that I have heard about this focus on her hair. Amazing to me. She is a darling girl and we loved watching her as well as her teammates and other competitors during the Olympics. So nice to know that all of her hard work and the sacrifices made by her mom paid off so well with that Olympic Gold Medal. I could care less about her hair or the leotard that she wore. Looked fine to me! Voted up and interesting. Sharing.

Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

Even though she's the subject of so much criticism, she's seemed to kept the focus on what's necessary which to me is a sign her mom raised her well. I agree with billybuc, racism and sexism exists but only in nuances. It's sad because like you said we should focus on her achievements- not her appearance. Great hub!

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

I read several of the articles about this subject and I was left shaking my head at the absurdity of it all.....people think racism and sexism are no longer prevalent in society....I think they are more so, but it is behind the scenes, sneakier. Anyway, great hub!

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