Lately I have been struggling to find the right words, or even the desire to write them. Lately I’ve been feeling a bit disappointed when I read articles about natural hair or hair in general – so many of us are judging each other and policing other people’s choices, it creates an abyss of negativity that I’m finding myself increasingly reluctant to explore. But in light of ALL of the recent articles and media attention on Olympic golden girl Gabby Douglas and the way she wears her hair while in competition, I’m putting on my waders and getting in the water.




Gabby Douglas is 16. She’s been training insanely hard for the sports event of her young lifetime. She’s lived away from home so that she can focus solely on her training. She just won gold medals for her country at the London Olympics, and will be returning home to an incredible variety of sponsorship and endorsement opportunities. And when you hit Google to enter Gabby Douglas, this is what comes up.



I think it’s a shame that there’s been so much focus on her hair and the minutia of her family life – especially seeing as this same scrutiny hasn’t been paid to her fellow athletes. But Gabby Douglas is a tenacious and tough girl, and she’s been dealing with critics head on. Her quote about the hair non-issue begins my list of the 5 Best Quotes About the Gabby Douglas Hair Issue.


– “I don’t know where this is coming from. What’s wrong with my hair? I’m like ‘I just made history and people are focused on my hair?’ It can be bald or short, it doesn’t matter about my hair. Nothing is going to change. I’m going to wear my hair like this during beam and bar finals. You might as well just stop talking about it.” – Gabby Douglas (via Concrete Loop).



— “She said,”Really?! I won two gold medals and made history and my hair is trending?” So we laughed about it. We made a huge joke out of it and I was quick to try to diffuse that situation. Because I thought, “How ignorant is it of people to comment on her hair and she still has more competitions to go. Are you TRYING to ruin her self confidence? She has to go out there and feel good about herself, and if she feels good about herself on that floor, who are YOU to criticize her? What have YOU done to help contribute to her dream, that you felt it necessary to put it out there so that she could see 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.” And then too, 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.”

— Gabby Douglas’ mom (via



— “Olympians do NOT need to have edges or nice hair. Their talent trumps alladat. I’d give up MY edges for a medal and you would too so stop acting brand new. Honestly, Gabby Douglas’ hair should be the last thing we’re talking about right now. We should be giving her ALL the props for leading the USA women’s gymnastics team to gold and then being the first African American woman to win an individual gold medal in the sport. We should be talmbout how she shows more poise than some adults at the tender age of 16.” – Luvvie, via Awesomely Luvvie. Her post made me cackle!



— “It’s no coincidence that hair, one of the most visible markers and symbols of Black women’s difference in a White-dominated culture, has become a focal point of Gabby’s story. The media must forever make an issue of our difference, even in moments of triumph, but never in a way that engages with critical analysis of power and oppression. We’d rather focus on Olympians’ finances than on the fact that the U.S. is virtually alone in denying government funding to Olympic hopefuls – forcing middle-class athletes away from home and to the brink of poverty to achieve their Olympic dreams. Media erasure of swimmer Cullen Jones, the latest “controversy” over Serena Williams’ celebratory crip-walk, and sexist attacks on Lolo Jones are just the most recent examples of how Black athletes at the top of their game are never allowed to simply be great.

But instead about this we’re talking about hair, and the much more significant story of Black girls and women celebrating Gabby and pushing back on racism and sexism in coverage of her has been lost.” — T.F. Charlton AKA @GraceIsHuman via her brilliant essay The Media’s Gabby Douglas Problem, on



Anyone who looks camera-ready after a workout equivalent to one-tenth of Gabby’s just isn’t working hard enough. I dare the woman who gets her sweat on at the gym to show me a picture of her looking stellar post-workout. Gabby, meanwhile, has been tumbling, flipping, bouncing — and winning — all across bars and vaults and floors in London. Her hair, whether you love it or hate it, should be irrelevant.” – Demetria Lucas @ABelleinBK for

Yours truly was interviewed on this topic for – click to read Why Black Female Athletes Just Can’t Win When It Comes To Their Hair…Even When They’re Winning Golds. And in my quote I said, ““I wish we wouldn’t police each other’s hair and beauty choices as much as we do. Let Gabby be great. She already is.”

I sincerely hope Gabby’s been able to shrug all of this negativity off. I think back to myself at her age and I’m not sure I was that strong. At 16, I cared way too much about what other people thought of me. I can’t imagine having the burden of being on television, performing a sport to the best of my ability, and then facing judgment from the world about something so superficial.

Now that her events are all over, I can’t wait to truly support Gabby Douglas and her family. I’m buying her Corn Flakes box and whatever other merchandise she winds up being the face of. This is a young, talented lady with a bright, beautiful future ahead of her. She needs and deserves our support and encouragement. She has made her family, her  fans, and her country proud. I can’t ask for anything more.


Hope says:
August 9, 2012, 8:01 am
Absolutely love your article. I think that the media took a handful of ignorant twitter comments and made it into national news. There were thousands of positive comments about Gabby's achievements that were essentially overlooked so that they could focus on the few negative ones. Neither Gabby nor her mom should have to defend or justify her hair. It's time to put the focus back where it belongs.
Black With the Blues says:
August 9, 2012, 8:14 am
I disagree. The men you mentioned were already major public figures who were already established before cracks about their appearances surfaced. Gabby is equally famous about the scandal pertaining to her hair as she about breaking history. That is sad.
Black With the Blues says:
August 9, 2012, 8:25 am
Whoa. Sorry, I mistyped. I meant to say: "I disagree with people mentioning already major public figures who were already established before cracks about their appearances surfaced." I need my morning coffee.
Maven says:
August 9, 2012, 8:44 am
Great post. It is unfortunate that Gabby's hair has become the major topic that it has, rather than her awesome achievements. However, I take my hat off to her for handling the situation in such a poised and mature fashion. She doesn't need a spokesperson. She really can handle herself. I wish her the best as she goes to receive the accolades and endorsements she deserves.
Darlene says:
August 9, 2012, 9:38 am
Thanks for the post, Afrobella. I can understand your hesitancy and appreciate you weighing in and providing links to others' thoughts. The quote from Gabby's mom speaks volumes. The US media has failed our minority 2012 Olympic athletes. Why shake Gabby's confidence when she has two more competitions? Why would the NYT publish such a hateful article about Lolo Jones two days before her race? The questions Dawn Harper asked during her Today Show interview also ring true. She does have a great story, why isn't she featured more? When there are so many stories of true sportsmanship, the USA's focus should be celebrating all our athletes. To me, the spirit of the Olympic games is about inclusion, dedication and excellence. I've started taping all Olympic events so I don't have to listen to the commentary (or watch segments on bagpipes). Thanks for focusing also on what we can do next. I will follow your lead and buy whatever Gabby becomes the face of so she knows that many of us are proud of her outstanding accomplishments.
pets says:
August 9, 2012, 11:59 am
From what I understand it has been Afroamerican women who started criticising her hair! Her God given talents, enthusiasm and bubbly good nature sre far more important than her hair! I wish her the very best!!
Rpger Bonair-Agard says:
August 9, 2012, 1:27 pm
great article...
drymartini says:
August 10, 2012, 6:30 am
My husband actually brought this issue to my attention because I haven't been watching/reading the news or the Olympics. I told him that I had a suspicion that women were the originators of these hurtful comments. We'd be more likely to know exactly what to say to be hurtful. I wouldn't be surprised. This reminds me of a previous post Bella had about recovering from/dealing with failures and sometimes your "friends" or those we'd expect to be our allies are not happy for you. I don't eat Cornflakes or Wheaties, but I'm gonna buy a box if she's on the cover.
pets says:
August 10, 2012, 10:07 am
On another note - Happy Blogiversary next week!!!
MsXpat says:
August 10, 2012, 4:39 pm
Thanks for wadding in! I had seen random comments on Twitter but could not follow the thread but why her hair was a topic for discussion. This post has brought me up to scratch and I'm please to read that Gabby seems to be a focused well grounded young lady. She's a credit to her family and her country. People must be think carefully before they speak our young ones are watching and listening. Let me focus on being the best that they can be in their chosen fields and not hear 'adult' say silly things about another young person who's working hard and making a positive difference in this world.
Blue Knight says:
August 10, 2012, 11:17 pm
Gaggy's so cute, charming and confident. More young black women need to see that. What's not to love about her:) Frankly, I was too busy watching her impressive moves to notice her hair. What a great role model!
Blue Knight says:
August 10, 2012, 11:18 pm
Gaggy! What! LOL. I meant "GABBY!"
nappytrini says:
August 11, 2012, 8:45 am
Gabby you carried yourself with such grace and dignity...keep smiling. I am so proud of you, the sacrifices you and your family made was not an easy choice. God Bless.
Cass Barberena says:
August 12, 2012, 8:30 am
I haven't been paying attention to the hair controversy. Maybe because I am white. I say something about it on the news this morning and in googling it I came across your blog. Maybe it is because I am white, but I really don't understand why Gabby is being criticized all at, much less so harshly. None of my white friends said anything about it and neither did any of my black ones. In fact, i dont think any of them even noticed it. The only athletes who have "perfect" during heated (no pun intended) competition are ice skaters. Really? Black women expect their Olympian counter-parts to have Beyonce hair while executing a back flip on a balance beam or sticking a landing after a stellar vault? That would be like white women expecting Kate Middleton hair after kicking ass in all those events. That's just crazy. BTW, as I write this, my white, blonde hair looks exactly like Gabby's during her final performance, pulled back in a ponytail, pins trying to control the short hairs and kinky around the edges. At least Gabby has a welled earned excuse for her hair foepaux, I just woke up. P.S. Really enjoyed your write up. Have a great blogosphering day!!
Teri says:
August 12, 2012, 9:22 am
I read about the hair controversy last night and had to come here to see if you had written about it. I'm so glad you covered it. Seriously, who the heck would even think to comment on Gabby's hair? Or anyone's hair for that matter. All of the gymnasts have the exact same hair style. Of course leave it to a hater to single Gabby out because she broke barriers! It is so uncalled for and as a country we should be proud of her and her ability. She is a star! She broke records and won gold medals.
Mochachoc says:
August 12, 2012, 1:31 pm
Really? This is what the US is talking about? Gabby's hair. I don't believe it. Really? I'm British and felt absolutely great watching her perform brilliantly. Not once did I notice her hair. I remember the British commentators waxing lyrical about her grace, beauty, strength and joie de vivre. I've seen athletes: spit, with snot running down their face, bogey in their nose, have their balls deliberately punched (I kid you not), swear like a trooper and the US is fixated on Gabby's hair? Our Judo silver medalist Gemma Gibbons had awful hair while competing - just as it should be. No one is talking about it. I don't know where this story originated or why your media is focusing on it but all involved should feel utterly foolish. Shame on you. Gabby brought home two Gold medals and you want to cut her down. Shame on you. You've got China on your tail and you're worried about an athletes hair. Shame on you.
Doctor Cris says:
August 13, 2012, 8:51 am
Gabby Douglas is an amazing young women that has represented our country in the Olympics and has won gold. She and her mom have nothing to apologize about. I do not understand why people are so critical of her hair---that was the last thing on my mind as I saw her amazing form and grace on the Olympic floor. Not to mention her amazing smile. Gabby's inner spirit is amazing and shines like a beacon to all of us. I guess some people do not see her light but I do.
Ariella Spicer says:
August 13, 2012, 10:50 am
I am part of a team conducting research on women's relationship with their hair. Please take a moment to fill out our short, 3-5 minute survey. We would really appreciate your input. Thank you for your time.
Phyrra says:
August 14, 2012, 2:51 am
Great post. It's CRAZY that they would focus more on her hair than her spirit and talent.
LittleBlackGirl says:
August 14, 2012, 10:11 am
I'm proud of Gabby and I so happy to see people come together to speak out against the ignorant people who do not seem to understand what it takes to be a gold medalist.
Miss Sara says:
August 14, 2012, 1:45 pm
Excellent post. And I agree 100%. She is a child. She is making history. She is doing more with her life NOW than most adults EVER will. Ppl are focusing on the WRONG things.
MissS says:
August 15, 2012, 8:05 am
I love Gabby. She is smart, talented and beautiful. Thank you Afrobella for this wonderful post and for providing an intelligent forum to post and discuss our support of this young women. I just read another article about how Gabby has secured Oprah's hair stylist to do her hair. Why is that news? Does the media have to keep on talking about her hair? This became such a prominent news story and its so sad because think about what didn't get coverage during the last few weeks. What should have been a news story is when the Mars rover Curious landed, why we didn't see more faces of color celebrating in the control room. Let's talk about why some parents are not insisting that their kids focus on math and science careers instead of focusing on how someone looks and letting them watch reality show drama queens and kings on tv. Our priorities are very screwed up! There are so many men/women/kids of color following fantastic and out of the ordinary pursuits. Our continued focus and support should be on them!
StacyB says:
August 20, 2012, 6:43 am
Miss S, You are very correct. I have two young daughters and I am trying. I think it is so important to encourage math and science, in addition to all the extra-curricular(sport and dance) activities. Actually I have found that encouraging them to learn to read and play music and encouraging arts and crafts at home seem to spark their imagination and innovative spirit as well. It's really fun to see their creations, especially when they glued materials together, or completed a painted or knitted an item (which can all sometimes behardly identifiable) and say they made them just for mom or dad. Sweet and hilarious. Best of luck to all parents and guardians who are trying their best as well.