Although she has won two gold medals, Gabby Douglas is making headlines for more than her Olympic victories in London — with some critics slamming the 16-year-old’s hair for its appearance and supposed failure to “represent” the African American community.
Douglas’ mother, Natalie Hawkins, quickly slipped into mama bear mode to defend her daughter — and her spunky ponytail.
“How ignorant is it of people to comment on her hair and she still has more competitions to go?” Hawkins fumed to Fashionista.com on Monday. “Are you TRYING to ruin her self confidence?”
Douglas’ chemically-straightened hair, pulled into a ponytail with barrettes and gel, matches the coifs of her four Caucasian “Fab Five” teammates Aly Raisman, Mckayla Maroney, Kyla Ross and Jordyn Wieber. Since gymnastics involves flying through the air, strands are bound to fall out of place. But it’s not just the style that is under fire — it’s the fact that the 4-foot-11 teen is an African American rocking straightened — not natural — hair.
“It’s really been African American women that have come out and attacked her,” claimed Hawkins of the tweeters who criticized Douglas. “They don’t know about gymnastics. She has to keep her hair in a ponytail 28 to 30 hours a week. 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,” Hawkins added of women who want to see Douglas with unprocessed hair in the form of braids, an afro or kinky curls.
Together, Douglas and her mom are approaching the hair controversy with a sense of humor. “She said, ‘Really?! I won two gold medals and made history and my hair is trending?’ So we laughed about it,” Hawkins recounted.
Hawkins isn’t the only woman rushing to her daughter’s defense. Actress Gabrielle Union shared her thoughts via Twitter.
“Gabrielle Douglas is a winner I am proud of her. She is beautiful exactly the way she is. She’s #Gabulous. #byehaters,” Union, 39, posted on Sunday days after Douglas took home the gold for the Women’s All-Around finals, becoming the first African-American woman ever to accomplish the feat. “Anyone who insults a TEEN who’s accomplished so much while displaying grace and dignity is beyond lame and should be ashamed of themselves. #byehaters.”
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