Gabby Douglas is as tough as the two Olympic gold medals hanging around her neck.
"They have no idea what they're talking about," the All-Around champ, 16, told Us Weekly at the P&G Family Home about the recent buzz over the appearance of her hair throughout her recent competitions. "You sweat and all the gel and hairspray comes out. Even if we did fix our hair, our coach would be like, 'This is not a beauty pageant! Leave it alone.'"
After all, the Virginia Beach native explained to Us, there's no room for primping at a gymnastics competition. "There's no bathroom," Douglas said. "We rotate from event to event so there's no time for them to say 'Representing the USA, Gabrielle Douglas' and me to say 'Yeah, thanks!' as I'm brushing my hair. It's like, come on."
Douglas' chemically-straightened hair, pulled into a ponytail with barrettes and gel, caused quite a stir — mostly from within the African American community — for its appearance and supposed failure to "represent" her culture.
"It's so disrespectful! I'm not thinking about that. I'm thinking about bringing a gold medal home," she said. "I use great Pantene products in my hair. They make my hair silky, shiny and healthy."
Winning the Women's Team Finals with her "Fab Five" teammates, Aly Raisman, Mckayla Maroney, Kyla Ross and Jordyn Wieber, on July 31 and taking home the All-Around gold herself two days later, Douglas credits a support system for her gold medal success.
"You have to have a momma bear like I do! She's doing a good job!" the 4-foot-11 teen told Us of her mother, Natalie Hawkins, who came to her daughter's defense in an interview with Fashionista.com. ("How ignorant is it of people to comment on her hair and she still has more competitions to go?" Hawkins fumed in a August 6 chat. "Are you TRYING to ruin her self confidence?")
Also on Douglas' side are quite a few celebrities — including Gabrielle Union, 39, Serena Williams, 39, and the entire cast of the Vampire Diaries, who sent her a congratulatory video message.
"It's amazing and to think I'm part of their little group now is so cool!" the Vampire Diaries-obsessed fan told Us of the A-list support. "They tweeted at me. You know you've finally made it when the stars are tweeting at you. They're backing me up."
As for the women out there who find themselves at the center of a similar, vanity-based controversy, Douglas has advice that's wise beyond her teenage years. "Focus on the positive stuff. Short, long, curly, bald, blonde — it's really no different. You're beautiful inside and out, just like the Selena Gomez song, 'Who Says?'" the champ mused. "You can't change it, and people don't realize how much that can impact someone. You don't want to joke around about something like that because that can really hurt a person and impact their lives."
For access to all our exclusive celebrity videos and interviews – Subscribe on YouTube!