In Defense of Gabby Douglas' Hair

Gabby Douglas is proudly representing her country in the Olympics. She's poised under pressure, performing gravity-defying athletic feats in front of an international audience. She's 16, the second female African American U.S. gymnast to ever make the team, and the first ever to win the all-around gold. But instead of lauding her achievements, some people are slamming her for... not getting her hair done.

Related: Oprah rocks her natural hair on the cover of O Magazine for the first time

Photo: Twitter

Photo: Twitter

Photo: Twitter

Seriously? Douglas is an incredible athlete. When you're doing something like this on a 3.9-inch wide wooden beam set 4 feet above the ground, the last thing you're worrying about is your hair.

Gabby Douglas dominates on the balance beam, Thursday, Aug. 2. (Photo: Getty Images/Streeter Lecka)

Some critics insist that Douglas needs to properly represent the African American community, and how her hair looks is part of that. And yet, most of the negative comments about her hair are coming from other African Americans.

"I find it sad that I have seen more Black women post criticizing comments about Gabby's hair than I have comments of praise about her athleticism or adding color to USA Gymnastics since Dominique Dawes," writes Monisha Randolph at

Many African American women choose not to work out in order to protect their hairstyle, Randolph points out. "The last time I checked when you play a sport, you sweat. I know I do. And when a Black woman who has chosen to wear her hair straight begins to sweat, her hair will (not might) begin to revert back to its natural coily, curly, or kinky state," she writes. "Some of us are sitting up right now with our hair done but suffering from high blood pressure, borderline diabetes, obesity, and/or a lack of energy. Oh, but the hair is on point."

Instead of worrying about whether her hair is perfect, Douglas is focused on making history and winning Olympic gold. She is representing all Americans, not just one single group. She's achieved more by age 16 than most of us do in a lifetime. Shouldn't we be cheering her on instead of tearing her down?

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