Friday, January 19, 2018

Gabby's great hair debate heats up

Mom defends US gymnast, blames coach, host family


controversial: US gymnast Gabrielle Douglas celebrates after winning the artistic gymnastics women's individual all-around final last week Thursday during the Olympics.  —Photos: AFP  

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proud: Natalie Hawkins, Gabrielle's mother, reacts after her daughter won the artistic gymnastics women's individual all-around final at the 02 North Greenwich Arena in London last week Thursday.

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The latest person to speak up in the great Gabby Douglas hair debate is the US Olympic gymnast's mom, Natalie Hawkins.

In an interview with Fashionista. com, Hawkins admits this wasn't the first time her daughter's hair had come up.

"I started hearing about (her hair) earlier this year, actually. I started trying to be proactive about her hair before all of that happened. What is funny is I had someone come do her hair before the Olympics. We put all this effort into getting her hair done, and they still didn't like it!"

Hawkins, who made news earlier this week when AP reported she had filed for bankruptcy, also says Gabby's coach and host family in Iowa, USA, are partly to blame.

"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, says Hawkins, "I don't think people realise 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."

Hawkins says it's tough to keep hair looking good when you're constantly tumbling on it and training for hours on end.

"It's really been African-American women that have come out and attacked her. They don't know about gymnastics. She has to keep her hair in a ponytail 28-30 hours a week. In gymnastics, you're tumbling around on your hair. You're falling backwards on it. You're doing 'timers', and your hair is constantly snagging on the mat, and for our hair, that's very detrimental. You're going into foam pits—and any hair stylist will tell you that foam on African-American hair is destructive. It breaks the hair horribly."

She says, "We had to come up with creative ways to keep (Gabby's) hair looking good. We've tried the short hairstyle; we've tried long. 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."