Simone Biles Will Never Change Her Hair for Anybody — Especially the Trolls
"The biggest thing I learned is think before you react."
Simone Biles is something like a superwoman.
At only 22-years-old, the athlete holds the titles of the most-decorated American gymnast and <em>New York Times</em> best-selling author, and she's won enough gold medals to give Mr. T some serious envy.
Yet, despite all of her incredible accolades, the star has still faced her fair share of online bullying, which is why she teamed up with Japanese beauty brand SK-II for the No Competition Campaign. Through the program, her goal is to promote the message that women don't need to change how they look to try to meet anyone's subjective standards — whether they're playing a sport or not.
"With beauty standards, there shouldn’t be rules or limitations – no one should dictate how we should look," she tells InStyle. "So our hope is to inspire women to do what they want to do without worrying about what they look like."
Here, we chatted with Biles about the right way to deal with bullies, her hair journey, and her latest campaign.
You've gotten a lot of unfair criticism when it's come to your hair. Have these comments ever made you want to change your hair?
Nothing has ever made me want to change my hair — but being in the limelight [means] having to wear our hair up in a tight ponytail or bun all the time, [and that] is not easy on your hair. You really have to keep up with it or it will fall out. I remember after the Olympics, a lot of my hair broke off, fell off. Personally, we learned to get some weaves, some extensions, to try to fill in those needs so that our hair can be healthy and grow again. My hair journey has taken a couple years, but the length is all back and so is the thickness. But it's definitely not easy. I feel like people don't realize how much our hair goes through because of the sport that we do, and so they also judge us on that — on looks. And it's like, man, we [work] hard. We're stressed out. We're just trying to do our gymnastics out there.
What's the biggest lesson you've learned from being in the public eye and facing bullies?
I think the biggest thing I learned is think before you react. Is it really worth it? Should you really give them that limelight, that attention, or the situation the attention? Be smart, because if you do something wrong, then that could blow up the situation even bigger. And I think I've learned that from other situations, but most of the time I just choose to ignore those negative comments online and on social media, because at the end of the day, they’re placing judgment on how we look, what they see on social media – rather than who we actually are, or getting to know us.
Does it ever affect your ability to perform?
No, it's actually never affected my ability to perform, because I feel like I block out everything once I'm out there. I'm there just to do my gymnastics and not thinking about how I look or if I'm too big or are my shoulders too bulky. At the end of the day I'm built with all these muscles — my shoulders — for a reason. It helps me in my sport, and it's never let me down so I can't really complain. I just block it out.
What advice would you give other young women, whether they’re in the public eye or not, about how to handle negativity or bullies in their lives?
I would say to try to ignore it. If not, maybe take a social media break, because social media is a huge thing for us these days. Going out with your friends, family. Do what makes you feel beautiful. If that's taking a bath, doing a spa day with your friends and going to get your nails done — do what makes you feel happy and beautiful.
On that topic, can you share what makes you feel happy and beautiful?
I love hanging out with my friends, just watching movies, relaxing. No makeup. Just in my natural beauty. And then personally I like to take baths, do some skin care routines, get my nails done. And I feel like all those things make me feel beautiful.
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What is your hope for this SK-II campaign? What do you wish to be the big takeaway?
I hope to inspire women to define what beauty means to them and not take part in the toxic competitions that dictate what beauty is supposed to look like.