Gabby Douglas Wins Gold, So What’s the Debate?



At the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, 20-year-old Dominique Dawes became the first African-American to win an individual Olympic medal in artistic gymnastics and the first Black person of any gender or nationality to win an Olympic gold medal in gymnastics. A remarkable feat that has etched her name not only in the tablet of Olympic history but also the book of African-American firsts.

Gabby Douglas was only six months old when Dawes made history. Little did her parents know then that their baby would also make history by the time she was able to drive. 16-year-old Douglas has gone from an “average-good gymnast,” according to national team coordinator Martha Karolyi, to accomplishing yet another African-American first: the first African-American to win the all-around title in gymnastics. As only the second female African-American U.S. gymnast to ever make the team, Douglas took what Dawes did before her and one upped it as she snared the gold medal – her second thus far – at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

She’s been showered with accolades and congratulations from the most esteemed figures in the country for being only the fourth American to ever win the gold in that event. Her face was on the front of every website from ESPN to CNN and everything in between.

You would think that people within her own community would share in the praise for the teenager that has not only made her people, but also her country proud. But here we are discussing… her hair?

On the front page of Yahoo! shortly after her victory, the first image you may have set your eyes on was Douglas with a smile stretched across her face. However, the headline didn’t read “Gabby Douglas Wins Olympic Gold.” Instead, the headline read “Gabby Douglas’ Hair Sparks Raging Debate.”


The focus of the conversation is Douglas’ hair and the negative backlash she has received on social media. A number of tweets were reeled in where the high school girl is getting slammed for her hair not being done on national television. Surprisingly, most of the negative comments are coming from African-American women. And apparently, the timing was right for an article on African-Americans being critical of another African- American to appear on the front page, right when Douglas should be praised for her stellar accomplishment.

This is irresponsible on so many levels.

To think that a major website (Yahoo!) would trivialize Douglas and her accomplishment with a lead story about her hair is deplorable. We see numerous nonsensical stories on various mediums on a daily basis. But this simply did not have to be on the front page at this particular time, nor did it need the headline it was saddled with. Especially when you consider what Douglas has just achieved not only for her community, but her country. Granted, the article was in defense of Douglas and her hair but the sensationalism sprawled across the homepage had already done its damage.

Is Douglas’ hair really sparking a “raging debate?” Are that many people offended that a gymnast – who flips and sweats for a living – may have sweated out her perm in an effort to win a gold medal? Is it really important to have this discussion right here and now?

But not nearly as ridiculous as those who actually took part in the slander. It wasn’t as if Yahoo pulled the story out of thin air. Tweets and Facebook posts coming from African-American women suggesting that the young gymnast needed to “represent” and get her “gel and a brush” are clearly in the wrong.  Did we forget that Douglas is in a world athletic competition? Ms. Douglas isn’t runway modeling or playing the love interest in a movie where her job is to look stunning. Her job is to win an Olympic gold medal in an event where it is expected that she sweat.

A tweet stated that “she has to represent.” I’m sorry, I suppose that being only the second African American woman to make the national team isn’t doing enough to represent. You know, because if she has her hair done and loses, it’s a better reflection of the African-American community than if she sweats it out and wins. The obsession with hair is problematic and undermines what we, as a community, value. If we spent less time criticizing one another and put that energy into those who are trailblazing, we won’t have to worry about Yahoo! generating a story that focuses on African-Americans being critical of other African-Americans on the grandest world stage of them all.

We live under the microscope where every misstep is magnified and under the constant fire from mainstream media that is often critical of our culture. Rather than belittle those who are trailblazing for future generations, we should do our best to support, defend and encourage young women like Gabby Douglas.

If we don’t, who will?

Photo: AP/Gregory Bull

44 Responses to Gabby Douglas Wins Gold, So What’s the Debate?

  1. Damn straight. Some of our priorities as a people are messed up, and summed up best by Woody Harrelson’s line in “White Men Can’t Jump”: “A Black man would rather miss than look bad.” The most sad part about it is, nobody outside of our culture even notices her or any other Black woman’s hair. Only Black women are the ones holding up and praising the unrealistic standard of straight hair. This makes me sad.

  2. Jasmine Parent says:

    What a beautiful young lady, as a black woman myself I can say who the heck cares what her hair looks like .. shes busy winning gold medals 🙂 Such an amazing accomplishment for her and I hope she is as strong in her personality as she is on the floor so she lets this all breeze right off her strong shoulders

  3. kiki says:

    Smh she won a gold medal and made history and all people can think about is her ending result of how her hair looked! Im pretty sure all of the girls that tweeted those things were bald headed and jealous! Moving on, keep doing your thing ma!!!

  4. Noah Cohen says:

    I’m a white twenty-year-old dude and I think she looked fucking superb. I’d be damn lucky to date a girl like that. Did you see her beaming at her Asian coach guy immediately after her win? She was radiant, killer.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Who is “we?” Skin color does not determine who my brothers and sisters are.

  6. Matt Thomas says:

    The debate itself is ridiculous enough, but Yahoo putting it on their front page is emblematic of everything that’s wrong with the popular news media in the US. Controversy, no matter how manufactured, wins every time.

  7. I think you’re giving too much credit to Yahoo! They aren’t exactly a major news website. They post stories that will get the most attention, not the most newsworthy.

  8. I agree Mr Smarter. Black women praise this idea of having long straight hair but who’s telling us that’s beauty? Black men. We seek their attention and we notice that long straight hair gets more attention than the tight curled fro. With that said, I am deeply sadden about the references to Gabby’s hair versus her undisputed talent. I am often vexed by the thinking of my people. Yes she’s black but she’s also an American. We’re competing for a title for America not so much as for a race.

  9. who cares about how her hair looked? she won a GOLD MEDAL. stupid idle people….

  10. Cyclefurbed says:

    Don’t expect respect from other people until we respect our selves!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  11. Jevon Weaver says:

    the ignorant always over shadows the ones that are educated and open minded. the educated need to come out of the closet in show the world that were are a good and great full community who up lifts and is excited about life. I know more successful blacks people than i do down in the dumbs. Gabby is another added addition to our hero list. Thanks Gabrielle Douglas you make your country proud.

  12. Ptree Fkp says:

    This is Terrible.
    I hope that Ms. Douglas doesn’t get caught up in all this superficial ignorance.
    This is HER time and anyone making jabs at her Image clearly doesn’t understand
    the significance of the Olympics.

    Congrats to you Ms. Douglas.
    The sweat, blood, and tears have paid off.
    You have made a Huge accomplishment for your Country, an extraordinary example of yourself for people of all ages and color, and a performance so impeccable that Major Websites can’t even think of something relevant to go at you with.

    Run It Girl.

    & For the Record I Think Your hair is BEAUTIFUL


  13. That’s the US media for you. It’s horrible, and it makes me so angry. Congrats to her, though!

  14. beezy21 says:

    Good points. Who writes this btw?

  15. Again, people need to understand the power of social media. A group of women sitting around a table ragging on this talented woman’s hair would have not garnered even a twitched ear probably, that is if anyone else was in earshot. With social media the WHOLE WORLD IS LISTENING! I wish celebrities would get that, but even moreso I wish the public would too. I am well aware that I am posting this note on a forum in which it will be read by people to whom I don’t think I am intending it, however, choosing this medium means that I, by default, intend it to be read by anyone surely? I think it shows how the black community, who have taken to social media with great gusto, are being spied upon and in some cases preyed upon by a mainstream media which has been reduced to “journalists” who do no more than copy and paste their submissions.

    The fact is the personal is not private! And in this day and age of Twitter and live streaming and the ubiquitous cellphone camera, the private isn’t even private! The “discussion” about Gabrielle Douglas’s hair shows the naivete of people using social media. It gives the illusion of closeness and community yet what it actually is, is a giant fishbowl, cum looking glass.

    The article was absolutely on point; there was no debate, just a mainstream media trawling for “news” finding a loose thread and spinning the whole thing out to great effect.

  16. Anonymous says:

    I can’t believe this! OMG

  17. It’s a shame that Gabby wins all-around Gold & all most sisters (including Nicki Minaj) can talk about is her hair, 1st. What woman goes to get her hair done just to sweat it out, that’s called a waste of money, 2. Most of the women (including Nicki Minaj) talking about Gabby don’t even wear their REAL HAIR, just wigs & weaves, so 9 times out of 10, U HAVE COARSE HAIR ALSO,the difference is that she is just WOMAN ENOUGH to have pride in the hair Allah blessed her with to display it before the world, Nicki Minaj, THE AMERICAN PUBLIC HAS NEVER SEEN YOUR REAL HAIR, so for you to call her a “Nappy head whore” and you don’t wear your real hair?? B4 you talk about some1’s hair, try being seen in the public w/o a wig or a weave, another thing, no 1 ghost performs her routine in Gymnastics, unlike you Mrs Minaj, who get’s her material ghostwritten. It’s a sad day when you have proven to be the best female Olympian & all anyone can talk about is your hair, that’s the slave, crab in a barrel, Willie Lynch mentality that makes me wonder sometimes about some of my people!! SMDH, some mofos need to put on a “Dunce Cap” & sit in a corner with your back turned to the rest of the world!!!

  18. Anonymous says:

    that’s why those dumb fucks talking shit have nothing because there more worried about what they look like then what they r doing she was 2 focused to give a shit what her hair looked like she came to be the best and win a gold medal and she did they r mad cause they didnt do shit with there life’s so they have nothing better to do this is not Miss USA its the Olympics

  19. Go Gabby you are the Golden Girl in our household. You are the winner because you did your homework Gabby, tell the critics its their turn to go to the library to discover the source of their ignorance.

  20. Joe Perkins says:


  21. Anonymous says:

    I still don’t understand what was wrong with her hair? I thought she looked like a beautiful, confident teenager winning a gold medal in the Olympics. I didn’t realize she was competing on a hair show.

  22. I was outraged when I read the article about her hair! American are so caught up on image it really saddens me. This young lady has accomplished so much in her 16 yrs than most women could only dream of in there life time. Clearly, the women degrading this teen are nothing more than IGNORANT MORONS who haven’t a clue about natural beauty, hard work or dedication! I just don’t get ppl some times. #TEAMGABBY!

  23. Anonymous says:

    What seems to be missing from this dialogue is that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with her hair. Watching her perform, that thought never once crossed my mind.

  24. Kevin Geary says:

    “To think that a major website (Yahoo!) would trivialize Douglas and her accomplishment with a lead story about her hair is deplorable.”

    Typical apologetic stance for those who continue to bring down the black community.

    Yahoo didn’t make the comments, they reported them. Until the black community does its job and starts criticizing its own members for their shortcomings, no progress is going to be made. Blacks do more to tear down the black community than any other race — it’s time you started looking internally and stop blaming everyone else.

  25. Nyesha Rose says:

    Dear Mr. Carter,
    First I would like to start this by saying; I do not love you as an artist. Everyone already knows where you are lyrically, so for someone to only love you as an artist is an insult. You remind me much like my father. A man that remains so cool, but when he speaks, every word holds a high pitch volume. Your involvement in our community touches mine and everyone else’s. And this article just proves that you care as much as we do. At the age of 21 a recent (may 2012) college grad, I speak as if my current generation has no hope for us, instead I focus in our younger generation in hopes to make them understand the value of being an AFRICAN-AMERICAN, so I start with my sibling. But this is a debate, you wouldn’t mind if I take part…..
    In your article you mentioned the media talk about Gabby Douglas, and the backlash she has received when instead she should be receiving all of the congratulations we can utter. I completely infinity agree with everything you have said thus far, and i am sure everyone that has comment has too…. But how are women (certain) , are supposed to uplift another when they are already being criticized by the “man” or any male figure they tend to be around with. Taking a look in our history, a man was the one to work while the wife works her title, being a “wife”. Cook, clean, take care of the kids, yet still be remarkable gorgeous while doing so? The whole thing about our wonderful incredible, utterly remarkable 16 year old gold medal Olympics winner Ms. Douglas, her hair sad but this is what the public speak is how it needed to be done. Can I quote you “I only love her if her weave new” now, I’m sure you know that every person in this world, follows most of what rappers and singers say and do. So when you mention this, unfortunately this is what our male generation will refer to when they see a female walking down the street, or in Gabby’s case congratulate her and then quote “but shit I can only love her if her weave new” Trust me, I understand it is just a song, just a mere image. But again how do you expect for females to uplift another female, when they are constantly looking for a male perspective? But here are the men we love, tell us how we should always look our best. So if her man tells her that, wouldn’t she tell her homegirl? Dr. King had a dream, yet his dream will never become a reality. Sad but true, we will forever live in a world where “image” is the only thing important. Some jobs will not hire me, just because the color of my skin, or how I am dressed, no matter what my accomplishments are. When Michele Obama stood side by side of her husband, it wasn’t the proud smile on her face that Mr. Obama and she will lead a world of people to a better place, it was what she had on, and how she looked good next to her man. Her law degree was no matter to most. When pastors or philanthropists get upset when a rapper speaks on women in an derogatory way, there is a reason. Not for you guys not to make money, and be successful at it, but because you do have a FULL audience watching your every move to create the same exact thing.
    But this isn’t about you, or rappers or singers so please do not misunderstand me. This is about the history we have been brought up in. “Them Nappy Headed Hoes” – Don Imus said he got It from “our people” calling each other that. But who were the originator? As sad as it is our past will forever be engraved in our skin, therefore when a celebrity walks around with nappy hair, or sweated out weave for an extended time, I bet you a million dollars, everyone will be too. If Gabby’s hair was “natural” it would had been fine, since that is the “new” thing to do.
    So there is the answer to your question, the only people that will uplift an individual due to their most highest achievements, is their parents, loved ones, and the man we adore God himself.
    As I learn to be a better “business” entrepreneur like my father, you and your wife, while letting people know my true intentions at life, I hope by writing this I have inspired you as you inspire me every day.
    See you at your concert in Brooklyn on Sept 29. =)
    Ps…this is just a debate =))
    Best wishes,
    Nyesha Rose.

  26. It’s one thing for people to say something on social media. It’s another thing when it becomes the lead story of Miss Douglas’s incredible accomplishment. You have the first African American to earn the gold in the individual all around . This victory mean the USA won both the team and individual gold medals at the same Olympics. She moved away from home at 14 to train for this. And Yahoo led with criticism of HAIR…

  27. Nyesha Rose says:

    “As a successful woman, you will never be acknowledged by your success, by your hard work. Instead you will be acknowledged about your personal looks. if you are wonderfully appealing your accomplishments will follow, and how you are just a women…an emotional creature”- Unknown

  28. Lesa says:

    Gabby is a world-class athlete. not a model. Not an actress. Not a reality TV contestant. She deserves our respect and admiration, not shameless tabloid treatment. I watched breathlessly as she competed on the world stage. I saw skill, athleticism, grace, beauty, hard work and determination. I admire everything about her and I have great appreciation for what she and her family sacrificed in order for her to go all the way for gold. I did not see her skin color, I did not see her hairstyle. Shameful that ANYONE, let alone her black sisters – could be so cruel.

    GOD BLESS YOU GABBY. You are welcome to represent America whatever way you please. I know that the future little gymnasts of the world see you as a beautiful, accomplished, 16-year-old All-American Girl – You have inspired a nation and a whole new generation.

  29. Lorenzo Ramsey says:

    Betty Okino and Annia Hatch were also black athletes that qualified for the Olympic team. Actually Okino and Dawes were on the 1992 team together. Though they are immigrants they are no less African American.

  30. Chuck says:

    I saw nothing the matter with Gabby Douglas’ hair… I was too focused on her winning with grace & enthusiasm… Congratulations to you Gabby… The whole country is proud of you. You’re GOLDEN…

  31. Rich Muna says:

    C Dommage, il n’y a pas à s’étendre sur le sujet étant donnné la débilité dont les “critiques” ont fait montre, étant donné qu’on se trouve dans un domaine qui ne doit pas donner lieu à ce genre de réactions, de surcroît avec sa performance mémorable. Alors il faut reléguer toutes ces opiniâtres idées au second non dans les WC.
    Quand on sera en lieu d’avoir besoin de leurs compétences de stylistes -modélistes, ils n’auront qu’à nous prouver leurs compétences monumentales… Elargbissez vos angles, please!

  32. I don’t care what her hair looks like all I know is that she’s an idol in my eyes she’s a beautiful black young lady who i admired for going after her dream of winning a gold medal and God did the amazing thing of helping her dreams come true. love the talent love the hair love you and all i can say is you go girl make our country proud congatulation you will always be a hero in my book.

  33. Paula Beach says:

    no matter how her hair looks she has achieved something in life that u will never, give her her props and thank GOD for another day!

  34. Roxanne says:

    I am a black woman. I never noticed Gabby’s hair. I am saddened that the popular media has chosen to report on the “comments” of some ignorants on Twitter as if it was news. There are many offensive and stupid comments on Twitter on many issues and about many people, they should not be used to spark or fuel or essentially start a “debate.” I’m tired of being judged by, having to distance myself from, or having to explain the origin of the baseless views and comments of people who share my heritage and skin color, just because they spoke or tweeted and the national media chose their comments to “represent’ black view. When Gabby won, I cheered. I cheered when Allison Schmitt won also. I didn’t care about either woman’s hair. I didn’t know about any “raging debate” until a white woman asked me about it and asked my opinion. I thought it was a mistake until I googled the issue. I’m on Twitter and didn’t see anything on my timeline about this “raging debate,” either. –but I only follow people who are interesting, clever or interactive. But thanks to the popular press, some idiots have made it an issue. And in the midst of watching the Olympics and cheering on my country I had to be asked what I thought about the issue with Gabby’s hair because suddenly, it’s news. It’s news because of some ignorant people on Twitter whom the ill-advised press chose to quote. Sheesh. News organizations: Please stop reacting to a smattering of random Twitter comments from people who are not public figures as if they are a valid news source. Okay? And give up trying to find out “what black people think” — we are not all the same. That’s all I have to say about that.

  35. Anonymous says:

    In the hopes that Gabby is way too big for this nonsense, hope she doesn’t let it bring her down….cause she’s too high up for this low down dirty media business.

  36. Anonymous says:

    It amaze me to see ignorant people especially African-America people treat our kind like we do. Who gives a dam about her hair. She is truely a beautiful young lady who has put many hours in the gym to achieve her dream. We should be praising all her hard work and look up to her for breaking such barriers. Blacks need to get a grip and worry about one another. If all the people who critize her took the same energy into raising their families and working on our youth for tomorrow, we could probably raise the next great champ versus teaching them nothing and contributing to why so many of our kind are continuously in and out of jail. Stupid Ass Black People!

  37. Levar Cooper says:

    keep my hair nappy just like gabby…natural

  38. It is really sad a professional like Nicki Manaj would be so ignorant. Gabby is Africian American and the natural trait is kinky hair but if you were not being so negative on her you would have noticed her hair style was lke the majoriity of the gymnist performing. And idiiots it was not a hair show/beauty contest. SHE DID HER JOB IN FINE FORM. DONT PAY ANY ATTENTION. YOU GO GIRL!!!!!

  39. Anonymous says:

    This is the most superficial debate.. I mean what is the most important here? Come on celebrate!!! what an achievement, she is a true inspiration, to me she is an icone, when I was younger I always wonder why there were no black in gymnastic, today I’m so glad Gabby Douglas gave me the pleasure to see that happened. I truly wish her achievement will impact onto generation to come.
    Well done Gabby, and you look absolutely FAb…

  40. Hair ERazor says:

    Why there isn’t a “raging debate” about Olympic Gold medalist Gabby Douglas’ hair.

  41. Yahoo! News has to be one of the most illegitimate, poorly written news services on the internet. Save the ones pulled directly from the Associated Press, their “news” is mostly pop culture fluff and pure trash. Even worse than the articles are the people (or the trolls in most cases) that post comments. Why is Yahoo! news even getting attention?

  42. Anonymous says:

    Yahoo straight gets clicks from sensationalist headlines that is no doubt. Im serious take a pause and gander at it next time. Dont they say something outrageous and leave you in suspense to click it? Yes, they do. I try to limit my intake of Yahoo News because I know this and also it has some of the worst commenters I’ve seen

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