Gabby Douglas and The Hair Dilemma

In & More..., Athletics, Black Care by 14 Comments

Gabrielle Douglas’ ponytail along with some of the criticism she received (Source: The Sarcasimist)

Gabrielle Douglas’ ponytail along with some of the criticism she received
(Source: The Sarcasimist)

Douglas is the first Afrikan American gymnast in Olympic history to become the individual All-Around Champion, and the first American gymnast to win gold in both the individual All-Around and team competitions at the same Olympics. In addition, she is the first and only American All-Around Champion to win multiple gold medals, so far.

Despite all of her accomplishments, however, Douglas was heavily criticized about how her hairstyle looked during her competitions. Her slicked back ponytail was labeled unkempt, nappy, messy, and a plethora of other names and ultimately shifted everyone’s attention from talent to the quality of her ponytail.

According to USA Today, when questioned about her hair, Douglas responded by saying, “I just simply gelled it back, put some clips in it and put it in a bun. Are you kidding me? I just made history. And you’re focusing on my hair?”

Gabrielle Douglas after hair criticism  (Source: CP Entertainment)

Gabrielle Douglas after hair criticism
(Source: CP Entertainment)

What do people expect an Afrikan American athlete, who does not have naturally straight hair, to look like while competing and sweating during the Olympics? Other athletes have had similar issues finding hairstyles that society consider presentable that are easy to manage.

Nina Barnes, a semi-pro tennis player, can definitely understand the struggle. In an interview with the Daily Beast she stated, “There aren’t many options for a black woman with their hair doing that kind of sport. And let’s be clear—even if she cut her hair off and went bald, black people wouldn’t be satisfied. They’d call her ugly and say she looks like a man. I think she looks fine and is doing what she needs to so she can win.‘’

Venus and Serena Williams are also among the list of athletes that have been criticized about their appearance multiple times, despite their inspirational athletic careers.

The criticism of Gabby and other Afrikan American athletes’ hair is part of a bigger issue among Afrikan American females: our natural hair is not accepted by society.

Author: Briana Savage

Nommo Staff


  1. TK

    Your hair needs to be pinned back when doing gymnastics otherwise it’ll get in your face and mess up your routine. Have you ever seen a gymnasts with her hair down??? The ponytail/bun was a quick thing and it may have started off as a bun and loosened up during her gold medal routine. As for the the collar, that’s how the jacket is designed. Please for the love of god, learn somethings and use some logic before critiquing something so irrelevant USA Today. As for Nina, it isn’t mainly black women who are shaming these black athletes for their hair. White people and major news outlets are the main problem, followed by non-black poc then black men and then black women (from what I’ve observed anyways). Black women know the struggle of hair, why would we go ahead and bash this baby for something so little? She’s made history, stop worrying about her hair.

  2. Ashanti Fuller

    It is not right to talk about her hair! She is amazing and works hard to accomplish her goals and that’s more important to talk about. I am 11 and I love Gabby!! She is my inspiration. I work everyday to be just like her. That is my goal. I don’t even do gymnastics but I’m am still working hard! I wish I could meet her!!!!! I am black and go through some of the same things at school. So what if people talk about us?!? Just stay focused on your goal. I wish I could meet you!!!!!!!!!! Love ya Gabby!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. MiMi

    Seriously. She’s an incredible gymnist who does amazing things! Her hair is cute and nice, and besides she’s a frickin gold medal athlete, who cares if she didn’t dress for the red carpet!


    Who cares about hair any ways at least she has done something with her life… its gymnastics not a fashion show

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