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Opinion: Why focus on Gabby Douglas' hair?
After her historic win, gymnastics all-around gold medalist Gabby Douglas faced criticism about her hair.
August 6th, 2012
02:20 PM ET

Opinion: Why focus on Gabby Douglas' hair?

Editor's Note: Tiya Miles is chairwoman of the Department of Afro-American and African Studies and professor of history and Native American studies at the University of Michigan. She is the author of "Ties That Bind: The Story of an Afro-Cherokee Family in Slavery and Freedom" and "The House on Diamond Hill: A Cherokee Plantation Story." She is also the winner of  a 2011 genius grant from the MacArthur Foundation.

By Tiya Miles, Special to CNN

When Gabby Douglas stood on the Olympic podium Thursday, a bright smile on her face and gold medal around her neck, she made history as the first African-American woman to win top honors in the all-around gymnastics competition.

Many African-Americans watching Douglas shared a flush of pride at the accomplishment, noting her joy, her poise, her grace and, apparently, her hairstyle.

I heard about this latter preoccupation from my sister, who swept into town for a weekend visit and opened with, “Have you heard that mess about Gabby’s hair? Type in ‘Gabby Douglas hair’ on Google; you’ll see.” I was dismayed to find a string of posts by African-American women and men debating Douglas’ hairstyle and the perceived imperfection that while her hair was straightened, parts of it had turned visibly kinky during her performance.

The fascination with natural African-American hair

Twitter and Facebook commenters and callers on black talk radio shows questioned whether her hair was too straight or too kinky, whether it was over-gelled or under-tamed, and what she should have done with that floppy bun. My sister, who thought this barrage of criticism was a “mess,” threw in the final comment: “All right, I admit if I was her mother, I would have put a headband on the girl, but really, who cares?”

A significant number of people, if the list my Google search returned is any indication. Why were some African-Americans fixated on hair at a moment that should have been set aside to savor a grand achievement?

For African-Americans and black women in particular, hair has long been troubled terrain. The natural kinkiness or curliness of most black people’s hair places it outside the bounds of mainstream American beauty standards, which emphasizes straightness, length and the bounce and flow of tresses in motion.

Reporter’s Notebook: Viola Davis keeps it 'real'

Historically, the difference of black hair texture has symbolized the inferiority of black people in the minds of some whites and even some blacks.

Naturally kinky hair was viewed as dirty, unkempt and unattractive into the mid-20th century.

In the 1960s and later, as blacks began to reclaim natural styles, Afros, braids and dreadlocks were associated with political radicalism in dominant American culture to the extent that some black women were threatened with the loss of their jobs for wearing braids to the workplace.

Over the years, black women (and men) have turned to numerous products and processes in an attempt to tame their locks into looks more fitting for American society – from twists and ties to pomades and gels to straightening combs and chemical relaxers.

It is no wonder that the first African-American female millionaire, Madame C. J. Walker, earned her riches from selling hair lotions and perfecting the use of the straightening comb.

For African-Americans, smooth, straight hair has been a symbol not only of beauty but of acceptance in broader American culture. And while black women wear their hair in myriad creative ways, one underlying orientation from this cultural history of hair oppression remains: the view that a black woman’s hairstyle is important and even symbolic, so she had better get it right. This is in part why Angela Davis’ Afro became iconic, why Beyoncé’s blond tresses are a signature of her look and why Nicki Minaj made a splash with a twirling carrousel of cotton-candy colored wigs.

Praise pours in for Viola Davis' natural 'do

African-American women feel that we have to “represent” through physical appearance. We know that when we step outside our doors, people do not only see and judge us as individuals, they see and judge our entire community and racial group.

For our own self-esteem and for the dignity of our group, we strive to appear our best. And to do so, we have often tried to replicate the aesthetic values of mainstream American society — including straight hair.

These acts of replication have been internalized such that we often do not distinguish between mainstream standards of beauty and what might have traditionally been our own way of looking at and loving ourselves.

The public reaction to Douglas’ appearance shows that this preoccupation with hair in the black community has gone too far.

In the black culture, a richness of hairstory

After her stunning win, tweeters who publicly demanded “why hasn’t anyone tried to fix Gabby Douglas’ hair?” and charged “gabby douglas gotta do something with this hair!” distracted the nation’s attention from what really mattered in the moment.

Defenses of Douglas posted by black women emphasized salient points: that she was an athlete who necessarily worked up a sweat, that sweat naturally affected one’s hair and that she had just accomplished something none of the “haters” could even dream of. A Facebook page called “I Support Gabby Douglas and HER HAIR” has collected 220 likes.

But overall, the chatter about Douglas’ hair has been insensitive and unproductive. Instead of criticizing this teenage girl for her appearance, black women and men could have been using those 140 Twitter characters to celebrate the skill of an Olympic champion.

The wise black feminist author Alice Walker spoke and wrote about the constraints of hair and beauty ideals in black culture in an essay titled “Oppressed hair puts a ceiling on the brain.”

When we engage in petty talk of perms and gels in the wake of a great triumph, we diminish ourselves and limit the potential of our young women and girls by sending the message that how they look overshadows what they think, imagine and accomplish.

Instead, we should be telling our girls that beauty is as beauty does. So what if 16-year-old Gabby Douglas doesn’t meet an unrealistic black hair-care standard?

She can swing and flip on parallel bars as the best all-around woman gymnast in the world; she can leap through the air like a shooting star.

We should all aspire to lift our heads so high.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Tiya Miles. 

Posted by
Filed under: Black in America • History • How we look • What we think • Women
soundoff (883 Responses)
  1. Kari

    I thought Gabby was outstanding, and never once thought anything about her hair.... Why would someone even begin
    to focus on that.. She is a very beautiful girl that is very very talented.. Where your hair the way you want!!!

    August 7, 2012 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
  2. Joanna

    I sit here ashamed....because I can hear myself pushing my teen every morning to fix her hair...put on a different outfit.....all to bring attention to the way she looks instead of what she can DO. Thank you Gabby for reminding me that this is not the most important issue in life.

    August 7, 2012 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
  3. dizzylucy

    Gabby did an amazing job, I was proud of and inspired by her. She's such a great role model, and an example of hard work and determination paying off.
    Nothing else, especially stupid frivolous things like her hair, simply don't matter.

    August 7, 2012 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
  4. MojoJoJo

    II'd like to how anyone's hair holds up after running and jumping and flying the way these girls did. The other girls on the team has equally disheveled hair, with fly-aways and bumps.

    So who cares? This wasn't a beauty contest!

    August 7, 2012 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
  5. Pambi7

    I didn't notice her hair to be any different than many of her team mates and most teenagers you see on the streets, twisted up and secured with a hair band. What I did notice was her fantasic performances and beautiful smile.

    August 7, 2012 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
  6. NYbywayofTexas

    Unfortunately, some of us African Americans have swallowed and believed someone else's idea of who we are. No one can define you but you. Therefore, if one believes that the God-given nature of one's locs are unattractive and ugly, that is how one will view themselves. This is self hatred. We have been divided and conquerored. Standards of beauty can only be defined by one's own self. We must learn to totally embrace and accept self and until we do, we will always trivialize the small rather than celebrate the greater. Gabby, my daughter, sister, niece and friend... we salute you and are extremely proud of all you have accomplished. May this be the spring-board to a blessed, joy-filled life and God inspired life. God bless you and pray for us!

    August 7, 2012 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
  7. msc

    i didn't have time or the interest to read this entire article BUT i do have time to post:
    REALLY people!!!???? She won! There are more pressing issues in this world besides someone's HAIR!!!!!

    August 7, 2012 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
  8. Jaybird

    What does AL SHARPTON have to say about this?

    August 7, 2012 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
    • emma

      OMG have you not seen his hair: he straightens it with rollers.

      August 7, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Larry

    So why are YOU focusing on her hair? You are just perpetuating the story!

    August 7, 2012 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Ray

      I think this controversy exemplifies a long-running issue in the black community: insecurity. Many black women are so deeply insecure about their looks in general, and specifically their hair. As we're seeing in this particular story, rather than deal with their own issues, many of them would rather throw dirt on and put down a fellow black person, in an attempt to make themselves feem better. Its as old as rain.

      August 7, 2012 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
  10. Drew

    Pretty sad that so many focus on utterly irrelevant issues in the midst of an historically important moment and an incredible athletic performance. Her hair? Really? Seriously?! Her hair?! Ugh. All I noticed was her athletic talent, her sparkling smile and her exuberance, all of which were truly inspiring. But I guess maybe I'm just a middle-aged white guy who doesn't know or care about what's "really" important. Congrats, Gabby! You are a champion! And that's all that really matters.

    August 7, 2012 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Robert

      Absolutely!

      August 7, 2012 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
  11. greenside gal

    I wouldn't care if Gabby was bald! I am a 73 year old white great-grandma who thinks she is awesome. I am proud of her and what she has accomplished.

    August 7, 2012 at 10:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Robert

      Heck yeah!

      August 7, 2012 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
  12. doyleengle

    who cares ,,she was (is)a beautiful young lady,,,(black or white)she got me weeping,,

    August 7, 2012 at 10:38 am | Report abuse |
  13. cuthrubs

    I didn't even notice nor care about her hair. I was thrilled that she made history and is bringing home a GOLD for the USA. I wonder if we could think of only nice things to say or take action and help or make a change, but no we have cowards complaining and tearing people apart.

    August 7, 2012 at 10:38 am | Report abuse |
  14. 4pease

    We love Gabby and are so proud of her. She is beautiful.

    August 7, 2012 at 10:37 am | Report abuse |
  15. LaTonya Blount

    Hello?!!! I guess they needed to fill up some white space.

    August 7, 2012 at 10:37 am | Report abuse |
  16. Robert

    Gabby you kicked butt young lady, don't worry about the author here or the other negative crap. You did it! America is proud of you, your parents are proud of you, come home and be proud of yourself. YOU ARE AWESOME!

    August 7, 2012 at 10:36 am | Report abuse |
  17. Nina2012

    I am saddened that in 2012 some African Americans still don't understand and appreciate the beauty of being natural. There is nothing wrong with her hair. Gabby didn't have time to worry about her hair she was too busy focusing on winning gold for the U.S! Anyone that had anything negative to say about Gabby's hair is just plain out miserable. At a time that we should be focusing on this young ladies accomplishments we are sitting here trying to defend her hair. Shameful! . Well, I am proud of her, and she should love the hair that God blessed her with. I am going to pray for her that all this negativity doesn't dampen her spirit and that she doesn't go and try to change who she is because of the haters out there that will never accomplish what she did!

    Great job Gabby! My children and I are excited about your accomplishments, and I am signing my daughter up for gymnastics because you are an inspiration to her!

    August 7, 2012 at 10:36 am | Report abuse |
  18. Annoyed

    There was a time when young black people were proud of their hair (remember 'Afros'). I remember my dad had one. Then slowly but surly the fad changed. Now, you'll be lucky to find a black person within a 100 mile radius in all directions that wears their hair natural. Yes, how you want to be looked at is a matter of choice. But, how a person looks in good times and bad should never be subjected to ridicule.

    August 7, 2012 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
  19. Shawn

    Agree

    August 7, 2012 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
  20. Prince Machivelli

    Lava...you're 100 on point. Ms. Miles continued the idiocy with this article. No commentator should have approached Gabby with it and Tom Joyner and Roland Martin shouldn't have given the story legs. Now we have writers like Ms. Miles want to keep it going and give this foolishness international attention.

    August 7, 2012 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
  21. LaTonya Blount

    When I learned of the feeble minds of these people I could not believe it. One of my coworkers brought it to my attention and I did with this new knowledge what I normally do with garbagel; I disposed of it. She is a very talented young woman who is living her dream and instead of being happy for her, they want to stand watch over her hairstyle. These miserable, shallow, jealous shells of fools can only see what they perceive to be a 'problem' with her hair. How about the grace of her presentation? How about those bends and turns of her body? I have learned when dealing with my race – you have those who will praise the good in people and then there are the idiots who will find fault in anything. It does not take a genius to know that they are miserable with their own existence and think that their words will have some validity to them. This story never should have had any legs to it and should have been crushed by the first intelligent person who heard this story. It takes all kinds – unfortunately.

    August 7, 2012 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
  22. NadaKat

    Really...this is so sad that this is even a topic or made it as a topic for CNN. Why would any reputable journalist cover the ignorance of a few people that after all of this young lady's accomplishments would follow up with some nonsense about her HAIR! Seriously...

    August 7, 2012 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
    • LaTonya Blount

      My feelings exactly because I feel that by reporting on this mess just continues to grow its audience.

      August 7, 2012 at 10:36 am | Report abuse |
  23. sophie

    I thought she looked great. If she was wearing makeup I could not tell. No scrunchie. She broke the mold of gymnasts with tacky turquiose eye shaddow and scrunchies. If she was doing that glitter thing i did not notice either. She is beautiful.

    August 7, 2012 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
  24. Bob

    "A Facebook page called “I Support Gabby Douglas and HER HAIR” has collected 220 likes"

    After the author saw this, she should scrapped her story. 220 likes?! thats it?! Thats the country (world!!) telling you, "this is a made up issue."

    August 7, 2012 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
  25. Nmathers

    Funny, I thought Gabby was representing Americans and America not just blacks?

    August 7, 2012 at 10:32 am | Report abuse |
  26. ??About Hair??

    Congratulation on winning GOLD!

    Gabby you are beautiful! You are a natural talent and I so enjoyed your performances! Please let the hair thing go, don't listen to haters! I had to read a story to know what all the fuss was about because I didn't see ANYTHING wrong with your hair – period!!

    August 7, 2012 at 10:32 am | Report abuse |
  27. robjh1

    It's her accomplishment not her hair that matters. If she is happy, who cares. Negative rhetoric feeds into making a person self conscious of who they are. Some people can be their own worst enemy. Do you think her teammates hair wasn't processed or straightened? Please!

    August 7, 2012 at 10:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Juanmom

      I totally agree:-)

      August 7, 2012 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
  28. Robert

    OMG who cares about her hair or if she is white, yellow, orange, black or brown. She is an American that kicked butt over there and we should just be proud of her. Give the kid a break, show her and her family some respect and stop bringing crap like this up. Good lord you idiot. Find a better topic and stop propagating stupidity.

    August 7, 2012 at 10:31 am | Report abuse |
  29. mic2mic

    I'm black (mind you, black-Canadian) and I don't even see what makes people think there's something wrong with her hair. First time I saw her compete, I thought she looked stunningly beautiful. Are people seriously picking on a black teenager because of her natural, curly hair and next-door girl look? I mean, seriously?

    August 7, 2012 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
  30. Buchab01

    Definitely!!! Who cares about this? The biggest non-issue I have ever seen or read in the news. Why can't this poor girl just enjoy her victory after all of her hard work instead of having to deal with this idiocy?

    August 7, 2012 at 10:08 am | Report abuse |
  31. DIANA

    I was too focused on what she was doing to notice her hair and when she won, I was too focused on how happy she was. Honestly, all I saw was a girl in a ponytail, maybe my TV needs to have better quality so I could lower myself down to the level of the people who are critizing her.

    LOL – to KROSS's post about Albert Einstein.

    August 7, 2012 at 10:08 am | Report abuse |
  32. Emma

    Lava:

    My thoughts exactly.

    August 7, 2012 at 10:07 am | Report abuse |
  33. Steve

    If a person can't simply be happy for this young lady and her accomplishment then it says much more about the critic than it does about Ms. Douglas.

    August 7, 2012 at 10:05 am | Report abuse |
    • 19faye62

      Well said; My sentiments exactly....

      August 7, 2012 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
      • Donald

        And you wonder what race perpertuates racism? Why cant she just be a girl who is an excellent gymnast? Why is it so important that you need to point out that she is black? evolve!!! The other thing is you people dont know the importance of hair in gymnastics.Ask any gymnast how much time they spend on their hair before a meet.

        August 7, 2012 at 10:56 am | Report abuse |
  34. joe bianchi

    there are 2 reasons that anyone would say something negative about this girls hair osr appearance. !) they're jealous they didn't win a gold medal 2) they're jerks

    August 7, 2012 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
  35. Faith

    Worse than attacking her hair or her outfit is attacking her faith. THAT is who she is. I've seen quite a bit of that on the left. On Facebook I see people completely embracing Gabby especially because she is such a strong young lady of character and strength and obviously an amazing Olympic star. Go Gabby!

    August 7, 2012 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
  36. jackie

    I'm white and a former gymnast. I don't get it whatsoever!! Her hair is CUTE!!! BEing a gymnast is the TOUGHEST sport. I'd like to see those criticizing her hair do what she has done – it's much more difficult than doing your hair!!! Hair style can change instantly in a relaxing salon for the laziest person – building muscle, working VERY hard to be a gymnast – that takes discipline, efforrt, perseverance, and talent. Don't say a word unless you have won a gold in gymnastics!!

    August 7, 2012 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
  37. vgs1895

    People are saying the media made it an issue. In some sense, that is true. However, it was a huge issue for her on Twitter when people left nasty comments. The news could have ignored it, but that wouldn't have made it untrue.

    August 7, 2012 at 9:59 am | Report abuse |
  38. Nidwaldner

    I'm curious, what style do these hair critics think she should have had?

    As a white woman I simply do not understand the fuss, her hair while competing was similar to all the other gymnasts. She is adorable. I have thick hair that goes crazy frizzy in summer humidity and often find myself throwing it into a pony tail, especially when I'm exercising.

    August 7, 2012 at 9:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Cee Ridgway

      Your comment is the best response to Gabby's hair. Only a hater would say anything about this young lady's hair. Whoever made this comment is evil and their only interest is to steal this young lady, as Oprah Winfrey would say..JOY RISING! This is her Joy Rising and no amount of hating will change that... God Bless this Young Lady!

      August 7, 2012 at 10:12 am | Report abuse |
  39. Mary Black

    Who cares talk about something else . Facial discription is nothing

    August 7, 2012 at 9:58 am | Report abuse |
  40. Etagegn

    Aren't there pressing issues that CNN is supposed to cover than Gabby's hair?! Gabby is beautiful and we should focus on her accomplishment instead of her hair. She has achieved her goals and has made her country proud and that's what matters.

    August 7, 2012 at 9:58 am | Report abuse |
  41. Ryan

    Why are you guys talking about her hair.

    August 7, 2012 at 9:58 am | Report abuse |
  42. Abigail

    Congratulations Gabby!!! You are an awesome gymnast and an inspiration to us all!

    August 7, 2012 at 9:58 am | Report abuse |
  43. Kross

    Has anyone seen that Alfred Einstein dude??!!! His hair is a hot mess!! Can't go far with hair like that.

    August 7, 2012 at 9:58 am | Report abuse |
  44. Brian

    Ever notice they don't call black Britans African British or black French people African Frenchman.

    August 7, 2012 at 9:57 am | Report abuse |
  45. Liz

    I'm white and I never noticed anything wrong with Gabby's hair. I thought she looked really beautiful in all of the events. She has a beautiful smile, chiseled body, and she is capable of flawlessly executing superhuman gymnastic feats. I am shocked anyone would question her beauty. She is stunning!

    August 7, 2012 at 9:57 am | Report abuse |
  46. Really?

    I can't believe people are commenting on a CNN story by saying it's Fox News racism. I'm not sure how you got there.

    And I agree with the others, why is this even a news story? Can't we allow this exceptional and hard working young woman celebrate her victory and be proud for her without finding something negative? Shame on all of you.

    August 7, 2012 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Lava

      Totally agreed!!

      August 7, 2012 at 9:59 am | Report abuse |
  47. Magoomba

    Sad and Disappointing....

    August 7, 2012 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
  48. Melissa

    There are actually rules with regar to their hair in gymnastics. If they don't follow, the judges are allowed to deduct from their score. Slicked back is required if hair is long enough for a ponytail. One of the many screwed up things about the judging in gymnastics (like they can't allow ties and give two bronze medals or how they break the ties or can't allow more than two gymnasts from the same country to compete in the all-around).

    August 7, 2012 at 9:55 am | Report abuse |
  49. Tami

    why why why who cares but fools about this young lady's hair!!!

    August 7, 2012 at 9:55 am | Report abuse |
  50. Hersel

    I am an Afican American male and I think her hair looked fine. Would people rather her hair look like some other so called Afican American icons like entertainers. How about Willow Smiths hair or lack there of or Nicki Minajs' pink hair. If it didn't look like it did, people would be saying, "who let that child on television with her hair looking like that?" Her hair was more than appropriate just the way it is. A.M. people need to get a better sense of reality and stop letting something like this be the headline of conversation toward Gabby Douglas and let her accomplishments, determination, drive and abilities become a topic to relay to our children.

    August 7, 2012 at 9:54 am | Report abuse |
  51. pianki

    I guess she should have been wearing that dammm weave stuff and some bird wing eyelashes. It is usual to see a young black women without the Michelins around her waist.

    August 7, 2012 at 9:53 am | Report abuse |
  52. Jules

    Anyone worrying about Gabby Douglass hair should not be watching the Olympics. She is a beautiful, talented young woman with a most disarming smile and a really naturally nice way about her. She makes all Americans proud.

    August 7, 2012 at 9:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Tabak

      Agreed:-)

      August 7, 2012 at 10:05 am | Report abuse |
  53. RavensFan

    Its not white amerikkka thats the problem. Its ourselves, and our own self loathing. For those unconnected with "urban youth", insecurities surrounding hair have been around since slavery. and the people most prone to perpetuate this trend is other "urban" youth...

    August 7, 2012 at 9:53 am | Report abuse |
  54. Jill American

    The only thing I noticed about Gabby's hair was that she uses the same clips my daughter does for dance recitals. They work great for all the short ends that don't make it back into the bun and they don't slip like a headband might. And I was thinking how hard it must be for gymnasts to keep everything in place and looking pretty for the audience (a bit of sarcasm there folks). In the end they are athletes and their hair is the last thing we should be focused on.

    August 7, 2012 at 9:53 am | Report abuse |
  55. gj2001

    Freedom of choice.
    worry about your own d- hair.
    half the people who worry about hair styles couldn't walk a straight line with training bars
    get over you on your own time...
    Gabby shines and the limited thought small minded people who dwell on "HAIR" are in the hate groupie club.

    August 7, 2012 at 9:52 am | Report abuse |
  56. Karla

    I wish they had a like button for your comment :)!

    August 7, 2012 at 9:50 am | Report abuse |
  57. sayer

    Go Gabby!

    August 7, 2012 at 9:50 am | Report abuse |
  58. Roxana

    "We know that when we step outside our doors, people do not only see and judge us as individuals, they see and judge our entire community and racial group."

    Dear God, Ms. Miles, get over yourself already! You may be obsessing over your hair and exact skin tone but I guarantee white America IS NOT. Frankly Ms. Miles we don't spend all that much time thinking about 'the black community' and are MORE than ready to take individual blacks as just that – individuals. I realize the 'Black Leadership' and Black intellectuals are invested in continued racial animosity but face facts, lady, most of it is now on YOUR side!

    August 7, 2012 at 9:50 am | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      As a black man in today's society with a number of white friends. I couldn't have said it better, Roxana.

      August 7, 2012 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Aaron

      Thank you! I didn't even notice her hair. I was too impressed with her gymnastics skills and amazing poise. But now that I look at it, I still don't see what the fuss is about! From everything I've seen, she's a fantastic role model for all young girls...no matter what color their skin is.

      August 7, 2012 at 10:13 am | Report abuse |
    • MizMer

      I honestly thought the exact same thing. I was with her until I got to that sentence and then I went, "Uh...what are you smoking?" I have never looked at anyone of a different race and said, "Oh, so THAT'S what all Asians/Latinos/black people look like!" anymore than I would expect anyone to think I'm the singular definition of all white people. Ms. Miles should learn the importance of using the word "some" as a qualifier when making these kinds of statements.

      August 7, 2012 at 10:20 am | Report abuse |
  59. Kristi

    "Why focus on Gabby Douglas' hair?" Hmmmm – is that not exactly what you're doing by writing this article?

    August 7, 2012 at 9:49 am | Report abuse |
  60. Elliot

    Looks to me like the black women need to leave the black women (or children in this case) alone.

    August 7, 2012 at 9:48 am | Report abuse |
  61. Karla

    Good grief! She is precious, talented and has a beautiful heart. I can't believe how gracious she always is... even when she is not at her best! Her hair is fine and my goodness if that is all that people can find fault with her then I think she is pretty blessed. I think if I were competing, I would get my hair out of my face as well. I saw one runner with hair down to her waist and although it was pretty, I kept thinking that's gotta make this run harder! Congratulations Gabby on all of your accomplishments and making the MAJORITY of USA proud!!!

    August 7, 2012 at 9:48 am | Report abuse |
  62. KeepingitReal

    The major isssue is that now she has dedicated so much of her life to winning this medal, and attained it at such a young age she has nothing left in life to accomplish. She will most likely have to sell that gold medal a few years from now to support her 5 kids and crack habit.

    August 7, 2012 at 9:47 am | Report abuse |
  63. mel

    I still don't know if Gabby Douglas was the first black woman to win the All Around or the first African AMERICAN. The politically correct term makes things very confusing here.

    August 7, 2012 at 9:47 am | Report abuse |
    • KEVIN2121961

      mel, good point. Do we call white guys from south africa who become citizens here in the US "african americans"?

      August 7, 2012 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
      • Henderway

        Yes we do; if he's from Africa and he's an American. Period.

        August 7, 2012 at 10:02 am | Report abuse |
  64. Elliot

    Looks like if you are black you can't do anything that even remotely associates you with the white community or you will be shunned, even if you are a 16 year old gold medalist.

    August 7, 2012 at 9:47 am | Report abuse |
  65. DJ

    I can't believe Ms. Miles would pick up on this subject. Please note: physical appearance isn't just an issue for African American women. Many people of all races and genders fuss about how they look or "should look".

    Thank you Gabby for your tremendous efforts and accomplishments at the Olympics. And, most importantly, thank you for displaying your great sense of priorities. I'm sure you didn't care about your hair – you were there to win gold and you made your country proud !!!

    It's really a sad day when the 16 year old has to be the role model for so many of us adults out there.

    August 7, 2012 at 9:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Dorothy

      Has anyone considered that the reason all women gymnasts wear their hair away from the face is to help with balance as vision gives important clues to orientation in space?

      August 7, 2012 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Lei

      She was responding to a cultural phenomenon. The author didn't start this issue, she was giving commentary on something that has manifested into more than just a blip in media as a result of the comments of numerous people. When this happens, a story becomes newsworthy. Whether it makes sense or not (it doesn't), that's her job. I agree completely with your later points, but it doesn't really make sense to criticize the woman for doing her job, don't ya think?

      August 7, 2012 at 10:36 am | Report abuse |
  66. cher

    The only thing ridiculous is that you can't see the value of this story.

    August 7, 2012 at 9:46 am | Report abuse |
  67. maxine

    as a white lady with the thinnest, straightest hair( no bounce! No body!) in the US, I say leave that kid alone!!!
    She is competing in the Olympics, not a hair show. Congratulations Gabby on a job well done!!

    August 7, 2012 at 9:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Greg

      As a man I want to say, Thank you I didn't pay any attention to her hair. I heard she had won and I wanted to see it for myself. Her hair wasn't what I was focused on. She worked hard and it showed. Congrats Gabby

      August 7, 2012 at 10:08 am | Report abuse |
  68. Me

    This is so weird. I wear my hair EXACTLY like Gabby every single day to work. And I'm white! Who cares what your hair looks like? It's your brains and talent that matter – – and THAT'S IT!!!!

    August 7, 2012 at 9:45 am | Report abuse |
  69. Marie

    She did an amazing job. Who cares about her hair – its clean and combed. I'm White and my hair fuzzes up no matter what I do.

    August 7, 2012 at 9:45 am | Report abuse |
  70. MediEvil44

    Son, Gabby can do whatever she wants with her hair–she's earned the right NOT to live up to White Supremacist standards that are being unjustly imposed upon her.

    And besides...given the fact that she is a GYMNAST, mind you...hair issues would only get in the way of the larger task at hand, which means hitting her routines spot-on so she could win a gold medal for the USA.

    She's astute enough to know not to let a little thing like hair, affect her bottom line the minute that she is on the balance beam or doing floor exercises. You can look it up.

    August 7, 2012 at 9:44 am | Report abuse |
  71. Just saying

    Only in America, someone brings pride and one of many proofs that is the greatest countries in the world, and the concentrate on her appearance... Instead of praising, and making fun of all the other countries that haven't had a medal, she added another one to the looooong list of medals. Xenophobia much!!!

    August 7, 2012 at 9:43 am | Report abuse |
  72. Peggy J. Canada

    To the writter of this article being an Afro-American, if you are so proud as you said you are and so informed, why would you of all people say and I quote " I would have put a head band on the girl". That is not acceptable, none of the other girls had on head bands and they had fly aways also, Afro-American hair just curls up. I am disappointed in you as a person and I stop reading your article at that point.

    Gabby you are blessed and a true athlete, I am so proud of you, don't change a thing, be who you are, a positive role model.

    August 7, 2012 at 9:42 am | Report abuse |
    • MISSRLEV

      You did not read the article in context. The author was quoting a Twitter post. hence the quotation marks.

      August 7, 2012 at 9:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Willa

      If you were reading carefully, you would know that the author of this article did not say that; her sister did.

      August 7, 2012 at 9:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Stacey S.

      This is why reading comprehension is so important! If you had full comprehension of the particular paragraph in this article you would not have made the comment you made. Go back and read that paragraph carefully and you will see that the writer was quoting her sister.

      August 7, 2012 at 10:13 am | Report abuse |
      • Peggy J. Canada

        Sorry, bout that... I shall read the whole article , thanks you guys. Just frustrated about the whole thing.

        August 7, 2012 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Bolaji09

      You misread that, Peggy. She was quoting her sister's input. Let's all be slow to judge.

      August 7, 2012 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Fact Check

      Actually Peggy, the columnist said that was a comment made by her sister in a moment of candor and frustration... not the columnist herself! Although I have mixed feelings about the article, I urge you to read carefully and in its totality before you post any comment!

      August 7, 2012 at 10:56 am | Report abuse |
  73. READreadREAD

    De- you forgot shoes, rims for cars, and hi-def tv's instead of books.

    August 7, 2012 at 9:42 am | Report abuse |
  74. chuck f

    Dear author, Do a google images search for women gymnasts and you will see 100's of black, white, asian, mexican girls all with the same exact hair style.

    August 7, 2012 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Lei

      She was responding to a cultural phenomenon. The author didn't start this issue, she was giving commentary on something that has manifested into more than just a blip in media. When this happens, a story becomes newsworthy. Whether it makes sense or not (it doesn't), that's her job. Doesn't really make sense to criticize her for doing that, don't ya think?

      August 7, 2012 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
  75. MediEvil44

    Jeez, stop the pain, man!!

    She is a GYMNAST–and just like dancers and MLB catchers, they are EXPECTED to have busted feet!!

    August 7, 2012 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |
    • KEVIN2121961

      Med, yes I did notice and as a fan I expect nothing less then perfection in toe nails and hair style

      August 7, 2012 at 9:49 am | Report abuse |
  76. adunbar

    It is true that Black Americans are judged more critically over appearance than White Americans. I've seen it in practice while teaching for 28 years. However, the author knows better than to lump hair relaxing products in with other "trying to fit in" claims. Anyone who has ever spent literally hours combing out the tangles of a black child's hair while the pain of the process brings the kid to tears knows the worth of products that help. It's a matter of what is practical....not a matter of trying to fit in with what is supposedly acceptable with white culture.

    August 7, 2012 at 9:40 am | Report abuse |
    • ChrisCintheD

      That's because many of us were never taught how to handle our natural texture. Why? Because from the age of about 5, the hair is heat-straightened and chemically straightened after age 10. It has nothing to do with managability when you're never taught how to manage it. How many of our moms tried to comb our kinks with a small-toothed comb? How many ripped through our hair, ends first? How many children are allowed to wear two-strand twists, dreds, or even an afro?

      Think critically.

      August 7, 2012 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
  77. EyesThatSee

    After seeing Miss Douglas in action and being able to see her physique in still shots I don't think I would have noticed had she been bald. Trying to tear her down is cruel and an act of jealousy. I hope many wonderful opportunities will come her way as a result of her hard work and self- discipline. I hope her future will be as bright as her pink costume!

    August 7, 2012 at 9:40 am | Report abuse |
  78. Aaron

    "For our own self-esteem and for the dignity of our group, we strive to appear our best."

    As you should. White people do this as well, or at least the majority. Those that don't shop at Walmart. Looking our best is indicative of pride and self respect. Choosing to do anything else leaves us wearing sleeveless t-shirts, John Deere baseball caps, or with our pants halfway down our thighs.

    August 7, 2012 at 9:39 am | Report abuse |
  79. Susan

    This just shows we as Black folks still have a long way to go. This child just made history for heavens sake! Celebrate it and stop being so shallow. Could this be why Black women are usually over weight, can't swim or won't do anything that involves sweating? We'd rather let our health go to hell and cut our lives short than to sweat our hair back!! This child is gorgeous with an amazing gift. Stop the pettiness. This is why Blacks as a whole haven't moved forward as a group! We are too busy pulling each other down about crap that doesn't even matter, instead of supporting each other as a community.

    August 7, 2012 at 9:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Jill American

      Susan, well said. And I want you to know that this white German/Danish American is quite proud of my fellow American Gabby for her courage and grace. I am also especially appreciative that my brown skinned daughter has a young woman of color like Gabby to see herself in.

      August 7, 2012 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
  80. Jennifer

    The whole talk about her hair is ridiculous. She's an elite athlete and did her hair like the rest of her team. It's gymnastics, not a pageant. Gymnasts wear their hair pulled back to keep it out of their face. A bun, dew drop, or pony tail is as uniform as a leotard. I'm guessing none of the people who are focusing on her hair instead of her 2 gold medals have accomplished much themselves.

    August 7, 2012 at 9:39 am | Report abuse |
  81. kiki d

    This is the first that I've heard anything about Gabby's hair "issues." Seriously? The girl floats around the gym like a butterfly and won a gold medal, what does HER HAIR have to do with anything?? If you want to talk about Olympic hair then talk about the entire U.S. gymnastics team and that lazy ponytail bun thing that they all have, including Gabby. That's how I have my hair when I wake up in the morning, not how I go out to compete on an international platform! And the scrunchies that everyone seems to be wearing, UGH! Scrunchies went out about four Olympics ago, did no one send Russia and the other Eastern European countries a "tweet" about that?? In all seriousness though, these athletes are just that, ATHLETES! They're not in London competing for smoothest hair or best all-around blow dry. They're running, and jumping, diving, leaping, sweating, and working their @sses off to win medals. Focusing on their hair or anything other than their pure talent, dedication, and devotion that they all have to their respective sports is absurd and insulting.

    August 7, 2012 at 9:38 am | Report abuse |
  82. KEVIN2121961

    Gabby is going to have major problems in her life being an African American gold medal gymnist.

    August 7, 2012 at 9:38 am | Report abuse |
  83. Pamela

    Leave Gabby alone! Her hair is not the issue and anyone making it an issue is extremely superficial and has never, ever, competed in sports. This is the Olympics, not Miss America. None of these athletes should be concerned with how they look. They are in London to compete in a sport not a beauty contest. In one of the earlier Track and Field heats I saw a female runner, not from the US, wearing a headband, sunglasses and more jewelery that I have ever wore in my life, and guess what? She lost her heat. Want to know why? Too busy trying to LOOK good than actually being good. Gabby is staying focused. Her hair could be everywhere for all I care. Her job is to compete as best she can. Here hair has NOTHING to do with it. Leave her alone!

    August 7, 2012 at 9:37 am | Report abuse |
    • KEVIN2121961

      Pamela, her hair IS an issue. If you know anything about gymnastics, poise and grace count.

      August 7, 2012 at 9:45 am | Report abuse |
  84. Mike

    And another thing, since when is this about Africa? Gabby Douglas is an American. She won the gold for the U.S.A. Not for Africa.
    From now on I demand that everyone refer to me as an Irish or German American then. After all I probably have more recent roots to my parents fatherlands than most "African" Americans do to theirs.

    August 7, 2012 at 9:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Jill American

      At one time it meant something for the first Irish American to win a medal, and same for a German American, Italian Smerican, etc. etc. I am only second generation American so I know first hand the stories of my German and Danish ancestors and the pride that my grandparents had as being the first Americans in their families. Just because African Americans are late to the party doesn't mean they shouldn't celebrate it that way if they wish.

      August 7, 2012 at 9:42 am | Report abuse |
    • TOOBAD S. SAD

      I hope this is reply all, but I could not agree more with Julia. Gabby is amazing. She is not only extremely talented, but has much grace and poise. She has an outstanding personality and appears to be an all American young woman that we can all be proud of. She has worked hard to get where she is at and that work ethic will take her wherever she wants to go in life. God bless her.

      August 7, 2012 at 9:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Lisa

      So black people can't self-identify as "African-American" anymore? And where did Tiya Miles mention anything about Africa? Please be quiet.

      August 7, 2012 at 9:51 am | Report abuse |
  85. whocares

    This article is offensive, please stop trying to tie our self esteem or lack thereof to our hair. Every race has issues with their hair. hating your hair is a individual issue not a race issue. Look at the poor 26 year old white guy that goes bald. Cmon do you think that guy has esteem issues, he probably does just like the 26 year old black guy that goes bald. Hating your hair is not about race. I never considered that blacks had the lock on hair hate but its always some sister that has decided to go "natural" that wants to act like we feel inferior because of our hair. Your hairstyle or again lack thereof and whether you feel good as a person about it is mostly about maintenance. Everyone has a bad hair day, no matter if youre hair is nappy or thinly straight. I have never ever ever heard a sister say, "OMG I hate being black because of my hair." I always thought that we were envied because we have the most diveristy in hair styles. We do talk about hair, but not because of our race it is mostly because the lack of maintenace or differences in style choices.

    August 7, 2012 at 9:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Meghan

      Your point is not valid. Obviously it is not Gabby who has the issue with her hair, it is all the other African Americans who went to Twitter and Facebook that have the problem. So apparently it is what they "define" themselves by.

      August 7, 2012 at 9:57 am | Report abuse |
  86. NICOLE

    I don't understand it, if i'm running around jumping and flipping and all that the LAST thing on my mind as an african american woman would be a nice hairstyle. Her hair was appropriate for the activities she was doing, who has time to deal with hair when you have to concentrate on what you are there to accomplish and that's winning that GOLD medal. The focus is wayy off and for it to be on her hair is just way out of line. This who story just makes me sick and i'm glad to see that Gabby shut it down as well and hasn't let it become her focus!!

    August 7, 2012 at 9:30 am | Report abuse |
  87. pamik

    Gabby doesn't have to represent anyone but herself. She has shown the world that apprarently her gymnastic skills and gold medal are what she's interested in, not how everyone looks at her hairstyle. She's a beautiful young girl whose achievements speak for themselves. Lay off the poor thing and let her have her glory.

    August 7, 2012 at 9:29 am | Report abuse |
  88. Mike

    Well until this article I hadn't heard a word on the girl's hair. This writer is the one bringing it up and making it into something bigger than it was, which was probably an off handed comment by one person that was seen by a minute number of people and now tons of people know about it.
    sometimes people need to just shut up and leave well enough alone. Like this writer.

    August 7, 2012 at 9:28 am | Report abuse |
    • DJ

      Mike, you obviously have not been intuned to what's going on. On the day Garry won her gold, it was overshadowed by comments about her hair. This is not a useless article. People need to get something in their heads and not be so concerned with whats on it.

      August 7, 2012 at 9:43 am | Report abuse |
  89. KTH

    Of all the things to be said about that young lady, her hair shouldn't be included on anyone's list. She is a wonderful athlete (obviously since she has two gold medals around her neck), she is dedicated, works hard, and so very pleasant. She's always smiling and is so gracious; to top it off – she's only 16. Her work ethic, her dedication to her sport, her teammates, her coach and her family is something that we each can learn from and aspire to. I am so proud of ALL of them and Gabby is a wonderful role model for girls and boys alike (no matter color, creed, or – in this case – hair style or texture). They make us all proud. Who really cares about her hair? really?

    August 7, 2012 at 9:28 am | Report abuse |
  90. idonteven

    More like first Black American (But even that doesn't matter). Africa is a different country in these olympics. Get rid of these damn politically correct labeling. You are here, you are born here, you are an American. End of the story. If you want to "Live to your roots" than I guess technically we are all iranian-americans.

    August 7, 2012 at 9:27 am | Report abuse |
  91. Jason

    Petty worries from a petty country.

    August 7, 2012 at 9:27 am | Report abuse |
  92. New Gawker

    No one is focusing on her hair. The author is looking for a racial angle because that's all black people can write about.

    August 7, 2012 at 9:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Henderway

      Obviously, you're NOT black. Because if you were, and you read the article for it's content, not once did the writer mention any other nationality other than African-Americans. And, her point, since you obviously missed it while you were search for the race card in your wallet, was to admonish African-Americans to support those hard-working black individuals and see their talent instead of focusing on superficial outter appearance.

      August 7, 2012 at 9:59 am | Report abuse |
  93. Josh

    Ever seen a swimmer's hair in the height of swim season? It's way more offensive that this little girl's.. and who cares?

    August 7, 2012 at 9:25 am | Report abuse |
  94. ChrisCintheD

    No one is obligated to like the girl's hair. We comment on the appearance of athletes all the time. You telling me no one tweeted/FBed about any Olympian's appearance other than Gabby's? The real question is, why is the media so fixated on rummblings about Gabby's hair? Who cares if her hair was messy? If it was, it was...just like some of the Russian girls looked like they had no edges. And? If the issue is minor...why make it major?

    August 7, 2012 at 9:25 am | Report abuse |
  95. Kate

    by the same token, should we complain about all the female swimmers.. how dare they step on the medal platform with tangled, frizzy, damp hair? Hair Dressing is not an olympic sport.

    August 7, 2012 at 9:25 am | Report abuse |
  96. me

    This girl has given years of her young life to train, resulting in a GOLD medal and people have the audacity to criticize her. WOW! She is to be admired for her strength and determination.

    August 7, 2012 at 9:24 am | Report abuse |
  97. Net

    Parallel bars are only in men's gymnastics. Gabby and all of the other lovely female gymnasts compete on uneven bars. Also, its unrealistic for Gabby to wear her hair more styled while doing gymnastics.

    August 7, 2012 at 9:23 am | Report abuse |
  98. SueRH

    This is the first I've heard of anything about Gabby's hair and I've been watching her Olympic journey the whole way through. You should have ignored the negativity instead of introducing it to a larger audience. 😦

    August 7, 2012 at 9:22 am | Report abuse |
    • jbcal

      Just because it's the first you've heard of it doesn't mean that applies to others. I had heard about this before this story.

      August 7, 2012 at 9:33 am | Report abuse |
    • MISSRLEV

      Where have you been?

      August 7, 2012 at 9:59 am | Report abuse |
  99. Yep

    Wow, I don't think I once looked at her hair. I've long, long wondered why so very few black women don't wear their hair natural like Gabby. Always figured they were ashamed to go natural but never understood why natural was bad to them.

    August 7, 2012 at 9:22 am | Report abuse |
  100. Concerned123

    I have been watching the Olympics. I feel very proud of all the athletes who have won medals – also the ones that did not win a medal. If you make it to the Olympics you can do something not very many people in the world can do. I think Gabby did a wonderful job and I am very proud of her and all the rest of the Olympians in London. The last thing anyone should be commenting on is her hair. For all those that think her hair should be a priority for her, when you win an Olympic gold medal and become the first African-American to win the all-around in gymnastics please post your picture so everyone can see it. Remember – your hair needs to be perfect no matter how much you sweat or fly through the air!

    August 7, 2012 at 9:21 am | Report abuse |
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