Black Woman Rising: Gabby Douglas Raises the Bar

This month, EBONY.com launches "Women Up: Black Women Rising," our first editorial series dedicated to empowering and celebrating Black women. What better way to kick off our new series than to feature the awe-inspiring Gabrielle Douglas? The 17-year-old gymnast leaped into our hearts at the London 2012 Olympic Games where she made history as the first Black woman and person of color to win the gold medal in the individual all-around competition and the first American gymnast to win the individual all-around and team competitions at the same Olympics. And this young Black woman is still on the rise.

Nearly a year after the Olympian rushed out to McDonald's to celebrate her gold medals with an Egg McMuffin, Gabby is now the new spokeswoman for the new McDonald's Egg White Delight McMuffin, a healthier alternative to her favorite breakfast sandwich. Considering the high rates of obesity among Americans and in the African-American community specifically, Gabby tells EBONY.com that she's happy to promote this affordable yet healthier option from McDonald's. "Personally, I love McDonald’s [and have] since I was very young. And now that they just came out with the Egg White Delight--and I love egg whites--this is perfect for me. Egg whites definitely have a lot of protein."

But just as important as physical health, Gabby is also promoting emotional health and self-esteem in young Black women with her participation in P&G-sponsored My Black Is Beautiful documentary, "Imagine a Future," a powerful and inspiring film that follows a young Black high schooler to South Africa on a journey to self-discovery and self-love. In the film, Gabby speaks candidly about her own struggles with self-esteem growing up a minority in the gymnastics world. Beyond the non-troversy that was hairgate at the 2012 Olympics, Gabby opened up about hateful comments that her former gymnastics teammates and coaches would make about her skin color and her nose shape, with some even suggesting that she have plastic surgery on her nose to be more successful. But now, Gabby says she's healed from those hurtful experiences and is looking towards the future. 

"I was a little bit younger at that time [when those comments were made, but] it's in the past now. I forgive them. I’m moving on." 

She speaks about how she forgave and overcame these controversies in her second memoir that was just released this week, Raising the Bar, where she also provides tips for young women on how they can raise the bar in their own lives. Taking her own advice, Gabby spends most of her days in the gym preparing for the 2016 Olympics and working to achieve her goal of more gold medals and more history-making. After that, the world is wide open for the young champion.

"After my gymnastics career, I’d really like to get involved with foundations. For college? After 2016, we’ll have to see. It’s kind of hard to fit everything and my gymnastics schedule just because it’s so intense. In the future or down the road, I think there’s going to be a lot of great opportunities for me."

Brooke Obie writes The Spiritual Life column on EBONY.com and the award-winning blog DistrictDiva.com. Follow her on Twitter @BrookeObie