Q&A with Gabby Douglas -- On getting her own 'Shero' Barbie doll and the rising stars of gymnastics
Gabby Douglas twirled into the spotlight at the 2012 Olympics, where she became the first African-American to win the gold medal as individual all-around champion. Fast forward to Rio, she and her "Final Five" squad took home the team gold medal.
Now the 21-year-old is being honored by toymaker Mattel with a one-of-a-kind Barbie doll in her likeness. Along with other pioneering women such as ballerina Misty Copeland and director Ava DuVernay -- Douglas is being recognized as a "Shero" -- a female hero who inspires girls by breaking boundaries.
We asked Douglas about her latest career achievement, why it's important for young girls of color to see themselves through her doll and life as a role model.
espnW: Let's discuss the evolution of the Gabby Douglas "Shero" Barbie. Please explain the origins of the doll up to the release.
Gabby Douglas: First off, I'm just really grateful and so excited. My sister and I would always play with Barbie and [her boyfriend] Ken. We'd always make up these love stories, and it was just super fun. So, it's a tremendous honor to be in the "Shero" collection with other women who have broken boundaries to achieve their goals. I was involved in the process of choosing her body, clothes and hair. It was a fun process.
espnW: Share the importance for girls of color to see dolls in their likeness, and what it means for you to give them that opportunity?
GD: I'm very pleased with how the doll came out, and it looks just like me! It's just very important for a doll to look like you because then you can say, 'Hey, I can go out and achieve my goal.' I want to continue to inspire young girls all around the world and share with them that you can be anything you want to be. If you have a goal -- commit to it and go for it 100 percent.
espnW: Since returning from Rio, you've devoted time to fight cyberbullying with Hack Harassment. Why is it important for you to spread and reinforce positive messages?
GD: I never really knew how much of a big deal cyberbullying was until I was cyberbullied. It was bad, especially during and after Rio. I came back home, and I didn't want just to sit and keep talking about the problem. I wanted to do something about it. That's when I joined up with Hack Harassment. There's a lot of negativity out on the internet. I wanted to make social media and the internet a more positive place.
espnW: Talk to us a bit about gymnastics. Who are you excited to watch?
GD: I was training with the younger generation at Buckeye Gymnastics [in Ohio] with Shilese Jones and Shania Adams. They are both really good and have a lot of potential.
espnW: You've already achieved so much at 21-years-old -- competed in two Olympic Games, won three gold medals, and are now launching your own Barbie Doll. What's next?
GD: There's so much. Three months ago, I released my lipstick line with Beauty Bakerie. I've been doing a lot of speaking engagements, commercial shoots, and hopefully, I can get into acting down the road. There are just so many things that I want to do.
Shana Renee is the founder and editor-in-chief of All Sports Everything and a passionate New York Jets, Knicks and Yankees fan. Follow her sports talk on Twitter at @ItsShanaRenee