Simone Biles: criticism of my body has ‘gotten me down at times’

Simone Biles is the most decorated gymnast in world championship history. She has a total of four moves named after her. Simone was the most decorated gymnast at the Rio Olympics, along with swimmer Katie Ledecky. She’s getting ready to head to the Tokyo Olympics this summer, and as part of her run-up to the games, she partnered with beauty brand SK-II to send an important message about ending the toxic competitions around appearance:

Biles, 22, and the beauty brand this week launched a campaign to put an end to beauty competition. The goal of #NOCOMPETITION is to raise awareness about unnecessary comparisons and judgements, and to inspire women to embrace what beauty means to them — and no one else.

Joining Biles in the campaign are . . . badminton duo and Olympic gold medalists Ayaka Takahashi and Misaki Matsutomo, table tennis player and two-time Olympic medalist Ishikawa Kasumi, surfer Mahina Maeda, world-record holder swimmer LiuXiang and the members of the Japan Volleyball team.

Biles tells PEOPLE that it’s time we shed more light on this toxic culture of negativity.

“Personally, I feel like it’s something that’s not talked about a lot — especially in the athletic world — and I think it’s a really important conversation to have. And I don’t think I’m the only that feels that way, so partnering with SK-II was neat for me because [together] we get to bring this topic to the surface.”

In 2016, Simone told Hoda Kotb that a coach had called her “too fat” in 2013, which devastated her. Simone shared the news of her campaign with SK-II on Instagram, and talked about the terrible things about her body that people have said to her, and how they have hurt. That post is below and People excerpted some of the text:

“In gymnastics, as in many other professions, there is a growing competition that has nothing to do with performance itself,” she wrote. “I’m talking about beauty. I don’t know why but others feel as though they can define your own beauty based on their standards.”

Biles continues: “I’ve learned to put on a strong front and let most of it slide. But I’d be lying if I told you that what people say about my arms, my legs, my body…of how I look like in a dress, leotard, bathing suit or even in casual pants hasn’t gotten me down at times.”

[From Instagram via People]

Simone says, “I am standing up for myself and for everyone that has gone through the same.”

This is a campaign with a beauty brand, but it’s such an important message. It’s mind-boggling and heartbreaking to me that Simone has had to put up with comments like the ones from the coach and others who feel that it’s completely acceptable to comment on her appearance at any time because she’s an athlete whose body is the center of attention when she’s competing. I hope that the campaign helps shift the conversation around body image away from toxic beauty standards and that Simone brings home more medals this summer!

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kinda unbothered

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26 Responses to “Simone Biles: criticism of my body has ‘gotten me down at times’”

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  1. Digital Unicorn says:

    She’s amazing, I haven’t followed gymnastics for a long time (I was a Shannon Miller stan) and I know she’s had to put up with so much sh!t. Go girl and keep winning gold.

  2. Sara says:

    This woman is one of the greatest athletes the world has ever known. Yet like Serena Williams and countless other amazing sports women she has to wade through this toxic sludge of crap.

    It’s sobering to think that people look up to the physiques of instamodels and tear down someone like Simone.

    • Juju says:

      My daughter is into gymnastics and we are huge Simone Biles fans. She is awe inspiring with her talent and her perseverance. We have tickets to the Finals for the Olympic Trials and I have been freaking out thinking about watching her perform live. I admire her so much.

    • sue denim says:

      I was just thinking how one of the Williams sisters was on Oprah years ago talking about what she didn’t like about her body. And I remember thinking, wow, can you even imagine Andre Agassi then or any great male athlete now disparaging his own body in any way, when they’re literally at the top of their game? The male gaze is so internalized for us…good for SB for standing up for herself. And btw, she’s gorgeous!

    • Paige says:

      Sara-you nailed it-could not have said it better than this

  3. Cate says:

    She is the GOAT and people are going to judge her body of all things. Good lord get a life. Simone is an amazing and incredibly talented athlete and not that it should matter but also very beautiful. I’m so proud of her for doing this for all the little girls who may need the support and strength.

  4. Lucy2 says:

    I hope the “coach” who said that to her feels enormous shame every time Simone wins another gold medal .

  5. JanetDR says:

    Simone is such an amazing athlete! She has so much power! I’m disheartened but not surprised that she has gone through body shaming. Plus, how gorgeous has she grown to be?!!!!!!

    • whatWHAT? says:

      “She has so much power!”

      and that’s pretty much the ONLY thing I’d say about her body/physique. The POWER she demonstrates when she performs. I’m constantly amazed that someone with such a small stature has such power inside of it. I LOVE LOVE LOVE this young woman and think she is a fantastic role model. I love to watch her FLY! DA GOAT, for sure.

  6. Trish-a says:

    She is amazing. And yes one of the best. She’s perfect. Screw you bullies!

  7. AnnaKist says:

    I’m a teacher, and if I had a dollar for every time I’ve had the conversation, with entire classes and individuals, about refraining from commenting negatively about another’s body, I’d be a billionaire. Now, I’m but one person, one teacher, and given that in my state alone there are over 2300 government schools, I’m certain that every other teacher has done much the same. I know that responsible parents have been doing the same for many years, so I’m struggling to understand why a lot of people, from the very young to the quite elderly, still feel it’s perfectly fine to make such comments about others, especially females. The information is everywhere, but the fools ignore it.

    Not too long ago, I tore strips off my brother-in-law for making such comments about his brother’s three daughters: “Oh, A, C and D would be so much more attractive if she lost some weight/toned her legs/had a breast reduction…” What a prick; as if he’s god’s gift to the world…

    Athletes’ bodies are all different, depending on their sport. One of my friends is an ex-Olympic swimmer. She is very tall, and even though she hasn’t competed for many years, she still has very broad shoulders and muscular arms and legs, whereas a local lady, a champion long-distance runner is built completely differently. Some people need a swift kick in the arse to remind them to stop being so wilfully ignorant and disrespectful, and given a hard lesson in learning to keep their gobs shut.

    I do not follow sports, and am as blind as a welder’s dog, but even I can see Simone Biles is gorgeous, and what an amazing athlete!

    • whatWHAT? says:

      “Not too long ago, I tore strips off my brother-in-law for making such comments about his brother’s three daughters: “Oh, A, C and D would be so much more attractive if she lost some weight/toned her legs/had a breast reduction…” What a prick; as if he’s god’s gift to the world…”

      how gross that he did that. and good for you for standing up for them. I could NEVER imagine my brother OR my BIL saying anything of the sort to or about their daughters OR anybody else’s.

    • lucy2 says:

      I hope one of your comments was “why are you looking at your nieces’ bodies like that?!?!”

  8. Jennifer says:

    She is an amazing athlete, so for people to criticize how her body LOOKS when her body can DO THAT….some people suck! Her body is capable of superhuman stunts, and it is beautiful. Makes me a bit ragey this morning thinking about someone like her having to deal with hurtful comments about something as phenomenal as her body.

    • whatWHAT? says:

      superhuman stunts is about right. she is amazing to watch.

    • Onomo says:

      I would just like to point out that if some of the GOATs of the world (Serena and Simone) get extreme body criticism then imagine the criticism any poor/ fat/disabled /Native or Black woman will get for not meeting the impossible standards of femininity. Imagine the struggle they face in getting taken seriously by doctors, or being believed when they tell their #metoo stories, or even getting basic respect from the world.

      This is why I harp on here about how we need to stop using fat as a slur – it never hurts the powerful men who are those things (Trump, Roger Ailes) but it does end up hurting any woman who is those things and results in women trying to diet and achieve perfect fitness or thinness or perfect health to feel safe under patriarchy and white supremacy.

      Of course I agree no one should criticize Simone’s body, and yet, it pains me to see the reasoning of “wow no one should criticize Simone because she is a gold medalist who can do amazing things with her body, because she is perfect” – because really, no one should criticize her body because she is a human being. Periodt. And even if she was in a car accident and gained 100 lbs due to loss of mobility and was in a wheelchair she would still not deserve to have her body be criticized and she would still be worthy of respect because she is a person who deserves our full compassion.

      Hope y’all can see why it is important to keep the same energy we have for Simone for other women. Thanks.

  9. Spikey says:

    These f*ckers! May the Gods strike them with carbunkles on their *ss and migraines! I know many of you revere Serena but Simone is my Serena. She is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G and I will come for anyone who dares insult her!

  10. Emily says:

    She can win Olympic medals with her body. Her body is more powerful than he coach’s or anyone else who has criticized her.

  11. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    She’s perfection. Period.

  12. Gabby says:

    Go Simone! A role model, a legendary athlete, and she’s barely old enough to drink. Hold your head high, millions are cheering you on!

  13. Naddie says:

    Beauty standards are a cancer.

  14. NeoCleo says:

    How can this young woman be seen as anything but beautiful? Look how strong and graceful she is–look what she can do with that body. It must envy that prompts people to be so awful.

  15. A says:

    I’m not surprised that women’s gymnastics is a discipline where people care deeply about aesthetics over actual function. Never mind the sheer discipline it takes to get good at this sport, the athleticism, the devotion, the effort that these women make day in and day out to do well in such a punishing endeavour. Even at that level, it’s still their appearances that matter above all. It’s disgraceful.

    How many gymnasts and athletes suffer from eating disorders? How many of them have been abused under the guise of training? We all know about Larry Nasser and what he did, but the problems run so much deeper than just the sexual assault. The whole culture of gymnastics is rotten to the core. I remember Shawn Johnson, years ago, joking on Ellen about how she treated herself one day to a doughnut during a school bake sale. Turns out that she had an eating disorder at the time. She was subsisting on 700 calories a day to keep her weight down. A gold medalist at the OLYMPIC level felt the need to eat less than the recommended intake for a grown, normal adult, because she was likely being body shamed behind the scenes and felt desperate and like she had to. Unbelieveable.

  16. Jo73c says:

    It absolutely breaks my heart to think that Simone was made to feel less by the very people who were meant to be helping her be the best.
    She is so powerful and graceful I can’t imagine seeing her as anything but stunning. In fact just remembering her gold medal routine is bringing tears to my eyes now!

  17. Gaby says:

    Simone is amazing! She only radiates light and awesomeness, and her muscles are beautiful.