Olympic gymnast Simone Biles says Black Lives Matter protests are ‘the start of change’: ‘It’s sad it took all of this for people to listen’

Sarah Young
(Annie Leibovitz, Vogue)

Simone Biles has said she believes the Black Lives Matter protests are “the start of change”.

The Olympic gymnast and gold medal winner, who is American Vogue’s digital cover star for its August 2020 issue, opened up to the magazine about everything from competing in sport to body image and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Speaking about how she first became interested in competing in gymnastics at a professional level, Biles said she did not see many other black gymnasts as a child, adding that a key moment for her was watching Gabby Douglas at the 2012 Olympics.

”Growing up, I didn’t see very many black gymnasts,” the 23-year-old said. “So whenever I did, I felt really inspired to go out there and want to be as good as them.

“I was like, ‘If she can do it, I can do it’.”

Biles also spoke about the recent Black Lives Matter protests that have spread across the world, saying: “We need change. We need justice for the black community.

“With the peaceful protests it’s the start of change, but it’s sad that it took all of this for people to listen.”

Biles continued: “Racism and injustice have existed for years with the black community. How many times has this happened before we had cell phones?

“It’s working. You just have to be the first and people will follow.”

(Annie Leibovitz, Vogue)

The sportswoman went on to discuss Breonna Taylor, an emergency medical technician who was killed in March by police after the officers entered her apartment with a “no-knock” search warrant.

Biles said she was happy that Breonna’s case was being reopened, saying: “Breonna will be remembered. She’s going to find justice”.

(Annie Leibovitz, Vogue)

Later in the interview, Biles, who should currently be in Tokyo preparing for the 2020 summer Olympics, which had to be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, also opened up about the negative comments she has received about her body throughout her career, explaining that while she enjoys gymnastics, she does not approve of the “beauty competition” that comes with it.

“No matter how good you are in your sport, in life, in work, the number one thing people talk about is how you look,” she said, adding that when she first began training to become a gymnast she frequently read negative comments about the way she looks.

“They focused on my hair. They focused on how big my legs were,” Biles said.

“God made me this way, and I feel like if I didn’t have these legs or these calves, I wouldn’t be able to tumble as high as I can and have all of these moves named after me.”

Biles urged girls and women wanting to get into sport to ignore such negativity, saying: “You’re still going to thrive. You’re going to become somebody amazing and great.

“You guys are all beautiful, inside and out.”

Vogue’s August 2020 issue is available on newsstands nationwide on 21 July.

Read more

Simone Biles opens up about Larry Nassar abuse