gabby douglas & natalie hawkins*Unless you’ve been under rock for the past week or two, you know that gymnast Gabby Douglas is on fire.

But hey, when you’re a relatively unknown brown skinned African American girl from a lower income background who goes to the Olympics and becomes a worldwide sensation, people notice and talk and talk and gossip and gossip about you endlessly.

In other words, now that she’s got the attention of the world, and stateside black folk in particular, people naturally want to know more about her.

With that in mind, Essence secured an interview with Miss Douglas and her mother, Natalie Hawkins. The interview cover a number of things, especially the the hair controversy.

Here are some excerpts:

ESSENCE.com: Gabby, you’re only 16 and you’re officially the best female gymnast in the world! So what’s next — what other life goals would you like to achieve?
GABBY DOUGLAS: I just want to continue with gymnastics because I’m still young and fresh. I think can get some more titles under my belt. I want to get one of the American Cup trophies and get some more international experience. That would be fun.

ESSENCE.com: You seem so calm when you’re competing. And you take all this attention in stride. Are you naturally calm or are you just in your zone?
DOUGLAS: I’m definitely in my zone — in my own bubble. I’ve learned how to stay humble. I don’t want to get in over my head because when you do that it takes you off your game.

ESSENCE.com: All of our ESSENCE.com readers are in awe of you and your talent. Who in the public eye do you think is amazing?
DOUGLAS:I’m not gonna lie, I love Usain Bolt and Serena Williams. What I love about Serena is that she just gets on the floor and she dominates. She handles her business very well, and I respect that.

ESSENCE.com: So where will you keep your medals?
DOUGLAS:I’m definitely gonna put them in a shadow box and hang them on the wall. I accomplished something big and that’s a memory I will never forget. I think hanging them on the wall is definitely a proper place. I can always look up there and say, ‘man that was definitely an Olympic moment.’

ESSENCE.com: Natalie, in light of this absolutely ridiculous hair controversy, how do you deal with haters targeting your daughter? Gabby, is this something you’ve talked with your mom about, and does it bother you at all?
NATALIE HAWKINS: I’m extremely protective of my children so my first instinct was to take to my blog. But now I’m in the public view — people are publishing articles about me and my finances and my personal life — I want to handle this in an elegant fashion. I don’t want to bring any negativity towards Gabrielle, but I am going to be protective of her. I thought her hair looked great, I thought she looked beautiful on that floor. I thought she was a wonderful representation for our country, and for African-American women.

From the very beginning I thought the focus should have been on her wonderfully amazing talent, and not on how put together her hair was. I didn’t think it was out of place — it was just slicked back. My daughter has some internal strengths that she exuded that on the floor. She made her dreams come true. That’s where the focus should have been.

Read/learn more at Essence.