In fact, in a recent interview with Fashionista.com, Gabby’s mother, Natalie Hawkins (pictured) , says that this wasn’t the first time her daughter’s hair had come up.
“I started hearing about [her hair] earlier this year actually. I started trying to be proactive about her hair before all of that happened. What is funny is I had someone come do her hair before the Olympics. We put all this effort into getting her hair done and they still didn’t like it!”
Hawkins, who made news earlier this week when it was reported that she had filed for bankruptcy, also says Gabby’s coach and host family in Iowa are partly to blame.
“At this level in her career, hair is somewhat secondary. It was actually her coach who told me that. I was trying to get her into a hair appointment and I wanted to move her training schedule around and he said to me, ‘She’s beautiful. You don’t need to change her hair. We need to focus on training. Hair is secondary. We make time for that after training. Don’t mess with my training time.’ ”
And, says Hawkins, “I don’t think people realize sometimes that she doesn’t live with me. She lives with a white host family and they don’t know anything about taking care of her hair. And there’s no black salons in their area [in Iowa] – not one. We had to work really hard to find a stylist to come and do her hair.”
Hawkins says it’s tough to keep hair looking good when you’re constantly tumbling on it and training for hours on end.
“It’s really been African American women that have come out and attacked her. They don’t know about gymnastics. She has to keep her hair in a ponytail 28-30 hours a week. In gymnastics you’re tumbling around on your hair. You’re falling backwards on it. You’re doing “timers” and your hair is constantly snagging on the mat, and for our hair that’s very detrimental. You’re going into foam pits – and any hair stylist will tell you that foam on African American hair is destructive. It breaks the hair horribly.
“We had to come up with creative ways to keep [Gabby’s] hair looking good. We’ve tried the short hair style, we’ve tried long. We grew her hair out because she preferred long hair. I’m not going to make her cut her hair just to please someone else,” concluded Hawkins.