Cover story: Gabby Douglas — historymaker at 16
By// Joyce E. Davis
It had only been a few days since Gabrielle Douglas won two gold medals at the 2012 Olympic Games in London when JET caught up with the teen sensation. But she was already famous. Murals and collages of the pint-sized powerhouse gymnast were popping up all over her hometown of Virginia Beach, Va. Three-year-olds were recognizing her at restaurants — and losing their minds. She’d received shout-outs from icons such as Beyoncé and Aretha Franklin, and was chopping it up with First Lady Michelle Obama on Jay Leno’s couch on The Tonight Show. Next up: David Letterman and Oprah Winfrey tapings, which were already inked on her calendar.
Life has certainly changed for Douglas. The 4’11”, 90-pound, 16-year-old, also known as the Flying Squirrel, catapulted her way into history scoring several firsts: the first African-American woman, and female of color for that matter, to win the gold medal in the Women’s Individual All-Around; and the first American gymnast to win both the team and individual gold at the same Olympics. Even before leaving for London, Douglas knew she could have a big impact on her community.
“The whole point of the Olympic Games is to inspire a generation. I always wanted to play that role,” says the member of the “Fierce Five” U.S. women’s gymnastics team, which was the first to bring home the team all-around gold medal since the 1996 Olympics. “I thought about how I would impact younger girls. I want to let them know everything is possible if you put your mind to it.”
TO READ MORE OF HER INSPIRING STORY, PICK UP THE NEXT ISSUE OF JET MAGAZINE, ON STANDS MONDAY, AUG. 27, 2012.