In case your news feed has been a little preoccupied with stuff like Bill Nye’s budding TikTok career or the end of the world in Florida (understandable), you may have missed that Olympian Simone Biles is Vogue Magazine’s August cover star. But why would we care about a magazine cover? They come out all the time! Well, this one’s special.
Biles, 23, has 30 Olympic and World Championship medals, by Vogue’s count (she honestly has no idea herself), making her the most decorated gymnast of all time. And she got there as a woman, a Black woman, and she’s still going for gold into her 20s -- a feat not many female gymnasts undertake.
“Growing up, I didn’t see very many Black gymnasts. So whenever I did, I felt really inspired to go out there and want to be as good as them. I remember watching Gabby Douglas win the 2012 Olympics, and I was like, ‘If she can do it, I can do it,’” she said to a group at New York’s Lower Eastside Girls Club as part of Japanese skin care brand SK-II’s #NoCompetition campaign, as reported in Vogue.
Biles talked to the Girls Club about the focus that’s been put on her looks despite her skills throughout her life, even as a kid, but how she’s appreciated her body the way it is for the abilities it’s given her.
“...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,” she said.
It’s not the fact that she’s an insanely talented Olympian that makes her Vogue cover so stunning, but how the magazine chose to feature her: as the strong athlete she is. It would have been easy -- heck, expected -- for Vogue to dress Biles up in a sweeping gown with pastel makeup and do her up like a traditional cover model. It wouldn’t have even been jarring; the world saw Biles dressed up exactly like that when she was on “Dancing With the Stars” in 2017.
Biles, standing 4’8” tall, is an adorable little human. She’s dainty and loves a good high-waisted jean, and she shows off that side of her often.
But Biles is also muscular, toned, with limbs that feature her years of training and discipline, and that’s how Vogue chose to portray her. This gravity-defying gal is more than any one side of her, but I just have to applaud the magazine for choosing the strong, durable, inspiring side.
It’s a way of shining a light on what beauty, and it’s ever-changing expectations, means in this world. Stigmas around...well, every part of a woman’s body are ever-present -- it just depends on the day. Strength is just recently becoming more appreciated as something a woman should strive for; weight-training at the gym is just now becoming more widely understood as a necessary facet of weight loss and fitness as a whole. Women have been avoiding healthy exercise because they don’t want to look “bulky,” and here Simone Biles is taking up important real estate in Vogue Magazine looking like a lean, mean fighting machine. And I’m so, so here for it.
Yes, Vogue goes on to dress Biles up just like I mentioned earlier: in a flowy, Dior Haute Couture dress. But she’s kicking her sculpted leg up into the air so high it’s literally parallel with her torso. Biles, at the hand of the magazine, is demonstrating how she blends femininity with strength, something that women everywhere seem to think demands a choice.
Hot take: You can be both.
“No matter how good you are in your sport, in life, in work, the number one thing people talk about is how you look,” Biles said, “You’re still going to thrive. You’re going to become somebody amazing and great. You guys are all beautiful, inside and out.”