Gabby Douglas featured in VANITY FAIR: Natalie does not hold back on the subject of the racial slights she felt Gabby faced after she began formal training in Virginia Beach, at the age of six. Nor does she hold back about the parents of other gymnasts who, she felt, looked at her as a pariah, an alien, a single black bank employee making around $45,000 a year in the midst of affluent white families headed by doctors and lawyers.
According to Gab by she had run-ins as well with other gymnasts. One day in 2010, in a rush to get to the gym, she left her clothing by her locker; when she returned, her shirt was missing. ‘You don’t actually take by mistake someone’s clothes,’ Gabby said. And when it was apparent that she had no shirt to leave the locker room in, other gymnasts started laughing at her. Another day, a gymnast whose turn it was to scrape the uneven bars of excess chalk tried to duck the job. According to Gabby, the girl said, ‘Why doesn’t Gabby do it? She’s our slave.’ The gymnast was laughing, but Gabby did not see the humor.
Even more painful was an incident several years ago at a party where Gabby says an Excalibur staff member told her she might want to consider reconstructive surgery on her nose because of its flatness. Some other gymnasts had teased Gabby about her appearance, and she found the nose comment ‘very hurtful.’
While the shirt-taking may have been a common locker-room prank, the other incidents were obviously more troubling. Dena Walker says that coaches at the gym, which has been home to many African-American athletes, are on the lookout for racial animus and take action should something happen. Walker denies that anyone suggested Gabby get a nose job, calling the allegation ‘a joke,’ and notes that Gabby never reported any of these incidents. According to Natalie, Gabby does have a tendency to keep things inside, and told her mother about these incidents only recently. ‘I was flabbergasted,’ says Natalie.