Gymnastics superstar Simone Biles has added another achievement to her already long list of achievements: the cover of Vogue countries.
The 23-year-old five-time Olympic medalist and five-time world champion posed for a stunning shoot with acclaimed photographer Annie Leibovitz for the August issue of the publication – opening up on her ongoing struggle to tackle the Larry Nassar abuse scandal, as well as the discrimination she faced has had to deal with in sports.
Simone’s cover shoot and candid interview coincide with growing criticism of Vogue’s lack of diversity – prompting editor-in-chief Anna Wintour to apologize for ‘hurtful and intolerant’ behavior while facing layoffs.
Central focus: Gymnast Simone Biles posed for a stunning cover shoot for the August issue of Vogue, detailing racism and Larry Nassar’s scandal
Changing Times: The 23-year-old’s shoot is amid growing criticism of Vogue’s lack of diversity – in which Anna Wintour admitted she admitted “ hurtful and bigoted ” behavior
Speaking in a series of conversations between early March and early June, Simone discussed the serious ‘need for change’ in society, describing how she dealt with seeing so few black gymnasts competing in the sport as she grew up.
“Growing up, I didn’t see a lot of black gymnasts, so every time I did, I felt really inspired to go out and want to be as good as they are,” she explained.
“I remember seeing Gabby Douglas win the 2012 Olympics, and I thought if she can do it, then I can too.”
The second half of her interview with Vogue took place as the Black Lives Matter protests flooded the country after the death of unarmed black man George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer and his colleagues.
And while Simone says she is encouraged by the action being taken, it is clear that this is something that should have happened a long time ago.
“We need change. We need justice for the black community, ”she said.
“With the peaceful protests, this is the beginning of change, but it is sad that it was all necessary to listen. Racism and injustice have existed with the black community for years. How many times did this happen before we had cell phones? ‘
Taking a stand: Simone spoke of her decision to come forward as a victim of pedophile physician Nassar, saying she wanted other survivors to be “ comfortable coming forward ”
Anxiety: Simone admitted she was thinking about quitting training for the Olympics when they were delayed because she didn’t want to deal with USA Gymnastics for another year
The gymnast, who is from Columbus, Ohio, also spoke out on criticism of the more violent protests, insisting that people refuse to pay attention when people tried to protest peacefully – noting NFL star Colin Kaepernick, who she says ” lost his career ” after kneeling in matches protesting racist injustice in the US.
“They’ve taken that poor man away all his career,” she said. “And look at us now. It’s working. You just have to be the first and people will follow. ‘
In the years since she competed in the 2016 Rio Olympics – where she won the all-round competition, as well as individual golds in the safe and floor exercise, a bronze on beam, and a team gold – Simone has become much more outspoken about serious business.
Convicted: Nassar was sentenced to 175 years in prison in 2018 in a trial in which dozens of gymnasts shared powerful statements about the impact of victims in court
In addition to using her platform to raise awareness about Black Lives Matter and the ongoing struggle for racial equality in the U.S., Simone has also become one of the leading critics of the American gymnastics treatment of the Nassar abuse scandal, after becoming a of the many victims of the pedophile physician in January 2018 – just over a year after being arrested on child pornography charges.
Looking back on her decision to speak out when she did, Simone admits that she spent a lot of time struggling privately with the abuse she faced – revealing that she refused to address the issue with her family.
“Whenever my parents asked me if my brothers, I just stopped it,” she recalled. Like, ‘No! It didn’t happen! “I would get very angry. ‘
At the time, Simone used social media to talk about her experiences, explaining to Vogue that she was inspired by her close friend and co-survivor Maggie Nichols, who became the first athlete to report Nassar’s abuse to USAG.
In a heartbreaking statement, Simone described herself as “broken” from the abuse she suffered through Nassar, while also admitting that the idea of returning to the training center where those attacks had occurred was “heartbreaking.”
In the days after she spoke out, dozens of gymnasts came forward to share powerful victim impact statements about their own experiences with Nassar in a trial that sentenced him to 175 years in prison.