By its traditional definition, to be feminine is to to be unimposing, slight, meek, and certainly not competitive. With a simple search for Laurie Hernandez online, however, these traits and requirements that supposedly define feminity are easily shattered. The 2016 Olympian is broad-shouldered, brawny, and an athlete whose ruthless ambition can be seen in the muscled sprints she takes down runways before hurdling herself off of vaults only so that she can be launched into mid-air.
In a recent interview with Teen Vogue, the New Jersey-born Puerto Rican opened up about her athletic build and how it had once caused insecurities despite the many impressive accomplishments it has helped her achieve.
Promoting her size-inclusive brand Obsess, Hernandez touched on her experience of defying traditional views of feminity.
It might be hard to imagine an athlete having insecurities about the body that catapulted them to Olympic gold, but a recent interview with gymnast Laurie Hernandez reveals that not even international success can shield a woman from the pains of societal beauty ideals.
Gymnastics is a field that Hernandez has been in training since she was five years old. Her body is a mark of the many years of hard work that she has put into securing her competitive titles and status as one of the world’s finest athletes. Still, despite her accomplishments, the Latina shares in her recent interview that she has struggled with image issues in the past.
“Overcoming them was very difficult,” she explained while recalling the many times she was made fun of for her straight figure, one that openly defies the “curvy” stereotypes so often forced open Latinas. “But being part of a community like gymnastics that accepted me with girls who looked similar to me was extremely helpful.”
Support from women athletes allowed Hernandez to appreciate her body for the powerhouse that it is.
Hernandez explains that the more time she spent with other female athletes like herself, ones whose rigorous training days had sculpted out firm arms and narrow hips like herself, she was able to appreciate herself more. “I came to understand that my body was a vehicle for gymnastics and that it gives me the ability to perform my skills,” Hernandez said. “To be able to be comfortable with myself and my body feels like a superpower and I want all girls to be able to feel the same.”
Hernandez’s new collaboration with JC Penny will be available for young girls whose sizes range from seven to 20.