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Douglas must stay true to herself
There's something special about making history, but what comes after that?
Gabrielle Douglas achieved things never done before at these Games — including becoming the first African American to win the all-around gold medal, and becoming the first American to win a team and all-around gold.
By her breathtaking performances she already has touched many lives — millions will know her, but there are thousands of young girls, young boys, men and women that she'll inspire and empower to follow in her footsteps.
I can speak from personal experience — the letters, calls, emails, tweets and the way that people interact with me today, 16 years after making history, the touching words of how I've impacted and inspired them is humbling.
But now I can't imagine to what magnitude Gabby is going to do the same in this age of social media. She's got nearly a half of million Twitter followers, and it's rapidly growing.
I love the fact that that there is another African American gold medalist in the sport in both the team and all-around competition. I pray she makes a lasting impact outside the gymnastics arena as I have and continues to strive to do so. And I know I will be right behind her mom and family as one of her biggest fans as she makes an impact outside of the sport.
One of the most touching tweets I've gotten was from a mom who's probably around my age who has a daughter. The mom told me I was a role model for her generation, and now Gabby Douglas is the role model for her daughter's generation. It's so special to get touching tweets like that, and for me to have the joy of being in the arena when Gabby made history.
It warms my heart that this generation of young kids of color — African Americans, Hispanics, you name it — now have a Gabby Douglas to look up to.
It's beyond the African-American community. Her impact in the gymnastics arena will be huge, but what she chooses to do after this will determine the reach she'll really have. It's going to take her some time to figure out who she is — remember, at 16 years old, she's still really young and maturing.
Now, because of this achievement, she'll have to grow up perhaps a little quicker than most — that's what most gymnasts have to do anyway — but she'll continue to pave the way for people. Her historic win will be talked about for generations to come.
From what I know about this young girl, she'll want to leave a positive impact, and she'll hopefully be selective with the people she chooses to surround herself with. Her mother will help with that for sure. With that said, every business opportunity that is presented to her will not always be the best for her brand. She's a business now' and it will take some adjustment to get used to that.
The key to impact is determining what she wants her brand to be and sticking to that. The worst thing she could do is try to please everybody, because that's the easiest way to fail. Less is more when it comes to developing her brand.
And while Gabby is the most accomplished, she's not alone. Don't forget about Danell Leyva and John Orozco. I've been talking a lot about them. While we had high hopes for the men's gymnastics teams that unfortunately fell short, don't forget that these guys are Olympians.
Danell, a Cuban American, won a bronze in the all-around while John is a Puerto Rican from The Bronx — and how many gyms are there in that area? They both have truly lived out their dreams, and there's no reason they should not hold their heads up high.
Many young people are looking up to them, and that's what’s more important than the color or the amount of medals they leave these games with. They are Olympians for life.
All three young gymnasts are impacting and broadening the fan base of gymnastics, and that is a beautiful thing. But when you think about it, there has been an African American on every Olympic team since 1992, except for the last one. So believe it or not, this sport has been diversifying, and being that we are talking about it more, it will broaden that fan base. I'm thrilled to see the impact these young people are going to make.
This young girl will do well with endorsements for a number of years. I don't know if she'll come back for another Olympics Games — I'm not saying she should only come back if she can top what she did, it would be very difficult to repeat and top it in 2016. It's just about following her heart.
It's about not doing things solely for money, it's about listening to the right people — and I think that's the most important out of all of this. She needs to really enjoy the moment, because these moments pass by very quickly.
Should she go into acting, singing, modeling, go to school? It's whatever Gabby thinks is best for Gabby. She's still a 16-year-old girl. I do think she should go to college — I don't care how much money anybody makes, knowledge is something no one can take away from you. But whatever career she chooses to do should be what is best for her and not what others feel is right. At such a young age, she's still got some maturing to do and discover who she really is.
No. 1, put God first. I think that is important for her as a believer to remember that, and I have no doubt that she will. She tweets about her faith, she tweets scriptures, her mother is a strong believer and she is very much a role model for Gabby. Put God first, because there are a lot of people in the world who will try to lead her in different directions that will not help her blossom in the way she is destined to blossom.
Also, she should be selective with the people she surrounds herself with. I went through a period where there were a lot of wolves in sheep's clothing, and I've already told her mom Natalie to beware of that. These people sound good, and they sell good. But if it sounds good, it won't always deliver.
As long as she puts God first, is selective with the people she has around her, and she pursues things that she truly, genuinely loves and is passionate about, that's what will truly be best for her. She shouldn¹t put on a different face to the world, she should just be Gabby. She shouldn't try to be something more or different than who she is. She should just be genuine to who she is, and more than likely she'll make a great impact.
More important still, she will be fulfilled and be able to sleep peacefully at night.