Laurie Hernandez on Being a Latina Gymnast

Laurie Hernandez on Being a Latina Gymnast

Laurie Hernandez did not notice she was the primary Latina gymnast to characterize the US on the Olympics in 32 years till it was informed to her, out loud, in an interview along with her teammates. “These have been simply the questions that I saved getting fed,” she informed CelebrityPie. “I used to be like, ‘Oh, one thing’s totally different right here. I do not actually know what is going on on.'”

Hernandez could not consider it had been that lengthy. And on the identical time, “I could not wrap my head round the truth that it was such an enormous deal.” It was solely later that she’d come to appreciate what that illustration actually meant.

Rising Up as an Afro-Latina Gymnast

As a younger gymnast in New Jersey, Hernandez acknowledged subconsciously there weren’t a number of athletes in her sport that seemed like her. “I keep in mind seeing gymnasts like Mattie Larson who had curly hair, and instantly pointing to the display and being like, ‘Mother, that one’s my favourite. She has curls, I’ve curls,'” Hernandez stated. “I used to be gravitating to individuals who seemed like me.”

“I used to be gravitating to individuals who seemed like me.”

Her race was by no means an impediment in her gymnastics profession, stated Hernandez, who’s at present coaching for the Tokyo Olympics. However she is aware of it may be a unique story for others. “It is such an costly sport,” she stated. “There have been instances the place we thought I might need to tug out as a result of it is actually costly. The game is basically powerful, particularly with a household who’s already struggling to make ends meet. Including gymnastics into the combination, that is actually troublesome for Latino and particularly for Black households.”

The Variety of the 2016 US Olympic Gymnastics Staff

In 2016, the US girls’s gymnastics workforce gained gold within the workforce occasion and just about dominated every part else. Hernandez, who additionally took house a silver on steadiness beam, stated the workforce was so good that their range was the secondary storyline. Hernandez is Afro-Latina, Simone Biles and Gabby Douglas are Black, Madison Kocian is white, and Aly Raisman is a Jewish girl — however their races have been removed from the main target.

“We occurred to be one of the best at what we did at the moment,” Hernandez stated. “And we occurred to be girls of shade. The primary story wasn’t on our race. The primary story was on what we did.”

After the Video games ended, Hernandez was struck by the impression she’d made. “The quantity of households that got here up and have been like, ‘Hey, my daughter noticed you and now she needs to do gymnastics since you appear like her.’ We have been simply getting story after story like that,” Hernandez recalled. “That is such an enormous deal.”

With the entire help she’s felt, Hernandez has additionally skilled the destructive aspect of being a distinguished girl of shade. In True Colours, a brand new docuseries on NBC’s Peacock, she tells the story of receiving a racist tweet following her look on {a magazine} cowl. “Somebody had responded, ‘Test her immigration standing,'” Hernandez stated. “I used to be like, ‘Simply wait till this particular person realizes I am a US Olympian.'” On prime of that, Hernandez is a second-generation Puerto Rican — and “Puerto Rico is actually part of the USA,” she deadpanned.

Hernandez laughs at it now, however she’s additionally not afraid to talk out towards informal racism. “There isn’t any purpose for it,” she stated. “The nation’s alleged to be a melting pot. We’re all supposed to return collectively and rise collectively. As a public determine and as somebody who’s bought a stable basis, I can deal with stuff like that. However I, nor anybody round me, nor anyone basically, ought to need to within the first place.”

There’s nonetheless progress to be made, and as a trailblazer herself, Hernandez is aware of it. With regards to range in gymnastics, “Speaking about it and beginning the dialog is necessary,” she stated. Hernandez is in favor of opening extra gyms in new neighborhoods and making the game as accessible to as many individuals as attainable. What range in gymnastics (and in sports activities basically) comes all the way down to, she stated, is “giving everyone a shot, a chance to check out one thing that they might actually fall in love with.”


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