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Last week, everyone was celebrating Simone Biles and then, Simone Manuel. Both young, black, American women competing in the Olympics, one in gymnastics and the other in swimming. Both earned gold medals. Simone Biles won the women’s individual all around gold medal in gymnastics. She’s headlining as the “world’s best gymnast.” Simone Manuel became the first African American woman to medal in an individual swimming event.

It’s been an amazing week for two women named Simone.

But before the competition, there was this.


This headline and story written by the Independent Journal, starts out supportive enough. Praising Simone Biles for her talents and skills, it gives a brief overview of her accomplishments. And then the writer includes a cliffhanger written in bold…to keep us reading through the story. “And to think, none of this would have been possible without adoption.”

And then, the writer labels her as a kid with a troubled past, birth parents who couldn’t raise her, and explains how she was eventually adopted and raised by her grandparents. Because of this rescue and the opportunities she was then given, she became the most successful gymnast in the world.

I think it was supposed to be a “feel good” story. I think it was supposed to show how this little girl was rescued and raised in a loving home and given opportunities she otherwise wouldn’t have had. But instead, the headline captured on an extremely personal background that perhaps she didn’t want to share. It also failed to celebrate her accomplishments because it put them in the “overcoming obstacles” category. This young woman should be celebrated for who she is. She shouldn’t be a success story “in spite of.” She should be a success story “because of.”  I know everyone loves a good back story, but this time, instead of putting it as an extra addendum to the champions of this young gymnast, they made it the main event. Not cool.

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The NBC sportscaster Al Trautwig even went so far as to say that she was raised “by her grandfather and his wife and calls them mom and dad.” What does that mean? Her parents are not her parents?  He started a media frenzy.

What did Simone have to say about all this? She said, “My parents are my parents, and that’s it.”

See? No story there. Go Simone.

And PS: Her birth mother has since spoken up since the Independent Journal article was written. Perez Hilton reports that she’s totally changed her life since then, sees Simone on a regular basis, and wasn’t thrilled at all to be labeled as a drug addict, as she’s been sober since 2007. No small achievement.


This girl does a have a backstory. But she’s also incredibly accomplished, adorable and has a lot to say. Let’s let her say it, tell her own story, and create her own character.

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