Gabby Douglas Memoir: Gymnast Nearly Quit To Work at Chick-Fil-A

Olympic gold medalist, Gabby Douglas’, upcoming new memoir Grace, Gold, & Glory: My Leap of Faith has many surprises, but the biggest may be that the champion nearly quit entirely last year to go into a career in fast food, namely for a counter job at Chick-Fil-A. The young adult title will be released on December 4, and is positioned as an inspirational autobiography for teen girls. Douglas’ candid story of coming back from the brink of giving up, to become the first Black woman to win the individual all around title is the stuff of Things White People Like dreams.

Yet Douglas, a young black woman from the South in a wealthy white sport, faced fierce racism, which nearly drove her to quit. In her memoir she wrote, “I can get a job at Chick-Fil-A in Virginia Beach and live off the 14-grand I just won at World Championships.” She continues, “I just want to be a normal teenage kid.” The cultural divide between Douglas and her athletic peers is even apparent in what the 15 year old considered to be, “a normal teenage kid.” The “white people” thing to do would have been, “#120 Taking a Year Off.” Douglas’ version of packing it in was to get a job and support herself as a minor.

TWPL satirically explains, “When someone goes through a stressful experience they usually require some time off to clear their head, regain focus, and recover from the pain and suffering.   Of course, in white culture these experiences are most often defined as finishing high school, making it through three years of college, or working for eleven months straight with only two weeks vacation and every statutory holiday.”

Douglas endured years of grueling physical ordeal, long estrangement from her family, and mean girls taunting that was more Jim Crow than Regina George. The only break she wanted was the ability to work for a living. Douglas not only showed up her racist detractors by becoming an Olympic hero, but also, contrary to those who’re mocking her choice of blue-collar industry, by being an incredibly classy kid.  

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Marni Chan

Marni has a M.A. from NYU's Arthur Carter Journalism Institute's Cultural Reporting and Criticism Program, where she studied under Susie Linfield, Katie Roiphe, and Dennis Lim. She also has a B.A. in history and politics from Pomona College. Marni has previously written for Forbes, AOL, and Conde Nast Traveler.

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