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Black Girl Magic at the Olympics, and What It Meant to Those Who Watched

By Manuela Domingos

There’s something special about the “S” word this summer. Our lovely ladies from Texas, Simone Biles and Simone Manuel may have just proven that there’s Black Girl Fairy Dust spewing on all four corners of the universe. 

20-year-old Simone Manuel from Sugarland, Texas made history when she won gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics. She became the first African-American woman to win an individual Olympic gold in swimming. Simone Biles also had her fair share of fairy dust magic when she won her gold medals for Women’s vault, Women’s team all-around, Women’s floor exercise, and Women’s individual all-around. 

It’s for all the people after me who can’t—who believe they can’t do it.

— Simone Manuel

“It means a lot, this medal is not just for me. This is for a whole bunch of people who have come before me, and have been an inspiration to me,” Manuel said. “It’s for all the people after me who can’t—who believe they can’t do it. And I just want to be an inspiration to others that you can do it.”

Why is this moment particularly significant for those watching?

Just 63 years ago, in 1953, a Las Vegas hotel drained its pool after an African-American woman named Dorothy Dandridge dipped her toe in the water. Now, in 2016, an African-American woman is able to swim her heart out and make history.

It’s simply something that cannot be ignored. What Manuel was able to accomplish surpasses way more than simply becoming the first African-American woman to win gold in swimming. What Manuel was able to accomplish, like she so gracefully stated, was for the “people who came before,” who struggled to have the same rights, who were victims in the face of oppression, marginalized, and beaten down over and over again.

Manuel was able to inspire the little girl whose face was glued to her T.V. screen, elated that another girl that looked like her was able to compete. 

Most importantly, she was not able to just simply compete.

She competed. And she won. They won. 

Black Girl Magic made its way to Rio, showed out, and reminded us that with hard work, commitment and fearlessness anything is possible for black girls and women of all ethnicities. 

Keep up with Manuela on Instagram, @_manuelad!