Lifetime has announced that it will be producing a made-for-TV movie about the young life of Gabby Douglas, the first American to win both the individual all-around and team gymnastics competitions in a single year’s Olympic Games, and the first woman of color to take the gold in the individual all-around competition.
Douglas rose to fame, alongside her teammates, during the 2012 summer Olympics, bringing home two gold medals and generally giving off the impression that she was a teen who had a good head on her shoulders despite the uncommon childhood that goes along with winning your first Olympic gold medal at the age of sixteen. Douglas even handled the folks who criticized her appearance as not being put together enough for the camera even though, you know, she was there to make the uneven bars cry, not walk a runway, with aplomb.
The athlete has already published a book about her childhood, one where the conflict between her growing talent and her family’s financial worries led to the difficult decision to leave her family behind and move across the country to train when she was only fourteen. Lifetime’s take goes by the working title The Gabby Douglas story, and will star Imani Hakim and Sydney Mikayla as Douglas as a teen and as a young girl, respectively. Regina King and S. Epatha Merkerson are also on board to play Douglas’ mother and grandmother.
The Gabby Douglas story, and projects like it, are in many ways sort of self-fulfilling prophecies. Sure, it’s a great opportunity for women of color to find acting jobs in an industry where they are at a disadvantage. But studies show that children who see characters who share their race and gender are more likely to feel positively about their race and gender. There are certainly children out there who will find inspiration and courage in films projects like this one, ensuring that there will be more people like Gabby Douglas to make movies about, and more women like Hakim, Mikayla, King, and Merkerson to play them on screen.