Simone Biles ranks among the world’s top athletes, having amassed more world championship medals than any other gymnast. The 22-year-old sportswoman was the face of the USA female gymnastics team at the 2016 Rio Olympics, in which she won five Olympic medals, four of them gold. She is featured in Yahoo’s list of top athletes in the last 25 years in sports. But she often finds herself being judged by very different standards – the unrealistic beauty standards of the online mob.
That’s why Biles is glad to continue her fight against backward concepts of beauty in SK-II’s campaign against toxic competition, “Beauty Is #NOCOMPETITION”. On 4 March, the beauty brand did an epic takeover of the billboards in New York’s Times Square to tease “VS”, an SK-II STUDIO animated series which highlights women’s daily battles with beauty standards.
“When it comes to beauty standards, there shouldn’t be rules or limitations – nobody should dictate how we should look,” Biles told Yahoo Lifestyle Southeast Asia. “I hope to inspire women to do what they want to do without worrying about what they look like.”
SK-II partnered various Olympic athletes to call out the toxic competition in beauty that women face every day. SK-II STUDIO’S upcoming series, titled “VS”, features animated versions of top athletes fighting personified monsters associated with unrealistic beauty standards.
The six animated films are based on the real-life experiences of the athletes, who include Biles; swimmer Liu Xiang; table tennis player Ishikawa Kasumi; badminton duo Ayaka Takahashi and Misaki Matsutomo; surfer Mahina Maeda; and the Japan volleyball team, Hinotori Nippon.
In the animated series featuring Biles, she transforms into a larger-than-life digital avatar and takes down a 60-metre tall "Beauty Troll King" made up of actual comments and tweets from beauty trolls about how she looked or behaved in the course of her gymnastics career.
The trailer for “VS” was launched at SK-II’s Times Square takeover event. Its global release will be announced at a later date.
Biles has long been subject to mean comments about her looks from online trolls. Netizens have criticised her about her hair and weight, and for not conforming to the standard notion of the female form. But she has learnt her own ways of coping and fighting back against cyber bullies.
“They’re always commenting on what we look like, our weight, our hair, and how big our shoulders are,” said Biles. “The thing is, without those big shoulders, we won’t be powerful enough to do what we do. They used to call me a ‘swoldier’ for being muscular, and it didn’t feel great – I ended up wearing sweaters or jackets the whole year just to cover my arms.”
Now, Biles won’t apologise for doing her best in her own sphere of talent, despite people’s unfair perceptions of her physical attractiveness. “There are times when I get upset because I’m not what everyone wants, but I just remember what I’m here for. I’m here to do my gymnastics, not to think about how I look, if I’m too big, or if my shoulders are too bulky. This body is mine for a reason, and the muscles and shoulders are there for a reason too. They help me in my sport, so I try not to look at comments and it helps.”
What does she think defines true beauty? “For me, it means finding your inner strength in what beauty is to you and what makes you feel beautiful. Once you find your inner beauty, then it can shine through, and you can be yourself.”
“I feel pretty whenever I go out and compete, putting on makeup and putting on my leotard,” Biles added. “But I also feel good in my raw, natural state – fresh out of the shower with no makeup and just chilling with my friends. That’s what I look like every day, and I’m comfortable like that. I also like to take baths, do some skincare routines, and do my nails. All these things make me feel beautiful. I use makeup to enhance my features, not to hide things I don’t like about myself.”
This content was produced in partnership with SK-II.