After a cancellation and surviving a global pandemic in the process, the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 are finally back on track (in 2021) and gearing up for highly anticipated athletic battles all taking place in Japan. Set to open on July 23, 2021 with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and organizers insisting that measures will be put in place to ensure the safety of athletes and other visitors, as well as a nervous Japanese public, the momentum is full steam ahead, with NBC curating over 7,000 hours of programming and 17 days of the best of the best competing for ultimate bragging rights.
And you know we wouldn't be who we are if we didn't show all the love to the ladies who will be showing up as their full selves, doing the damn thing, and representing for Black women, all up in the place. So, here's a list of some of our favorite women who are headed to Tokyo to bring home the gold:
Disclaimer: Lots of amazing Black women are continually qualifying for the Olympic events, and there are adjustments, drop outs, or additions announced every day. This article reflects who will be present at the time of publishing.
Simone Biles (of course)
Simone Biles has been killing all exercises in gymnastics, and basically kicking all ass and taking names. She has gladly accepted the role of being the face and mentor of USA gymnastics.
Jordan Chiles and Biles are teammates on the US gymnastics team and will compete together in Tokyo. Upon qualifying, Biles captioned a celebration photo of the two:
"Proud is an understatement."
Go kill it, ladies!
The 6'4'' Jordan Thompson, while at Cincinnati, was the 2019 Player of the Year, a first-team All-American and broke NCAA records in kills per set, tallying a school-record 827 kills during the 2018 season. She helped the U.S. win gold at the Tokyo Qualification Tournament in 2019. Her father Tyrone played for the Harlem Globetrotters.
Foluke Akinradewo is a Middle Blocker, born in Ontario, and a two-time Olympic medalist. Her son was born in 2019 and she, in addition to the U.S.ho, lds tri-citizenship in Canada and Nigeria.
Haleigh Washington is a 6'3'' three-time first-team All-American. She was named best blocker at the 2019 Volleyball Nations League, helping the U.S. win gold.
Chiaka Ogbogu has a 10-foot, 5-inch spike touch and led the U.S. in hitting efficiency and kill percent during the 2019 Volleyball Nations League, helping the gold medal-winning effort. Shehas played professionally since 2017 in Italy, Poland, and Turkey.
TRACK & FIELD
Allyson Felix famously kept her pregnancy a secret for several months, continuing to compete when she was four months pregnant. She lost endorsement deals but eventually returned on top. The rest, well, the rest goes down in track and field flex history. She wrote on Twitter:
"It's amazing how quickly your priorities change in moments like this. At that point, the only thing I cared about was that my daughter, Camryn, was OK. I didn't care if I ever ran track again." my greatest love."
Felix also made headlines for paying the childcare for moms competing in Tokyo.
The 25-year-old Texas native, born with a brachial plexus injury that limits mobility in her right shoulder, will compete in the track and field portion of the Paralympics.
One of the most anticipated athletes to compete this year is definitely Simone Manuel, who has shown up for the sport with something to prove. She is part beast, part fish and welcomes the competition in the most humble way. After missing the final in the 100 freestyle, and detailing her struggles, Manuel used a late reach to get to the wall first at the U.S. Olympic Trials and punch her ticket to Tokyo.
The U.S. Women's Basketball team consists of Ariel Atkins, Tina Charles, Napheesa Collier, Skylar Diggins-Smith, Sylvia Fowles, Chelsea Gray, Brittney Griner, Jewell Loyd, and A'ja Wilson. The U.S. team are the reigning champions and is looking for a historic seventh straight gold medal this summer
Rashida Ellis was one of the first six boxers to qualify for the Olympics so far. The 25-year-old hails from Lynn, Massachusetts, and will be making her Olympic debut.
Another one to qualify for the Olympics, is 23-year-old Oshae Jones. She will represent USA Boxing in one of two new weight divisions on the women's side. Fun fact: Jones is coached by her dad, Otha, and one of her two brothers, Roshown. Both of her brothers have been professional boxers.
Naomi Graham ranks No. 1 among America's middleweights and eighth in the world. Additionally, Graham will be the first active female member of the military to compete for USA Boxing in the Olympics (she's a staff sergeant in the Army).
The beloved roster of mainly veteran players who have won World Cups and Olympic gold medals while fighting for equal pay (among other things), are back for their closeup. Their first game representing the United States in the Olympic Games is on July 21, two days before opening ceremonies.
Crystal Dunn spoke on the moment, saying:
"Black women, especially, us existing in spaces that were not necessarily created for them" is not easy. I do think women as a whole, we are a little bit reserved in regards to boasting and sharing our accolades and talking about it in the media. But I think Black women have a whole other level of cautiousness regarding that, because we often do feel like we are just happy to be here. And I'm like, no, no, no, no, I'm not here to survive. I'm here to thrive in this environment."
Michelle Moultrie's road to the Olympics is finally here! The 31-year old has played on the U.S. National Team since departing Florida in 2012 and with softball not part of the London Olympics (2012) or Rio de Janeiro Games (2016), she has been anticipating her Olympic debut.
Paige "McFierce" McPherson, is a 30-year-old Afro-Filipino taekwondo competitor has been training six days a week for her third Olympics. She won the bronze medal at the 2012 Olympics and is the first American woman to make three Olympics in taekwondo.
Coco Gauff (has since withdrew due to COVID)
The 17-year-old Coco Gauff, currently ranked 23, earned her place as American No. 3. She will play for the U.S. in women's singles and will be the youngest Olympic tennis player in 20 years (year 2000). Although Naomi Osaka will be competing for her birthplace of Japan, you can be sure that both of them ladies will be there to support each other's BGM from the sidelines.
The 28-year old Oakland native earned a title in 2019 as the U.S. women had their best showing ever at the world championships with a total of three gold medalists. Now Jacarra Winchester will be favored to reach the podium, if not win it all, in her Olympic debut.
Back in July, she wrote on Twitter:
"In 1 month I will be going for gold, in Tokyo, along side these wonderful ladies. I have never met a group of women more persistent, hardworking & talented. TeamUSA is ready"
After barely missing the mark to qualify for the 2016 Rio Games, Tamyra Mensah-Stock is now on her way to Tokyo to compete on Team USA's wrestling team. Originally a track star, Mensah-Stock serves as the current women's world champion in the 68kg category. Black women are taking over everywhere!
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This was first evident more than a decade ago when she quit her job as the corporate executive of a Fortune 500 company during a Periscope livestream. “I’m not sure if there’s an alignment of [our] future trajectory. I’m going to work for myself. I'm promoting myself to work for myself,” she said at the time before flashing a smile at the viewing audience. As she resigned on camera, a constant stream of encouraging messages floated upwards on the screen.
By 2021, she’d fashioned her work as a corporate consultant and her personal life with her husband and three adopted daughters into a reality show, She’s The Boss, for USA Network. This year, she released the New York Times bestselling memoir Nothing Is Missing, written as she was in the process of getting a divorce and dealing with her eldest daughter’s struggles with substance use.
Convinced that there’s no way the 39-year-old has achieved all of this without intentional strategic planning, I asked her about it when we spoke less than a week before Christmas. I’d seen videos on social media of her working on 2024 planning for other brands, and I wanted to know what that looked like following her own year of success.
She listed a number of goals, including ensuring that the projects she takes on in the new year align with her identity “as a Black woman, as an African woman, as a mother, as someone who has lived a [rebuilding] season and is now trying to live boldly and entirely as themselves.” But, I was shocked by how much of her business planning also prioritized rest.
Despite the bestselling book, a self-titled podcast, and working with numerous corporations, Walters said she’s been taking Fridays off. This year, she doesn’t want to work on Mondays, either.
“A lot of us think we work hard until retirement hits. I want to progress towards retirement,” she said, noting that she’ll check in with herself around March to see how successful this plan has been. The goal, Walters said, is to only be working on Tuesdays and Thursdays by sometime in 2025. “It is intentionally building out what I know I would like to have happen and not waiting for exhaustion to be the trigger of change.”
"A lot of us think we work hard until retirement hits. I want to progress towards retirement... It is intentionally building out what I know I would like to happen and not waiting for exhaustion to be the trigger of change."
Walters said the decision to progressively work less was partially in response to her previously held notions about her career, especially as an entrepreneur. “When I first started, I thought burnout was a part of it,” she said. “What I didn’t realize is that even if you’re able to bounce out of burnout or get back to it, there’s a cumulative impact on your body. If you think of your body as a tree and every time you go through burnout, you are taking a hack out of your trunk, yes, that trunk will heal over, and the tree will continue to grow, but it doesn't mean that you don’t have a weakened stem.”
But, the desire for increased rest was also in response to the major shifts that occurred three years ago when she was experiencing major changes in her family and realized her metaphorical tree was “bending all the way over.”
“One of the things we have to recognize, especially as Black women, is that there is this engrained, societal, systemic notion that our worth is built around our productivity,” she added. “That is some language that I think is just now starting to really get unpacked.” In recent years, there’s been an increased awareness of achieving balance in life, with Tricia Hersey’s “The Nap Ministry” gaining attention based on the idea that rest, especially for Black women, is a form of resistance. Even online phrases such as “soft life” and “quiet quitting” have hinted at a cultural shift in prioritizing leisure over professional ambition.
"One of the things we have to recognize, especially as Black women, is that there is this engrained, societal, systemic notion that our worth is built around our productivity."
If companies are lining up to consult with Walters about their brands and products, then women have been looking to her for guidance on starting over since she invited them to livestream her resignation 12 years ago. As viewers continue to demand more from content creators in the form of intimate, personal details, Walters has navigated her personal brand with a sense of transparency without oversharing the vulnerable details about her life, especially when it comes to her family.
The entrepreneur said she’d been approached to write a book for several years and was initially convinced she was finally ready to write one about business. “I started to do that, and then I went through my divorce. When that happened, I said, why would I write a book telling people to get the life that I have when I’m not sure about the life that I have,” she said.
Instead, she decided to write Nothing Is Missing and provide a closer look at her life, starting with being born to immigrant Ghanaian parents (“You need to know my childhood to know why I’m passionate about entrepreneurship.”) through the adoption of her three daughters and eventual divorce. Despite her desire to share, however, she said she felt protective of the privacy of her family, including her ex-husband.
When discussing this with me, Walters said she was reminded of a lesson she learned from actress Kerry Washington, who released her own memoir, Thicker Than Water, just a week before Walters’ book release. Washington’s memoir grapples with family secrets, too, specifically the fact that she was conceived using a sperm donor and didn’t learn about it until she was already a successful TV star. While Washington reflects on how the decision and subsequent deception impacted her, she’s also careful to hold space for her parents’ experiences, too. “A lot of things she said was that she had to recognize where she was the supporting character and where she was the main character,” Walter said.
This is something Walter worked to do in Nothing Is Missing when discussing her daughter’s struggles with addiction. “I was very intentional about making sure that I did not reveal more than what was required,” she said. “If I say something about someone’s addiction, I don’t need to go into the list of the substances they used, how they used them, what I found. [I don’t need to] walk into a room and paint a picture of what it looked like for people to understand.”
Walters said some of the most vulnerable moments in the book barely made a ripple once it was released. She was extremely nervous to write about getting an abortion, she said. But no one has asked her about this in the months since the book was released. Instead, people have been more interested in quirkier revelations, such as the fact that she once appeared on Wheel of Fortune.
“I have bared my soul about this thing I went through in my youth that has changed me for people, and people are like, ‘So how heavy was the wheel when you spun it?’” she said, chuckling. “It just goes to show that people never worry about the thing that you worry about.”
With the success of Nothing Is Missing, Walters said she still isn’t planning to release a business book at the moment. But, as she navigates parenting a teenager and two adult children while also navigating a relationship with her new fiancé, Walters said she believes she has at least one or two more books to write about her personal journey. “There is sort of an arc of where my life has gone that I know I’ve got something more to say about this that I think is important, relevant and necessary,” she said.
In just three years, Walters’ life has undergone a major transformation. There’s no telling what the next three years will have in store for her, but it seems likely she’ll retain an inspired audience wherever life takes her.
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History was made in more ways than one at the 66th Grammy Awards. One of the biggest highlights was Tyla accepting the first-ever award for African Music Performance for her hit song "Water." The melodic masterpiece, which took over our TikTok feeds back in August of 2023, has proved to be much more than a trend—last night earning a solidified spot in history.
The #TylaWaterChallenge was undoubtedly one the most popular dance trends sweeping social media in 2023, with dance icons like Ciara even joining in on the fun. The viral craze would later earn Tyla a performance spot at the coveted "New Years Rockin' Eve" in Times Square, with the new artist only releasing the song less than five months prior.
Tyla Makes History at the 66th Grammy AwardsPhoto by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
The South African songstress was up against stiff competition, including Afrobeats superstars Burna Boy and Davido, for the history-making African Music Performance award. The honor marked the Grammy's first acknowledgment of African music and Afrobeats after 66 years of existence. To say the least, it was a moment the superstars and their predecessors had worked extremely hard for.
xoNecole spoke to Tyla after the historic win in the Grammys media room. "Afrobeats has already started booming all over the world, which I'm so happy about," she said. "It's about time." She continued, "I just feel like this is going to open so many more doors for us back home and introduce our music and our culture to so many more people, which we've been wanting." She concluded by thanking The Recording Academy for giving African music the platform.
Tyla's self-titled debut album is slated for release in March of 2024, and she's already earned her first Grammy to set the tone. To say Tyla's "future is so bright that we need sunglasses" would be an understatement.
Congratulations, Tyla! This is truly a moment Africa will never forget.
Tyla On Her History-Making Grammy Winyoutu.be
Feature image by Leon Bennett/Getty Images for The Recording Academy