Gymnastics star Gabrielle Douglas captured the world’s heart with her double gold medal win at the 2012 Olympics. Her inspiring life story hit the small screen earlier this year in the Lifetime biopic The Gabby Douglas Story. The film, which arrives on DVD on April 15, chronicles both the overwhelming odds and positive family environment which birthed a champion. Douglas talked in-depth to BET.com about being the subject of a biopic and her future career plans.
The movie depicts the tough times your family encountered; your parents splitting up, your mom’s illness that caused her to lose work and how you struggled financially. These events were previously discussed in interviews, but were they hard to relive on TV?
It wasn’t difficult because we wanted our story to be out there. We also wanted to show all that we went through — including the disadvantages. The movie really captured the spirit of my family and I. When my sisters, my brother, my mom and I screened the movie, we were pleased. We loved that it showed a lot of joking moments between us. We like to joke a lot. It brought back so many memories, both the great memories and tough ones.
Sometimes in sports biopics (The Greatest and The Jackie Robinson Story), the actual athletes played themselves. Did you ever consider starring as yourself in your movie?
I like the fact that actresses portrayed me, because I don’t know if I would have done a very good job [laughs]! I would have had to go to acting school or something. I was also training during that time and I still have other commitments, so it would have been really hard for me to play myself in the movie.
You were an executive producer on the movie and two actresses, Sydney Mikayla and Imani Hakim, portrayed you. How hands on were you in coaching them in their performances?
My siblings, my mom and I went to the set during the last week of filming. And I felt like a miniature director because I was on the side telling them, "This is how this pose should be and this is how this gymnastics skill should be," just giving them my input.
In interviews you discussed being the victim of racism at your first gym, but that area was omitted from the film. Was there a reason it was left out?
I talked about it on Oprah [Winfrey] and couple of other interviews including my Vanity Fair story, so we didn’t want to touch on that in the movie because I already spoke on it. We just decided to focus on other parts of our story that people may not have known about.
You’ve already experienced and accomplished a lot for your age. What is the underlying message you want audiences to get from your life story so far?
That life is going to be a little hard and tough. My family and I had to make hard decisions and face rough times. But I want people to be motivated in their lives. My family has always believed we walk by faith and not by sight. It works for us and if that can help impact someone’s life that makes us feel good. I want people to be inspired and know their dreams are valid. You can achieve them, even if you have struggles. Your sacrifices will pay off.
As an athlete, I'm sure you stay busy year-round. What's going on for you now?
Right now things are slowing down because I’m in training, but hopefully I will be able to compete this year. Now my main goal and focus is to compete in the Olympics in 2016. I’ll be 20 years old.
Wow, that sounds fantastic. You will officially be a grown woman by then. What challenges do you anticipate that you'll face in gymnastics at that age?
Gymnastics is a young girls' sport, so when people start reaching maturity at age 19 and 20 it gets a little difficult. Right now for me training is the same as it was before. So I honestly believe it will stay the same. I’m still fresh and quick and fast. And my mom gave me a pretty good body type [laughs], and so did the Lord. I’m really thankful about that.
The Gabby Douglas Story is available on DVD on April 15.
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(Photo: Larry Busacca/Getty Images)