Without This Woman, I Wouldn’t Be A Gold-Medal Winning Olympic Gymnast
My mom doesn't like when people say "my mom is my best friend." She always reminds me that I'm Simone Biles, her daughter — not her best friend.
My mother is the person I am closest with, and I talk to her about everything. Most people would consider her to be my best friend, but I think the word “mother” holds even more meaning and respect. There are often times when I feel like we are friends, but then there are times when she reminds me that she is my mother. She says, “I'm going to tell you how it is and be straightforward with you,” because she wants the best for me.
The first memory I have of me and my mom is being adopted and seeing her and my dad come to visit me and my siblings in the foster home. After adopting us, my mother enrolled my sister and me in Bible study classes and had us attend church with our family, which was new to us.
There was a lot of structure after being adopted. My mom had us help around the house, like clearing the table after we ate and picking up after ourselves, and she made sure we went to bed at a certain time. I’m grateful for her introducing us to our faith, as well as for the structure. Both have helped me succeed and stay grounded.
My mother has been instrumental in all of my success. She made sure that I had the right support to help me with my journey to the Olympics, including the best coaches, training equipment, a sports medicine physician, and a sports psychologist. I don’t think I would have made it to the Olympics without my mother and the support staff she helped put in place for me.
Our relationship is not always perfect, though — from 14 to 16 years old, I butted heads a lot with her. My mom always has to be right, and you know, me being a young teenager, I always wanted to be right. Those years were difficult, but we fixed it with communication. I learned that I always have to say exactly how I’m feeling, so she knows how to handle it.
Without my mother, I wouldn't be as strong and confident in anything I do.
In fact, sometimes she goes with me to my therapy sessions if I can’t quite explain how I’m feeling or just to do check-ups. She taught me that therapy is normal and that it’s OK to get the help I need with anxiety and things I’m going through. I don't mind when she comes with me, because my mom knows me better than anybody.
My cousin Felix told The New York Times a few years ago that I was "Nellie's child all over." My brother tells me that too sometimes. If I say something or I give a look, he’ll say, “Whoa, you look just like mom.” I’m like a younger version of her. I follow everything she does, in and out of the house, from the way she acts to the way she talks. I feel like I’ve picked up a lot of her in me. I have her courage, her seriousness, her ability to do things 100 percent and not be afraid of failure.
The difference between her being a best friend and a mother is that as my mom she has an extra-special role. She has always encouraged me to work hard and chase my dreams and to be the “best Simone,” as she tells me. Over the years, she’s taught me to just be myself and to do everything 100 percent and to not give up. She always taught us to be our own person, and not to let other people’s opinions affect how I feel or what I do.
Without my mother, I wouldn't be as strong and confident in anything I do. Without her adopting me, my life would be completely different. I can’t thank her enough for adopting us into the family and taking that leap of faith.
As told to Celia Darrough.
Bustle's "Without This Woman" is a series of essays honoring the women who change — and challenge — us every day. This Black History Month, we're celebrating Black joy and the women who have helped us find it.