Gabby Douglas’s Mom Says She Is a Fighter

One day the world had no clue who Gabby Douglas was. Today the two-time Olympic-gold-medal gymnast is a household name, with millions of fans. Gabby credits her big win to her mother, Natalie Hawkins, who sacrificed everything to help her achieve her dream. At the P&G Family Home in London, MORE sat down with Natalie and learned why Mom is a lioness who will stop at nothing to protect her cubs. Read the edited version of our interview with her below

by Ilyssa Panitz • Celebrity Reporter
gabby douglas olympics image
Natalie Hawkins (left), Gabby Douglas (center), Ilyssa Panitz (right)
Photograph: Ilyssa Panitz

More: Has it been hard to be a single mom?
NH: At times I felt embarrassed to be a single mom. Especially in this sport of gymnastics, where many people involved are people of status, great wealth and a husband. I don’t have any of those things. I don’t have a job title that says CEO of a company or founder of this company. It was definitely hard at times to see where I fit in. Look, there are not a lot of people like Gabrielle that fit into this sport and not a lot of moms like me.

More: Like you?
NH: When I went to meetings, everyone is sitting there with their husbands and I am just by myself. I remember getting e-mails that say “Mr. & Mrs.” on the e-mail chain, and then my name just sits there all by itself. That was hard to overcome. But this is my story, and I am not embarrassed about it.

More: Back to your staying-strong theme.
NH: I am going to own each and every moment of it. This makes me who I am. I love me, and if you can’t love yourself, you are at a very strong disadvantage in life.

More: What do you tell your children when they ask questions about why things are the way they are?
NH:  You don’t have to be ashamed that you don’t come from a wealthy family. You don’t have to be ashamed that you are raised by a single mom. We have a wonderful relationship, which some families do not. I remind them that we are going to look at our strengths and not our weaknesses. I try to teach my children to focus on what we do have instead of on what we don’t have.

More: Sounds as if in some regards you have a lot.
NH: No, we haven’t had a lot. We have sacrificed so much to help Gabrielle stay in her sport. In terms of finances, I bought a very small townhome for us to live in. Although it was small, I did it on my own and I saved my money to pay the down payment. To be able to pay the mortgage every month and give my kids a place to call home was a big deal for me. That was a really big sense of accomplishment for me. It is so tough to purchase a home, maintain that by yourself and provide for four children. 

More: Was it stressful?
NH: It was a pleasure for me to be able to do that for them, but if I had my choice, I would never have done it as a single mom.

More: But there must be some pros?
NH: I own every part of it. I hope that my children are encouraged by what they have seen me do over the years, and it inspires them to achieve greatness in whatever they want to do. It is all about setting your mind to something and focusing on making it happen.

More: Did you give yourself a pep talk when you didn’t want your children to see you cry from all of the pressure?
NH: Not to focus on the negative. Focus on the dream, the possibilities, and push for that. I had to have an objective and push forward. I needed to focus on the decisions that needed to be made. Regardless of my darkest hour, I knew there are some people who have it worse than me. I had four children to take care of and four children who depend on me.

More: Now that Gabby is front-page news, so is your personal life. Financial records and your ex-husband’s troubles are becoming big stories. How do you respond to them?
NH: I saw those reports, and at first I was saddened because I thought the focus would be on Gabrielle and her incredible win. I never thought someone would dig deeper into my life and try to point out private details of my life. It hurt at first. No, it stung because I am a private person. But look, there are people who haven’t always been in our corner, so it is hard to trust outsiders. We definitely stuck together and said we can beat this.

More: You seem surprised by this curiosity of who is Gabby’s mom.
NH: I am not a celebrity. Why put my stuff out there in the public eye?

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