By I. Moregola
During the 2016 Rio Olympics, it was simple to spot the former USA track runner Shannon Rowbury when she took the mark for the 1,500 metres race. This was all because she was wearing bright red lipstick. The colour was triggering at first, many questioned why a two-time olympian would wear red lipstick to run four laps around a track? Well, the answer to this question surfaces on a deeper meaning - to honor her grandmother. However, she was not the only one doing it.
Ali Krieger, a player for the women’s USA soccer team, calls her mascara “war paint”. American gymnastics captain Aly Raisman suggests that her eyeliner gives her confidence.
However, no matter the reason behind wearing makeup, there is one common theme that each athlete shares when it comes to applying makeup for the Olympics: self-expression.
“You can be a strong, athletic, courageous woman and you can wear lipstick,” Rowbury said. “I like being able to be all those things or try to help inspire young women to be all those things...” Her grandma was the one that convinced her into the sports world, where she first started off dancing, which later led her to fall in love with running. When her grandmother passed away in 2011, Rowbury wanted to honor her through her passion for sports. She says that there is no better way than to use her power through running and makeup to represent her family and country, “It's a very nice way to keep her memory alive,” Rowbury said.
Now, buying cosmetics and lipstick has become a hobby for Rowbury and she is even thinking of wearing Chanel’s classic ‘Red pirate’ to the next Olympics.
Soccer star, Ali Krieger, suggests that she started wearing makeup during games after the 2011 World Cup which coincided with the rise of social media. She says that the process of getting ready before a game reminds her of getting ready for a night out with her friends. She also implies that it helps her and her former teammates to set the tone and mindset that they envision for the game.
“It’s kind of this look good, feel good, play good mentality,” Krieger said. “I do feel empowered, I do feel good…” she continued. “You’re not only representing yourself, but U.S. Soccer.”
The makeup world is more common in gymnastics than track and soccer, as it is a performance sport, but Raisman doesn’t go overboard. She used to wear blue eyeliner with a red lip when she was 12 to her performances. The three-time Olympic medalist says that “It’s a patriotic touch and makes me feel confident knowing I’m representing the USA.”
She states that her teammates bond when getting ready and it helps them stay calm and concentrated before the competition. It is also seen as an essential routine before every competition.
The feedback from their fans has mostly been positive and usually comes from young girls wanting to know where they got the makeup from. They say that it is emotional for them to see how they are encouraging young women to feel powerful and pretty. Yet, they still receive some backlash for it, but Rowburry does not care, she says that “It’s important to open people’s eyes to the fact that you can be an athlete and still be into fashion.”