Image c/o: CNN
At the age of 16, Priscilla Frederick-Loomis, Olympic High Jumper, went to a modeling agency in Manhattan, New York, and to much surprise, she was told that she was “too heavy.” When any woman is told that, those words play in the back of their minds for the rest of their lives and permanently change the way they view themselves . At the age of 31, Priscilla says that the words still haunt her. After Priscilla was told this, she was scarred and dissatisfied with her shape, and like many young girls, she developed an eating disorder. Loomis states, “In my head, it was common sense: don’t eat a lot, look better, jump better.”
Continuing to pursue her career in track and field, she states, “When you are trying to be an elite athlete, on the top of trying to get signed on, on top of dealing with coaches, you also have the pressures, one for me, of being African-American female representing a Caribbean Island. And you’re adding on top of all that body shaming.” Body Shaming is the act of mocking or deriding a person’s or your own physical appearance. Clearly, being an olympian athlete puts more pressure on body image and that is emotionally and mentally draining.
According to her track and field coach; Richard Fisher, he shares that Priscilla referred to herself as “the shortest, fattest high jumper out there.” Those words are extremely harsh but, after growing up in a competitive setting, of course she would start believing those things about herself. She shared distinct anecdotes of body shaming throughout her career such as in 2018, at the Commonwealth Games in Australia when she was in fifth place, she went to celebrate by grabbing a beer with friends. However, when she was enjoying herself at the bar, a man who watched her compete earlier on T.V. decided to come up to her and say that if she dropped a few kilos she would have performed better. She also recalls after a practice, Priscilla wanted to reward herself with a little bit of ice cream after a hard day's work, but her coach told her to put it down because she did not need it. This reinforced the negative criticisms, and led her to believe that she was making bad decisions with her food habits. Due to these comments, Loomis said that she would drink an entire pot of coffee to dehydrate herself to appear skinnier on T.V.
However, Priscilla has been working on her well being since the harsh realities of how she was perceived, and the violent ways in which she thought of herself. She is currently working with a female coach named Lauren Biscardi who just happens to be a former New York State Champion in high jump. Loomis shared, “Lauren changed my professional career. She has helped me love training, love myself and has allowed me to feel.” In addition to this, she said that she has ambitions to compete at the Tokyo Olympics and Beijing 2022. We hope to see more from Priscilla and get a glimpse at her healing process.