My entire world changed when I watched a tiny brown gymnast named Dominique Dawes twist and tumble her way to win a bronze medal in the 1996 Olympics. In a sport traditionally dominated by Caucasians, the Silver Spring, Maryland native was like a breath of fresh air amidst a cloud of powdered chalk. And to my mother's dismay, the reason I went about contorting my extremely long legs into high jumps along the brick border of her raised flower beds.
Up until Gabby Douglas' gold-winning Olympic performance, Dawes was the only African-American female to have ever earned a gold medal in gymnastics. The entire world watched with bated breath as Dawes and fellow Magnificent Seven members (including Shannon Miller, Dominique Moceanu and Kerri Strug) earned the U.S.A. its first ever gold medal in the women's team competition. Dawes has given some of her best athletic performances since making her Olympic debut in 1992 while wearing red, white and blue high-cut leotards, matching scrunchies and her signature wispy bangs. And now that she's turned to promoting a healthy, active lifestyle as co-chair of the President’s Council of Fitness, Sports and Nutrition and as part of Michelle Obama “Let’s Move!” initiative, we can't help but notice Dawes' gravitation towards shoulder-baring dresses that show off her toned physique much like the First Lady. If you got it, you might as well flaunt it!
As Dawes' celebrates her 36th birthday on Tuesday (November 20th), we're taking a look back at the gymnast's style. Vote on all her looks in the slideshow below.
Meanwhile, see how the Olympic legend impacted this woman's life.
Flip through our many other style evolutions.
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