Gabby Douglas‘ mom said comedian Leslie Jones triggered the biggest display of kindness she and her daughter felt during a difficult time at the Rio Olympics.
“A lot of what I’ve seen and we’ve encountered [on social media] and experienced has been negativity,” Natalie Hawkins said on a Share Kindness panel with Lady Gaga‘s mom and the Today Show parenting team on Wednesday. “I know it wasn’t the whole world, but it sort of felt like it was. We couldn’t go on her time feed without seeing just the most hateful, the most disgusting things.
“Leslie Jones who kind of came to the rescue with the #LoveforGabby hashtag. … That was glorious, in fact. It went so far in making our family feel so much better. It was so hard to see so many people weighing in with so many hateful things and not one ounce of compassion.”
Hawkins said she made a mistake in telling her daughter to “suck it up” when the criticism was affecting her.
“If this is going on at your job, how well would you be sucking it up,” Douglas told her.
“Knowing me and my personality, I wouldn’t have sucked it up,” Hawkins said. “I would have marched down to HR and demand that something be done, and I would not have rested until it was.
“I actually learned a lesson, that you can’t sweep it under the rug.”
Hawkins said she was more proud of Douglas enduring tough competitions in her comeback than during her triumph at the 2012 Olympics.
“You were more of a champion to me in those moments than when you stood on the podium and got a gold medal in London,” Hawkins said.
Hawkins, a single mom, reflected on raising her four kids — Douglas and her three older siblings, sisters Arielle and Joyelle and brother Johnathan.
Douglas left her family in Virginia at age 14 in October 2010 to train with coach Liang Chow in West Des Moines, Iowa.
One story in particular about the London Olympic all-around champion learning about another mom who was struggling to provide for her children:
“When she found out about it, she immediately got online and got them some things,” Hawkins said. “And I think the thing that touched me the most is that she could have gotten those items for free, because she had a partnership, but she said it didn’t feel like a gift. She wanted to take from her own abundance now and share it with someone else.”
Douglas has not publicly said if or when she will return to gymnastics.Follow @nzaccardi