Nowadays, many artists, athletes and entertainers dream of going viral to show off their skills to millions. However, although the moment might have positive outcomes for some, for others it can shine a negative spotlight on things the world doesn’t accept.
This was the case with UCLA gymnast Katelyn Ohashi. She went viral when she got a perfect 10 on a floor routine that celebrated the music of Beyoncé, Tina Turner and more. Video of the performance garnered over 55 million views on Youtube earlier this year.
With such flawless execution and a joyous personality, you’d think Ohashi would be all smiles after going viral. However, her newfound fame had negative backlash as well. Ohashi said she was the victim of a lot of body shaming comments online.
“I feel like, a lot of times, I’ve felt alone when I was going through all this stuff,” Ohashi told CNN Sport’s Patrick Snell. “Social media portrays one side of a person that they don’t mind you seeing, but the other parts are hidden and not so openly talked about.”
Instead of letting the foul-mouthed Internet keep her down, Ohashi decided to speak out on issues such as body shaming and she even started sharing her story of living with a rare skin disease and ulcerative colitis. She discusses it all on a blog she started with her friend Maria Caire.
At the ESPYs awards, where Ohashi won “Best Play” and “Viral Sports Moment,” the 22-year-old called out body shamers:
“I would definitely say I am aware, because I receive messages and it’s so heartwarming to hear people reaching out — like, ‘I’ve been able to remove my bandages,’ or ‘I related so much to your blog post’ and things like that.”
Ohashi has endured a lot in her young years, including major injuries and eating disorders. In an interview with Marie Claire, Ohashi explained:
“We would measure our thighs and if we couldn’t fit our hands around our mid-thighs, then we’d stop eating for the rest of the day. Whenever we’d go to a party where there was a lot of food, we’d feel so bad about eating that we would go to the bathroom and throw up without realizing that’s an eating disorder.”
Ohashi said she’s received a lot of support for speaking out on her experiences and she only hopes that athletic organizations will provide the space for athletes to speak out more.
“If we are on the same page and understand how important the athlete voices — which you can start seeing — everyone’s kind of been on the same page of openly speaking out on issues,” she said.
Hopefully, Ohashi’s voice will spark more positive viral moments.