Olympic gold medalist Sanya Richards-Ross dropped by CBS Sports Radio on Tuesday to discuss her memoir, Chasing Grace, which offers a behind-the-scenes look into her life and career. The 32-year-old opened up about many topics, including body-image issues that surfaced in her early 20s.
“As a female athlete in the spotlight, it’s really tough – because it’s not only our performance that’s under a microscope, it’s also how we look and how we carry ourselves,” Richards-Ross said in-studio on The DA Show. “I remember in 2007 when I was diagnosed with this rare autoimmune disease, I started to have awful lesions all over my skin, and for the first time I (had body-image issues). I had never really thought about it before – because as a byproduct of working out and training, you just have a beautiful body. So for the first time, I really started to feel insecure as a woman.”
It got so bad that Richards-Ross began running with sleeves to hide the lesions on her arms.
“A lot of people thought it was a fashion statement and I was being a diva – and that was a little bit of it,” Richards-Ross said, laughing. “But it was more to kind of cover up my own insecurities.”
One day, though, she overcame her anxieties.
“I decided, ‘You know what? I’m tired of covering this up. I’m tired of pretending that it doesn’t exist,’” Richards-Ross said. “So I remember doing a photo shoot with Nike out in Hawaii. It was a big photo shoot, and I walked out, kind of bared it all, and kind of made a joke about it and everyone just kind of took a breath and it just made me feel like, ‘You know what? Beauty comes from within.’ When you know that and when you exude that, people feel your beauty. You don’t have to be perfect on the outside for people to feel that. For me, it really made that something that I live now. Of course I still love fashion. I love hair and makeup. But it doesn’t define me – and I hope that young women can find that for themselves.”
Richards-Ross knows that many young women and girls experience body-image issues, which is why she encourages and empowers them to overcome it.
“Embrace it,” she said. “Embrace it. Enjoy the journey. I remember the freedom I felt when I walked out with my scars. I remember the day I decided that I didn’t care what people put about me on social media, and it just made me a happier person. And so, I would just say embrace who you are, love who you are, be around people that make you feel good and encourage you. That’s what life is truly about. That’s my message to young people: live your truth and be proud of who you are.”
Richards-Ross also discussed her husband, Aaron Ross, who won two Super Bowls with the New York Giants. The couple began dating at the University of Texas and married in 2010.
Richards-Ross was in attendance for both of Aaron’s Super Bowl wins, including the first one (Super Bowl XLII) over the previously unbeaten Patriots.
“It was insane – and it was his rookie season,” Richards-Ross said. “So he got kind of spoiled early, thinking it was always going to be like that. But when we reflect now on our careers, we think about those moments and we’re just so grateful. What a team that was. What an experience. We definitely will never forget it.”
They will also never forget Tom Coughlin, who is known for, well, not having the warmest of personalities. The Ross’, though, were able to get Coughlin to smile every so often.
“We did,” she said. “He had a wonderful foundation dinner that we all went to. He was always in good spirits there. Otherwise, a little bit tough, but always at his foundation dinner, wonderful.”
Interestingly, Aaron, who played for Coughlin from 2007-11 and again in 2013, is never late to anything. In fact, he’s always early.
“With Tom Coughlin, he better be 10 minutes early,” Richards-Ross said, laughing. “Tom Coughlin has scared him straight. If I say we got to be there at 6:30, he’s like, ‘No, 6:30 is late; 6:25 is on time.’ Aaron Ross is still on Coughlin time.”