Reavyn Rogers on the start line of the USATF Outdoor Championships (© Getty Images)
The way my family is structured is there’s a lot of women. A lot of dominant women. A lot of independent women. Women who are strong enough to understand and be involved in sports. And that’s kind of how I am. But I haven’t always been this strong.
It’s funny when people look at me and assume I’ve always been this fierce, confident person, because when it comes to confidence, I haven’t really had any growing up.
When I was in middle school, I remember – not a lot of people know this – but when I was younger there were some guys saying “she’s like a guy”, just because I was good in sports, good at track and field. I wanted to be like a girly girl so, so bad. I would literally look up on wikihow “how to be a girly girl” and it’d say “polish your nails”, “your favourite colour is pink” all those weird rules and guides.
Now it’s funny thinking back to it – like what the heck?
But it shows how determined I was to prove I was a girly girl, to be seen as feminine and to be not compared to a guy. I was really sheltered by my family. I was scary and I hated to lose, too. If someone would beat me in a race, I’d go to my mom and be whining “but this person is going to run, I can’t do this”. I used to throw up before I’d go on the track to race.
As I got older, I would say experience rather than success contributed to me growing as an athlete. After all, I’ve been running since I was five. I don’t think anyone just has confidence, I think it’s something that just has to happen gradually.
It’s something that girls nowadays need to recognise: that it’s okay to be good at sports, that it’s okay to go out there and go up to a guy and race them if you want to. A lot of sports in general, they don’t allow women to showcase themselves for who they are or the way they look.
Being on the Oregon track team, we were all on the same page. We all thought, “if we’re gonna run good, we’re gonna look good too. If we’re gonna be on TV, we’re gonna look the part.” And I am not bashing people who don’t wear make-up! I’m just saying that’s how I work, that’s how my team saw it. This year we posted a picture of our 4x400 relay and someone left a comment asking “why are you guys running in make-up? Isn’t it gonna sweat off?”
The way I see it, if it’s not affecting my race, then it should be the way I want it to be. If I want to look this way, if it gives me an extra edge, then that’s what I’m gonna do. Once the foundation starts to run into my eye, ok, then that’s a problem. But until then I will continue to express myself the way I want.
People don’t know what I went through when I was younger to try and be like a girly girl. Portraying myself as the blossoming flower from when I was younger means a huge deal to me.
Everyone has different reasons for wearing make-up. For me, it’s like a form of war paint. The black lipstick is something my team and I would like to do if we knew there’s a big goal. You want to look fierce and strong. We’re women and we’re doing sports and we do it well.
When I’m at the starting line, I don’t smile.
I might look intimidating, but it’s just me trying to get in the zone and not showing what goes on in my head. I still get nervous. I get butterflies, really bad butterflies, but I put on a mask and don’t try to show that.
That’s something I wish I had when I was younger, someone strong and fierce to look up to on the track. I really look up to my mom. There’s three venues for athletics in Houston, and she is the first female to be running one of them. To have an accomplishment like that in your family, I really look up to her for the sacrifices she’s made for me. But it’s not the same as having a big sister to look up to on the track.
I’d like to be a big sister to other girls out there. I get messages from young girls and I try my best to be as honest as possible when responding, because I wasn’t really bold enough to ask when I was younger. I’d just try to figure stuff out on my own.
To be in a position to pass on advice is something I take very seriously and encourage girls out there to be the best they can be. It’s something that I don’t mind doing at all. When a young girl comes up to me and says “I want to be like you” I always say “no, be better than me, make a name for yourself”.