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Going For Gold & Glam: Olympian Michelle Carter Redefines Beauty and Strength

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Olympic gold medalist, commentator, motivational speaker, confidence-builder, and, oh, did we mention makeup artist? Michelle Carter is a true trailblazer who shows girls and women everywhere that you can do it all—without having to compromise your ambition or your femininity. The accoladed shot putter was thrust into the limelight when she placed gold in the 2016 Rio Olympics, making her the first American woman to hold the title since the women’s shot put competition began in 1948. Best of all, she won the gold rocking lipstick and the perfect set of lashes.

Carter, also known as The Shot Diva, unapologetically stands out, and she wants you to do the same. She embraces each part of her identity with style and grace. Keep reading to see beauty through Michelle Carter’s lens.

Beauty, Strength, and Confidence

Carter has been an athlete from a young age, but even before she learned how to throw or “put” a shot, she was interested in all things girly and glam. “My mom tells me the story of my first birthday when she tried to put me in one outfit, but I had another dress that I wanted to wear,” she says. “I even pulled out my little gloves and insisted on wearing those. But when I got outside, I was wrestling with the boys in my pretty dress. My dad insisted on putting me in regular clothes, but I resisted. I’ve always had a love for makeup, as well. As a little girl, I was constantly trying to kiss my mother on the lips. She thought it was just out of love, but I actually wanted to wear her lipstick.”

This individuality and self-certainty followed Carter throughout her adolescence. While other young girls were battling with self-esteem, Carter was standing tall (quite literally) and being comfortable in her skin. Even when she transitioned from an all-Black Christian private school to a predominately White suburban middle school, she never wavered in her identity. “When I arrived, I was the cool, new Black girl,” Carter recalls. “It was all ‘Omg, look at your hair! Why does your [cocoa butter] lotion smell like chocolate?’ They had never met anyone like me, so even though it was sometimes inappropriate, I understood their curiosity. I even ended up bringing shampoo and conditioner for the one biracial girl at school who was adopted by a white family so she could finally learn how to take care of her textured hair. I always kept a connection to my Black community, so I didn’t care if I stood out at school.”

“My parents reassured me in my confidence by telling me that this was the way God made me—and God doesn’t make mistakes,” says Carter. “I was mindful that I’m Black. I was mindful that I developed earlier than a lot of the other girls. I was also mindful that I was so many things that society would normally push out of the ‘normal’ box, but my parents reminded me that this is who I am, and this is my normal. I was also diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia, but my parents affirmed that I could still do anything, it just might take me a bit longer.”

Carter has never let life’s “obstacles” stop her from living her dreams. She lives by a bible verse that says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” and this is her motivation when things get rough. She shares: “When I come across something hard, I can do it because I'm not doing this alone. I know that when things come my way, it's not only a chance for me to show how great I am, but it's a chance to show how great God is. I know that I have Him behind everything that I do.”

Going for Gold and for Glam

With her parents on her side and her dad as her coach, Carter made her first youth world team in tenth grade. “I remember walking around in my Team USA uniform thinking it was the coolest thing ever.” Her next step: college. Carter went on to compete at the University of Texas, where she is now recorded in the program’s hall of fame. After a college career of highs and lows, Carter found herself in the same place as most recent graduates. No job, no money, and nothing to lose. She trained until she was able to place sixth at the World Championships and compete in her first Olympic games in 2008, garnering the attention of a Nike contract and a spot in ESPN’s The Body Issue.

For the first time, Carter began to see herself as a professional athlete. “I’m naturally a problem solver,” she shares. “I fully believe that when there’s a will, there’s a way. So whenever I want something, my next question is what do I need to do to make it happen? If you’re having a hard time finding your motivation, I’d argue that maybe, deep down, you don’t really want it. I think a lot of times we get stuck with what we think we should want, and we hold ourselves to standards that aren’t even ours.”

Carter also believes that embracing femininity doesn’t take away from the seriousness that one can have professionally or athletically. “Makeup is like my war paint. When I'm about to go out there to compete, I decide in my mind that I'm about to kill it, and I'm going to look good while doing it. We look our best for presentations or job interviews, why can’t I do the same on the field?”

Her first Olympic game is also the event that led her to pursue makeup artistry as a profession. When all of the athletes decided to go out, she was one of the few that took time to get dressed up and express herself through makeup. “I inspired the other athletes to start getting more dressed up, so naturally, they started asking me to help them with their makeup as well,” she says. “I started doing makeup for more of my friends, and they asked me if I ever considered getting paid for makeup. I hadn’t, so I looked up classes and found a beauty school to get training. Now I’m a freelance makeup artist, and I can take clients whenever I want.”

Inspiring the Next Generation

Having the confidence to embrace all of the complexities of who you are is something that Carter tries to inspire in young athletes through her camp, You Throw Girl. “I’ve always wanted to do a camp for girls,” she says. “As a plus-size female athlete, there have always been odds stacked against me, but I stood comfortable in my skin. Parents would always ask me for advice about their daughters, so I wanted to create a camp for them that was just as good as any boy’s camp. I wanted the girls to hear from all types of women, so I invited my friends and other Olympians along, too. I want them to see these athletes and know that they are great, but not just because of their skills. I want them to know they can be great women because of their character, and that throwing shot put is just the icing on the cake. I don’t want them to feel like their skill is all that they have to offer the world.”

For women or young girls that might be struggling with fitting in, Carter’s advice is simple: “You’re not supposed to fit in. We are so much better when we embrace the truths about ourselves. Even though I’ve always been a bigger girl, I was recently diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease, which is an autoimmune disease that causes my body to attack my thyroid. It made me put on a lot of weight. At first, I refused to buy new clothes. I would wake up and cry because I would wear a pair of jeans one day, and the next day I couldn’t fit them because my body would swell. But I finally had to accept the truth about my body, so I went shopping and found clothes that fit. If I’m stuck thinking about who I used to be in the past or who I want to be tomorrow, then I will neglect the Michelle of today, and this moment is still valuable. When I walk into a room, people are going to notice me—and I’m going to give them something good to look at.”

Life After Gold: Michelle Carter Announces Her Retirement

For the first time in years, Carter finally has the opportunity to slow down and think about what’s next for her. “After I won the Olympics, I was essentially booked for the next two years. I was unprepared for all of the great things that came my way, and I probably overextended myself. I didn’t want to pass on opportunities because they might be a once-in-a-lifetime chance. I'm the first American to do this, so I felt the pressure of opening doors for the women coming next. The next thing I knew, it was 2020 and the world shut down. I finally had a moment to sit back and reflect on all the things that I did. Sometimes, Facebook Memories pop up, or I’ll see a message or picture of something that I did, and I’ll have no memory of it. I was moving so fast that life was on automatic.

Carter is currently embracing her new season of life after a 25-year athletic career. At the 2020 Olympics, she participated as a commentator instead of competing in the shot put as she had in the past two summer games—an experience that she describes as “the hardest two weeks of my life in many ways, but well worth it.” With a moment of hesitation, she also announces her retirement. “It’s been a long time and I feel it in my body,” she shares. “I can also feel that my attention in other places is starting to become greater, so I know it's time for me to move on.”

While Carter is moving on from track and field, she is excited about the many things she has in the works. She is currently working on a podcast entitled “Podium Life,” where she will share the many lessons she has learned as an athlete living her life on the podium and the scrutiny of the public eye. She’s also strategizing a less formal podcast where we can glean from intimate conversations with her friends.

Lastly (drumroll, please!), the makeup enthusiast and makeup artist will be taking her love for beauty even further with a cosmetics line launching with a hero product we can expect to see soon. If there’s anything we’ve learned from her, it’s that we should embrace the beauty from all areas of our lives, live boldly in the things that make us unique, and in the words of Michelle Carter, “you throw girl!”

Want more Beauty Through The Black Lens? Read how celebrity stylist Lacy Redway is changing the beauty industry. Want in on all the IPSY Glam Bag fun? Take our Beauty Quiz now to get started. Already an Ipster? Refer your friends to earn points, which you can use toward products. Either way, don’t forget to check us out on Instagram and Twitter @IPSY.

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About the author
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Kindra Moné
Kindra Moné is a writer and content creator who works with brands and magazines to create culturally relevant fashion and beauty content. She is also the founder of The Moné Edit: a community and podcast at the intersection of style and wellness.
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Article Last Updated December 22, 2021 12:00 AM