How the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics Team Did Their Own Makeup and Hair at Tokyo Olympics: ‘Such a Pain’
The US women’s gymnastics team not only had to relax their nerves and cope with the immense pressure of participating in the Olympics, the six women also had to cope with high-flyers and the “stress” of performing filigree braided hairstyles.
During the opening ceremony of the Games in Tokyo, Simone Biles told her fans and supporters that the team – which includes herself, along with Suni Lee, Jordan Chiles and Grace McCallum, and individual competitors Jade Carey and MyKayla Skinner – were considered each other’s glamor in the moonlight Squad. Most, if not all, of the Olympians who compete in the Games hosted in Japan do their own hair and makeup.
“Yes, we’re doing that. So if we look broken, think about your business LOL, ”joked Biles, 24, on her Instagram story during a fan Q&A session.
Skinner, who did not qualify for an event final and has since left Tokyo to drive home, tells PEOPLE about the team’s preparation behind the scenes and the “teamwork” outside of the competition area. “I’m not very good at braiding backwards. I can’t even do that to my hair, ”Skinner says, pointing to her double French braid. “Jordan just did it.”
The 24-year-old Arizona native adds, “I can’t braid my hair like that because I’m just not good at it. I’m not good at braiding. It is difficult. I got Jordan braid my hair because she’s really good at it. “
According to Skinner, Chiles, 20, was the hair expert for Team USA. “Jordan helped a bunch,” she says. “She made Sunis [hair], Simones and mine. And I think Grace made Jade’s braid. “
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Simone Biles, MyKayla Skinner, Sunisa Lee and Jordan Chiles
LOIC VENANCE / Getty
“It’s fun to have cute, fun braids,” Skinner says of the troop’s coordinated braided styles. “It’s good that we have some girls on the team who know how to braid because I would be in trouble.”
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For the Tokyo Games, international viewers – including the athlete’s family and friends – were banned from entering competitions due to COVID restrictions and protocols. “It’s such a pain,” says Skinner, because he doesn’t have close confidants to help with hair and makeup. “I think, especially since we’re such great athletes, it would be nice if someone could just come in and knock us out and make us look really good in front of the camera.”
In several of the recent (and final) events of her elite career, Skinner has relied on her “lifeguards” – her sister and friends – to do her hair.
“We had a few girls in college who could braid, so they always did my hair. It’s really fun when other people beat you up because then I feel like you don’t have to have that extra stress, ”she explains. “My sister could do my make-up for championships and exams, it was really nice. I feel like I do good make-up, but it’s always nice when someone spoils you.”
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Simone Galle / Instagram
If Biles, Skinner, Lee, Chiles, McCallum, and Carey weren’t already a close group, shedding each other’s hair and relying on each other, they certainly bonded most of their time in Tokyo together.
“Sometimes it gets difficult when we’re all together every day. I feel like we’re itching each other, ”says Skinner.
When the ladies trained at Juntendo University in Chiba before competing in Tokyo, they had stayed in pairs (Skinner and Biles were roommates). But for their time in Tokyo, the women’s and men’s gymnastics teams chose not to live in the Olympic Village and instead chose a hotel near the Ariake Gymnastics Center.
“I have the feeling of coming to the hotel after Juntendo. We all have our own rooms, which helps us detox and relax so we don’t all argue with each other, ”says Skinner. “We all formed different bonds with each other. The girls were all so cute and I couldn’t have asked for a better team.”
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And when they weren’t together in person, the ladies would have a group chat. “We have one with everyone. Then there is only one for the girls. Sometimes we say a little something, but I feel like that’s more of what we’re going to wear or other things like that,” says Skinner.
Overall, Skinner shares that the team had “really fun girl moments” together.
“During training, for example while chalking on the chalk bowl, we only threw away random things, laughed, almost cried. Just a couple of good, different things that I feel we can get rid of, ”she recalls. “We were together and it helped us. If we have this bad day we can crack a joke and get back on our feet.”
To learn more about Team USA, visit TeamUSA.org. Watch the Tokyo Olympics now on NBC.