#TeamBlaria, it has not been a good week for Lolo Jones. First, the New York Times published a scathing article from Jeré Longman entitled For Lolo Jones, Everything Is Image a mere three days before she was set to race in the 100M hurdles. Then, yesterday in the 100M hurdle finals, she failed to medal for the second straight Olympics, and finally, she cried during her Today interview this morning, which turned her appearance into a pool of sadness like it was a scene from the Rhianna/Eminem video Love the Way You Lie:
Yep, not a good week for the US media’s track and field star. So I can’t blame her for tearing up. She lost again, which only confirms many people’s criticism of her. And seeing her cry sure is a bummer. But can I be honest and objective for a second? Despite some of the vitriol displayed in the ill-timed NYT article and there was plenty, isn’t it in fact true that Jones is hands down the most famous and popular track and field star when she has, frankly, not delivered on the big stage when it counted? Furthermore, isn’t the amount of media coverage – Time Magazine, the Today, and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, to name a few - insanely disproportionate to what she has achieved thus far in her career? Now, this isn’t me sipping on Haterade, rather like Uma Thurman in Kill Bill Vol. 2 when she got shot in the leg with truth serum, I simply have to be honest and state the facts even though I have love for Lolo.
In 2009, Jones posed nude for ESPN the Magazine. This year, she appeared on the cover of Outside magazine seeming to wear a bathing suit made of nothing but strategically placed ribbon. At the same time, she has proclaimed herself to be a 30-year-old virgin and a Christian. And oh, by the way, a big fan of Tim Tebow.
If there is a box to check off, Jones has checked it. Except for the small part about actually achieving Olympic success as a hurdler.
Ouch! This is an excerpt from Longman’s article, in which he manages to come off like Brittany Murphy’s character Tai from Clueless:
Longman totes came off “way harsh, Tai,” especially in this excerpt because like Tai and a lot of other people, he made the critical error of getting personal instead of sticking to the facts. He sounds like he got into a fight with his friend and lashed out,”Oh yeah, well, then why is your mama running around with the Time Warner cable man?” It’s like, damn, really, you’re going to put all that business out in the streets? So by going for the personal – Jones being a 30-year old virgin and a Tebow fan – instead of keeping his article strictly about her failures as an athlete, Longman essentially opened the door for people to discredit the facts, which people shouldn’t, and to come to the rescue of a media darling, who doesn’t really need rescuing.
For example, the main charge hurled at Longman is that he’s sexist because he called out the fact that she has posed nude for ESPN Magazine and is scantily clad on the cover of Outside. Normally, I’d be right in line with people here, except the point that he’s making is that these photos are what is keeping her in the national conversation. Yes, she has won two World Indoor Championships (in 2008 & 2010), but she has yet to live up to the hype of her being the next great track and field athlete on the Olympic stage. Hell, Phelps didn’t win a gold medal in every race this Olympics and there were murmurs that he’s not good anymore (those people are idiots), but Jones finished seventh in the Beijing Olympics in the 100M hurdles and her fame skyrocketed. Huh? Based on what? Certainly not winning. You know what other seventh place finishers get? Ignored and maybe a $25 thanks-for-coming-to-the-Olympics iTunes gift card, if you’re lucky. Or cussed the hell out by their coaches if they are Russian. But not Jones. She got more endorsements, more photo shoots, more hype. So, yes, the way that Longman went about stating this fact was bone-headed, but is he wrong? If Jones was unattractive with her same kind of resume, the media wouldn’t care about her. The photo shoots and the interviews are what is keeping Jones in the media spotlight.
Yes, it shouldn’t matter that Jones poised nekked before, but it clearly does because the nekkedness isn’t backed up by the talent. In fact, the nekkedness overshadows the talent. Like Longman wrote, Jones has done everything but win a medal at the Olympics, which is supposedly the reason why we are supposed to care about her in the first place. So if outside factors overshadow the reason(s) you’re supposed to be cared about then there are going to be problems. For example, people rightfully don’t take Kim Kardashian seriously because she doesn’t have talent, yet is in the public eye because she’s constantly nekked. Yet when Oscar-winning and supremely talented actress Helen Mirren posed nekked ass nekked in a bathtub, with her boobies floating at the top of the water, like freshly cooked gnocchi, we were all like, “Do you, girl. Do you.” Why?!
Because Mirren’s claim to fame isn’t about her looks or the fact that she’s a GILF. Her resume as a film and TV actress is the reason why we care about her. It’s the reason why she got famous and continues to work. So I think the same would hold true for Jones. If she medaled at the 2008 and/or 2012 Olympics, the photo shoots and the personal backstory wouldn’t be the main thing keeping her in conversations.
I mean, everyone loves a good backstory, right? Jones has triumphed over a lot of hardship in her life. No one can deny that. She has worked hard to become the athlete she is today. No one can deny that either. However, the glaring fact is there are other US track and field athletes who are simply better than her. Who have proven their greatness under the same pressure that she is under, yet they haven’t gotten anywhere near the same kind of validation, respect, or financial opportunities that Jones has gotten. I mean, isn’t it rather telling that the Today show interviewed her because she lost and didn’t even bother to interview Dawn Harper and Kellie Wells, who respectively medaled silver and bronze? It was like, “Let’s interview the pretty girl with the backstory who cried after losing again instead of the people who won silver and bronze.” I know that sounds harsh, but it’s baffling to me that someone who has not delivered when it counted is having the US media collectively console her, when someone like Tebow, who Jones is a fan of, has been trashed in the media during his entire first season in the NFL. He gets dissed for shilling underwear. For having pictures of him running in the rain plastered everywhere. For being overhyped. Yet, no one is like, “Aww, poor Tebow.” It’s not about sexism. The fact of the matter is people like a victim. Tebow doesn’t fill that role. Jones does, whether she planned to or not.
So how about we change the narrative? The real problem isn’t that people are mean to the very sweet Jones; the problem is that nearly every other American track and field star is in the shadows of Jones when they are all more talented/accomplished more than her. What about Carmelita Jeter, Dawn Harper, Kellie Wells, Allyson Felix, and Sanya Richards-Ross? All five have medaled (Harper, Jeter, Feliz, and Richards-Ross have medaled more than once) and where are their interviews? Their plentiful magazine covers? Their numerous national endorsement deals? The acknowledgement that they are THE top female track and field athletes? For instance, some people were shocked when Wells scored a bronze medal in the finals. Why? Her, as well as Harper, have consistently had faster times than Jones, so for anyone to think the outcome would be any different than it is makes zero sense to me.
All I’m saying is everyone needs to take it down a notch. Quit pretending that Jones’ claim to fame isn’t tied to the fact that she is a beautiful woman with a heart-tugging backstory, who has so under delivered on the hype machine that she helped create (if anyone thinks that the hype machine happened without her input, then you are greatly mistaken. The average person in the media spotlight is much more savvy and shrewd than you think. She didn’t get this far in career without being savvy enough to get sponsorships, endorsements, etc.). Let’s stop pretending that if she was unattractive and didn’t medal, people would care. Newsflash: no one would give a fuck. Yes, Jones is talented. But there are people who are more talented. And that sucks. It sucks that she can’t live up to the expectations that she helped set. It sucks that she has so much pain in her voice when she discusses her losses. It sucks that she gets criticized. But if you’re going to constantly put yourself in the spotlight, then you better deliver. You can’t take credit for the wins and get the glory without taking credit for your failures. Thems the rules.
**Don’t forget, y’all:
I’m headlining Carolines on Sunday, August 19th at 10pm, so get your tix by calling 212-757-4100 or going to http://www.carolines.com/comedian/phoebe-robinson/ and use the code “COB10″ to get $10 tix. Thx, y’all!**