In the corner of a quiet restaurant in Coachella Valley, retired 11-time Olympic medalist, Allyson Felix, is beaming. That’s because she’s talking about the most important person in her life: her 4-year-old daughter, Camryn.
“It was really funny … She’s used to going to a lot of track meets and watching a lot of track on TV. And one day, she just kind of turned to me. She's like, ‘Mom, are you still a runner?’”
After all, the last decade has been a whirlwind for Felix, who has become the most decorated female Olympian in Track and Field. She has also been outspoken about her traumatic birthing experience and the high-profile breakup with Nike after the shoe titan reportedly sought to reduce her pay during her pregnancy.
As a result of openly challenging her former sponsor, Nike changed its policies to strengthen maternal rights for its sponsored athletes, and other brands followed suit.
Felix said through her example, she hopes to impart to her daughter the importance of advocating for yourself. She also wants to make sure she learns the following life lessons:
Always know your worth
“The majority of my career, being a sponsored athlete, I felt like I wanted to be this perfect image -- doing everything right, not getting in any trouble and making sure, you know, I put my head down, do the work and get the medals,” Felix said.
There was also excessive noise from others, including those who told her she was too old to compete, or that she should move on to a different career because she was now a mom.
“I felt during that time period [that] no one believed in me … It was just a lot of criticism from outside,” said Felix who said it was an experience she never wants her daughter to face. “I always want her to know her worth and to be able to stand firm.”
Find your voice
Felix shared a moment she had in her daughter’s nursery, shortly after giving birth to Camryn at just 32 weeks, when she realized she had to speak out against Nike.
“I had been asked to do something for Nike, be a part of their Women's World Cup campaign, and I'm looking at my daughter who just like, had this fight for her life. And it was just this very deep calling where it was, like, ‘I have to speak,’” Felix recounted.
This time, she didn’t care what others might think. Speaking out not only helped strengthen maternal rights for female athletes, but it made her feel better about the world her daughter was coming into.
“I just want her to be strong and confident in who she is and give her the tools to be able to stand on that,” said Felix.
Show up authentically
Felix said she wants to tell her daughter: “You don't have to only do the work, you are so much more than that.”
She recounted once feeling like, “Well, no one's gonna care about my opinion on this or, you know, I'm an athlete, I'm supposed to stay in this lane. I think every single person no matter what career you're in, [needs to remember] you're a whole person. You should be able to show up unapologetically as you and whatever that means for you. I hope that as my daughter grows, that she can show up as herself and bring that to whatever she's doing.”