Saturday, November 24, 2012

FloJo Fastest Woman in the World

Florence “FloJo” Joyner, winner of three gold medals in Olympics track and field, could have been in the movies.

Florence FloJo Joyner, 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea
Florence “Flo Jo” Joyner, 1988 Olympics Gold

Florence “FloJo” Joyner

Long before there was a J.Lo, FloJo splashed onto national television cameras. 

Florence FloJo Griffith-Joyner, track and field star of the Olympics, was as beautiful as any film actress in the movies in young black Hollywood or any other Hollywood for that matter. FloJo's style set her apart in the athletic world and the rest of the universe. 

One reason for the television camera's romance with this track and field star, Florence FloJo Griffith-Joyner, was the fact that she looked good no matter what! Whether she was warming up, coming out of the block, running on the track or winning the race at the finish line in a stream of steam, FloJo looked glamorous. Every woman in the world--young, old, black, white and everything in between--wanted to look so good working so hard while making the job look so easy. 

Florence FloJo Joyner knew the principles and psychology of the appearance of beauty and she applied them.

That's it--the beauty of it all! I know that's how I felt. In my heart I knew winning those races she was working as hard as a man on the docks. But she made the job look easy because she maintained her poise and her extreme beauty at the same time that she won gold at the Olympics. She seemed to know how to keep a flattering expression on her face because she knew magazine and television cameras would capture her every flare and twitch. She was good at her job as indicated by her file photos.

FloJo’s speed at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, won her the title of the fastest female in the world and most glamorous woman in track.

Florence Joyner on Cover of Sports Illustrated
Florence Joyner
Track & Field Olympic Star
Glamor Runner
FloJo's victories in the 1988 Olympics earned her the title Fastest Woman in the World and landed her on the cover of Sports Illustrated. She had set a world record at the U.S. Olympics quarterfinals trials, caused a sensation in female athletics with records still unbroken, and won three gold medals at the 1988 Seoul, Korea, Olympics. 

Perfect makeup--glossy lips, alluring eyelashes, flowing hair and manicured fingernails put a glamorous face on track and field, rivaled only by beauty pageants and Hollywood movies. Florence FloJo Joyner became a star track and field athlete, television actor, fashion model, designer, makeup and fitness professional, and writer.

Florence FloJo Griffith-Joyner - 1988 Olympics, Seoul, Korea--Fastest Woman in the World

Mojave, California 1950s - Mojave Virtual Museum
Born Delorez Florence Griffith on December 21, 1959, FloJo was the seventh of eleven children born to Florence and Robert Griffith in the small town of Mojave, California, in the southwestern region of the Mojave Desert, ninety miles north of Los Angeles. According to the 2010 Census, the town reported 4.238 residents, which in 1959, would have offered few opportunities for a budding national athlete and entertainer like FloJo.

When Florence FloJo Griffith was four years old, her parents separated and her mother moved the family to the Jordan Downs Public Housing Project in the Angeles Watts area. However, spending time with her father, who had a job as an electrical technician in Mojave, FloJo began running when she was seven years old, chasing jackrabbits in the Mojave Desert. Her father had no idea he was beginning the training for an Olympic  star, the fastest woman in the world.

Jordan Downs Public Housing Project
Housing Authority City of Los Angeles
After summers in the Mojave Desert with her father, FloJo returned home to her family at Jordan Downs Public Housing Project in Watts. Determined to get an education, FloJo graduated from Jordan High School in Los Angeles where she continued to run on the track and field team. 

Then Florance Joyner enrolled at California State University, Northridge, and continued running, but had to drop out of school and get a job in banking to help support her family. She re-enrolled in school when she found financial aid, changing colleges, transferring to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) to join her track coach, Bob Kersee. 

In fact, FloJo was forced to drop out of school several times due to financial difficulties. In the meanwhile, she made money at a banking job and additional money on the side with jobs as hairstylist and manicurist, skills she would use later to reinvent herself as the glamorous FloJo. 

"[Florence Griffith Joyner] was someone who wanted to make a fashion statement, as well as do it while running so fast you could barely see the fashion," says Phil Hersh of the Chicago Tribune on ESPN Classic's SportsCentury series. Going to school on financial aid and loans, FloJo continued her track training. In 1983, she won the NCAA 400 and then graduated from UCLA with her bachelor's degree in psychology. In 1987, FloJo married 1984 Olympic triple jump gold medalist, Al Joyner, brother of heptathlon Olympian, Jackie Joyner-Kersee. In 1990, their daughter, Mary Ruth, was born. 

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FloJo did not take off her running shoes until she had won three gold medals in the Olympics and an assortment of silver medals and other running distinctions. Although her 1988 records still stand, FloJo was accused by other athletes of using performance-enhancement drugs in order to win gold medals. However, Flo Jo never failed a drug test.
President Ronald Reagan
& Florence Griffith-Joyner

After her 1988 triple gold-medal Olympics, FloJo was inducted into the Track and Field Hall of Fame, named by The Associated Press 1988 Female Athlete of the Year, won the James E. Sullivan Award as the nation's top amateur star athlete and served as co-chair of the President's Council on Physical Fitness. There were other black female  Olympic medalists, like Wilma Rudolph, who dismantled Jim Crow in athletics and created the path for Florence FloJo Joyner to run without overt racism and to exude the beauty and confidence that gave her so much more than gold medals in the Olympics.

After an illustrious career, FloJo  retired and established a foundation for underprivileged children, remembering her own childhood in Watts. She also began her own clothing line of sports athletic uniforms, using sewing skills she learned from her seamstress mother. When she was a youngster, FloJo designed and made her own wardrobes for school and made clothes for her dolls, so the new profession came natural to her.

We watched FloJo on television gracing the track like a fashion model on a runway or an film actress on the red carpet for her latest role in the movies. And as fate would have it, FloJo acted in several television shows

FloJo, Fashion Model, Beauty Consultant & Fitness Expert
Fashion Model, 
Beauty Consultant & Fitness Expert
FloJo began having seizures in 1996. Two years later, on September 21, 1998, at age 38, FloJo suffered an epileptic seizure in her sleep and died. That was just ten years after she became famous as the fastest woman in the world and captured the attention of television cameras around the world for her glamour on and off the track. FloJo's Olympic record still stands. She is still the fastest woman in the world.

© 2012 Sunny Nash. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
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Sunny Nash is a writer, producer, photographer and leading author on race relations in America. 

Sunny Nash produces blogs, media, books, articles and images on history and contemporary topics, from slavery, the Civil War, Jim Crow and civil rights to post racism, social media, entertainment and technology using her book, Bigmama Didn’t Shop At Woolworth’s, as a basis for commentary and research.

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Sunny Nash's book was selected by the Association of American University Press as a resource for understanding U.S. race relations and recommended for Native American Collections by the Miami-Dade Public Library System.

"My book, 'Bigmama Didn't Shop At Woolworth's,' began in the 1990s. I was writing for Hearst and Knight-Ridder newspapers. The stories are about my childhood with my part-Comanche grandmother, Bigmama, my parents, relatives, friends, and others; and my interpretation of the events surrounding the Jim Crow South before and during the Civil Rights Movement.

Robin Fruble of Southern California said, "Every white person in America should read this book! Sunny Nash writes the story of her childhood without preaching or ranting but she made me realize for the first time just how much skin color changes how one experiences the world. But if your skin color is brown, it matters a great deal to a great number of people. I needed to learn that. Sunny Nash is a great teacher," Fruble said.

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