Raven Saunders lit up the track at the Tokyo Summer Olympics with her died hair, self-expressive masks and her refusal to be anyone but her true self. Oh, and of course her silver-medal performance in the shot put.
Now several months after the Olympics, the out LGBTQ athlete is attracting sponsors with — not despite — her steadfast commitment to empowering self-expression.
On my latest episode of Outsports’ Five Rings To Rule Them All podcast, Saunders talks about her motivation behind the died hair and fun, colorful masks she wore in competition this year, including the Olympics.
“Dying my hair became an outward way of expression,” Saunders says on the podcast. “In track and field I feel like when we wear uniforms and being sponsored by the same brands, everyone starts to look the same. So I use it as a way to stand out, to be different, to show my personality, to show how crazy I can get.”
Raven refuses to be anyone but herself. That led her to hold her arms above her head in an “X” on the podium, as her personal expression of support for the intersection of all people.
Her self-expressive attitude has been empowered by sponsors like Nike, who have offered their full support for all of who she is.
“Thankfully they haven’t asked me to tone it down,” Saunders says. “They’ve more asked how can they help me be free and be myself, and show that, and present that to the world. And that’s one of the things I’ve been greatly appreciative of, especially stories of previous athletes who’ve dealt with corporations who’ve done that, who’ve constantly tried to change them into people they weren’t.”
Saunders also talked about the importance of using her platform to elevate conversations about mental health. She has her own mental-health concerns, and she wants to help others find their path to care for themselves.
You can listen to the conversation with Olympian Robert Dover on the Five Rings To Rule Them All podcast on Megaphone, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Apple podcasts and many more platforms. Just search for Outsports wherever you get your podcast.
And be sure to follow Five Rings To Rule Them All on Twitter.
You can find Raven Saunders on Twitter and Instagram.