How the U.S. Women's Gymnastics Team Did Their Own Makeup and Hair at Tokyo Olympics: 'Such a Pain'
"It would be nice if someone could just come in, get us ready, and make us look really good in front of the camera," MyKayla Skinner tells PEOPLE about the team helping each other with their hair
Not only did the U.S. women's gymnastics team have to fight off nerves and deal with the immense pressure that comes with competing at the Olympics, the six ladies also had to manage flyaways and the "stress" of executing intricate braided hairstyles.
During the Tokyo Games' opening ceremony, Simone Biles told her fans and followers that the team — which includes herself, as well as Suni Lee, Jordan Chiles, and Grace McCallum, and individual competitors Jade Carey and MyKayla Skinner — moonlighted as one another's glam squad. Most, if not all, Olympians participating in the Japan-hosted games are doing their own hair and makeup.
"Yes, we do. So if we're looking busted mind your business LOL," Biles, 24, joked on her Instagram Story during a fan Q&A session.
Skinner, who did not qualify for any event finals, tells PEOPLE about the squad's behind-the-scenes prep and "teamwork" off the competition floor. "I'm not very good at braiding backward. I can't even do this on my hair," Skinner says pointing to her double french braid. "Jordan just did it actually."
The 24-year-old Arizona native adds, "I can't braid my hair like this, because I'm just not good. I'm not good at braiding. It's hard. I've been having Jordan braid my hair because she's really good at it."
According to Skinner, Chiles, 20, was the go-to hair expert for Team USA. "Jordan's been helping out a bunch," she says. "She's done Suni's [hair], Simone's and mine. And I think Grace did Jade's braid."
"It's fun to have cute, fun braids," Skinner says of the squad's coordinated braided styles. "It's good that we have some girls on the team that know how to braid because I would be struggling."
For the Tokyo Games, international spectators — including the athlete's family and friends — were barred from attending any competitions due to COVID restrictions and protocols. "It is such a pain," Skinner says of not having close confidants to help with hair and makeup. "I feel like, especially being such great athletes that we are, it would be nice if someone could just come in, get us ready and make us look really good in front of the camera."
For several of the recent (and final) events in her elite career, Skinner depended on her "lifesavers" — her sister and friends — to do her hair.
"In college, we had a bunch of girls that could braid so they always did my hair. It's really fun to have other people get you ready because then I feel like you don't have to have that extra stress about it," she explains. "My sister was able to do my makeup for championships and trials, so that was really nice. I feel like I'm decent at makeup, but it's always nice to have someone pamper you."
If doing each other's hair and depending on one another for help didn't already make Biles, Skinner, Lee, Chiles, McCallum and Carey a close group, spending a majority of their time in Tokyo together certainly bonded them.
"Sometimes, it does get hard when we're all together every single day. I feel like we start kind of itching at each other," Skinner says.
When the ladies trained at Juntendo University in Chiba before competing in Tokyo, they had roomed in pairs (Skinner and Biles were roommates). But for their time in Tokyo, the women's and men's gymnastics teams opted out of residing at the Olympic Village and chose to stay in a hotel near the Ariake Gymnastics Centre instead.
"I feel like coming into the hotel after Juntendo, we kind of all got our own rooms, which I feel helps us be able to detox and relax so we're not all bickering at each other," Skinner says. "We've all created different bonds with each other. The girls have all been so sweet, and I couldn't have asked for a better team."
And when they weren't together in person, the ladies had a group chat going. "We have one with everybody. Then, there's just one for the girls. Sometimes, we'll say a little bit of stuff in there, but I feel like that's more of what we're going to wear or different things like that," Skinner says.
Overall, Skinner shares that the team had "really fun girls' moments" with one another.
"During practice, like when we're chalking up at the chalk tray, we were just throwing out random things, laughing, almost crying. Just a bunch of good, different things I feel like we can get off our chest," she recalls. "We were with each other and it helped push us. If we're having that bad day, we can make a joke and get back on our feet."
To learn more about Team USA, visit TeamUSA.org. Watch the Tokyo Olympics now on NBC.
- Nelly Dishes on Newly Released Country-Inspired Album: 'I've Been Trying to Make Sure I Get It Right'
- Yungblud Got Career Advice from Avril Lavigne, Robert Smith, and Liam Gallagher: 'Rockstar Moment'
- Derek Hough Is 'Proud' of How Sister Julianne Hough Handled The Activist Backlash: 'I'm in Awe of Her'
- Anderson Cooper Used to Give Mom Gloria Vanderbilt Dating Advice: 'We Had a Unique Relationship'