The final verdict would come down with the judge’s hammer. Then she could do nothing but watch her victory slip between her fingers.
She and her coach were in disbelief. She had trained so hard and now it was for nothing. She didn’t do anything wrong yet she was disqualified all the same. She felt humiliated, then angry. They had no idea what was coming.
Born To Swim
No one loved the water more than Breckynn Willis. She couldn’t go a day without taking a plunge into the pool and training.
Even at the young age of 17 Willis already had big dreams of getting a scholarship and eventually a shot at the Olympics. So she competed in any competitions she could. But she had no idea that it would eventually end in disaster.
Best In Class
Breckynn was one of the best swimmers on her team at the Dimond High School in Anchorage, Alaska. She worked hard and had a natural talent that one could only envy.
Breckynn was a popular student who had a lot of friends and got on well with most of the teachers at school. Everyone loved her but often, where there’s a lot of fondness, jealousy festers…
The stands by the pool were packed full of guests and staff excited to see the competition in the indoor room that smelled distinctly of chlorine.
She loved the exhilaration that came when her name was called out to do what she did best – the 100-meter freestyle. But for one judge, it didn’t matter how good of a swimmer she was. She was going to fail her.
Anger And Shame
Breckynn wrapped the towel around her waist. Her heart pounded hard as she realized what the referee just said to her. Clenching her hands she tried to remain calm but her coach had enough.
“You can’t be serious!”, she spat. She continued to scold the referee who stood unaffected by her harsh words. Breckynn never wanted to leave a room so badly.
As she heard the whistle she knew it was her time. Every part of her body was ready for what came next. It was a natural reflex for her.
She did it perfectly. She swam the best she ever did in her whole career. She could feel it. She felt amazing! She resurfaced at the end of the pool and pulled herself out. But what came next had her floored.
She rose from the water, smiling brilliantly. Her friends cheered her on from the sidelines. They stood and clapped and yelled proudly at her achievement.
Breckynn grabbed her towel and dried herself off. She wrapped it around her waist as she waited in anxious excitement for her results to be announced.
Met With Disdain
She looked at the referee and judges, trying to get a sense of how she did. But their faces weren’t as she expected. They were talking among themselves heatedly. The referee in particular looked disgusted.
Breckynn saw her look at her up and down. Then she looked back down at the notes in front of her, shaking her head in disdain. Suddenly, Breckynn felt very self-conscious.
“What was that about?” she thought. Her mind raced, wondering if she did something wrong. Suddenly her thoughts were interrupted with a loudspeaker announcement: “Breckynn Willis of Diamond High School is disqualified”.
She couldn’t believe what she just heard. The words rang out in her mind. Was this really happening? She looked to her coach for answers but she seemed as dumbfounded as her.
Lauren Langly, her coach, marched up to the referee with fire in her eyes.
She looked over at Breckynn, after the referee pointed at her she had to take a step back, what had been said to her? It was almost as if she had been slapped.
“You Can’t Be Serious?”
Breckynn then overhead, “You can’t be serious.” She knew what she had to do, she couldn’t just stand there and take it.
Something must have been wrong for her to be disqualified, but what was it? She wanted to hear the excuse they came up with. The real reason would leave her furious.
The referee had words for her coach and she caught a lot of what they were saying. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. She felt her face flush.
What made Breckynn’s face turn scarlet was overhearing, “The girl’s swimsuit was so far up I could see butt cheek touching butt cheek.’’ Her coach scowled at the judge, then they noticed her walking over.
“Let’s go,” her coach said. “What happened?” she asked. “Nevermind, let’s go”, the coach insisted but Brecklynn wasn’t willing to let this go.
She had already just about made out what they were saying about her. She was already humiliated in front of her peers and everyone else in that room that was within earshot of their conversation. Her embarrassment was turning into rage.
Calling Her Bluff
Breckynn shrugged out of her coach’s hand on her back, willing her away. She stepped towards the referee and asked her again. “What happened? Why did you disqualify me?”.
She wanted to hear it from her. She wanted to hear this miserable adult woman say what she said to her coach to her – a 17-year-old student who is known to have devoted her life to this sport. The woman spoke.
She spoke with no shame. Breckynn couldn’t believe this woman! What era did she live in?! She wouldn’t let her get away with this.
Apparently, the referee had decided to eliminate the student from the competition because she was showing too much skin and decided she had intentionally hiked up her suit to be more revealing. But that wasn’t all.
Everyone else, including Breckynn, pointed out that every single girl wore the exact same suit.
There was also a reason for the skin. It’s called a “swimmer’s wedgie” and everyone gets them. Even regular swimmers know the feeling and know they are not comfortable. No one would do this intentionally. However, the real reason would soon come out.
After the ruling, Coach Lauren Langford went to social media and lodged a formal complaint with the Alaska School Activities Association, too.
The answer, however, was just as bad as the original complaint. Breckynn, it turns out, was being specially targeted by the referee for a rather disgusting reason. And she was about to make sure everyone knew.
One Size Doesn’t Fit All
Not only was the girl curvier than the other teammates, but she was also of mixed-race heritage.
It might seem like something impossible to spot for most people, but when the details came to light, it was sadly believable. The facts ended up undisputable and caused a huge blast of outrage. Why?
Sister Experienced It Too
Everyone was wearing standard uniform suits, two other girls looked very similar to her, and her 100m freestyle execution was excellent.
Her sister, and fellow swimmer, ended up the key to the situation. No other member of any team had been kicked out for appearance reasons, but she and her sister had. When they understood why, everyone involved was furious. Breckynn was ready to make a point.
Coach Lauren Langford was seething when she spoke to KTUU: “The rest of her team was wearing the same uniform, and she was the only one disqualified. It is my opinion that she has been targeted and singled out over the course of the last year.”
The disqualification, according to referee Jill Blackstone, was due to a new “modesty rule,” but the truth was becoming clearer and clearer.
The new “modesty” rule had come with new, standard-issue swimsuits for every girl, but Breckynn had been singled out because Jill Blackstone, the referee, just hadn’t liked the way it looked on the girl’s fuller, curvier figure.
It was just as coach Langford had suspected, but it was her word against Blackford’s. But, what the referee didn’t know was that Lauren had proof. And Breckynn told her to run with it.
School Swimming Scandal
Lauren wrote a blog post detailing the scandal. Soon, the truth would be out. The new “modesty” rules that were put in place at the school were solely for policing young girls’ bodies.
She believed the whole incident was an orchestrated campaign against Beckynn, her sister, and other girls of color. One terrible incident, in particular, was at the ugly heart of it all.
As a swim coach at another school within the district that regularly competes with Dimond High, I’ve watched this scandal divide my swimming community,” coach Langford wrote.
“It has caused my own athletes to be needlessly self-conscious about the appearance of their bodies, which preoccupies them just as much, if not more, than the quality of their performances. What’s clear is that these girls’ bodies are being policed — not their uniforms.”
“These young swimmers aren’t being punished for wearing their suits in scandalous or provocative ways,” her post continues, “but rather, because their ample hips, full chests, and dark complexions look different than their willowy, thin, and mostly pallid teammates. Some will argue this scandal has nothing to do with race.”
“…The issue becomes glaring when officials are overheard acknowledging that white athletes are baring too much skin as well, yet they’ve never been disqualified.” But that wasn’t all.
Coach Langford detailed another incidence that had taken place within the year. Unbelievably, a parent had secretly taken photographs of Breckynn’s rear when she was wearing a swimsuit and had circulated them via email to other parents and teachers!
“Uniform violation!” the parent wrote, and later, someone overheard them saying “that for the sake of their sons, the mother of these young ladies should cover up her daughters.”
If You Don’t Like It, Don’t Look
Coach Langford concluded her post: “If you do not like the way that swimsuits fit on these girls’ bodies then don’t look; they are minors, children, and no one should be looking at them anyway. We cannot take back what has already unfolded but we can make sure it does not happen going forward.”
It wasn’t long before Coach Langford’s post went viral. Although the issue with the referee was under investigation, it wasn’t long before the Anchorage school district was forced to take a stance on the matter.
Meanwhile, Breckynn was going public with the shocking story. The incident had reached the ears of Kelly Clarkson, who invited both the swimmer and her coach to appear on The Kelly Clarkson Show.
Everyone who saw the episode was disgusted, too, and some were quick to take to the comments section to point out the startling facts.
The story exploded on Reddit, and users called it what it is: blatant bodyshaming.
“This is a talented girl who just wants to swim, can people stop sexualising her body and shaming her for her curves now please? I can’t imagine how humiliated she must feel, when ultimately her only crime was winning.”
The same Reddit user continued: “Teenage girls ought to be able to swim naked if they choose and no one should bat an eyelid. You shouldn’t sexualise any women, because we’re all humans worthy of respect, but especially not underage women!”
Others Reddit users were disgusted by the parent who had taken photos of Beckynn without her permission and had circulated them to other parents.
A Societal Issue
“This is disgusting and part of a culture that teaches girls that regardless of what they look like their bodies are not for them but for other people. In what mindset is it okay for an adult man to take pictures of a teenager going about her daily life?” another user wrote.
While some Reddit users commented on the issue, the story brought back painfull memories for others.
The Curvy-Girl Struggle
“This is a serious problem. Personally as a minority who was rounder and curvier, I struggled for similar reasons. My hip to waist ratio was caricatured when I was in high school, and it was not seen as a positive thing,” one female user commented.
“Now I feel that women with such a dramatic shape in their butt are more often than not more sexualized than other women, due the modern crazy in regards to having a tiny waist and a big butt.” But her thoughts on the matter didn’t end there.
Not Her Fault
“It is neither her fault that she is curvy, nor is it her fault that men may stare at her for the aforementioned feature. It is shameful and disgraceful, and something that I strongly relate to. I feel that a lot of the times as a minority,” she continued.
“But let’s be real, she was punished for winning while being a minority. That’s the real issue. Trying to find an excuse to strip her of the way because they are upset that the wrong person won.” So, it seems this situation goes beyond just body-shaming.
“The thing that’s really frustrating is the more curvy a woman is, the more pressured she is to be “modest,” I mean come on folks. Is this really about being “modest” or body shaming cuz men can’t handle it??” One woman wrote.
“What’s worse is that the referee who made this call disqualifying her… was a WOMAN! Seriously? How can a woman do that to a girl? Stop body shaming females for being who they are!” another proclaimed. But would there be any justice?
Two Obvious Rules
The Association reversed the ruling and reinstated her points and title.
Then, there were two very strict reminders sent out to all staff and referees. First, there could be zero assumption about standard-issued suits – which in many opinions would have been obvious. Second, and most importantly…
It was professionally and personally inappropriate to judge a competitor based on their appearance – again, this should have been obvious, but apparently, a few individuals needed a reminder.
There was no place for sexism, racism, or discrimination in their competitions. However, there was one silver lining to the entire ordeal.
The media coverage had brought her skills into the spotlight.
She ended up receiving serval college offers and talks of scholarships. Not to mention, people started knowing her name around the swimming circuit (this time in a good way). The insane incident was over and she could finally focus on her dreams again.
The Low Blow
She stands alone looking around at everyone enjoying their meals. Feeling content, she notices a waitress coming straight towards her. She welcomes her with a warm smile. But her smile is not reciprocated.
Instead, what’s waiting to meet her will impact the very depths of her psyche, crushing her confidence and pregnancy for days to come.
Charisha Raylee Gobin
Charisha Raylee Gobin is a mother-of-four from Marysville, Washington. With two boys and two girls, Charisha and her husband had been excited for the arrival of two more family members as they were having twins.
As enthusiastic and dedicated parents, they always dreamt of having a big family but never expected their plans could lead to this.
A Mom’s Life
Being a mom of four, Charisha never has time for herself. And now, with her twin pregnancy, she was more tired than ever.
Although she loved being pregnant and being a mother to her beautiful children, she still found it exhausting at times. She couldn’t remember the last time she did something for herself but that was about to change.
A Gentle Nudge
One day, she received a call from her mom and sister. They were trying to persuade Charisha to take a break from mom life and go out with them for a girl’s night.
Immediately, Charisha rejected their offer to take her out. She wasn’t feeling well and wanted to rest, not go out. She was 7 months pregnant after all, but her family persisted.
A Mom In Need
They convinced her that resting and going out, away from the constant need of her kids were the same thing and exactly what she needed. Being a mom is work, and she was working 24 hours, 7 days a week.
Charisha realized they were right. But what they didn’t know is that something would go horribly wrong.
A Growing Pain
It was a few hours before Charisha and her mom and sister were to head out for a night of fun. Changing from one outfit to the next, Charisha felt so uncomfortable.
She had no idea what to wear as so many of her clothes didn’t fit her right. But that’s not all that was causing her discomfort.
Like every other pregnant woman, her back was sore and her belly ached. But there was something else, a constant dull pain. And it was starting to make her worry.
It had felt like this for 2 hours now. Should she be taking this more seriously? What if something was wrong? Anxious, she called her mom.
Her mom asked her what it felt like, and she explained. Laughing, her mom asked her when was the last time she had eaten?
Charisha laughed along when she realized she’s just really hungry. She had been saving herself from eating out. Her cravings for meat were so intense that it’s all she wants so she decided to have her fill tonight. Or so she thought.
Finally deciding on an outfit, Chrisha and the girls headed towards Buzz Inn Steakhouse. A restaurant they have been to many times so they knew the menu would have all the meat Charisha could ever ask for.
Getting out of the car, Charisha felt good for the first time in what felt like years. Little did she know, she was so excited for a meal that had disastrous consequences.
Charisha walks through the restaurant doors with her mom and sister. As they walk to the hostess and ask for their seat, Charisha falls behind. She looks around the restaurant.
This is the first time she’s been at a restaurant without having to be on high alert with kids hanging off her side. She can finally relax, but something tells her not yet.
An Unfriendly Welcome
As she looks at everyone enjoying their meal and drinks, a waitress walks towards her. With her mom and sister making their way to the seat, Charisha thinks the waitress must think she’s not with them.
Charisha welcomes her with a smile, ready to explain but her smile isn’t reciprocated. Instead, the waitress looks her up and down with disdain before she speaks.
Health Code Violation
The waitress immediately asked her to leave. Confused, Charisha asked her to repeat herself. The waitress explained that she was dressed inappropriately, breaking their ‘no shoes, no shirts, no service’ policy.
Charisha asked if she was being serious, the waitress replied “yup, you can’t be here”. Feeling upset, angry and embarrassed, Charisha and her family left with revenge on their mind.
Ashamed And Embarrassed
Charisha was wearing a white long flowy skirt and a black crop top that exposed her pregnant belly. She looked like every other crop-top-wearing trendy woman if it were not for her pregnancy.
Feeling humiliated and wrong done by, Charisha didn’t sit idly by. Taking to Facebook, she posted about the ordeal and uploaded her picture. The response was overwhelming.
Taking A Stand
She captioned her photo, “I was just denied service at the Buzz Inn on State Avenue in Marysville for my outfit. I’m violating the health code”.
Tonnes of support flooded in for Charisha. The discussion around pregnancy and appropriate dressing soon went viral and sparked outrage.
A Reason To Rejoice!
Buzz Inn Steakhouse released a statement apologizing for the ordeal. But Charisha says, “It’s pretty ridiculous I was shamed in the first place and had to drive across town to eat”… “Our bodies aren’t just toys, they’re for a purpose and I think it’s a beautiful purpose”.
Charisha’s message is important. Body shaming should be left in the past and we’re sure Charisha now eats at much more pregnancy-friendly restaurants!