How 2 Olympic Swimmers Prep For the Olympics — Beauty and All

Courtesy of Venus
Courtesy of Venus
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When Florence "Flo Jo" Joyner made history as the first Black woman to win four medals at the Seoul Olympics in 1988, she did so with extra-long, bedazzled nails painted red, white, and blue — with two gold accent nails to nod to the hardware she hoped to take home. Throughout her storied career, she became almost as well known for her beauty looks as she was for her speed. So much so that in 2018, Beyoncé dressed up as the track star for Halloween.

Joyner was one of the first athletes to prove that beauty and sports can exist in the same space, and three and a half decades later, the intersection of the two has never been stronger.

In the past year alone, Sydney Mclaughlin was named as the newest face of Neutrogena, Glowbar announced itself as the official facial partner of New York Liberty women's basketball (NYX was the team's first makeup partner back in 2023), Dove linked up with Nike to encourage girls to participate in sports, and E.l.f. partnered with Billie Jean King to raise awareness around women's equality.

When you think about it, these types of partnerships make sense. After all, who better to test the validity of a sunscreen than an athlete who's sweating on a track in 80-degree heat, or to confirm whether a mascara is really waterproof than a diver who needs it to stay put while they're flipping into a pool from a 66-foot platform?

Yet it wasn't until recently that brands began to see the potential in working with athletes to promote their products — something that McLaughlin previously posited was because of the perception that women had to choose between being a "beauty girlie" and a sporty one. But now, that's changing.

"Beauty is the moment in athletics, and you see so many women who are now expanding into both," Lydia Jacoby, an Olympic swimmer who's gearing up to compete at the 2024 games in Paris, tells PS. "There are so many incredible, high-performing women who are at the peak of their sport who are also so breathtakingly beautiful in an unconventional way that feels different from what we've historically been told a 'model' is supposed to look like."

When she's not swimming, Jacoby is showing off her beauty and fashion looks to her 113K Instagram followers. "It's easy as a woman in sports to feel kind of masculine — we've got muscles and are in the gym and do all these things that have traditionally been considered 'masculine,'" she says. "But I've always loved fashion and beauty, and I'm very much a proponent of 'look good, feel good.' I'll do my makeup before I go to a meet knowing that it's going to come off when I get in the water, but I like showing up looking good and feeling hot."

Courtesy of Venus

Fellow swimmer Anastasia Pagonis, who is visually impaired and broke a record and won a gold medal at the 2020 Paralympics, shares these sentiments. "It is so important to me that I'm a badass athlete, but I'm also such a girly girl at heart — people think that you can't have the best of both worlds, but you totally can," she says. "You'll always see me with my hair and nails done because that's something that makes me me. It's how I feel my most confident, beautiful, and powerful, and I love to show people my personality through that."

Like Jacoby, she regularly shares her beauty tips with her followers (a whopping 2.9 million of them across TikTok and Instagram) and has created a community for both women in sports and people with visual impairments. "I think the world is doing such an amazing job showing women in sports, but I'm glad to have an opportunity to have a presence on social media to be able to share even more of that," she says.

Both of these women have joined the growing ranks of athlete beauty ambassadors through their new partnership with Venus — a brand that they've long relied on to keep them smooth when they swim.

"As a swimmer, shaving is something that is so crucial and such an important step in our pre-race routine," says Pagonis, noting that the less friction a swimmer has between their skin and the water, the faster they'll go. "A lot of us actually grow out our hair so that when we do shave, it's a super sensory experience, and you can feel every ripple as you move through the water."

The speed factor aside, keeping their skin smooth has the same feel-good effects as the rest of their beauty routines. "Swimming is such an exposing sport, and I like having smooth skin and feeling good in the water and comfortable in my skin," says Jacoby. "I just love feeling like I have a smooth 'Little Mermaid' tail when I swim."

Each of the women has a favorite go-to razor that they turn to to get the job done. Jacoby swears by the Venus Smooth Deluxe Sensitive Skin Women's Razor ($15), which is equipped with an aloe-infused lubrication strip that helps combat the drying effects of chlorine on the skin. For her part, Pagonis is a Venus Comfortglide ($10) fan. "It has these amazing smelling scented gel bars that keep me from cutting myself, which is important for me as someone with visual impairments," she says. "And to be honest, having a disability and being in the world is very difficult — the world isn't set up for people like me. So little things, like Venus making a razor that's blind-friendly with a gel bar that ensures we don't get cut, definitely helps and is amazing."

For both Olympians, having freshly shaved legs makes them feel their most confident — "it's a huge part of my mental prep before a race," says Pagonis — and they hope that this partnership will inspire other women to feel the same way.

"Feeling smooth and confident in my skin while also being able to promote a brand that's all about female empowerment is a huge confidence booster for me," says Pagonis, who notes that navigating confidence has been a journey. "Being confident in yourself is such a huge thing, and I don't want to say 'fake it til you make it' — I think that can be kind of toxic — but to a point, sometimes you just have to act confident to become confident and manifest that for yourself."

As Pagonis puts it, "Be unapologetically yourself, no matter what someone else thinks of you. Because as long as you're happy and you're confident, that's all that matters."

Now, let's see these ladies break some records in Paris.

Zoë Weiner is a freelance beauty and wellness writer. Her work has appeared in Bustle, Byrdie, Cosmopolitan, PS, GQ, Glamour, Marie Claire, Allure, Self, Brides, and Teen Vogue, among others, and she was the senior beauty editor at Well+Good.