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October 8th, 2009

Olympian Lolo Jones: Confusing Role Model

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Written by: TEApublican

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If you’ve ever met Lolo Jones you admire her.  Its inevitable.   Like me you may love her persevering tenacity, her great sportmanship attitude, her generous character and warm smile.

That’s why I took the initiative to meet Lolo at Jordan Creek last fall.  I wanted my son to meet the woman who we watched on the Olympics.  When I saw Lolo react from falling in her attempt win a gold medal in the hurdles, I knew I she would be a great role model for my kids.  I was able to get a Drake relay poster for my younger daughter and she was so excited to receive it.

In the months since I have also been on stand by with Lolo’s agent to do a photo shoot when Lolo is in Iowa.  I should clarify… a sports profile photo shoot.  So all this to say when Lolo is in the news I follow it.  I am a fan. Well today she is on the front page of the Des Moines Register underneath the Branstad headline. Hint: Its not because she won or lost a hurdling event.

It’s natural to evaluate and assess news stories and ask yourself, “What would I do if I was in that situation?”  These types of evaluation scenarios end up as the DNA of actual decisions we make and thus greatly contribute to who we become. Either Lolo wasn’t thinking right or she was very intentional with her latest promo…

Now Disney’s ESPN has forced us all to evaluate Lolo Jones more than I ever imagined I would have to.  ESPN is rolling out an issue of their magazine featuring more than 80 athletes examining issues from “genetic mapping, athletes’ use of sexuality to promote themselves, a first-hand look at an athlete’s ACL surgery, insuring the athletic body” and how video game companies research bodies for products.

At first I thought Lolo pulled a ‘Miley Cyrus’ with the over the naked shoulder shot, a shot I have often taken in bridal and model photo shoots before. Yeah, well there is more to the shot than that.  This means more marketing for Lolo, more magazine sales and more evaluation for Dad’s who once endorsed her to their son and daughter.

Iowa’s golden girl Shawn Johnson’s hands will be featured in the magazine. That makes sense.  How about just Lolo’s muscular calf muscles, but no Lolo trumps the exposure meter sitting profile in the buff, with her back side exposed as well.

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I’m confused.  I guess as a fan I just had Lolo in a different category in mind, like sports.  Thank God no one has convinced politicians to do a charity calendar in fireman props.

Maybe I’m too naive because I’m still hoping Sammy Sosa never took steroids too.  What do you do when someone you admire does something that shocks you?  I guess its time to evaluate yourself and find your own definitions of wisdom, give them grace and know you don’t know what its like to be in their shoes. (Or in this case bare feet.) I think Lolo will bounce back wiser in the future.  Naked pictures just doesn’t seem to be her long term plan.

At first Lolo seemed to shy away from a provocative photo shoot. “(Sunglasses maker and sponsor) Oakley actually contacted me about it. They asked me if I’d be interested in doing something like that,” Jones said. “Pose naked? No way. I’m a very strong Christian. That’s against my morals.”

The Des Moines Register reports that Jones gritted her teeth, shed clothes and hoped it remained in good taste. When reminded by sponsors that ESPN is ultimately part of the wholesome-imaged Disney Corporation and being assured she would be able to help choose the final photograph, Jones relented.

Well let me stop you right there… Disney and so the called ABC family is not the authority for family viewing. Parents are!  Every time I see the word “family’ with Disney and ABC I have to evaluate it for my kids. The company has turned out moral gems like Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake.  Entertaining, but not for kids in my opinion. Enough said.  Do your own evaluating there. I’m just exposing the exposing. Now back to my reaction to Lolo, well it was mixed.  That’s why I’m confused. If she had such reservations why did she do it?

As a sports fan… “I was surprised.”
As a photographer… “Well, it is a good photograph.”
As a husband… “Honey, come look at Lolo on my computer screen.  She’s naked!”
As a marketer… “Well that is smart.”
As a father of a son… “Son, we should talk…”
As a father of a daughter… “My daughter better not do that.”

Unfortunately I don’t want any of my kids to see this shot.  What do you think?

“I wasn’t comfortable,” Jones, 27, said of the photo shoot in New Orleans “Posing naked — I don’t even like being naked at the doctor’s office.”

Ya think?  Well now that awkward feeling is on the front page of the Des Moines Register.  Yeah, weird I know, but some people still read that thing.

Okay so maybe I’m not that confused.  I get it. Its marketing. Its not my debut, but I am reevaluating how to address this as a Dad.  That is why I and other parents need to think through this.

Time to have another talk with my son.  It will be about the birds and the bees again with a bonus lecture about pictures of sexy women.  We will also discuss the politics of controversy and how sex sells.  We may also talk about what in the world we are going to do with all our Sammy Sosa baseball cards.

In closing I will let Lolo and her agent have the last word.  Here is Lolo’s official press release from her new and improved website:

(Des Moines) – U.S. Olympian, Lolo Jones appears in the latest issue of ESPN theMagazine. The “Body Issue” hits the stands on October 9, 2009 and features some of the biggest names in sports. Ms. Jones who is one of the world’s best hurdlers has also gotten much notice for her beauty and grace off the track. Appearing in ESPN the Magazine will introduce her to a whole new audience, and it is certainly guaranteed to garner her new fans. Lolo’s photo shows that you can be both beautiful and athletic.

Ms. Jones is known for her overall fine tuned body, but she usually gets special notice for her abdominal development. “I thought about this as an opportunity to show how hard it is to compete at the highest level of my sport,” said Ms. Jones. I’m proud of my body. The photo we have chosen shows the hard work it took to get me to the elite level.”

Lolo goes on to add, “I hope people look at my photo and the rest of them in the magazine and see athletes in a different way.

Especially, the female athletes should be applauded for their dedication to their sport. There are all kinds of people in the world and all kinds that play sports. Many different bodies can be athletic. People should work towards having healthy and fit bodies. It is not just about posing without clothes. Plenty of people have done that. Too many girls and women work for impossibly skinny bodies that aren’t necessarily healthy. Maybe this will provide a better model for girls to aspire to.”

Lolo is coming off a season with mixed results. However, she had the fastest time in theworld in the 100-meter hurdles at 12.47 seconds for most of the season. Her immediate yplans are to continue to rehabilitate from a nagging hamstring injury.

Winning another United States Championship indoors and outdoors and defending her IAAF Indoor WorldChampionships are top on her list of goals for 2010. She is working her way back into theform that made her one of the most talked about athletes in any sport leading up to the2008 Olympic Games.

Keep up with all the barriers Lolo clears at

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cropped photo by ESPN magazine
slide shows by Dave Davidson

About the Author

Dave Davidson is the TIR artjournalism storyteller photographer and founder of (polite) presidential paparazzi with manners. He is the author of gobs of books including "Sarah Palin Inspires Me", "Huckisms" and "You May Be A TEApublican".

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