To the world, Nellie Biles is simply a mother, but to Simone Biles, she is “Wonder Woman” and unquestionably her biggest cheerleader. Nellie Biles formally adopted Simone along with her younger sister, Adria, to give the girls a better life after they didn’t receive proper care from their biological mother, who was a struggling drug addict. The year Simone was adopted at 6 was also significant because she was introduced to gymnastics the same year.
Nellie knew the sport would turn into something huge for Simone and it did — leading her all the way to the 2016 summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Simone is currently one of the most famous athletes in the world but to Nellie, she is still just her baby girl. As a mother, she is beyond proud of her daughter’s accomplishments and knows the best is yet to come.
Nellie spoke with rolling out recently to fill us in on what’s been happening in their world since Simone’s domination in Rio. Check out what she had to say below.
How has your experience been transitioning into motherhood after adopting both Simone and her younger sister without having any personal connection to them?
We first received Simone and her sister Adria in 2003. The first time Simone came to us she was about 3-years-old and her sister was 13 months. That’s when we first had them in our home. It was a temporary period until her mother received the help that she needed. Long story short, after sending Simone and her siblings back they came back to us for the second time around and it was for an adoption. It was going to be permanent at that time so the decision was to have both of them because they could spend time with each other and I wouldn’t have to be the one that’s entertaining either Simone or Adria. I wanted to pay attention to the both of them. That period was not easy. These were not babies. These were kids that pretty much had their minds set and knew what they wanted. I was the one who decided that we needed to go to counseling. I needed counseling and I figured if I did, then they probably did, too. So, guess what? We all went to counseling and during this period it pretty much took down the barriers and we started becoming a family. That was the best decision ever.
Becoming an adoptive mom is full of ups and downs, what have you learned about yourself?
What I have learned about myself is that I am more patient than I give myself credit for. You have to have patience and you have to be able to listen. I am a better listener throughout this process and it’s not easy to listen. It’s easy to jump to conclusions when a child starts speaking. I always want to be a part of my children’s life whether we’re acting goofy, crazy, or whether we’re going on vacation. It’s all a process that I want to enjoy. I think it’s important to do things as a family.
You mentioned in the “Thank you mom: Raising an Olympian” commercial “The key thing is to not negate this dream that she has …” What advice would you give to parents who are struggling to support their kid’s ambitions?
I believe that as a parent you need to listen to the child. I think as a parent whatever their dream is you need to understand and, again, if it’s a situation where there is some financial difficulty, I am sure there are some ways of investigating and seeing what support is out there. I know for example, and I’m just going back to gymnastics which is a very expensive sport, however, there are different grants out there that can assist a child with that sport. I have parents that have put in some hours. Again, working with a gym owner you could get that end result. It’s not impossible. I don’t think anything is impossible. I think finding how you could get that end result is something as a parent you should try and do. I’m not saying that it’s easy but there is a way and a means of getting to an end. I encourage any parent to investigate and see what’s out there that could help you with your child to achieve that dream.
Your support for both Simone and her younger sister’s dreams extends far beyond the cheering for them on the sidelines. What led you to solely dedicate your time to helping them excel in gymnastics?
I believe that where her career was taking her I knew that Simone’s life and our life was going to be public at some time. I thought that it was important that we share our story instead of someone investigating and coming up with some conclusion not to say that people have not done that, however, I think it’s important that we as a family talk about it. We feel comfortable with our journey. I am most comfortable with the fact that I have two children that are adopted and that I parented these two children and that I nurtured these two children. I helped them achieve their dreams. It’s no different from my two biological children and to say that I parented four children, I am really proud. Because of the way we discuss things openly in our house none of my children have any barriers or feel any different because of what I’ve done for Simone or what I’ve done for Adam and Ron. Those are my two older children and they are also achieving their dreams that they have set for themselves. I don’t think anyone is short-changed at this point, but that is my opinion.
Simone is now considered to be the most famous athlete in the world and at her age, that is an outstanding accomplishment. How do you teach her to stay humble?
Simone is still very young. She is only 19. She still has a life after gymnastics, so I am hoping that after [gymnastics] it will continue. There are going to be changes around our lives because it’s happening and that’s the reality of what happened around her winning the Olympics, however, even though things are changing I’m hoping that her morals and her values will not change as a person. I know things will change around her but I’m hoping she will not change.
In addition to your endless support, you have also received a ton outreach from your local community. How has that positively impacted your family?
I think that outreach from the community is something that we can embrace. One of the partnerships that Simone and I participate in is the “My Black Is Beautiful” campaign. We understand the message from this. This is a campaign that empowers Black women. It makes them feel good about themselves. The message that they’re giving helps me to understand the community outreach that we can embrace and I could also deliver my message and in turn, could accept the help from the community. They’re all a part of my village and that is one of the things that “My Black Is Beautiful” campaign helps us with in terms of making sure that the message that I give for others to receive is the right one.
Simone was also fortunate to garner support from major sponsors like Tide PODS and P&G’s My Black Is Beautiful campaign. Black women have always been faced with harsh criticisms for their images. How does it make you feel when you see criticism on social media pertaining to Simone’s teammate, Gabby Douglas, and her appearance?
Opinions from the public can be brutal and it’s how you interpret those opinions. You could interpret the opinions as what type message what type of message are these people trying to give me? Is it perhaps something that I need to change? Is there something that they are misinterpreting or is it their perception of what I’m saying or doing? If I am getting that type of message or Simone is getting that type of message, then we will discuss it and try to see what we could do to change that message. Messaging can also be malicious. If it’s a message that’s being sent from the public that’s malicious, then as a parent I need to discuss that with Simone. Take it for what it is and not give credit to that message. At the same time, you should feel good about yourself because I believe that Black women should always look at themselves whether it’s inward or outward and feel comfortable with themselves. There is beauty from within and also exterior. That’s something I think Black women should always talk and instill within their children. It doesn’t matter what shade your skin is, you’re still a good person. You should have pride and you should have ownership of yourself.
Simone has been working rigorously for the last four years to achieve the success in Rio, do you two have any fun plans for a vacation before summer wraps up?
Simone is doing a lot because she starts her Kellogg’s tour next week. That is going to be for 2 1/2 months on tour. That is going to be [grueling] but I’m sure she is going to be able to handle it. At the end of the year — sometime in December — I am planning some downtime and some vacation for the family but it’s a surprise, so I can’t tell you.