New Biopic Tells Olympic Champion Gabby Douglas’ Inspiring Life Story

Lifetime’s The Gabby Douglas Story details the gymnast’s journey from homelessness to double-gold medals.

Gabrielle Douglas at the 2013 ESPY Awards in Los Angeles, July 17, 2013
Gabrielle Douglas at the 2013 ESPY Awards in Los Angeles, July 17, 2013 Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for ESPY

Gabby Douglas is still on fire.

She’s been a household name—a brand, even—ever since her historic 2012 Olympic double-gold win launched her into the sports Hall of Fame. She’s been featured in ads and slapped on cereal boxes and has even written books—and now the upbeat 18-year-old is getting her very own biopic.

Tonight, cable’s Lifetime will bring The Gabby Douglas Story to life. The movie will detail the star athlete’s journey to becoming one of the best female gymnasts in the world, which includes being crowned the first woman of color and the first African American in Olympic history to receive the gold in the individual all-around event.

“You actually get to see the challenges and the struggles and my life story … so I was like, absolutely,” Douglas said during a press call Monday about when she was first approached for the movie. “It sounded like a very amazing opportunity, so my family and I said yes.”

The moving docudrama, a little over an hour long, shows how Douglas’ mother, Natalie Hawkins, raised four children single-handedly, all while taking her family out of homelessness. For almost a year, the Douglas family lived out of the back of a van. The movie focuses not only on the struggles but also on the triumphs and sacrifices made to foster the young Douglas’ amazing talent—and how heartbreaking the separation was for the whole family when she moved to Iowa to train under star coach Liang Chow.

At one point we see an injured, frustrated athlete ready to throw in the towel. “I had a point in my life when I had my ups and downs, and six months out before the Olympics, I wanted to quit … I was at my lowest point and I was homesick, and things in the gym were getting really hard for me … I wanted to quit and work at Chick-fil-A or do another sport,” Douglas half joked as she professed her love for the fast-food chain’s sandwiches. “But it was my foundation that kept me on track and saying, ‘Hey, please don’t give up.'”

The tight-knit family—headed by Douglas’ equally determined mother—was very involved in the production.

“They would send us the script [and ask] what do you think, or they’d send us who was portraying us … and we went on the set, and I’d give my input about how this move would be done or how this competition would be,” Douglas said.

Although Douglas does appear briefly in the beginning of the movie, actresses Imani Hakim (Everybody Hates Chris) and Sydney Mikayla (Whitney) share the role as the older and younger Douglas, respectively.

“As actors and as athletes, I thought they did an amazing job. Sydney … who played the younger Gabby Douglas … She was flipping everywhere, tumbling. She was so bubbly and energetic, and I was definitely like that when I was very young,” the gymnast said. And also Imani, she played a very [good] version of me when I was older.”