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When you become an Olympian, everyone suddenly wants to know everything about your life and everything about you. How does it feel? Who helped you get there? What’s next? These are all valid and common questions for the average Joe. However, I couldn’t help but think about how there are so many other things I’d love to know about such athletes.
Because I cover a ton of buzzy beauty products, I naturally want to hear about which ones Olympians can’t live without and how they perceive beauty. This is especially relevant, since professional athletes aren’t always tapped on by big beauty brands or included in the broader discussion on the subject. They should, however, be more included, because athletes have a unique lifestyle and one-of-a-kind perspectives that so many people look up to.
This prompted me to reach out to an Olympian gymnast who I admire deeply. Some might say she’s up-and-coming, but I say she’s on top of the world right now. Suni Lee has accomplished far more than most normal 18-year-olds. Not only did she compete in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, she brought home a gold medal for Team USA. And not only only did she win the highest honor there is in her sport, she swiftly stole the hearts of literally everyone.
Public figures and celebrities are one thing in front of the cameras, but I can wholeheartedly say that Suni Lee is everything she puts herself out to be and then some. She has a lot—I mean, a lot—of wisdom to share with the rest of the world, and I’m beyond thrilled to have gotten the chance to speak with her.
Read on for Suni’s thoughtful outlook on beauty, being an athlete and the connection between the two, as well as her ride-or-die products. She swears by everything from an Urban Decay setting spray to ensure her competition makeup looks don’t budge, to a Got2b spray wax for making her hair stay in place through flips, tricks and flying through the air.
How would you define beauty and how have your perceptions of beauty evolved over the years?
“I think kindness is beauty,” says Suni. “I think putting good, positive energy out is beauty.” This might not have been the response you expected (same), but it sure is refreshing to hear. The Olympian gymnast explained to StyleCaster that someone’s physical appearance is actually the least interesting part about them. Instead, “It is all about things that make you feel confident and happy in your skin.”
As for shifts in the beauty industry, Suni says she has noticed increased representation over the past few years, but still notes even more opportunities to do better and make everyone feel seen.
What do you wish more people knew about ideas of beauty and being an athlete?
“I think people feel more open to criticize or comment on my appearance as an athlete, especially on social media,” she says. “I wish more people understood that athletes are human, too, and have insecurities just like everyone else.”
It’s true, putting yourself out into the world opens up a channel for people to criticize—and do so very publicly—via the media and social media. It’s a shame, though, because hateful remarks can cut deep. And when being the best version of yourself both physically and mentally is literally your full-time job, that negative energy can leave an impact.
How have you dealt with beauty standards and what message would you convey to other young people who might feel the same way?
“I still deal with the pressure of beauty standards, and I don’t think that will go away, but I hope to be the positive role model young Asian girls can see on television or social media and think, ‘Wow, she looks like me!’” Suni says she didn’t have role models who looked like her when she was growing up, which is why she now wants to be that spark of inspiration for others. As a young Asian-American female myself, all of these words really hit home for me.
To all the young people out there, she advises them to stay true to themselves and do whatever makes them feel happy and beautiful, and to not let other people’s opinions stand in their way of achieving that. Suni also wants to remind people that “there is so much that goes into getting someone ready for a big magazine shoot or red carpet event, and for people not to hold themselves to those unattainable standards.”
I don’t know about you, but my whole outlook on being an athlete and the beauty standards that come with it has been forever changed by chatting with a real Olympian. Suni might be just 18 years old, but she is truly a champion in all respects and we have so much to learn from her.
So, what’s left to hear about? Her beauty essentials, of course. Below, discover the makeup, skincare and hair products that are Suni’s secrets to getting glammed up for the Olympics.
Urban Decay All Nighter Long-Lasting Makeup Setting Spray
I think we can all agree that Suni’s makeup is always on point from beginning to end during a competition. She says this Urban Decay setting spray keeps her makeup in place like no other.
Charlotte Tilbury Hollywood Flawless Filter
“I love scrolling through TikTok for beauty inspiration. There are so many talented people on there, and I’m always filling my cart after watching makeup tutorials,” she says.
Suni joins everyone else on TikTok in raving about Charlotte Tilbury’s Hollywood Flawless Filter foundation. She shares that she’s been using all of the Charlotte Tilbury wands, along with this foundation, after seeing how the formulas look great on all skin types. The gold medalist also has TikTok to thank for her obsession with Dior’s Backstage Rosy Glow Blush and L’Oreal Paris’ Infallible Fresh Wear Foundation.
Fenty Beauty Gloss Bomb Universal Lip Luminizer
“During the Olympics, I wore a full face of Fenty Beauty, and recommend their products to everyone,” Suni says. “My makeup lasted the entire day, even through the tears of winning a Gold medal!” While it’s hard to pick just one Fenty product to single out, Suni keeps at least one of the brand’s lip glosses in her bag at all times.
Supergoop! Glowscreen SPF 40
Applying sunscreen, as your dermatologist and favorite beauty YouTubers probably already tell you, is something everyone should be doing. Suni 100 percent agrees and has stuck with this daily habit with the Supergoop! Glowscreen. “I love it because it protects my skin while also leaving my complexion glowing,” she says.
Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Niacinamide Dew Drops
The gymnast calls on the Watermelon Glow Niacinamide Dew Drops to get an even more luminous look. It’s a multi-functional highlighting serum that delivers hydration and also adds a glowy sheen to the face.
Farmacy Green Clean Makeup Removing Cleansing Balm
When it comes to nighttime skincare, Suni says, “Farmacy’s Green Clean balm is seriously the best at getting all of my makeup off after a long day.” It melts away stubborn makeup, sunscreen, oil and impurities thanks to its sunflower and ginger root oils, turmeric and moringa extracts and papaya enzymes.
Drunk Elephant A-Gloei Retinol Oil
“I’ve been recently loving Drunk Elephant’s A-Gloei at night because it’s a gentle combination of retinol and marula oil.” This is one serious dynamic duo of ingredients, since retinol evens out skin tone and texture, while marula oil moisturizes.
SK-II Facial Treatment Mask
Suni always has an SK-II Facial Treatment Mask on hand and treats her skin to one a couple of times each week. The sheet mask is packed with pitera, an ingredient that’s abundant in vitamins, organic acids, minerals and amino acids (a.k.a. everything that’s good for your skin).
Augustinus Bader The Rich Cream
Got2b Glued Spray Wax
Through all the constant movement gymnastics requires, Suni’s secret weapon for keeping her hair in place is Got2b’s Glued Spray Wax. It releases product from two different actuators: one gives you flexible texture and the other gives you structured hold.
JVN Undamage Strengthening Shampoo
Suni believes her hair holds its shape best when she’s using a solid shampoo and conditioner. Lately, she’s been reaching for JVN’s Undamage Strengthening Shampoo.
Olaplex Hair Perfector No. 3 Repairing Treatment
The Olympian gymnast has completely hopped on the Olaplex bandwagon and joined its cult following. Suni uses the fan-favorite No. 3 Repairing Treatment, as well as the No. 4 Bond Maintenance Shampoo and No. 5 Bond Maintenance Conditioner.
Dyson Airwrap Complete Styler
Everyone’s favorite hair tool is also one of Suni’s must-haves. She uses the coveted Dyson Airwrap to style her hair, whether she’s going for bouncy curls or a simple blowout.
Kosas Kosasport LipFuel Active Lip Balm
Packed with hyaluronic and vitamin E, the Kosasport LipFuel gives you a hydrated, plump, smooth pout in no time. It also happens to be a product that Suni always carries in her handbag.
Refy Brow Sculpt Shape and Hold Gel with Lamination Effect
Suni also can’t leave the house without Refy’s brow gel. It’s a brow-wax crossover that has a unique double-ended brush. One side lets you comb and shape and the other lets you brush and set.