It’s nowhere near Mother’s Day, but for Olympians like Gus Kenworthy and Kehri Jones, the number-one woman in their lives is never far from their minds.
Ahead of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Olympians past and present—including figure-skating legend, Michelle Kwan, and Elana Meyers, the first woman to pilot a mixed-gender bobsled—partnered with Procter and Gamble to produce a short yet super-powerful film highlighting the vital roles their moms played in helping them achieve their Olympic and personal triumphs.
The video, which is loosely inspired by the Olympians’ own struggles and is guaranteed to make you choke up, follows six young, aspiring Olympic athletes, who, with the love and support of their moms, overcome obstacles big and small to pursue their dreams. Titled “Love Over Bias,” it’s the latest installment of P&G’s “Thank You, Mom” campaign, and aims to make viewers think about how the world might be different if we all saw one another through the unconditionally loving eyes of a mother.
“When you think about the way a mother views her child, if everyone could view everyone that way, the world would be a much better place,” says Kenworthy, 26, who’s an Olympic skier and the first openly gay action-sports athlete.
If everyone could view each other the way a mother sees her child, the world would be a much better place.
Kenworthy admits that he had a lot of fear about coming out publicly two years ago, not long after he won a silver medal in the 2014 Winter Olympics. Considering the “inherent homophobia” he witnessed in the action-sports industry, even before he came out, he worried about being ostracized, judged, or even losing his career.
Kenworthy’s mom helped give him the courage to come out by sharing a key piece of advice before he went public with his sexuality. “I remember having a conversation with my mom beforehand and feeling nervous, like I was going to be judged or lose friends,” Kenworthy says. “My mom was very firm in her belief that anyone who had an opinion that wasn’t positive is someone I don’t need in my life. Everyone I do need in my life would be supportive.”
And though Kenworthy admits he still deals with discrimination for his sexuality, whether it’s to his face, “through the grapevine,” or on Instagram, he sees a noticeable difference in his life and the state of the LGBTQ community since he came out. “Even if I was being called names all the time, I’d prefer to live my life authentically and to be free and myself rather than a version that I was making up,” Kenworthy says.
I prefer to live my life authentically as myself, rather than a version I was making up.
Kehri Jones, 23, is an Olympic bobsledder and also credits her own mother for much of her Olympic success. She equates her mom to her counselor and describes her, especially when she was younger, as a protective “mama bear.” Still, she says she didn’t always see eye-to-eye with her parent. It wasn’t until college that Jones realized her strict upbringing was for her benefit.
“Does any kid understand why their mom is the way she is? We’re always like, ‘My mom is so mean!’” Jones says, “I know that she understands because she was once an 18-year-old girl. She’s going to give me the best advice that she could or the advice she wished she had.”
Like Kenworthy, despite her success, Jones isn’t immune to prejudice and discriminatory comments, and when she’s struggling to cope with hateful words, she seeks support from her mom. Jones admits that, like many Americans, she feels that the U.S. has recently lost ground in terms of social progress, but remains hopeful for positive change.
“For awhile, I thought the biases in our country were getting better. We were making steps for change, and at some point, I feel like we’ve stepped back a few feet,” Jones says. “In the last year, opinions from people who don’t like different genders, different sexual orientations, or different ethnicities have been more prevalent. I really think we have a lot of work to do.”
My mom was once an 18-year-old girl, so she’s going to give me the advice she wished she had.
While Kenworthy and Jones can both recall countless memories of their moms helping them become who they are today, they each feel that the biggest part of their futures that will be influenced by their moms is the kind of parents they’ll be one day. “If I ever do decide to have kids down the line, I can only hope to be the kind of parent my mom was to me,” says Kenworthy. And Jones echoes the sentiment, saying, “Watching my mom raise my little sisters and the women that they became lets me know that that’s everything I want to be as a mother.”