We recently sat down with HOKA athlete Latoya Snell. We talked sport, the importance of authenticity, and breaking down the barriers of stereotyping and online criticism in the running space.
WHO IS LATOYA
First and foremost, Latoya is an artist. Through the lens of art, she has been able to achieve recognition in a multitude of spaces. She is a trained chef, journalist, speaker, plus-size-athletes advocate, LGBTQIA community member, podcast host, ultrarunner, content creator, and multi-sport athlete.
Those spaces might seem very different from each other, but Latoya believes they all have one thing in common.
“All of this is just artistry. When I look at running…that’s all this is. When I look at food, that’s artistry. When I talk to people and I listen to their stories, that’s artistry. It doesn’t matter what space I tap into. I’m always looking for the art.”
Art requires authenticity. Latoya understands the hard truth that authenticity requires vulnerability, which opens the door to criticism. In order to be true to herself, she has had to accept that criticism no matter the space she is in.
BREAKING DOWN BARRIERS: CRITICISM
What makes Latoya such a dynamic, interesting, colorful, successful person is her daily choice to wade her way through all the criticism and stay true to her authentic self. She recognizes the value of the powerful connections you can make when you are your most authentic. And her ever-growing number of supporters are proof that her authenticity is powerful and valued by her community.
BREAKING DOWN BARRIERS: STEREOTYPING
Latoya is no stranger to having to fight stereotyping. Since her emergence into the spotlight of the running world, she has had to deal with comments about her size. She has had to listen to comments about how her size does not conform to the stereotypical runners body. Comments like “It’s just not healthy being that size” & “It’s just not possible to be a runner when you are that size.” It is important to note that she has raced well over 200 races in her career, consisting of a large range of distances, and raced 35 of them in the year of 2019 alone.
BREAKING DOWN BARRIERS: FALSE FRIENDS
Even though she has won international recognition in the running space, Latoya still understands the importance of providing authentic support to the online running community on even the smallest level. She has been approached by fans mid-race who have asked for her help getting them to the finish line.
“Listen, we will hold hands together if we have to. We are going to make it across the finish line” she told one athlete who approached her during a marathon.
She even offered up her own race fuel to the athlete. Those types of connections matter so much more than the online trolling she receives every week. All too often, she has experienced an array of praise from folks who are too quick to turn their backs on her as soon as she breaks the mold of who they think she needs to be.
ADVICE FOR READERS
There are still too many athletes out there who do not feel comfortable or accepted in the running space, whether it be due to their size, shape, sexual orientation, background, race, or anything else. To those who struggle with online criticism, the commentary is something you cannot control. You cannot control what people say about you, but you CAN control the narrative that it creates.
“People think that in order to be body positive you have to smile through all of the criticism. No. I think that people should be allowed to sit with that and think about it for a minute and recognize being hurt. And that is a part of the process. Be okay with being hurt and acknowledge how that made you feel. Think to yourself, is any of what they said true? I think we need that moment of honesty with ourselves. We grow up in America to be taught to brush it off and move on. When you do that you lose honesty with yourself and the ability to be vulnerable.”
The more vulnerable you are, the more meaningful your connections with others will be. That is how you will find your community and sense of belonging in the running space–or any space for that matter.
RAPID FIRE – I SAY, YOU SAY
Favorite Shoe — Hoka Arahi 5 and the Clifton Edge
Road or Trail — Road
Favorite Distance — Ultra’s
Favorite season — Fall
Next career goal — Triathlons
Book You’re Reading Right Now — ‘The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food: A Cookbook’ by Marcus Samuelsson
Favorite book — ‘The Color of Water’ by James McBride
Favorite Seasoning — Garlic
Current food obsession — Salmon
WHAT’S LATOYA CURRENTLY RUNNING IN?
HOKA Clifton 8