Last week, sportswear brand Under Armour launched a global marketing campaign called Unlike Any. Through it, some of the strongest, boldest and most influential female athletes were celebrated for being able to “rise above gender comparisons” to excel at their craft. Their stories were shared through some incredibly crafted visual clips featuring each woman doing what they do best while acclaimed spoken-word artists like Saul Williams, Aja Monet and Dominique Christina did spoken-word odes to them.
I was able to attend the launch event in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, and in the room full of fierce, muscular, powerful women (a majority of the ladies in the campaign are WOC — including prima ballerina Misty Copeland), Natasha Hastings stood out. With her blond braids and bright red lip, she had a look and confidence that draws you in, and in that moment, it immediately makes sense why she would be chosen to be featured in a campaign like this. But I was still intimidated. The 31-year-old Brooklyn native is an Olympic gold medalist and former world champion. She took home gold in the 4×400 meter relay in both the Beijing (’08) and Rio (’16) Olympics and is known as the “400M diva,” recently winning at the Golden Gala meet in Rome. Still, I approached her in the hopes of chatting about her fitness journey, and she obliged me with the “Hey, girl, hey!” warmth that we Leos always exude. We chatted about how she knew her future was in sprinting, treating herself in terms of her diet, the story behind her bold beauty moves on the track and why she’s truly, unlike any.
MadameNoire: How did you decide that running was something you wanted to do and take seriously not just in school but as a profession? Who did you look up to on the track growing up?
Natasha Hastings: So both my mom and dad ran. I’m going to try and give you the abbreviated version. So I’ve been exposed to it all of my life. I joined a team officially when I was 9. I figured out then that I was good. My mom actually gave me her middle name, so I’m named after my mom. My mom made the ’84 Olympic team for Trinidad, but got injured so she didn’t get to go. Then she had me. So for me I feel like I’m finishing what my mom didn’t get to.
I’m sure your training is very strict and strenuous, but how about your diet? Are you very strict with what you eat or do you allow yourself to indulge?
I’m honest about that. I eat clean. I try to. But if I want a treat I’m not going to deprive myself of a cookie. I feel like I work hard enough that I’m not about to sit up here and — my life shouldn’t be punishment. So for me it’s about portion control. Too much of anything is a bad thing, so if you’re going to have cookies, don’t sit down and eat a whole pack of Oreos. Have the serving size and call it a day. Have a scoop of ice cream, not the whole pint. So I try to find balance. Yes, I eat clean but I enjoy my life, too.
How important is it for you to look good on the track? I know that the red lip is a signature and you rock lashes and a beat face even when you’re competing.
It is very important to me and it’s important for several reasons. Number one, the process itself is something that I like to call my “positive distraction.” So when I do my makeup before I go out on the track, it’s 15 minutes that I’m away from this big thing that I’m about to go do. It gives me something to do with my hands and it calms my nerves. It’s not just about the vanity. But the vanity side of it is I can go out there and be all of this and still kick your a– [laughs]. Over the years I’ve received some criticism for that and I’ve had to grow to accept it and be who I am. People, in terms of athletes, they have opinions about what they feel like you should look like. No, I decide that.
Speaking of beauty and wearing what you want, what do you think of these incidents of track and field athletes losing their wigs while competing? And what would you say is the appeal in wearing one for such a physical activity?
I mean, I’m not going to lie. I’ve competed in wigs, too. It’s the easiness. Think about it. We’re working out every day, we’re sweating every day. So you’re having to do your hair all the time a wig is just easier. God, I don’t want to be shady because they’re both my girls. It’s unfortunate how it happened, but secure your wigs. If you go out there you have to make sure it’s down. We’re not just walking in the park, we’re running and doing active things. So you have to make sure it’s on really tight. But I love those girls.
I know you’re Jamaican and Trinidadian. I saw you whining earlier [laughs]. So when you’re training, what’s in your ears right now?
So right now what’s been on my playlist is Machel Mantano. He’s like my all-time favorite Soca artist. I also love rap. I’m killing that song by Fat Joe and Remy Ma. “Heartbreak”? Yeah, I’m feeling that. That’s my joint too. I’m happy to see Remy back. I think she bodied Nicki in that battle. It’s about empowering women, we’re not talking about that, but she won [laughs]. She killed that.
Why is being part of this Under Armour “Unlike Any” campaign important to you?
Man, I always go back to the 10-year-old girl that watched the ’96 Olympics and that’s when I was like, “Oh, I want to go to the Olympics.” I always think about that girl watching those games and what it felt like to, for the first time, put on the Team USA gear. I want people to understand that I’ve gone through some of the same things you’ve gone through. We just have to push through and believe that we can do anything that we want to. So for me, it’s about the little girl that’s coming up after me. To see what I’m doing, even in those moments when I fall short, how I bounce back from those moments and show there’s grace in winning and grace in losing, all you can do is bounce back.