Sporty Spotlight – Toni Davis – The First Black Female to Make the Paralympic Swim Team

A few weeks ago, we asked you all to submit photos of you while working out for the #Health Over Hair campaign. In the midst of the emails, we received a great submission from Toni Davis. Toni is a Paralympic Swimmer and The First Black Female to Make the Paralympic Swim Team. I ended up asking if she would be willing to chat for an interview and she obliged. She has a great wealth of knowledge. She truly has inspired me to hop back into the pool and work harder.  So read on to find out more about her…

*In your own words, describe your occupation (student, entrepreneur, clerk by day singer by night?)*

I am an Equal Opportunity Specialist within the federal government. I am also a student. This September will be my second year towards my Doctorate of Psychology (PsyD) degree in Clinical Psychology at the American School of Professional Psychology at Argosy University. Once I receive my degree, I want to work with the veterans returning from overseas with physical and mental disabilities.

*Tell us a little bit about your hair. How do you wear your hair? (Natural and curly, natural and straight, transitioning, permed, wigs, weaves, etc.) What are some of your signature hair styles?*

My hair is natural and always has been, I never had a relaxer in my life (this includes kiddie perms). My mom did not want those chemicals in my hair. I thought about getting a relaxer when I got older, but hearing my friends’ stories of their scalp burning while they are getting their hair done and knowing I would sweat it out from working out has deterred me from it.  Maybe one day I will get it, but I know it won’t be no time soon.

I usually wear my wear my hair in cornrows, and I guess I would call that one of my signature styles. I wore my hair like this my junior and senior years of high school, throughout college, training for the Paralympics, and while I was working on my Masters degree. I wore my hair in cornrows because of swimming. It was the easiest hairstyle for me to manage when I was in the pool for 5 to 6 times a week. I still wear my hair in cornrows now because I believe it is the most convenient for me when I work out and I am not worried about sweating my hair out.

When my hair is not in cornrows, I get it pressed. Both of these hairstyles last up to two weeks for me. Right now I have Senegalese twists and I love them! I wanted to try something different and I am I went with this choice. I will probably get them again in another year.

 *What are some of your hair favorite products?*

The Mane N’ Tail shampoo, conditioner, and braid spray…love those products. I also like the Organic Root Stimulator’s Hair Mayonnaise and Olive Oil Nourishing Sheen Spray. I use the hair mayonnaise treatment once or twice a month to give my hair a deep conditioning.  I also like Fantasia’s Hair Polisher.

*I love swimming! So tell me, what are your tips for keeping hair healthy?*

Definitely wash your hair after you get out of the pool. Chlorine can dry out your hair and cause breakage if you don’t wash it out. So, shampoo and use a conditioner. Do a deep conditioning once or twice a month. As I mentioned above, I like Organic Root Stimulator’s Hair Mayonnaise, but if you cannot get to the store to get it, use regular mayonnaise. There have been plenty of times where I just used mayonnaise and put on a shower cap or wrapped my head in Saran Wrap for 20 minutes.

After you wash and dry your hair, grease your scalp. I use whatever hair grease I have available, but if I do not have any, I will use Vaseline.

*What are some of your favorite healthy foods or snacks you enjoy?*

I love fruit. I had a donut peach for the first time a few weeks ago and that is my favorite fruit at the moment, lol. Frozen grapes are also good. Just take some grapes and put them in the freezer for several hours (I prefer red grapes).

Wheat spaghetti with a ground turkey meat in the sauce is also one of my favorites.

I also love salads. Romaine lettuce with olives, onions, tomatoes, croutons, feta cheese, topped with shrimp or chicken with a vinaigrette dressing is a good meal for me.

*What’s on your workout playlist?*

I feel like I have everything, music from the 60’s to the present. I have country, R&B, hip-hop, gospel, soul, alternative, reggae, and heavy metal. Some of the artists are Oak Ridge Boys, Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Prince (and other artists of the Minneapolis sound), DeBarge, The Temptations, Beyonce, The Braxtons, Metallica, Mahalia Jackson, Wham!, Patra, Cherelle, After 7, O’Jays, etc, etc, etc… J

*Favorite female athlete?*

I don’t have single one, but Dominique Dawes, Dara Torres, Lolo Jones, and Gail Devers are a few.

*Tip(s) on staying healthy?*

You have to eat healthy and get exercise into your daily routine. For this, I recommend working on time management skills which may require some sacrifice. For example, taking a brisk walk outside rather than watching TV. Staying healthy has to become a lifestyle. Replace white pasta, white bread, white potatoes with wheat pasta, wheat bread, or a sweet potato. Use a vinaigrette dressing versus a creamy dressing. If your schedule makes it hard for you to work out, then I definitely suggest watching your caloric intake.

*First and foremost, how does did it feel knowing you were the first African-American female to make the U.S. Paralympic Swim Team.*

It is a great feeling. I was really happy when I made the team and not too many people can say they became the first in something, so I also consider it a blessing.

*What is your training like for the Paralympic Olympics?*

My training for the 2004 Paralympics was intense. I ate the same meal pretty much every day up until the Games, I worked out 6 days a week (twice a day Monday through Friday) with two of those days including dry land or weight training.  When I was at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, it was hard for me to adapt to the thin air, but it is a great atmosphere to train in. You literally eat, sleep, and swim, but I did mind that since I knew that is what it would take to compete at that level.

*How did you fall in love with swimming?*

I got started swimming at the pool in my neighborhood in New Carrollton, MD. My brother was on the pool’s swim team first then I got on. I was not into, but my parents made me stick with it (obviously them did the right thing J ). When I got to high school a year later, I found out two of the girls who I swam with on New Carrollton’s swim team were going to swim for Parkdale’s (my high school) swim team. I decided to join the team and ending up swimming up all four years in high school. So basically, my swimming career started with my neighborhood swim team.

*I must ask, where you aware of the Gabby Douglas Hair controversy and if so tell me how?*

I was not aware of it until I read an article about it. When I saw her compete, I thought her hair was fine, did not think anything of it. I am sure while she is doing her routines; she is more concentrated on technique than how her hair looks. It’s sad that the focus was on her hair and not her accomplishments.

*Top 3 favorite things about yourself?*

I know I am and have been blessed, my endurance (in and out of sports), and my smile J

*Let us know your accomplishments!*

  • First black female to make the Paralympic Swim Team
  • Placed 4th in the 100 Meter Butterfly and 7th in the 50 Meter Freestyle events in the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens, Greece

Thank you again Toni for taking to answer all my questions.

I am still in awe of virtually meeting her! So tell me guys what do you think?



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