Gail Devers is a three-time gold medalist, five-time Olympian in the 100 meters, a Team USA Hall of Fame member, and a woman whose nails need no introduction (more on that later). She’s also a skeptic by nature. “I don’t trust anybody and don’t believe anybody—I like being the information gatherer,” says the 55-year-old, who is teaming up with Thorne for its Better Health campaign the summer. “I didn’t take supplements when I was competing, just because I wasn’t taking any chances, but my friend told me about this brand and I am a believer. I always tell people I’m living to 100, so I’m preparing my body to live to 100.”
You’ve spoken openly about your health and it sounds like you truly back this.
“I’m looking at my life and looking at my health situation [Devers has Graves’ disease], my family’s health, and trying to find effective products that I can put into my daily routine. Honestly, my body feels better; my body totally feels different. I give the example of my face, too, because I had issues there. There were certain things that I could not eat. Usually, if I eat something that I’m not supposed to, my face breaks out immediately—within hours—and I used to itch. My face is not itching, my face is not breaking out. I’m a whole new person! I always say beauty begins on the inside. Then, how you feel on the inside radiates on the outside, and I feel good. They made a believer out of me.
I’m always going to be the guinea pig, because I have kids—they’re my platinum medals. I won gold, they’re platinum, so I don’t play. My daughter has Kawasaki, so that’s another immune disorder we deal with. What I liked [about Thorne] is that you can go on the website and you can put in your profile, and they’ll give you recommendations. For me, I put in, “I’m going to boost my immune system because I have an autoimmune disorder,” you take the quiz and it tells you the right fit. They make suggestions and recommendations and it come from a physician. I love that it gives everyone access to achieve better health.
I always say that it’s not about age so much, it’s more how you feel mentally and physically that makes the difference. And it’s never too late to start on a new goal, a new health journey—there’s resources and effective products that will help you to do what you want to do.”
I have to ask you: What is the story behind your nails and, if you had to pick one color that you’ve loved forever, what would it be?
“I don’t have one brand I go to! People are always asking, ‘How come you don’t start your own?’ When it comes to colors, I like blue…maybe it’s because blue is that symbol of the blue ribbon, which is the best, but I do like platinum, so I do put some grays on.
The story behind my nails is that I used to actually bite them. My mom had long hair, long nails, and I was always saying, ‘Oh, they’re so pretty,’ and she would tell me, ‘If you keep them out of your mouth, maybe yours will grow.’ My dad, he tried everything to get me to stop biting them; we even tried putting hot sauce on them, but nothing made me stop. It wasn’t until he appealed to my competitive nature: He actually said he was going to grow his pinky nail out and I wanted to beat him and grow mine longer and I won. I don’t remember what I won, but, after that, my mom said, ‘As long as you keep them clean, you’re good.’ So I let them grow.
One of the first signs that something was wrong with me with my Wegener’s disease—even though it took years for them to diagnose it—was that my nails got brittle. Now, my nails are crazy strong. I put like seven coats on and, every two days, I usually change the color. I let them grow three years at a time and no matter how long it takes me to paint them, how long it took them to dry, it is a mental sign to me that, ‘Gail, you’re O.K.’ Your nails are strong.
People also always ask, ‘What happens if they break?’ Then I just have one dodo nail and nine other ones. It doesn’t matter. The breaking of them, or cutting them and having to grow them back, to me, is a sign of starting over. Everything starts over. It’s like a flower you water. Everything grows again if you take care of it. To be honest, in a nutshell, that’s my philosophy to better heath.”
Can you share where you keep your medals?
“I’m laughing because when people ask me that, I’m like, ‘Oh gosh, do I have to tell?’ I actually keep them in a little black bag. The reason is, I do a lot of traveling; I go to a lot of schools, volunteering or mentoring young kids. I like to bring the medals with me, so they can put them on, so it’s easy if they’re in the bag. You never know what holding that medal symbolizes to them.
I like to ask people, ‘Everybody wants to be successful, but what does success look like to you?’ Success, to me, does not mean that you have to own the company or make all the money. It just means you have to be the best you that you can be. I had a goal. I worked hard for my goal, I wrote my goals down on sticky notes. I did what I needed to do to see that that goal became a reality. When I look at my medals, I see that.
When I have kids put them [the medals] on, it’s telling them, ‘I’m not saying that you have to go out and aspire to be an Olympian, I’m telling you to be the best you that you can be.’ The example that I give is, let’s say your teacher tells you you have a test next week, next Friday. You have two choices: You can start studying today and a little bit every day, or you can wait until that Friday when mom or dad are taking you to school, and then you get a big fat zero.
You come home and say, ‘That teacher doesn’t like me.’ Is it really that teacher’s fault? No. Why? Because you didn’t do everything that you could do. When you look yourself in the mirror after any task and you can say, ‘I did everything that I could, regardless of the outcome.” That is success. That’s what my gold medal stands for for me.”