Photo Credit: Pedro Vit

Sha’Carri Richardson reminds me of Tiffany Richardson from Cycle 3 and 4 of “America’s Next Top Model” – we were all rooting for her, even when she didn’t live up to our expectations.

Sha’Carri placed last in the Prefontaine Classic earlier this month, losing to even more unbelievably fast sprinters from Jamaica. It is still a win for women of color, and Sha’Carri is still one of the fastest women in America — but off the track she has demonstrated questionable behavior that has made her a topic in many threads of the digital world. While some argue that the resulting backlash is justified, she is just one of many examples of how people can be at the top of their game but still a work in progress.

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Sha’Carri initially won our hearts with the same lively personality that’s also put her in the hot seat. With a winning time of 10.86 seconds in the 100-meter final during the U.S. Track and Field Olympic Trials in June, she became a headline favorite. I was initially drawn to her hustle mentality and her deep love for her grandmother — she was fierce but relatable, with vibrant hair, eye-catching nails and long lashes. 

But not too long after that first moment in the public spotlight, she was disqualified from the 2021 Tokyo Olympics after failing her drug test due to marijuana use. The criticism started immediately and has continued through the present, with Sha’Carri adding more fuel to the fire with reactive comments regarding the Prefontaine Classic and shade towards the adored track and field legend, Allyson Felix.

During an appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” Allyson Felix discussed her experience in Tokyo and new sneaker brand, Saysh. She then took the spotlight off of her and used her platform to recognize Sha’Carri.

“I know that she’s obviously been through so much and I hope that she’s just supported. I hope people rally around her,” Allyson Felix said during her interview. “Obviously, she has a great personality and she’s brought a lot of attention to the sport and I think she’ll be in the sport for a very long time,” she continued. “I think just more than anything, for all athletes, there’s so much that goes into it. Just give her the support that she needs.”

“Encouraging words on TV shows are just as real as well nothing at all,” Sha’Carri responded in a social media post, and Black Twitter was not here for it.

Sha’Carri’s reaction to Allyson Felix’s seemingly kind words again reminded me of Tiffany from ANTM. In fact, their similarities are uncanny. Despite many obstacles, Tiffany made it to a top TV series, and Sha’Carri did the same with the Olympic Trials. Tiffany was quick to emotionally respond, and Sha’Carri absolutely is. Tiffany received support from Tyra Banks, an iconic and well-respected figure in the Black community, but denounced it on national TV. Sha’Carri did the same with Allyson Felix on a public platform.

Despite her infamous cut from ANTM, however, Tyra Banks gave Tiffany a second chance by bringing her back on season 4. While she was eliminated that season too, Tiffany was a noticeably changed person who seemed to have matured and taken accountability for her actions.

If Tyra Banks didn’t give her another chance, would we have seen Tiffany’s growth? Would Tiffany have received another opportunity to redeem herself? As a community, is it even our responsibility to rally around those who need our support, or should we sit back and watch them unravel at the seams?

While some of these questions are subjective, what’s not subjective is the pressure Sha’Carri faces while navigating life and newfound media spotlight, not to mention other stresses we’re not privy to, which people handle differently. 

Despite her complexities and much-needed guidance, I’m still rooting for Sha’Carri. I hope she finds a mentor who encourages, supports and corrects her when she’s wrong, just like Tyra Banks did with Tiffany.

Sierra Allen is an Atlanta-based writer who considers herself a creative by nature and storyteller at heart. As a Black culture enthusiast, she writes with purpose and passion while highlighting local and national community-centered topics.