5x World Medalist Gymnast Morgan Hurd Talks Social Justice & Embracing Identity On And Off The Mat

Image courtesy of Morgan Hurd

All eyes have been on US female gymnasts this year as they have not only dominated on the mat at the Olympics, but the way they have bravely come forward to share heartbreaking stories of sexual assault with the world, exposing systemic issues and the failure of those in leadership to adequately protect them. While we could spend all day talking about how people in power have often abused their positions toward especially young women in their charge, we are also seeing a profound shift in our culture where young women are stepping forward into their own power and taking agency of their lives.

in fact, a number of high profile American gymnasts have utilized their public platforms to raise awareness not only about sexual abuse, but also a number of social justice issues that have ignited the country over the past year. Athlete, Instagram Creator and Social Justice advocate Morgan Hurd is a familiar name and face to many for her skills on the mat, and on social media, where she has an engaged audience of over 140,000 followers on Instagram. The 5x World US medalist has been consistently using her voice to amplify issues such as #BlackLivesMatter, #StopAsianHate, voting rights and more. As an adopted Asian-American, Morgan’s passion blossoms from finding her voice in support of the fellow Americans she represents on the mat.

Most recently, she was tapped for Instagram’s Yours to Make campaign, launched on September 23, which focuses on encouraging users and creators to boldly take agency of who they are and explore who they can become when they have the tools to do it. As someone who has been on the forefront of pushing culture forward, Morgan lives and breathes activism as an everyday part of her life.

We had the opportunity to speak with Morgan about the Yours To Make campaign, the important of utilizing her Instagram platform for social justice causes, and how she is encouraging others to embrace their identity and agency, as she is doing.

Congrats on the launch of Instagram’s ‘Yours To Make’ campaign. Can you tell us more about your involvement and what it means to be a part of this? 

I am super excited and grateful to be involved with this campaign. It is definitely one of the most unique things I have ever done. To me being a part of this means celebrating individuality and what one is passionate about. 

You have certainly made a name for yourself and carved out your own path – as a 5X World medalist, an Insta creator with over 140+K followers, and utilizing your platform as a means for activism. How do you balance all of it?

I don’t necessarily see myself “balancing” it all but more so just how I am going about life at the moment.  Before this summer I was training 30+ hours a week which had been my norm since I was in sixth grade. As I got older and more conscious of the world outside my own bubble, I did my best, and continue to try to do my best at keeping up with the news and what is happening in the world. I share these things on my platforms as a way for others to get informed as well.  

You have been very outspoken for movements including Black Lives Matter as well as the #StopAsianHate movement throughout 2020 and 2021. Why was it important for you to speak out for these causes? 

Social injustice has been something I have been passionate about for as long as I can remember. When I was younger, I feared speaking on these issues because of how it could affect my career. Last year however, it became clear to me that these things are so much bigger than a sport. I also believe that there is power in numbers and if you can get even one person to listen to you, then you are making a difference. I have been blessed with a large platform and I don’t want it to go to waste by being silent because silence is siding with the oppressor. 

There has been a lot of spotlight on US gymnastics and the assault survivors who recently spoke out in front of Congress. How do you think this will impact the future of US gymnastics and the way young athletes, especially female, are treated? 

Thanks to these incredibly brave women, I think there will be a great shift in young athletes. I believe that they will be more likely to speak up and to know that they are more than the medals they win.

What kind of content do you followers gravitate toward the most, and what content do you have the most fun making? 

I would say that my followers enjoy gymnastics videos the most. I wouldn’t say that I am “creating content,” but sharing the things that make me happy. However, I do love showing random fun finds from trips I take or showing off my friends.

You have also been outspoken about being adopted, and how it has impacted your life. Can you share a little about this? 

I never really realized how large my adoption has impacted me until recent years. As a child I knew I was adopted and that I didn’t look like my parents nor share any genetics with them, but that didn’t faze me until kids made comments about it. When I got a little older though, I started feeling more of a disconnect, which I still often feel to this day.

I didn’t have anyone around until late into my teen years that resembled me. I was not educated on any of my culture and grew up fairly differently than my other Asian friends, which makes me feel out of place with them; like I’m a fraud. It has also been difficult to know next to nothing about myself. All I know is the place and date I was found. 

When you are competing on the mat, what do you focus on the most, and who do you represent when you are out there? 

When competing I try to focus on one thing at a time and not get ahead of myself. People may interpret me in many different ways, seeing themselves in me in whichever way they like. I represent whoever wants to be represented by me. But I especially want to represent the Asian community, glasses wearers, and adoptees.

While social media can be a negative space in a lot of ways, how are you using it to be a force for good, and how would you encourage others to do the same? 

I try to have a positive attitude on my platforms while still staying true to myself and not come as phony. Personally, sometimes seeing a big creator I like can make me happy, and I hope to do the same for someone else. 

Like the ‘Yours To Make’ video asked, where do you see yourself in 10 years? 

The future is such an unknown place. If you asked me where I see myself next, I still couldn’t give you an answer. I just hope in 10 years I am where I want to be for that moment. 

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