Remember McKayla Maroney? She was the pint-sized athlete who made a splash (not literally; she’s not a swimmer) at the 2012 Summer Olympics. Not only was she successful in gymnastics – she won gold – but she also achieved the most important award of all: meme status.
At the 2012 Games, the then-16-year-old Maroney was part of the so-called Fierce Five, the gymnastics team that won the United States its second team gold medal, and its first gold medal on international soil. Maroney also won individual silver in the vault competition.
The 2012 team was known originally as the Fab Five, but Maroney and teammate Jordyn Wieber changed “fab” to “fierce.” They didn’t want a nickname that had been used by other athletic teams before. Maroney explained at the time, “There have been Fab Fives in the past but I like Fierce Five because we are definitely the fiercest team out there.”
Maroney’s fierceness put her front and center in the zeitgeist during the 2012 Olympics. Even people who otherwise didn’t follow the Games couldn’t avoid the now-legendary image of Maroney at her silver-medal podium with a look of frustrated disappointment and impatient self-reproach. Her pursed-lipped scowl became a meme called “McKayla is not impressed.”
The image, like all memes, went viral through various Photoshopped reinterpretations. Nothing impressed McKayla Maroney, not the Great Wall of China, not the Mona Lisa, not even Chuck Norris. Maroney was, of course, as aware of the meme as the rest of the world. “I guess it turned into some big thing,” she said. “It’s kind of funny.”
The “McKayla is not impressed” meme, and arguably Maroney herself, reached its peak of popularity when the gymnast met the president. The entire U.S. Gymnastics team met then-POTUS Barack Obama in November of 2012. That’s when Maroney and President Obama recreated her iconic photo together in the Oval Office.
Maroney’s public profile has been a little quieter in the five years since here Olympic fame and meme superstardom. She won more medals in more gymnastics competitions, naturally. She enjoyed a guest spot on the TV show Bones. But other than that, she’s been largely out of the public eye.
More recently, though, Maroney made a bit of a comeback. She must have learned something from her days as a meme. Because she’s started regaining the spotlight through the most modern of means: via social media.
Now 21, the Olympic medalist is getting in touch with her selfie game. And her makeup’s on point too. Maroney’s modern look is reminiscent of Instagram queen Kylie Jenner.
McKayla Maroney's Assets
In May of 2017, Maroney posted a short video to her Instagram account that earned a lot of attention. Wearing only a T-shirt and a thong, she showed her followers that all those year of gymnastics reward her with something more than just Olympic gold.
Now retired as an athlete, Maroney has her sights set on pop stardom. In 2016, she told Seventeen magazine, “I have some demos done and I'm going to be showing them to some bigger people in the industry and we'll see where that takes me.”
If Maroney plans on being a pop star, then a strong social media presence isn’t just a good idea; it’s practically required. So it makes sense that she was going hard on Instagram to regain the public’s attention. However, recent events call into question whether that’s really her goal.
However, there’s reason to believe Maroney will reactivate her social media at some point. She’s done it before, very recently, in fact. In August 2012, Maroney returned to Instagram after weeks of absence due to a car accident. At the time, she said she was “happy 2 be back.”
In one (now inaccessible) post, Maroney copped to going back-and-forth with her commitment to having a social media presence. “Social media gets pretty heavy on me sometimes, and that’s why i disappear a lot,” she wrote. “It’s purely for my own sanity, and happiness.” We hope she’ll return again, but only when she’s ready.