Americans had more female athletes than ever to cheer for during the 2012 Summer Olympics. Flyweight boxer and Bronze medalist Marlen Esparza is one of the brightest stars to emerge from this group of strong, inspiring mujeres. Boxing enthusiasts have been following her illustrious career for years but Soledad O’Brien’s 2011 CNN documentary, Latino in America 2: In Her Corner brought her journey to the Olympics to a wider audience.
Marlen Esparza is living proof that big things come in small packages. She’s a diminutive 5’ 3” and just 23 years old, but she’s already made history by being the first American to qualify for the Olympics in women’s boxing. She went on to win the Bronze, becoming the first American awarded a medal for women’s boxing in the Olympics. In addition to her stunning athletic accomplishments, Marlen was featured in the July issue of Vogue and is the face of CoverGirl—appearing in print and TV ads for CoverGirl Lashblast Volume mascara and Outlast All-Day Lipcolor.
Such strong role models for young girls are few and far between. Katy Perry’s frothy candy coated pin-up image is fun escapism and Twilight’s Bella Swan’s willingness to give up her humanity (literally) for love has a certain angsty appeal. But who can young girls look to as an example of an empowered woman embracing her individuality and strength while still being girly?
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Marlen Esparza shows us that beauty can be powerful and complex. She excels in a traditionally male-dominated sport and embraces her femininity in and out of the ring. She told the Detroit News: “When I get ready for a fight, it’s kind of like I’m getting ready for a date. I take a shower. Perfume. I shave. I fix my hair. I pray…We don’t have to look like men to fight like men.”
Of representing CoverGirl, she said in a statement: “This competition empowers me in so many ways, and that’s why I am proud to partner with CoverGirl, a brand that believes in female empowerment as much as I do.” CoverGirl’s marketing director Bruce Katsman told NBC Latino that “Marlen’s role goes beyond advertising, and includes helping all women feel beautiful and strong because she believes in the power and strength in beauty and uses that confidence in the ring and in the game of life”.
As if looking gorgeous while breaking boxing’s glass ceiling weren’t enough, Ms. Esparza is no academic slouch. In high school she was Student Body President and graduated in the top 2% of her class. Although she put college on hold to focus on the 2012 Summer Olympics, Marlen’s been accepted to Rice University, Texas A&M University, and the University of Texas and plans to become an anesthesiologist.
So what’s next for this fabulous Olympian? We can add enterprising to Ms. Esparza’s long list of attributes. She recently announced plans to start a fashion and beauty line with a portion of the profits going to groups that promote childhood fitness.