Simone Biles' Mom Reveals Why She Styles Her Daughter's Hair Before Every Competition

simone biles parents
Meet Simone Biles' Supportive ParentsSimone Biles / Instagram

Simone Biles is, undeniably, the GOAT of gymnastics. But in the new Netflix docuseries Simone Biles Rising, fans get the inside story of how, exactly, she became that way—and it's because of, in no small part, her parents, Nellie and Ronald Biles.

The couple support their daughter at every single competition (except for the Tokyo Olympics, where they were not allowed to attend due to COVID-19 restrictions). They also have a tradition that they kiss every time Simone successfully completes a routine, per Pop Sugar.

Another family routine? Nellie styles Simone’s hair in braids before every single meet, all so they can have a calm moment together.

“I just want to do something special,” Nellie shared in the doc, per The Mirror. “She is an adult. This girl can braid her hair, but it’s not about braiding her hair.”

After they couldn't attend the previous Games, Nellie and Ronald will certainly be flying to France to cheer their girl on during the 2024 Paris Olympics.

“The important thing is to be there for Simone and making sure that she understands that her family is there giving her her full support,” Nellie told TODAY in a June 13 interview. “And I am going to be really happy and probably shedding a few tears just because I’m going to be so emotional.”

“The Simone that I know is a young adult that I admire," Nellie added. "She knows what she wants."

Given Simone's super impressive track record, it’s only natural to wonder about the couple who raised her. So, who are Nellie and Ronald Biles? Here’s what you need to know about Simone Biles' parents:

simone biles tokyo olympics
Laurence Griffiths - Getty Images

They’re not Simone’s biological parents.

Simone was born in Columbus, Ohio, to Shanon Biles and Kelvin Clemons. Both struggled with addiction, and her mother, who was raising her kids alone, struggled to care for them, Simone shared on Dancing With the Stars in 2017. So, the people Simone calls "mom" and "dad" are Ronald, her maternal grandfather, and Nellie, his wife.

"Growing up, my biological mom was suffering from drug and alcohol abuse and she was in and out of jail," Simone said. "I never had mom to run to. I do remember always being hungry and afraid."

When Simone was living with her biological mom, she often didn't have enough food to eat, she shared in 2021 on the Facebook Watch series Simone Vs. Herself.

“Growing up, me and my siblings were so focused on food because we didn’t have a lot of food,” she said. “I remember there was this cat around the house and I’d be so hungry. They would feed this cat and I’m like, ‘Where the heck is my food?’ And so I think that’s where it stemmed where I don’t like cats is because this frickin’ street cat, she always fed it, but she never fed us.”

At 3 years old, Simone entered foster care.

simone biles with nellie and ronald biles
Eric McCandless - Getty Images

"I don’t remember a lot about foster care, but I definitely knew that we had been taken from our biological mom and then you just think you’re going to go back to her,” Simone shared on Simone Vs. Herself.

While it was certainly challenging for Simone, she’s grateful for her experience in the foster system. “I’ll never forget where I came from, and how it shaped me into the person I am today,” she said in the Netflix docuseries Simone Biles Rising.

Nellie and Ronald adopted Simone and sister Adria in 2003.

Throughout foster care, Simone's grandparents were her bright spot, she said on Dancing with the Stars in 2017. “Whenever we had visits with my grandpa, I was so excited,” she said. “That was the person I always wanted to see walk into the foster home.”

When Simone was five, Ronald and his wife Nellie adopted six-year-old Simone and her younger sister Adria, per Vanity Fair.

Ronald and Nellie raised the two girls alongside their two sons in the Houston suburb of Spring, Texas, Simone shared with the magazine. Meanwhile, Ronald's sister took in Simone’s two older siblings, Tevin and Ashley, raising them in Ohio.

“We were very fortunate that we actually got to stay with our siblings because a lot of the time you either get regrouped from home to home to home or you and your siblings get split up,” she shared on Simone Vs. Herself.

While appearing on Dancing With The Stars, Simone said her parents asked her to think of them as Mom and Dad when they adopted her.

"'OK, you know how you called us Grandma and Grandpa?'" she recalled them saying when she moved in. "'You can call us Mom and Dad now, if you want to.'"

"My parents saved me," she added. "They’ve set huge examples of how to treat other people, and they’ve been there to support me since day one. There’s nothing I could say to them to thank them enough."

Simone has reiterated this sentiment, sharing in 2021 that she wouldn’t be who she is today without her parents. "Being separated from my biological mom, being placed in foster care before I officially got adopted by my grandparents, it just set me up for a better route at life," she said on Simone Vs. Herself. "I feel like I wouldn't be where I am unless that turning point happened. I would still be Simone Biles, probably not Simone Biles that everybody else knows, the world knows."

Simone is super close with her parents and showers them with love on Instagram. "HAPPY FATHERS DAY TO THE BEST & SWEETEST DAD IN THE WORLD 🤎 I LOVE YOU!" she captioned a 202o Father's Day post.

Meanwhile, her mom got a birthday shoutout that same year: "thanks for making all things happen & being a rock in my life! Forever grateful for you! Can’t wait to celebrate you tonight!!"

Ronald and Nellie met when Nellie was in college.

Ronald was in the Air Force and raising Simone’s mother as a single dad at the time, according to an interview with ANDSCAPE.com, in collaboration with ESPN Magazine.

The couple got married on January 16, 1977, and later had their two sons of their own. Nellie worked as a nurse and co-owned a chain of nursing homes, and Ronald worked as an air traffic controller. They have both since retired, per the outlet.

Simone called them “couple goals” in an Instagram post from their 40th anniversary.

Nellie shared that it was hard to become an adoptive mom at first.

In Simone vs. Herself, a seven-part docuseries on Facebook Watch, Nellie shared that it was tough for her to bond with Simone and Adria at first since she was already raising two sons of her own. "I knew I had my own barriers because these were not my biological children," she said. "You do everything that’s nurturing, that’s mothering, but emotionally, you still have to be there 100 percent."

“I remember praying for that bonding,” Nellie continued. “Because telling them that you love them and you care for them; that’s all words. But then you wake up one day, and you realize that you would do anything for these children. And that you would die for these children. And when that feeling comes, that’s when you know you are truly a mother."

In the Simone Biles Rising, viewers saw photos of Simone as a little girl, as Nellie reflected on becoming her mother. “I went from Grandma—and I was perfectly fine with Grandma—and then when that time came of being called mom, that’s a powerful word,” she said.

Simone’s biological mom, Shanon Biles, struggled to give up her children.

Shanon did an interview with the Daily Mail in 2016, explaining it was “hard to give up my kids, but I had to do what I had to. I wasn’t able to care for them.”

“I was still using, and [Ronald] didn’t want me coming in and out of their lives when I wasn’t right,” she added.

She's been sober since 2007 and has worked as a home-help aid. Shanon speaks with Simone regularly, but conversations are short. "When I talk to Simone, it’s a brief conversation, like, 'I miss you, I love you, I can’t wait to see you, I’m proud of you, I’m watching," she explains. "You go girl.'"

Simone’s biological father, Kelvin Clemons, is not in touch with his daughter. Though he's not in the athlete's life, "he knows that’s his daughter and he’s very proud of her," Shanon told the publication.

Simone’s parents played a key role in getting her into gymnastics.

When she was six years old, Ronald and Nellie enrolled Simone and Adria in gymnastics classes. “It was history from there," Nellie told People in 2016. "She never missed a practice. Even if she was sick, I would tell her she should stay home, and she would say, 'No, I have to go to practice!’”

Simone credits her success to her parents' hard work.

“[They] support me in any way possible,” she told People. “My parents make sure we have everything we need so that we compete to the best of our abilities.”

Simone told VF she was “blessed” she was able to participate in the sport. “Gymnastics is very expensive, and we’re so blessed that our parents could afford for us to do it.”

Simone's parents own a gymnastics center.

And Simone trains there, of course. "Representation matters, and we want to inspire the next generation to pursue their passion," Simone told Health of training at her parents’ Black-owned gym. "Kids can come in and we will be training in the back, and they can see we are just like them. It helps them understand they can do it, too."

The aptly named World Champions Centre is 56,000 square feet and located in Simone's home town of Spring, Texas. It offers a wide variety of classes and training for all levels and ages. Her brother, Adam, was the former general manager of the gym.

The center was born after Simone took her first Olympic title in 2013. Her coach Aimee Boorman decided she wanted to move to a new club, but Nellie was skeptical, per the Washington Post. Instead, the two thought they should build their own gym.

“That was the most stupid option,” Nellie shared with the Post. “But then that option was on the table.”

In the next few days, Nellie found a four-acre piece of land near her home and got to work. The business began with six enrolled gymnasts but has since expanded. Three Olympians have even trained there, including Simone.

Jordan Chiles trained there ahead of the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, hoping to spend more time with Simone and her team. She said the space gave her “the dopest coaches I’ve ever had.”

The gym now has a reputation for boosting Olympic hopefuls like Dulcy Caylor, who hopes to make the 2028 team.

“Sometimes in your mind you can think, ‘Oh, my goodness, this is something huge I’ve never done before,’ but when the expectation is higher around you, it seems like it’s more possible for you to do,” she shared with the Post.

Simone Biles' parents helped her get into therapy.

Being the greatest gymnast of all time can come with some intense pressures. After earning a spot on the senior national team in 2013, Simone's "confidence began to crumble," Glamour wrote in 2016. So, her parents urged her to utilize a sports psychologist, which helped her get her groove back.

“She was competing against these girls who were her heroes, her idols,” her mom told the outlet. “And it was hard for her to adjust to that. Simone didn’t think she was good enough to compete with them. I knew she was quite capable. But she needed to believe it.”

Simone later utilized therapy after pulling out of the Tokyo Olympics.

The Tokyo Olympics was the first time Simone’s parents weren’t there to cheer her on.

Typically, Simone's parents attend all of her competitions. "She always knows where we are sitting, it doesn't matter the arena," Nellie told People in 2021. "If she's in a competition, she'll look and I'll wave and we make a connection."

But her parents weren't able to attend the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games due to COVID-19 restrictions, which was one of the most difficult parts of the competition for her. "We go over to Tokyo and no audience is allowed, we're quarantined in our rooms, and can only come out for breakfast, lunch and dinner," she told Brené Brown in 2022. "There was no camaraderie, and my parents weren't able to go there. My parents haven't missed a competition in my life."

However, Simone's family still played a key role in helping her recover from Tokyo's mental and physical challenges. The gymnast struggled with a gymnastics phenomenon called the “twisties” during the 2020 games, which causes her to lose sense of her body moving through the air and increases the risk of serious injury. In the Simone Vs. Herself, Nellie and Ronald FaceTime their daughter frequently to help her navigate these challenges. (She eventually pulled out of part of the competition.)

Nellie later said her daughter’s bout of the twisties was “devestating.”

“After her vaulting, she called me and then mentioned that she couldn’t do it anymore," she told TODAY. "My words to Simone were, 'Don’t do it. Don’t feel like you need to push yourself, because that’s the last thing I need is to see you injure yourself on television and I’m not going to be there.'"

Since the Tokyo Olympics, things have been a little different: At the U.S. Gymnastics Championships in June, husband Jonathan Owens, Nellie, Simone's sister Adria, her brother Ron, sister-in-law Sammi, and niece Ronni were in the stands. At the Olympic Trials, her parents and husband were in attendance, among other family members.

Looking ahead to the 2024 Olympics, Simone's parents are just focused on her well-being.

“All I’m thinking about and praying for is that she stays safe and that she ends that routine,” Nellie told TODAY of watching her daughter’s most recent competition. "I could hardly wait for it to be over with.”

They kept in close contact throughout the Games.

Simone's parents continued to stand by her at Tokyo... even if they weren't there in person. After winning a bronze medal for her balance beam routine (her first and final individual medal at this Olympics), the gymnast FaceTimed her parents, she revealed at a press conference.

"I was FaceTiming with my family. They had a little watch party at the house," Simone said, per People. "It was my mom, my dad, my brother, my sister-in-law, my godparents. They just wanted to say hi and stuff like that. But given the time change, they're 14 hours behind so usually at night, I'll FaceTime them or in the morning. Almost every day I've gotten to talk to them, which has been nice and reassuring."

In a particularly emotional moment from the series, viewers saw Nellie get a call from an emotional Simone, letting her know that she's removing herself from the competition. Nellie spoke calmly with her daughter while the rest of the family hovered nearby.

While viewers can’t hear Simone’s side of the conversation, it became clear what was happening. "They will do their best without you...you don't need to go out there and hurt yourself. You need to take care of yourself," Nellie said. "I love you. Just take some deep breaths and just know we're praying for you.”

At the same time, the Biles family also was struck by the sudden death of an aunt, People reported. Simone's coach, Cecile Canqueteau-Landi, said the athlete got the news right after her beam performance.

"That was another one, I was like, 'Oh my God. This week needs to be over,'" Landi said. "I asked her what do you need. And she said, 'I just need some time.'"

"She called her parents," Landi continued. "She said, 'There's nothing I can do from over here. So I'm just going to finish my week and when I get home we'll deal with it.'"

When she got off the plane from Tokyo, her parents were there to tearfully greet her at the airport.

Simone was nervous to introduce her parents to Jonathan Owens.

Simone has shared that she was “scared” to introduce her now-husband Jonathan Owens to her parents. “Mama Biles, I can’t tell you how scared I was to take him over there,” Simone said in her Facebook Watch series. “I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh. You know, my parents are a little harsh.’ I was like, ‘So don’t worry if they don’t like you.’”

But Simone said it all worked out in the end. "Then he met my brother, met my family. And then it just clashed really well and I was like, ‘Wow,’" she recalled. "Now they invite him over. One time, he went over there without me!"

Nellie helped Simone plan her wedding.

Simone got engaged to Jonathan in 2022 after dating for two years. Before their wedding in May 2023, Simone told People her mother had helped her plan the special day.

"My mom gives me advice on everything... I look to both her and my dad as role models in many ways, but also as examples of what a strong base of love and support looks like. She's someone I can bounce things off of and has been letting me do my thing as I figure out what works for us," Simone said. "We are so excited to celebrate with our close circle, and she's a big part of that."

On May 6, 2023, Ronald and Nellie attended Simone’s wedding.

Ronald even walked Simone down the aisle at her wedding in Cabo San Lucas, per People.


Stay tuned for more sweet updates on Simone's parents as the road to Paris continues...

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