Since the start of the global COVID-19 pandemic, which originated in China in late 2019, many Asian-Americans in the United States have reported experiencing racist attacks. Among them: Suni Lee.
In an interview with PopSugar, posted on Thursday, Nov. 11, the 18-year-old Hmong-American Dancing With the Stars contestant and Olympic gold-winning gymnast recalled a recent violent incident that occurred as she and her girlfriends, who are also of Asian descent, were waiting for an Uber after a night out.
Suni told the outlet that a group of people speeded by in a car while yelling racist slurs and telling her and her friends to "go back to where they came from." She said one of the passengers sprayed her arm with pepper spray.
"I was so mad, but there was nothing I could do or control because they skirted off," she said. "I didn't do anything to them, and having the reputation, it's so hard because I didn't want to do anything that could get me into trouble. I just let it happen."
Suni also faces some degree of harassment online. On this week's episode of Dancing With the Stars, the athlete talked about how she has been dealing with "mean comments" on social media about "not being able to dance."
"I feel like they're right," she said on the show. "I let them get to me and I'm just like, nobody believes that I can do it. If I didn't care about what everybody said, I feel like I could be so much better."
In her interview with PopSugar, Suni said, "When I shared that I was feeling down, so many people reached out and either sent positive messages of encouragement or told me they were feeling similarly and not to feel alone."
"It's OK to feel down sometimes, but what I've realized is that it's important to express your feelings and ask for help," she said. "In the past, I might have pushed on and not acknowledged the state of my mental health. But there's so much power in owning your feelings. It's not weakness, it's actually taking control."