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What Simone Biles, Jane Goodall, Coco Chanel all have in common

The word ‘doyen’ originated in France in the 15th century. It originally was the name for a commanding officer of a regiment of 10 people.1 Doyen then came to mean ‘a leading or senior person in a group or in society.’ By 1905, the word was expanded to the feminine ‘doyenne’ meaning a female leader of a group.[2] Today, the meaning of doyenne is more than just a female leader, but an expert--a woman who is the most prominent and respected person in a particular field.

Simone Biles, arguably the best gymnast in history, Jane Goodall, English primatologist and anthropologist and Coco Chanel of the eponymous label, Chanel, all fall within the category of ‘doyenne.’ From different times and in different fields, these three women stand out as the best in their fields, as record breakers, experts, and mavericks.

The impact that each of these women had and continue to have on society is great.

Simone Biles


Simone Biles broke into our minds and hearts during the 2016 Rio Olympics where she won 4 gold medals and one bronze. Biles has shown, like many sporting doyennes preceding her, that a woman’s body is an athlete’s body.


Biles has shown her influence on the sport of gymnastics, shaping the vision and leadership of USA gymnastics from the youthful age of 24. She is a powerhouse and she is a survivor. Biles was briefly in the foster care system as a child and was one of many female gymnasts who reported being sexually abused by a notorious gymnastics doctor. Through all of this, including an ADHD diagnosis, Biles has come out on top. What does this say to other girls and young women that see Biles standing strong on the platform? What does it say to young black girls in a sport which lacks diversity?