+
Family

How a sisterhood of badass women is redefining what it means to be a female athlete.

After her spine and spirit were shattered, Meghan Sekone-Fraser found redemption through a sisterhood of badass women.

True
Paramount Pictures Ben Hur

When Meghan Sekone-Fraser's back was shattered in a car accident, her Olympic dreams shattered as well.

Meghan Sekone-Fraser was well on her way to becoming an Olympic rower. She admits she wasn't as tall or naturally powerful as her teammates, but she kept pushing forward and gained exceptional results.

Unfortunately, those exceptional results came at an exceptional price.


Meghan Sekone-Fraser had to reevaluate her life after enduring a devastating accident. Photo from Meghan Sekone-Fraser, used with permission.

"I struggled with overtraining, injury, body image issues, and eating disorders for the entire span of my 10-year rowing career," Sekone-Fraser told Upworthy. "But I was so focused on my goals that I didn’t see the damage being done."

Then, in 2011, her dreams of reaching the London Olympics came crashing down when a car accident severely injured her back. She was in constant emotional and physical pain.

She was afraid she had lost everything.

So Sekone-Fraser changed her course. But she wasn't pleased with what she saw on her path.

Being an Olympic rower wasn't in the cards for Sekone-Fraser, but she wasn't ready to give up on her passion for athletics.

After months of searching, she discovered muay thai as a way to exercise and still exert her toughness.

Muay thai was a great release for Sekone-Fraser after her accident, but it wasn't all good. Photo from Ashley Kress Photography, used with permission.

But there was a problem.

"When I looked into the sea of women's activewear brands, I couldn't help but notice that I am not represented by the current brands and they did not want to be represented by me," she said. "I'm not a yogi, I don't meditate, I don't like green smoothies, and I am definitely not a size four."

She wasn't interested in brands telling her what kind of lifestyle — or body type — she should be striving for. She was looking for something that said, "Right now, in this very moment, you are powerful. You are a fighter."

And just like in her rowing days, she felt she would never fit in — until her husband stumbled upon Society Nine, an apparel company that focuses on women in combat sports.

Once he found Society Nine, Sekone-Fraser instantly knew this was the answer she was looking for. And not just because of the clothes.

"When I saw their manifesto video, I cried," she said. "After seeing images of women of all shapes, sizes, and colors kicking ass, I saw myself in the brand and knew that Society Nine had the ability to really make an impact and shift the way women view themselves."

It meant there were other women like her. Women like Maria Khwaja, a Muslim-American woman battling intolerance. Women like Mildred Apenyo, who fights for women's right to enjoy to their own space without being catcalled or harassed by men.

Powerful women who weren't backing down from major obstacles.

Meet a few of the diverse women of Society Nine. Photo from Society Nine, used with permission.

This kind of message isn't just one brand. It's a movement, with other companies like Machina Boxing and Kali Active getting onboard, too.

Lynn Le, the founder of Society Nine, thinks it's a good thing.

"Women have been told by society to bite our tongues, dress appropriately, look good in a bikini, be an amazing cook, have killer careers, and be amazing daughters and wives," she said. "We fight because we had to fight against the tide of expectations forever. It's time for women to define power on our own terms."

Lynn Le is very passionate about her mission. Photo from Society Nine, used with permission.

Sekone-Fraser fights, still, to repair her fractured relationship with her body. Being part of a new generation of warrior women is just the ammo she needs.

"As a rower, my abilities were defined by what I saw in the mirror," Sekone-Fraser said. "In this new chapter of my life, what I saw in the mirror was defined by my abilities. That shift in my mind was one of the most empowering things that's ever happened in my life."

Sekone-Fraser (seen here with her husband) is all smiles now that she's true to who she is. Photo from Ashley Kress Photography, used with permission.

"It took me 30 years to begin disrupting my internal dialogue of self-doubt and negativity," she admits. "That's a long time to not embrace yourself."

Loving ourselves is something we should fight for every single day.

Photo courtesy of Girls at Work

True

Girls are bombarded with messages from a very young age telling them that they can’t, that is too big, this is too heavy, those are too much.

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

14 things that will remain fun no matter how old you get

Your inner child will thank you for doing at least one of these.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Swings can turn 80-year-olds into 8-year-olds in less that two seconds.

When we’re kids, fun comes so easily. You have coloring books and team sports and daily recess … so many opportunities to laugh, play and explore. As we get older, these activities get replaced by routine and responsibility (and yes, at times, survival). Adulthood, yuck.

Many of us want to have more fun, but making time for it still doesn’t come as easily as it did when we were kids—whether that’s because of guilt, a long list of other priorities or because we don’t feel it’s an age-appropriate thing to long for.

Luckily, we’ve come to realize that fun isn’t just a luxury of childhood, but really a vital aspect of living well—like reducing stress, balancing hormone levels and even improving relationships.

More and more people of all ages are letting their inner kids out to play, and the feelings are delightfully infectious.

You might be wanting to instill a little more childlike wonder into your own life, and not sure where to start. Never fear, the internet is here. Reddit user SetsunaSaigami asked people, “What always remains fun no matter how old you get?” People’s (surprisingly profound) answers were great reminders that no matter how complex our lives become, simple joy will always be important.

Here are 14 timeless pleasures to make you feel like a kid again:

Keep ReadingShow less
All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

True

Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

Alien Ant Farm's "Smooth Criminal" cover still rocks.

When Micheal Jackson released "Smooth Criminal" in 1988, I was a 13-year-old named Annie. As you can imagine, the "Annie, are you okay?" jokes came fast and furious, and they haven't let up much in the three and a half decades since.

It's all good. Those jokes gave me a respite from the "Annie get your gun" and "little orphan Annie" ones, and besides, it's a great song. It wasn't Jackson's biggest hit, but it was always my favorite, and not just because it bore my name. The music video—a nine-minute, dance-heavy mini-movie set in the 1930s gangster era—made it even better.

But apparently, mentioning "Smooth Criminal" or "Annie, are you okay?" to the younger folks doesn't conjure up the zoot suits and dimly lit speakeasy images it does for me. For them, it brings up images of an alternative rock punk band playing in a … boxing ring?

Keep ReadingShow less
via Lewis Speaks Sr. / Facebook

This article originally appeared on 02.25.21


Middle school has to be the most insecure time in a person's life. Kids in their early teens are incredibly cruel and will make fun of each other for not having the right shoes, listening to the right music, or having the right hairstyle.

As if the social pressure wasn't enough, a child that age has to deal with the intensely awkward psychological and biological changes of puberty at the same time.

Jason Smith, the principal of Stonybrook Intermediate and Middle School in Warren Township, Indiana, had a young student sent to his office recently, and his ability to understand his feelings made all the difference.

Keep ReadingShow less