Crystal Emmanuel is the fastest woman in Canada. She holds the record for the 200 meters. She is the Canadian champion in both the 100m and 200m as of July 2018.
For our second Zvelle In Conversation we collaborated with our friends at CAN Fund to celebrate three phenomenal Canadian athletes. Read Elle’s interview with Crystal below.
Elle: From what I read about you before our photoshoot you seem to be confident and comfortable in your own skin. I admire that. How did you get there?
Crystal: When I was younger I was not always comfortable with how I looked. I did not like the space between my teeth and my dad had the same space so everyone would say I looked so much like him. I never used to smile showing my teeth when I was young as I didn’t like my teeth. Then I started to realize that I got it from my family and I love my family. I started getting comfortable and confident in myself that I am beautiful no matter what.
Kids used to make fun of me because of my teeth and that made it even worse. And I said to them you can make fun of me but I am still beautiful. I told them that when you make fun of me I don’t get uglier and I don’t feel bad about myself. I am comfortable in my own skin.
Elle: How has this experience helped you in your professional and personal life?
Crystal: It helped a lot. My new coach always reminds me that I have to be comfortable with how I look and speak because when people see me they are not just seeing me they are seeing my family and the team that I work with. Speaking well and being comfortable with how I look is the number one key for me to be successful. It helps to be confident.
Elle: A lot of people are inspired by you. What would you say to someone who may be dealing with something personal about themselves that they are not yet comfortable with.
Crystal: No matter what anyone says about you, when you look in the mirror you just have to tell yourself you are beautiful no matter what. With curly hair, long hair, straight hair, dark hair, no matter what. Your flaws don’t define who you are. You can get past that by getting comfortable with how you look and feel about yourself. Don’t let anyone tell you how you must feel or how you must look for people to see you in the world.
Elle: Female athletes receive unfair and sometimes inappropriate criticism about their bodies. They are held to a different standard than male athletes. Have you experienced this?
Crystal: I sure have, though not in terms of my body as a lot of people think track athletes have the best athletic physique. I have been told that in order for me to get sponsorship or to be successful I have to wear makeup and weaves or wigs. That is not me. I love the hair that I have.
I may wear weaves here and there but that’s because I just want to change it up. I am not changing it because I don’t like my hair. I love my natural hair, it’s my everything. I don’t want other people to have to see me in a different light in order to be successful. Every time I run I try to run with my natural hair or braids. I try not to change how I look in order to get somewhere in life.
Elle: I love that about you and I wanted you to come to the photoshoot with your natural hair. The photos turned out great! And your mother was there to help with styling your hair. Let’s talk about her. You have a special bond together.
Crystal: When I was first born, I was very sick and my mother and father were always there for me. I later went to live with my grandparents in Barbados and went to school there. I was raised in Barbados and I almost lost my mother when I was sixteen. She had a stroke and cancer and that made us very close as I almost lost her. She’s always been there for me for doctor’s appointments, track meets and for everything. I don’t know what I would do without my mom.
Elle: I loved having her there at the photoshoot and it made it more fun. She was an athlete. Did she inspire you to become an athlete?
Crystal: Yes, when I was young she’d ask me to go pick up something and I would run instead of walk. She noticed that I wanted to run even before I knew it. She did track but she didn’t have the opportunities that I had. I strive to show her that I am going to be successful for the both of us. And make her proud no matter what.
Elle: What inspires you?
Crystal: My mother and all the young girls and women out there that see me striving for excellence. I want young girls to know that no matter what happens if you strive for something you will achieve it. The sky is the limit. I always say “no fear just love.” Don’t fear anyone and don’t fear what people say in the world. If they say men or boys do it better than women or girls, I say no! There are some girls doing it better than the boys and there are some women doing it better than the men. I always love what I do and try to inspire other people to strive for excellence always.
Elle: What’s been your biggest challenge to date?
Crystal: My biggest challenge is being recognized for all my achievements in track and field. I am the record holder for the 200 meters and I am the least sponsored athlete in Canada so that is my biggest struggle.
Elle: You hold the record for the fastest woman in Canada? How does it feel?
Crystal: When I broke the record, I didn’t even know it. I didn’t believe I did as I was so relaxed. When my coach was mouthing to me that I broke the record I was like no I didn’t. I looked up and I was in shock. Months later I still couldn’t believe it. It felt amazing. I always told him that I wanted to be in the history books. I’m getting closer and I want to do it in the hundred-meter and I want to keep the record for both the hundred and two-hundred-meters.
Elle: I heard that you scream at the finish line. Is that true?
Crystal: Yes! I also scream after hard workouts because I defeated the workout and the workout did not defeat me. My coach calls me the beast! So that’s my famous scream.
Elle: What do you know for sure?
Crystal: I know for sure that I will inspire women and girls to defeat all odds.
Elle: Yes! I want to share your philanthropic dream that you shared with me at the photoshoot. Can you talk about it?
Crystal: There are many charities that take care of children in foster homes and taking children out of bad situations. That’s great. I always wonder about the parents, particularly the mothers and what happened or didn’t happen that caused their unfortunate circumstances. I’d like to help keep families together and have a charity that supports mothers and their children. I want to help the mother understand that you have a blessing in the child and not to drive the blessing away. I want to have a home that would help the parent and the child together.
Credits: Zvelle shoes. Top image: Cleo (Multicolor).
Photography: Mark Binks