Simone Biles has been selected as one of three athletes to appear on special Wheaties boxes for the company’s 100th anniversary.
For decades, seeing an athlete on a bright orange Wheaties box meant one thing: That athlete had MADE IT. They had transcended sports and become a cultural icon. Wheaties athletes were people you wanted to listen to, not just follow.
There are more cereals on the shelves these days, and most athletes know they need more than Wheaties wheat and bran flakes to make it to the elite level, but having your photo on a Wheaties box still carries a certain cachet.
For its 100th birthday this year, Wheaties chose three athletes to honor on its boxes, both in stores, on the iconic orange background, and on a special gold foil edition sold only on its website. General Mills, which produces Wheaties, said in a press release that it wanted to recognize athletes “who are not only the best at their sports, but those who have broken barriers and made significant contributions to the world at large.” The cereal company – known as the “Breakfast of Champions” – said that while it has always chosen to honor athletes on its boxes who use their sports platform to influence well beyond it, in this case, they wanted “champions who champion.”
The first two athletes selected were boxer Muhammad Ali and basketball star Michael Jordan. The third was Simone Biles.
Biles appeared on boxes of Kellogg’s Special K Red Berries alongside her 2016 Olympic teammates, when that company was an Olympic and USA Gymnastics sponsor. But this is her first Wheaties box.
Simone Biles will appear solo on a Wheaties box for the first time
“I’m thrilled to appear on my first Wheaties box and so honored to be a part of the iconic brand’s 100th anniversary,” Biles said.“I appreciate this special recognition as I want to help continue to advance what it means to be a champion, and advocate for the things I believe in both on and off the mat.”
Biles was chosen, according to Wheaties senior brand experience manager Kathy Dixon, because she “is so much more than an awe-inspiring gymnast – she’s an advocate, a teammate, a role model and the embodiment of both the future of sports and a Wheaties Champion.”
Wheaties also singled out Biles’ commitments to mental health advocacy and to providing resources for children in foster care as reasons her star shines beyond the gymnastics world.” Biles is more than a gymnast, as she uses her platform to advocate for mental health reform and vigorously campaigns in support of efforts to provide education and assistance to children in the adoption and foster care systems,” the press release reads.
Biles made international headlines last summer when she withdrew from the women’s team final at the Tokyo Olympics after one rotation, citing the need to protect her mental health. She has since talked about the “twisties,” the mental block gymnasts can develop against certain skills, and how it threatened her physical well-being as well as her emotional health while competing.
Biles has been an outspoken critic of USA Gymnastics’ handling of the Larry Nassar sex abuse scandal, testifying before the United States Senate about the abuse she endured and the failures of USAG and the FBI to take action against Nassar and becoming a plaintiff in a $1 billion lawsuit against the FBI. Biles connected her mental health struggles in Tokyo to the Nassar abuse during her Senate testimony, and has also said the abuse and the repercussions of the story breaking led her to seek medication for anxiety.
She also spoke (after Russian hackers leaked her medical history) about having attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and recently blasted a critic on Instagram who insinuated she might be using her ADHD meds to enhance her gymnastics.
In addition to her campaign for mental health awareness and her openness about her own struggles and the medications she takes (or does not take) to cope with them, Biles, a former foster child, provides resources to children in the foster system. In 2017, she partnered with Mattress Firm to provide clothing and school supplies to foster children. She has been quick on this topic, too, to respond to social-media critics who question her motives.
On Instagram, Biles shared the news of her Wheaties box with fans. “Growing up I looked up to Dominique Dawes and Serena Williams,” Biles said in her IG video. “It’s always important to see someone who looks like you succeeding.”
Biles will collaborate with Wheaties on a series of special appearances and activities this summer. You can find her schedule here, and follow @Wheatiescereal on Instagram and @Wheaties on Twitter for announcements.