Olympian Suni Lee: I've Received 'So Much Hate' for Relationship with Jaylin Smith

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 7, 2022

FILE - Suni Lee reacts to her performance on the uneven bars during the women's U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Trials on June 25, 2021, in St. Louis. Lee also is joining the cast will join the cast of "Dancing With The Stars" for the show's upcoming 30th season. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)
AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File

Reigning Olympic all-around champion Suni Lee said recently that she has received negative reactions from the Hmong community for being in an interracial relationship.

The 18-year-old Lee is an Asian American with connections to the Hmong community, which originated in China before migrating to Laos and Thailand. She is dating USC safety Jaylin Smith, who is Black.

According to Scott Stump of Today, Lee posted photos of herself and Smith on Instagram on Dec. 26. Shortly thereafter, TikTok user alixphom, who describes himself as "half Hmong," made a video in which he supported the relationship, writing: "I know that Sunisa will be judged by certain eyes in the Hmong Community because her man is Black. LOVE is LOVE, no matter what race or gender you are. Keep doing you QUEEN."

Lee responded in the comments, writing: "This makes me so happy. I've received so much hate. They support me when it's beneficial for them never when it comes to my happiness. Thank you!"

Comments on her Instagram post were disabled.

Lee was born and raised in Saint Paul, Minnesota, to a Hmong mother, Yeev Thoj, who immigrated to the United States from Laos as a child. Lee was also raised by father John Lee, who is also Hmong-born and moved to the United States as a child, from the age of two.

After qualifying for the 2021 U.S. Olympic gymnastics team, Lee established herself as a top contender to win gold when teammate Simone Biles dropped out of the all-around competition to focus on her mental health. After landing top-five scores in all four disciplines, Lee became the fifth consecutive American woman to win Olympic all-around gold and the first Asian American woman to ever win the event.

Lee also won a silver medal in the team event and bronze in the uneven bars.

Following the Olympics, Lee competed on Dancing with the Stars, finishing in fifth place and second among the athletes involved.

Lee officially signed her letter of intent with Auburn University in late 2020 and is set to begin competing for the Tigers this year.