I love the Olympics. And by love, I mean live for. I count down hundreds of days in advance until the next Games and try to discover as much as possible about my favorite athletes.
So I confess: I follow Nastia Liukin on Instagram. The 2008 women’s all-around champion has an impressive social media presence, including more than 320,000 followers on the photo-sharing app. I follow her because it allows me to stay connected with the Olympic movement with which I am so enamored and because it reminds me that life goes on, even when the Olympics don't.
From Instagram, I’ve learned the five things every Nastia fan must know:
1. When taking a picture with Nastia, always stand on her right. On Facebook, I’ve noticed that some girls find one side of their face more photogenic than the other. While Nastia’s face boasts an unprecedented two photogenic sides, she seems to favor the left one and angles her face accordingly in virtually all of her pictures. She won the Olympics and has the authority to take angle-faced pictures, so let her be on the left.
2. Nastia is a true artist. She has mastered the technique of taking an artsy photo simply by tilting her phone and slapping a filter on an image. While many have attempted it before, none has been able to capture the finer nature of a moment quite like Nastia. So what if it’s just a picture of a green smoothie in a tilted plastic cup? Nastia touched that cup and consumed its contents, and that means it’s an artsy cup in an artsy picture.
3. Her current best friend is 1998 women’s figure skating champion Tara Lipinski. You read that right – two Olympic champions in one best friendship. The two have been running around New York together going to Rangers games, watching Super Bowls and playing (posing) in the snow left by Winter Storm Nemo, all the while laughing at everyone they cross who doesn’t have a gold medal.
4. The only thing she might love more than motivational quotes written in cursive is coffee. She likes coffee when she's doing homework, she likes coffee when she's with Tara Lipinski and she likes coffee when it's on the cover of a book. Whether she actually drinks it, no one knows, but she certainly likes photographing it.
5. Nastia represents the well-deserved stardom that comes with Olympic success. While many stars today are famous for being famous, celebrities who were born from a triumphant showing at the Games work hard for their success. In terms of Nastia Liukin, I may use the word "celebrity" lightly, but still tens of thousands "like" one of her Instagram photos. The Olympics is the dream-maker for those who really deserve it, and Nastia does.
But following Nastia on Instagram does more than show me when she’s shooting a Subway commercial or when her grandma’s in town. The Olympics are so special to me because they allow me to feel like I have formed relationships with athletes whom I admire, both relishing their victories and agonizing over their defeats. Instagram strengthens this pseudo-relationship, and by letting me into her personal life, Nastia makes me feel closer to the Olympic movement.