Olympic gold medalist Suni Lee says she has received "so much hate" from the Hmong American community regarding her interracial relationship with boyfriend Jaylin Smith.
Lee, 18, who became the first Asian American gymnast to win the Olympic all-around competition last year in Tokyo, revealed in a pair of smiling Instagram photos on Dec. 26 that she is in a relationship with Smith, a football player at the University of Southern California who is Black.
Lee then responded on Dec. 30 to a Tiktok video posted by user alixphom, who identifies himself as "half Hmong," that showed support for Lee in her relationship with Smith.
In the video, he points at the photo of Lee and Smith together and gives it a thumbs up.
"I know that Sunisa will be judged by certain eyes in the Hmong Community because her man is Black," he wrote in the caption. "LOVE is LOVE, no matter what race or gender you are. Keep doing you QUEEN."
Lee, who is a freshman at Auburn University, then responded in the comments to the video.
"This makes me so happy," she wrote. "I’ve recieved so much hate😭 they support me when it’s beneficial for them never when it comes to my happiness. thank you!💗"
Hundreds of Hmong Americans showed up at a party in her home state of Minnesota to watch her compete. The Hmong people are an ethnic group who live mostly in southern China, Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam, Laos and the United States.
The backlash she says she has received for revealing her relationship with Smith comes after Lee shared in November that she experienced a racist attack.
She told PopSugar that she was with a group of friends of Asian descent in Los Angeles when a group yelled racist slurs from a speeding car and told her and her friends to “go back to where they came from.” She added that one passenger in the car sprayed her arm with pepper spray.
“I was so mad, but there was nothing I could do or control because they skirted off,” she said. “I didn’t do anything to them, and having the reputation, it’s so hard because I didn’t want to do anything that could get me into trouble."