[Editor's note: Florence Griffith Joyner died in her sleep on September 21, 1998 at the age of 38.]
Florence Griffith Joyner made sports history in 1988 when she became the first American woman to win four medals in a single Olympic Games, with three golds and a silver. In doing so, she set world records in the 100-meter and 200-meter track events, earning her the title “World’s Fastest Woman.” As the world watched, Flo-Jo changed the image of female track athletes with her custom-designed running outfits and three-inch long nail-art-painted fingernails. Although everyone knows Flo-Jo for her running speed, she is also well known for her glamour.
Today Flo-Jo no longer wears the long, painted nails that became her trademark; they’ve been replaced with a length and style that is easier to maintain. After all, she’s got a baby to care for now, a business to run, and she’s busy training for the 1996 Olympics (in the marathon, no less). However, in a glimpse at how important those nails were to her, she relates a story of a race where she was jostled by a runner in the next lane and one of her long nails broke off. As soon as she crossed the finish line, she ran back on the track to search for the lost nail.
Flo-Jo’s interest in nails goes back to high school. She says she always loved art and painting and started doing her own nails as a teenager. She learned to do hair and nails and supported herself working in a salon part time while she was training for the 1988 Olympics. She has even been a model for a nail art competitor at a Black Gold tradeshow.
Flo-Jo has been a reader of NAILS Magazine for years (in fact, her husband would like to get her to get rid of the stacks of old issues on their garage), and she’s quite familiar with nail products and techniques. She quizzed the cover technician Lisa Postma all about what she was using on her nails and what new products were available. By the time Lisa had finished doing the photo shoot, Flo-Jo had a shopping list that included a UV light and a new gel system.
Although Flo-Jo and her husband, Olympic gold medalist Al Joyner, have stayed active and are in as good shape as in their Olympic days, their interests run beyond the track. The couple’s company, Flo-Jo International, manufactures an internationally distributed line of workout wear. Flo-Jo is busy year-round with speaking engagements all over the world.
Although Flo-Jo’s role on the daytime drama “Santa Barbara” was short-lived, she intends to pursue her acting career. She also paints, writes children’s stories (38 so far), and works as a sportscaster and color commentator.
Al is training for the 1996 Olympic Games himself and he hopes to hang a medal for the decathlon alongside the gold one he has for the triple jump. The couple says they won’t push their two-year-old daughter into sports, though little Mary Ruth Joyner (affectionately dubbed “mo-JO” by sportswriters) certainly has the genes to become a world-class athlete.