Margzetta Frazier: ‘I’ve Always Been Very Vocal About What I Believe In’

Written by John Crumlish for International Gymnast Online

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Photo courtesy of UCLA Athletics

Equal parts athlete and activist, UCLA gymnast and former U.S. national team member Margzetta Frazier is projecting her voice in support of diversity and inclusion from her prominent platform as a high-profile collegiate competitor.

Frazier and gymnasts from each of the other programs in the Pacific-12 conference recently formed “Gymnasts for Peace, Action, and Change” (G-PAC), the Pac-12’s Gymnastics Diversity and Inclusion Group. She and other Black student athletes have founded the Black Student Athlete Association (BSAA) at UCLA.

Born February 25, 2000, in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, and raised in Sicklerville, New Jersey, Frazier has long been making just as strong an impact through her performances.

Frazier’s pre-UCLA successes representing the Parkettes club in Allentown, Pennsylvania, include 15th place all-around at the 2016 P&G (U.S.) Championships, fifth place all-around at the 2017 P&G (U.S.) Championships and second place all-around to Russian star Angelina Melnikova at the 2018 World Cup of Birmingham.

Representing UCLA, Frazier was 13th all-around at the 2018 U.S. Championships, has twice been named an All-American and won the first Pac-12 Coaches’ Choice Award last year. Her younger sister and fellow gymnast, eMjae Frazier, was a member of the gold medal-winning team at last fall’s Friendship and Solidarity competition in Tokyo.

Frazier, a junior who is applying to UCLA’s communication studies department, is also eager to resume her gymnastics progress in the NCAA season that got under way last month.

Named one of 10 gymnasts to watch in ESPN.com’s 2021 NCAA gymnastics preview feature, she competed all-around at UCLA’s first two meets. These performances quickly followed a training break from December 18 through January 4 mandated by pandemic-related Los Angeles county mandates and campus requirements.

In this International Gymnast Online interview, Frazier shares her goals for her activism, her passion for justice and the challenges she is faithfully facing with her teammates this year.

IGO: Although G-PAC has only recently been formed, what are some of the main projects you personally hope to develop and initiate?

MF: I am very excited about G-PAC. This organization was founded by a group of headstrong and courageous athletes who have found and accepted the power of their voices. Our main mission is to encourage diversity and inclusion among all gymnasts, starting with those in the Pac-12. I truly hope that our actions will inspire several if not all conferences to participate in this vital and monumental movement, from designing and dispersing matching t-shirts of empowerment, to kneeling for the fight against police brutality and racism in our country. We will use and take advantage of the massive platforms our schools have developed, with goals of delivering messages of knowledge for all spectators and peers.

IGO: Once G-PAC has launched some of its initiatives, what do you think will be needed for their formats and goals to expand beyond the conference, campuses nationwide and then to society in general?

MF: In today’s day and age, social media and peer influence are the most powerful tools in the world. For our formats to extend beyond the Pac-12 conference would simply consist of educating those left in the dark. Sadly, the nation we live in is divided, and it has been for hundreds of years. This residual ignorance seeps into today’s society and is the main cause of the racial injustices people are still faced with – lack of school acceptances, lack of job interviews, judgment of outward appearance, judgment of vernacular, etc. Minorities are still victims of racism and prejudice based on disgusting preferences embedded in our country for centuries. The only way for change to occur is for a majority of people to want change in the first place – to not sit still with a quiet mouth, but to speak their truth regardless of the judgment or critique that an outspoken person will be bound to receive.

IGO: What progress do you see being made during the past year, in terms of diversity and inclusion, in your own experience as a student athlete?

MF: The key to success here is taking baby steps. Black UCLA students have taken the task among themselves to push for change. The Afrikan Student Union on campus is an organization for the entire Black student diaspora. UCLA is known as an ethnically diverse school compared to most, but still has a lot of work to be done in this department. Recently, a few Black student athletes and I have founded the Black Student Athlete Association (BSAA). To provide a bridge of community and support among all Black athletes was a beautiful idea. This idea turned into an organization of powerful voices who know their worth and how they should be treated. We use our platform to provide a safe space for hard discussions, game nights and workshops with renowned companies for all to join. 

IGO: You gave a very personal and blunt interview to BBC Sports last spring in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death. In terms of motivating your activism, was the George Floyd situation the last straw for you, or did other events also have as strong but less publicly expressed impact on you?

MF: I’ve always been very vocal about what I believe in. It took me years to find that voice. I’ve spoken publicly on body image, complications in the gymnastics world and so much more. The murder of George Floyd revealed a completely new and raw side of me. It was quite the eye-opener seeing how Black people in this country are still being treated. Being isolated in the world of elite gymnastics left it easy for me to not keep up with current news. It was eat, sleep, gym, repeat. As a Black young woman, I am bound to be criticized for anything I say. I have so many things on the line that can be taken away from me. But I choose to speak out anyway and I will continue to do so. My parents raised me to speak my mind in an eloquent and respectful manner from a very young age. I truly thank them for helping me find my voice.

IGO: How are you managing to shift and divide your energies equally among your academic responsibilities, training and activism?

MF: I am a busy girl these days. I am a co-founder of two diversity and inclusion clubs in the Pac-12. I take great pride in my education. My team needs my head in the game and body intact more than ever. I also sing and write my own music. I would include my social life but I don’t think anyone has one right now. I love staying busy and doing things that fulfill me. I just stay organized in my daily planner and treat myself with some flowers every now and then for a job well done on being awesome.

IGO: How have you been able to quickly put together a competitive all-around program this season despite limited training due to the pandemic?

MF: At this point in my career, this is my 18th year of gymnastics. My bones are not what they used to be. Every turn I take in the gym must be with 100% focus. My body cannot handle another crazy injury. Thanks to my razor-sharp focus in the gym and constant work on restitching my confidence, I have been able to be someone that the team can depend on for whatever they need.

IGO: With some of your team’s top recruits (such as Jordan Chiles, and Emma Malabuyo, Brooklyn Moors and Ana Padurariu) deferring until next season, how much extra pressure do you feel to sustain the team as an all-arounder?

MF: Pressure is never a problem for me. I thrive in pressure situations. Just like how I know the team has my back, they know I have theirs. This competition season, although difficult, has developed UCLA gymnastics into a squad of superheroes. With all that we have gone through this year, we know that we can get through anything, and with a smile.

IGO: Also related of the talent that is on standby until next season, what do you think of UCLA’s potential to challenge for the national title this year?

MF: To be completely honest, we rarely speak of winning a title in the gym these days. We are hyper-focused on our mental game, health, confidence and teamwork. When these things are done, a championship win is inevitable.

IGO: Between now and the NCAA Championships in April, what improvements and changes will your team need to make in order to be at peak form at season’s end?

MF: Our biggest task to take on as a team is knowing when to rest. We are constantly working in the gym in hopes of making up for lost time. Twenty women who push each other towards greatness daily can take a big mental and physical toll, especially during these times of uncertainty. We are learning to trust in our technique and our mental space to do the hard work for us. Quality over quantity.

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