It’s only natural to want to be recognized for your talent, drive and hard work. But, what happens when you become famous for something you have no control over? When Allison Stokke was only 17 years old, this was her reality. Her life and athletic career spiraled out of control when a photo made her a viral sensation overnight.
A Competitive Household
The California native, Allison Stokke, was raised in a sporty household. Her older brother David was a nationally ranked competitive gymnast. Everyone assumed his little sister would follow suit, but this girl had other plans.
Passion For Pole Vaulting
Gymnastics turned out not be her forte, but pole vaulting, on the other hand, stole her heart. The moment she tried the hard-core sport, she was hooked. At only 15 years old, the athlete was already setting records of her own.
Allison was one of the youngest the sport had ever seen, but this didn’t stop her. In high school, the star took home a US title when she set a record of 12 feet 6 inches.
Model On The Side
Aside from breaking records and shocking the world, Stokke was quite the looker as well. During her senior year of high school, she became a part-time model. With her athletic build and good looks, we’re not surprised!
Getting Better And Better
When she was just beginning her high school career, Stokke, unfortunately, broke her leg. But before the tragic accident, she was already well-known in the sport. Upon her high school graduation, she broke her own record with a 13 feet 6 ¾ inch vault, ranking 8th in the national junior championships.
Objectification Of Women
‘With Leather’, now called ‘UPROXX’, is a well-known sports blog that boasts a pretty big male fanbase. This viral site had a tendency to objectify women, especially those in sports. It was only a matter of time before the people behind it focused on Stokke. This was back in 2007.
Where It All Began
That same year, a journalist working for a California-based track and field website snapped a photo of the pole vaulter at a New York competition. After the photo of Allison Stokke went online, it soon ended up in the With Leather blog.
Making Rounds On The Internet
The photographer who took the photo did not appreciate the fact that people were using his work without getting permission. This is especially true when they used it with a headline that read “Pole Vaulting Is Sexy, Barely Legal.” He even threatened to sue the owner of the blog if they did not take it down. Unfortunately, the photo already spread elsewhere on the Internet.
The Start Of Her Fanbase
Stokke then became a tribute site subject. There, they put up images of her during the pole vaulting competitions she previously participated in. After this, the photos made rounds on social media. Fan sites also popped up and ended up earning thousands of devoted followers.
Getting It Wrong
Stokke, together with her family, hoped that her fame was nothing but a phase. After all, they knew how short the attention span of the Internet was. Unfortunately, they could not have been any more wrong. This was only the beginning of the ordeal that was about to come.
Unwanted International Attention
In only a matter of weeks, her photos became the subject of worldwide attention. As a testament to how big the whole thing became, publications like the BBC, Der Spiegel, Los Angeles Times, The Sydney Morning Herald, The New York Times, and The Washington Post wrote comment pieces to talk about her unwanted fame.
Crossing The Line
Fan sites all about her physical attributes. Millions of search engine inquiries. Innumerous photo requests and emails. Can you imagine having to deal with all of that at such a young age? The young woman became a sex symbol against her will. She also had to deal with the obsession of certain fans to boot!
It eventually came to a point when she and the family realized that the situation was getting too out of hand. They could not solve it on their own, which was why they employed a media consultant to deal with it.
Getting Back On Track
Stokke tried to refocus the internet’s attention to her successful athletic career instead of her physical appearance. She took part in an interview about pole vaulting techniques. When it was put up on YouTube, it got more than a hundred thousand hits.
Sadly, the comments section of that interview proved that it was going to take more than that. Instead of talking about her amazing sports achievements, most of them discussed the sexual desirability of the teenager.
Time To Intervene
Eventually, her father Allan had to step in. He was actually a practicing lawyer! He started to go through all the Internet comments in an attempt to find anything illegal. In all likelihood, he was hoping to shut down all the so-called “fan” sites dedicated to his talented daughter.
What CBS Did
It is important to remember that the poor girl was just 17 years old when the famous photo was published and then sexualized. CBS took it upon themselves to air a story that focused on the struggles she underwent. They did this to show all the dangers young people, especially women, faced online.
Taking Its Toll On Her
Stokke did not want to be a sex symbol, but this did not stop her from becoming one anyway. She thought the constant leering was “scary” and “creepy”. You can probably imagine just how much they needed to improve the security of the house to make her feel safe at all times.
As an athlete, she wanted to be known for the achievements she made in her field. Stokke shared this with The Washington Post: “Even if none of it is illegal, it just all feels really demeaning. I worked so hard for pole vaulting and all this other stuff, and it’s almost like that doesn’t matter. Nobody sees that. Nobody really sees me.”
In her freshman year at the University of California Berkeley, she managed to break the school record when she vaulted 13 feet and 5 ¾ inches. The following year, she managed to add 4 more inches to this length and grabbed the eighth spot during the Pac-10 Championships. She also landed in the seventh spot during the MPSF Indoor Championships.
Staying On The Down-Low
During her junior year, she decided to focus more on her academics. She kept joining competitions, however. When she reached her senior year of college, she again landed eighth during the Pac-10 Championships. Unfortunately, she did not qualify for the NCAA either.
Her Olympic Dreams
In 2012, she had her eyes set on competing in the London Olympics. Although she managed to strike a new personal best after vaulting 14 feet 3 ½ inches, she did not even clear the opening height during the US Olympic trials. Ouch.
Going Into Marketing
She has since gone into sportswear modeling. She even worked for companies as big as Nike and Uniqlo. Aside from collaborating with those brands, Stokke worked on a video series for GoPro as well. It has garnered over six million views on YouTube.
In 2017, she started to go out with Rickie Fowler, a professional golfer. Like her, he was also considered to be an athletic prodigy. When he was a teenager, he was ranked top amateur golfer in the world! We think they are perfect for each other! The two got engaged in June 2018.
She Still Competes
Regardless of her national ranking placement, she continues to compete. In 2016, Stokke placed eighth during the Chula Vista OTC High-Performance Meet. In 2017, she was able to improve enough to bag the third spot during the Austin Longhorn Invitational!