New York’s September 27–October 10, 2021 cover features all-time great gymnast Simone Biles in her first major profile since the Tokyo Olympics, where she withdrew from competition citing an inability to see herself landing a maneuver. “My perspective has never changed so quickly from wanting to be on a podium to wanting to be able to go home, by myself, without any crutches,” Biles tells writer Camonghne Felix. In the article, Biles speaks candidly about making space for herself and taking the time to heal. Further explaining her decision to withdraw, Biles says: “Say up until you’re 30 years old, you have your complete eyesight. One morning, you wake up, you can’t see shit, but people tell you to go on and do your daily job as if you still have your eyesight. You’d be lost, wouldn’t you? That’s the only thing I can relate it to. I have been doing gymnastics for 18 years. I woke up — lost it. How am I supposed to go on with my day?”
Felix, a poet and political strategist who has previously written for the Cut about prison abolition, rethinking community in the pandemic, and her former employer Andrew Cuomo, tells Press Room: “We have all watched Simone beat her own records over and over again — an awe-inspiring example of what it means to truly be great at something. Watching her negotiate the limits of her greatness and set boundaries for herself was even more inspiring. She is once again setting an example for all of us: Being great is good. But being well is better.”
Biles was photographed for New York and the Cut by the 21-year-old photographer Ashley Peña. Liana Blum, deputy photo director for New York and the Cut began following Peña’s work early in the pandemic, and previously commissioned her to photograph the “Real Zola.” This is her first magazine cover.