Whatever you call Caroline Marks... never call her an underachiever. At 15, she became the youngest person to qualify for the World Surf League’s Championship Tour. At 17, she became the first female surfer to receive equal prize money to her male counterpart. At 18, she booked a Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. And at 19, she’s an advocate for body positivity and eyeing the first-ever Olympic surfing gold medal when the sport makes its Olympic debut in Tokyo.
Born on Valentine's Day in 2002, Marks hasn't even hit 20 years of age. But it hasn't all come easily for the budding superstar. For starters, going through puberty under the glare of the public eye is no small matter for anyone. Marks joined NBCLX's podcast "My New Favorite Olympian" to discuss her Olympic journey and all the bumps that have come with it. (CLICK HERE to subscribe on your favorite podcast platform or CLICK HERE to watch the full video.)
Marks says growing up in the public eye was particularly difficult as her every physical change was scrutinized across social media and trolls started sexualizing her by making inappropriate comments about her body.
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"At 15, you know, you kind of become this little girl that becomes a woman and your body's changing and all these things are happening and hormones and things like that. And you're kind of like, whoa, what's going on?"
Caroline's mother Sarah Marks saw the scrutiny take its toll as her daughter went through the natural changes of adolescence. “Any time you're successful, someone's always going to hate you " her mother told NBCLX.
Marks says she's determined not to let body trolls get her down. She and her mother have developed a simple yet effective plan: don't read comments on social media.
"There can be a thousand great comments and then like that one bad one," she said. "And that's exactly what happened to me. And you obviously focus on the one bad one, which is which is sad, but it's true."
Marks also shared how stepping in front of the camera for her Sports Illustrated photo shoot, which she shot just a month after turning 18, went from a nerve-wracking experience into a moment of empowerment
"Everyone comes in different shapes and sizes. I think just owning it and loving yourself and doing what makes you feel good and surrounding yourself with people that make you feel good — that’s what works for me.”
For more of our conversation with Marks check out our podcast "My New Favorite Olympian" hosted by NBCLX's Ngozi Ekeledo and Olympic fencing medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad. Don't miss an episode. CLICK HERE to subscribe on your favorite podcast platform or CLICK HERE to watch the full video.