Who are Simone Biles' parents? Olympic gymnast adopted by grandparents after mom gave her up
The fans of Olympic gymnast Simone Biles might have seen her parents supporting her as she became an all-time great in the world of athletics, but what many did not know was the fact that her parents were actually her grandparents, who adopted her at the age of six.
In a 2016 interview, Simone's biological mother, Shanon Biles, admitted that she had given her up, along with her three siblings, for adoption in 2000, when Simone was two years old, after struggling to put a lid on her drug and alcohol addiction. In fact, Simone's biological father, Kelvin Clemons, was never a part of the world champion's life.
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Simone Biles in the foster care system
Shanon Biles has spoken about what it meant to give up her children. “When we signed the [adoption] papers, it was like my dad flipped a switch on me,” Shanon, who is from Ohio, told the outlet. “No communication, don’t call, and don’t visit. That’s how it was at the beginning. It took me six years before I saw my children again. I was respecting my dad to let the kids transition, he felt that was the best thing for them. It was hard to give up my kids, but I had to do what I had to, I wasn’t able to care for them. I was still using, and he didn’t want me coming in and out of their lives when I wasn’t right.”
Last week, in an interview with USA Today, Simone opened up about what it was like being in the foster care system, where she snuck out of her bedroom at night to check on her brother sleeping in a separate room because she feared that if she didn’t, she’d wake up in the morning to find him moved to another foster home. “I know exactly how it is, and I know exactly how you feel being a foster kid. I can be a voice for them. I can help them, and I can tell them that they're not alone and that it's going to be OK. That you can also still be great in the world. Being in foster care isn't going to be your only title," the four-time Olympic gold medalist said.
Every time Simone and her siblings were assigned to a new foster home, the officials would let her grandparents know. When she turned six, Simone’s grandfather, Ronald Biles, and his wife, Nellie, adopted her and her younger sister, Adria. “We’re family,” Ron recalled saying. In fact, it was him who had suggested to Shanon that if she ever had a daughter, she should name her Simone. “There's nothing, nothing worse, I feel, than having a child going from one place to the next. They need to have that sense of belonging,” Nellie said. “I really think it's important that that's the first thing that should be done with any child that is displaced, is to find a permanent home.” The two oldest siblings, Ashley and Tevin, were adopted by Ron Biles’ sister in Ohio.
Simone Biles: 'My parents saved me'
“I've been so fortunate with everything that God has given me and all the tools of life,” Simone said. “So I never really cared to find out who my biological father was, or really gain a close relationship with my biological mom. Which I'm sure she probably wanted." In 2017, before one of her 'Dancing With The Stars' performances, she looked back at the year she was adopted by her grandparents. "I never had mom to run to. I do remember always being hungry and afraid. At 3 years old, I was placed in foster care. Whenever we had visits with my grandpa, I was so excited," she said through tears. "That was the person I always wanted to see walk in to the foster home." She now calls her grandparents "mom and dad".
The champion gymnast credits her grandparents with turning her entire life around. "My parents saved me," Simone said. "They’ve set huge examples of how to treat other people, and they’ve been there to support me since day one. There’s nothing I could say to them to thank them enough."
Simone mended relationship with biological parents
Simone's biological mother mended fences with her estranged daughter before she went to the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. “When I talk to Simone, it’s a brief conversation, like, ‘I miss you, I love you, I can’t wait to see you, I’m proud of you, I’m watching. You go girl,'” Shanon told the outlet. “It’s never anything personal. I want to tell her what really happened when I was younger, but I keep on waiting for the right time. There’s a lot of stuff I want to talk to Simone about, but I’ve been respecting [Ron and Nellie]. I feel like I have no rights. They were raising her, working with her, doing this and that. And who am I? I’m outside looking in. Even though I’m her biological mom, I have to respect them.”
And while Simone's biological father has no direct contact with her, he apparently checks up on how she is doing through Shanon. “He just called me Sunday. I said, ‘I’m watching Simone, are you watching her? Are you watching her? Call me back later,'” Shanon said of Kelvin’s response to Simone’s Rio performance. “He knows that’s his daughter and he’s very proud of her.”