Hello! I'm Erin Carlson, writer, editor. reality TV historian and Olsen twin expert. I work at The Hollywood Reporter. Also: I'm founding editor of Crushable.com and formerly an entertainment journalist at The Associated Press.
The Rings welcomes our first ever guest post by the one and only Erin Carlson of TheHollywoodreporter.com. Not only is she cute, she’s also smart, funny and really gets Debbie Phelps.
Behind every Olympic icon there is someone who helps guide the athlete to greatness (see also: near-greatness) through channeling raw talent and ambition into a pile of gold medals and/or product endorsements (ka-ching, ka-ching).
For most Olympians, that person is a coach whose experience and organization skills – throw in “imperiousness” if we’re talking about Bela Karolyi – build the foundation to turn nobodies into famouses through practice-practice-practice (or torture-torture-torture if you’re a sports couch potato like me).
Bob Bowman began coaching Michael Phelps before he became Michael Phelps, from the half-human/half-dolphin’s formative tween years in Baltimore through Sydney, Athens, Beijing and into the impending London games. In turn, Michael’s trust in Bob has raised the coach’s profile and brand into that of a Karolyi for swim champs (albeit way less imperious). But more so than Bob, more so than the swimmer’s natural will to win, more so than his rock-hard twelve-pack abs of steel, the guiding figurehead who’s most important to his success is … his mother, Debbie Phelps.
Debbie Phelps is the Kris Jenner of Olympic Moms. She is everywhere, both behind the scenes and in the spotlight, helping orchestrate her son’s life and career while carving out her own niche of fame in the public eye a la the Kardashian matriarch. Like Kris, Debbie drips with charisma: she loves the limelight, and seems like she’d be loads of fun to hang out with too (at least in terms of sharing Olympics-related gossip over dinner at her favorite restaurant, P.F. Chang’s, which is my idea of a perfect evening, there I said it). There’s also the way the camera captures her maternal devotion to Michael, 27, as she watches his enthralling races and erupts into joy when he surfaces victorious; what current or aspiring soccer mom couldn’t relate to that?
Like Kris, her wardrobe is killer: tailored jackets; mom-chic modern prints; statement jewelry; a stylishly short haircut; makeup always on, but never overpowering. Never too-too. Glamorous and age-appropriate. At the same time, Debbie is much more down-to-earth than Mama Kardashian: you can actually imagine her wearing elastic jeans on the weekends en route to go grocery shopping at Super Target. She is Everymom, too.
Like Kris, Debbie has parlayed her image as a high-profile parent (who also happens to be principal of Windsor Middle School in Baltimore County) into commercial and fame-enhancing opportunities of her own. Debbie’s various titles: celebrity spokeswoman for Chico’s, the boho-lite retail chain frequented by sophisticated ladies of a certain age; author of the 2009 memoir, “A Mother For All Seasons”; celeb model at this year’s Red Dress Collection runway show in New York City, strutting her stuff to raise awareness of heart disease alongside Amazon women Christie Brinkley, Rebecca Romijn and Aisha Tyler.
Behold the “The Debbie Phelps Look” on the Chico’s website.Sure, there’s only two items – a pair of black pants and a silver watch – but, come on guys, Debbie doesn’t need much to look chic. Less is more, people, less is more! Nay, circa Beijing, Debbie Phelps inspired an entire collection (No one was perhaps more excited than this guy). She landed the spokes-mom gig after purchasing all of her Olympics outfits at a store in Maryland. She was having a “Chico’s kind of day” … every day during those games in China.
“We are working with Debbie and her management to discuss collaborative opportunities,” Chico’s announced at the time. “We think she looks amazing. We think she really resonates with women everywhere.”
Let’s all not act surprised then when she turns up at the pool in London sporting, like, a crisp zebra-print blazer from the label. Alas, the Chico’s tweeting has already begun.