Sex test runner gets a girly makeover

The results of Caster Semenya's sex-determination exam are still out -- but, in the meantime, she's gone femme

Published September 8, 2009 9:01PM (EDT)

Times Online

Caster Semenya after her magazine makeover

What's an exceptional female athlete to do when her masculine appearance threatens her livelihood and tabloid headlines the world over begin questioning her biological sex? Get a super-femme makeover!

Such is the P.R. move made by Caster Semenya, the South African runner who was forced by the International Association of Athletics Federations to undergo sex-determination testing. The 18-year-old appears on the cover of You magazine with her cheeks rouged, lips glossed and nails painted. Instead of her yellow-and-green tracksuit, she dons a sleek black dress that covers up her washboard abs; gold jewelry, not sweat, drips from her neck; and her cornrows are combed out into a bouncy coiffure. The South African glossy declares in a headline: "Wow, Look at Caster Now!" Also: "Athletics star Caster Semenya as you’ve never seen her before – transformed by YOU from powergirl to glamour girl."

Inside the magazine, a four-page spread shows Semenya in various feminine fashions: a sequined top and skin-tight black leggings and, according to the BBC, "a grey knee-length dress worn with a grey cropped jacket and a black-and-white cocktail dress worn with stilettos." The magazine quotes her as saying, "I'd like to dress up more often and wear dresses but I never get the chance." After the shoot, Semenya reportedly told her manager to buy all of the outfits she had modeled. Of course she did. Playing the "appropriate" feminine part must come as a relief after enduring childhood teasing about looking like a boy in her poor rural village and then later having her identity called into question by an international crowd of critics.

The media storm over her sex has succeeded where those childhood tormentors failed: Getting her to conform. The results to Semenya's sex-determination test (which we learned today she was tricked into taking) are still out -- but her public makeover is the result of a another most unfortunate gender test.

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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