• Suni Lee responded to a TikTok video about her and her boyfriend Jaylin Smith
  •  She received flak from her own community over her interracial relationship
  • Last year, Lee was pepper-sprayed while she was waiting for a ride in L.A. 

Olympic gold medalist Suni Lee has spoken out about her new relationship with her boyfriend Jaylin Smith after she was criticized over it during the holidays.

On Dec. 26, 2021, Lee made her relationship with Smith Instagram official. Wearing black hoodies and conservative smiles, Lee debuted two photos of her and Smith during the holidays and captioned them with a simple white heart emoji.

Shortly after, the photos garnered thousands of likes from supporters of the Olympic gymnast. However, the post also received polarizing comments from people who are divided on the issue of interracial relationships.

One commenter wrote, “I am absolutely devastated,” while another said, “interracial relationships. You’re both gorgeous!”

The 18-year-old athlete addressed the criticism she received from her Hmong-American community in a response to the Dec. 30, 2021, TikTok video posted by a fan who showed support for her and Smith – a football player and a student at the University of Southern California.

"I know that Sunisa will be judged by certain eyes in the Hmong Community because her man is Black," user alixphom captioned his video showing him clapping and giving a thumbs up to the interracial couple. He added, “LOVE is LOVE, no matter what race or gender you are. Keep doing you QUEEN."

“This makes me so happy. I've received so much hate," Lee wrote in the comments section of the post with a crying emoji. "They support me when it's beneficial for them, never when it comes to my happiness. Thank you!"

Lee, who is currently a freshman at Auburn University, made headlines last year during the Tokyo Games when she became the first Asian-American female gymnast to win gold in the Olympics' all-around competition.

After her Olympic victory, Lee spoke about becoming an inspiration for Asian-Americans, especially among the Hmong community.

“…To just be an inspiration to other Hmong people [means] a lot to me too," she previously told People.

In November last year, Lee told CNN that she was pepper-sprayed in an apparent racist attack while in L.A. for her stint on “Dancing With The Stars" in October.

Lee said she was waiting for a ride after a night out with friends who are also of Asian descent when a car drove by and the people in it shouted racist slurs like “ching chong” and told them to “go back to where they came from.” She told CNN that one of the passengers sprayed her arm with pepper spray before the car took off.

"I was so mad, but there was nothing I could do or control because they skirted off,” she told the outlet.

Suni Lee
Suni Lee is competing on Season 30 of "Dancing With the Stars." ABC/Maarten de Boer