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Sabina Altynbekova: A volleyball star making beautiful choices

Sabina Altynbekova, a volleyball player from Kazhakstan, has been hounded – on the court and off – for her model-quality looks. The 17-year-old and her parents are pushing back to help her shape a future not dependent on her good looks.

Screenshot from Instagram
An image from Sabina Altynbekova's Instagram account. The 17-year-old volleyball player is hounded about her looks, that they might be too good for her team. She and her parents are pushing past her image to focus on her future on an off the court.

The story of Sabina Altynbekova – a 17-year-old volleyball player from Kazakhstan who is suffering the slings and arrows of being born beautiful  – offers a great lesson for kids. This is a chance to see that beauty is not a get-out-of-misery card in the game of life.

Sabina was just another teenage athlete before she turned up in the Taiwanese capital Taipei to compete for Kazakhstan in the Asian Under-19 Championships

While it’s not unusual to see stories about teenagers suffering from bullying for not fitting into the social ideals of beauty, this girl is being criticized by her coach and Kazakhstan media as they claim that Sabina’s natural beauty is overshadowing the team’s talents.

"It is impossible to work like this," Nurlan Sadikov, coach of the nation's under-19 team, told Tengrin News in a quote translated by the Daily Mail. "The crowd behaves like there is only one player at the championship." 

Perhaps Mr. Sadikov should spend a bit of time here in the United States where that kind of fan favoring is commonplace and often sought-after by team managers, public relations gurus, and players.

I admit that when I first read this story I imagined it must be yet another humble brag by an up-and-coming teen celebrity’s publicity team in order to gain even more fans.

However, when I read a bit deeper, and noted that she and her parents are very much against exploiting her looks via modeling, I understood that I too was compromised by my personal prejudice against the beautiful people of the world.

In fact, it appear that Sabina has done little to generate this attention other than show up on the court to play and curate her own very modest Instagram and (non-verified) Twitter accounts.

This athlete’s fame appears to be as organic as her good looks.

It’s just fans, people enamored by her beauty, who have taken it upon themselves to blow up her online presence with unauthorized accounts on Facebook and YouTube and other social media platforms. 

The YouTube videos are all posted by fans and aren’t racy or even very impressive. They simply show her on the court warming up, high-fiving her teammates and standing around, yet have drawn  hundreds of thousands of views.

Admittedly, at first glance of this teenager’s flawless appearance all I could think of, sitting here in my far-from-perfect body, was that I’d like to have her problems. Then, I checked myself as I realized that I have no idea what her problems might be. I think that what we see in the mirror – and how that appearance drives us – is what’s important to recognize in Sabina's story.

I’m, ashamed that my first reaction was to judge her by her looks, when what I should have done first was see her as a child of mine instead.

Having her coach publicly turn on her must be pretty crushing.

Being in the position of getting strapped to the fame rocket against your will and having strangers turn your every waking moment into an event could seem frightening and filled with pressure.

If Sabina had allowed her fame to go to her head and abandoned her teammates, ditched practice in favor of photo shoots, or similar new star behavior, I’d say the coach’s upset would be warranted. That doesn’t appear to be the case.

Her mother, Nuripa Amrievna, told The Daily Mail that her daughter recently entered Kazakh University for Humanities and Law.

According to her mom’s interview with The Daily Mail, Sabina has been asked to model, ”But she will not go there -- we as parents are against (it).”

In my opinion that’s some good parenting right there.

While it’s easy to fall into jealousy and cattiness over the beauty-driven woes of a young girl who looks like a volleyball-playing Elle Magazine cover, the fact is it’s important to show our children that beauty is no guarantee that life will be hassle-free.

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