Voice of @highlightHER, Talent @bleacherreport
Feature No. 20 | August 12th, 2020
Talk about where you grew up and how that impacted your passion for basketball?
I’m from Raleigh, North Carolina; 919 to the death of me! I’m a child of the 90’s, so I had the privilege of growing up with the heavy influence of Kay Yow and Sylvia Hatchell. When I was in elementary school, my class would take field trips to the NC State women’s basketball games and those moments really shaped me. I was introduced to and fell in love with the women’s game before I had the chance to even be exposed to the men’s game.
It also helped that, years later, I attended Southeast Raleigh High School. Our girl’s basketball program was (and still is) nationally ranked; I was the girl’s basketball manager there.
I’m forever indebted to the women’s game. It raised me.
You started in entertainment for the Knicks, Rangers and Liberty throwing tees into the crowds, what were some highlights of your experience at MSG?
One of my favorite parts of being part of New York Liberty’s Torch Patrol was performing “GOTTA GET UP” during the 3/4 quarter break. “GOTTA GET UP” is a NY Liberty staple: our fight song.
The atmosphere in a WNBA game is like none other. The W is a family. People at the games go because they want to be there. They’re genuinely invested. And that’s beautiful to watch.
So, when we ran out with our signs and did the t-shirt toss, I loved seeing how excited the fans got. The energy in the arena was always insane. I knew I would end up on the other side of things though, because I’d always be that one in the vom (our tunnel) who stayed out watching and analyzing the game after we ran off the court.
Another underrated moment was Swin Cash’s retirement ceremony. The NY Liberty played Seattle that day. I’ll never forget, after the game, the lights dimmed and a video montage of Swin Cash’s career flashed on the jumbotron. Sue Bird spoke to Swin’s notable career, and the camaraderie between the teams was flat out dope. It was a day of celebration and the end of an era.
Speaking of Swin, I have to thank her for inspiring me to start the phrase “THE WNBA IS SO IMPORTANT.” We were all at a Jr. NBA camp and she started to sing the famous song from Sister Act II, “If you wanna be somebody, if you wanna go somewhere, you better wake up and pay attention.” The kids joined in with her. It was so moving. You can tell something clicked with them, almost like a renewed purpose and appreciation for basketball. The influence of this WNBA legend gave those little girls representation and showed little boys the power of a woman athlete. To this day, whenever I see anything that’s moving within the WNBA (on or off the court), I have a sound-off, “THE WNBA IS SO IMPORTANT!” That’s what you call impact.
How did you become so heavily involved in the WNBA? What was it like building out the women’s platform at Bleacher Report?
When I was on Liberty Torch Patrol, I would watch the games when we weren’t on the court for timeouts. I noticed there was barely any media there. I remember telling myself, “these are the top 144 basketball players in the world that are coming in and out of the World’s Most Famous Arena, so why are people not jumping on the opportunity to cover them?!”
I had a talk with my friend, and MSG’s resident DJ, Tiff McFierce, and she was like “you should tell their stories.” So I started to. I started by talking to my friends who played in the WNBA whenever they would come into town. I propped my phone up on whatever I could find and posted them online. Traction gained as I posted more and more (shoutout to the goldmine that is Twitter), and Bleacher Report found me.
I can’t tell you what it was like because I still am building up @highlightHER. HighlightHER is an online community dedicated to celebrating women in the space of sports and culture. I love that it’s not restricted by any sport or any level of athlete. It’s literally the hub of girls and women doing things they’re proud of. It’s dope to have been given the opportunity and trust to create and build and grow this platform and continue to amplify women’s voices, stories, actions, moments, highlights, etc… It’s finally a chance to show people, we (as women) not only exist in the sports and culture realm, but we excel there. We are the changemakers. We are the top tier athletes. We are the voices. We are strong. We are funny. We are empowered. We’re a freakin vibe.
Also, my job extends beyond me. If I’m not uplifting women as I go, what am I actually doing? Not only do I want to push the game forward, but I want to break the barriers hindering women in sports. That’s what matters to me. To be the woman that five, 10, 15 year old me needed. And when that little girl grows up, leave the industry a little better for her so she can go dominate in her own right.
How are you currently elevating the women's game? What do you love most about telling players stories?
I elevate the women’s game by sharing my passion in ways that are most genuine to me. I truly love the game. Because I truly love it, I talk about it a lot, exhaustingly. That consistency—getting the League on people’s timelines, in conversations, on platforms—leads to interest. Passion is infectious.
So often, people are lazy with telling women’s stories. I see major publications just overlook women completely, or do the bare minimum with coverage. Shed light on the players’ voices! It should never be about pushing a personal narrative or telling the story that you think you know. I love LISTENING and letting them flow, relaying it THEIR way. There’s so much under the surface of x’s and o’s, there’s so many exciting moments beyond rapid fire questions, there’s so much to uncover if you just listen. My favorite part is learning new things about them. Hearing how they got to where they were, how they see themselves, where they want to go, where they want the game to go, etc…
It’s particularly important within the WNBA because it’s a league of 80 percent Black women. And now, especially, with everyone hyper aware of the injustice and oppression of Blacks, and Black women in particular, it’s important to listen to Black women. They are using their voices. They have been using their voices. I simply want to be the megaphone for them.
Talk about the allyship between the NBA and the WNBA. How is that growing? What excites you the most about it?
The possibilities are endless. What I love most about the NBA and WNBA’s brotherhood/sisterhood is that it’s organic and authentic. The men support and respect the women in an altruistic way. Many of them have a bond through USA basketball, All-American games, school, etc...so this relationship isn’t new. We need to reject the idea of repelling male support and embrace it instead.
The game is growing. The interest is growing - WELL beyond just NBA player appreciation. We’re coming to a time where people love the league because they love the product (game) and the players. There are players entering the WNBA that were born into a world with the W (shoutout 97 and beyond), so they grew up with the mentality “I’m going to make it to the pros.” There was something for them beyond college. Ultimately, because of a higher ceiling, the level of competition and style of game has evolved tremendously.
I’m most excited about the energy that’s around women’s basketball now. I’m excited for the future-who’s now graduating high school and entering NCAA, and we can already tell they’re going to succeed. I’m excited about the super vets in the WNBA who have taken longevity to new heights. (Sue and DT could potentially get 5 olympic gold medals!) I’m excited about the tons of people who tweet me daily asking how to get merch or how to watch a game. I’m excited about the crossover love between women’s sports. I’m excited that everyone wants to rock the orange hoodie. I’m excited that the players are standing up against injustice and advocating as a whole; I’m excited they’re empowered enough to do so. I’m excited that the numbers keep increasing (viewership). I’m excited that everyday, we see the ceiling disappear.