LISA LESLIE TALKS TITLE IX, COLLEGE HOOPS & THE CAPITAL ONE CUP
As the anniversary of Title IX approaches, it’s difficult for many women to imagine a life without sports, and especially without trailblazers and icons like Lisa Leslie. Lisa was a “Title IX baby” who grew up to become one of the world’s most recognizable female athletes. Her athletic accomplishments include a stellar college career at USC, two-time WNBA champion, three-time WNBA MVP, eight-time WNBA all-star, and four-time Olympic gold medalist. She transitioned her success off the court, where fashion model, mother, author, sports analyst, and entrepreneur round out her impressive resume. Leslie remains an advocate for women’s sports, paving the way for future generations of female athletes.
These days the former WNBA superstar is on the Capital One Cup Advisory Board, supporting the achievements of collegiate athletes. In its second year, the Capital One Cup is given to the best men’s and women’s Division I college athletics programs in the country. It will award a combined $400,000 in student-athlete scholarships and the Capital One Cup trophy to the winning schools in July. The men’s and women’s NCAA Tournaments are underway, and Lisa will be on-hand to celebrate the Women’s Final Four in Denver. On Sunday, April 1st (1:45 p.m.), she will be speaking from Center Stage followed by an autograph session in the Capital One Cup Fan Zone (2:30 p.m.). For more information and to keep track of the standings, fans can check out www.capitalonecup.com or follow on twitter @CapitalOneCup or facebook at facebook.com/CapitalOneCup.
A Glam Slam spoke with Lisa about the upcoming Title IX anniversary, college hoops and her future fashion endeavors. Check it out below. You can follow Lisa on twitter @LisaLeslie.
We’re coming up on the 40th Anniversary of Title IX and your accomplishments are definitely representative of the legistlation’s success. How did it impact you, both on and off the court?
I always say that I’m a Title IX baby because it was passed in June of ’72 and I was born in July of ’72. I’m just honored to have even had the privilege to play sports and have that opportunity because of Title IX. I recognized it early in high school. I learned about Title IX in school and then had an opportunity a few times to go to Captiol Hill and talk to a few of our dignitaries and Congress to make sure that the legislation passed on several occasions. I think it’s fortunate and it’s also unfortunate that we as girls have to really fight for our place and our space to play sports. I always say it’s not our fault that we were born girls, we just want to play too. And Title IX afforded us the opportunity to do so, and for me in particular, to play in high school, to get a scholarship to go to USC, and also to play in the Olympics.
When discussing Title IX, President Obama recently named you as one of his favorite female athletes, noting you are a wonderful role model for his girls. What’s the best advice you could give to aspiring female athletes?
First I have to say that I am just honored that President Obama said I’m one of his favorite female athletes and a great role model for his daughters. I feel it’s our duty as athletes and as student athletes to be role models to other young boys and girls and I’ve always felt that way, so the decisions I’ve made on the court and off, I’ve always tried to keep that in my mind, that I’m representing more than just myself, especially when I had the opportunity to put on the red, white and blue to represent our country. I’m humbled and I’m thankful for that compliment but for Sasha and Malia as well, I also gave them my book Don’t Let the Lipstick Fool You, it’s just important to have an impact because you don’t know how you will change the lives of others based on your behavior. Now that I’m a mom, I’m just excited about that opportunity to pass on those beliefs and values to my daughter and my son.
Moving on to college hoops, UConn’s 90-game winning streak made headlines. This year Brittney Griner has brought excitement to the women’s tourney. Do you think these storylines are important for women’s college basketball?
Absolutely. I think women’s college basketball is very exciting, whether it’s played above the rim or below the rim, it’s a great game. The more people try to defy us, the better the athletes are getting. We’re evolving and I think as a role model, I’ve always been that way. I’ve set many records and have been the first to do many things but records are made to be broken. I’m excited just as I was excited about Candace Parker coming behind me and having the opportunity to break records and do things after I’ve done them and keep creating new records.
I think Brittney Griner is of that same type of stature, she’s created new things that have never been done or seen before and I love it because men are excited about Brittney Griner. They’re talking about her and watching her in the highlights and if that’s what it takes to get more people excited and involved and support the women’s game, then so be it. I’m excited for Brittney and what she’s been able to accomplish so far but I feel like you haven’t seen anything yet. I think she’s going to continue to grow and blossom and be one of the best players in the world that we’ve ever seen.
Who is your pick to win it all on the women’s side?
I chose Baylor even though they’re going up against Stanford who is Pac-12 and you know I’m big on the Pac-12, I’m a USC girl, so it’s going to be tough. Tara [VanDerveer] is definitely my all-time favorite coach so I love her, but I just feel like this is Baylor’s year. But I would not be upset at all if Nnemkadi [Ogwumike] and Chiney [Ogwumike] are able to dismantle Baylor on the inside, I would be easily pleased with their effort.
What about the men’s side? Any predictions?
I’m going with Louisville, only because of [Rick] Pitino. I don’t have any alliances with any of the teams enough to have a gung-ho pick, but I think [Rick] Pitino is a great coach.
Can you talk about the Capital One Cup and your involvement?
I’m excited to be a part of the Capital One Cup because it’s committed to the achievement of student athletes both on and off the court. I’ve always been an advocate and as a student athlete, it’s important that we’re not seen just as athletes. So the Capital One Cup, they really dedicate and drive the best teams towards winning the Cup. It awards Division 1 athletes, the programs for their cumulative performance across men’s and women’s sports and the winners get $400,000 in scholarships.
Since Stanford plays in the Final Four for the women, if they win, they are actually in second place right now for the Capital One Cup, so it’s going to be interesting to see. But UCLA right now is in first on the women’s side and the men are still in a tie.
I will also be at the women’s Final Four tourney on Sunday, April 1st, which I’m excited about. I’ll be speaking at Center Stage at 1:45 and I’ll also be signing autographs at the Captial One Fan Zone at 2:30.
This year is also an Olympic year and you’ve had great success in past Games. What are you looking forward to this Summer?
I love it, I think this USA team that we will have on the floor is getting stronger and better and hopefully their chemistry will be as good as their talent. I look for them to win another gold medal. We’ve been dominating the world, we’ve won four straight and I don’t see why we can’t win a fifth straight gold medal so I’m looking forward to watching that. For the first time I can just sit back and eat some popcorn and watch it all go down.
Switching gears, you had a modeling career that ran parallel with basketball, you’ve been in Vogue magazine and have an interest in fashion. Current and former NBA players have developed clothing lines that cater to male athletes with larger frames. Would you ever consider developing a similar line, for female athletes?
Yes. Coming Soon. But that’s all I can say right now.
What’s next for you?
I just launched the Lisa Leslie Basketball & Leadership Academy. In fact our first day will be this Saturday, March 31st. The academy is a basketball academy where we teach skills like the pros as well as share the terminology with the kids, ages 7 to 18. We also have an academic platform, where we offer free tutoring and we can provide free tutors for any subject that the kids may need. We also have the leadership program which is where I will speak to the kids on various topics, whether it’s life skills how to compete or how to dress for an interview. Just so many different topics where I can give back to the kids or I will have a special guest speaker come in and speak to the kids. Again like Capital One, it’s all about the student athlete and we really have to enrich the lives of these kids by giving back. This is a big dream of mine and I’m excited to have the opportunity to give back and be there for them.