She's using her voice to uplift the next generation of athletes.
On the basketball court, Chiney Ogwumike's passion is undeniable, and the WNBA pro's drive for empowering women goes beyond her job. Ogwumike's growing list of achievements also includes a partnership with Secret, which she says is particularly close to her heart. The #WatchMe Campaign worked to create more representation for women in sports and pledged $150,000. We caught up with Ogumike to discuss the partnership.
"This partnership was seamless for me because once you're an athlete, you start looking for teammates, not just on the court but off," she says. "Secret is the perfect teammate." Ogumike relates deeply to Secret's mission. "The product was a staple for me growing up, and I never thought I'd see myself working with a brand so essential," she explains. "I was also a young athlete and second-guessed if I should keep playing sports or if I would fit in." That narrative, Ogumike says, is far too common and one she hopes to change. "It's important that we show young girls what the possibilities are when they stick to something," she says. "We saw it with the Olympics, and just how much you can achieve when you believe in yourself."
Ogumike's journey as a professional athlete doesn't come without its challenges. Earlier this year, fans were disappointed when unforeseen circumstances left Ogumike and her sisters unable to represent Nigeria in the summer Olympics, despite their dual citizenships. According to Ogumike, the situation taught her yet another lesson in perseverance. "I am a family person first and foremost," Ogumike says. "It was nice to know I wasn't going through this by myself."
According to Ogumike, although she wasn't able to play in this year's games, she hopes that her push to represent Nigeria in the Olympics inspires young athletes to keep fighting for themselves. "The bigger purpose is that there will be more chances in the future to play with my sisters: she says. "Understanding that has helped me realize that this was just one goal but the playing field is so much bigger than what we ever even imagined."
Representing Nigeria in the Olympics was just a small piece of the dream for Ogumike, whose culture is at the core of her work. "My culture is the foundation of who I am. It is the idea that I cannot take anything I have for granted and that when I have a great opportunity, I have to make the most of it," she says. "Not only thatâ€”but we open doors for the next person, which isn't the norm for many people." Ogumike says that the work ethic instilled by her parents has created new opportunities for her off the court, including her broadcasting career as the first Black woman to host a national ESPN radio show, while still playing for the L.A. Sparks.
Still, Ogumike isn't all work. When she isn't working and training, self-care is at the center of her regular routine which includes makeup and massages. "I'm big on massages for relaxation and recovery," she says. "If I was really leaning into pampering I'd also schedule a facial, and most times I like to a deep clean of my home."
The WNBA star says that her approach to makeup is "simplistic," but still pretty impressive. "I'm obsessed with Fenty's Body Lava, especially when I'm trying to do the most and amplify my melanin," she says. "When I am on the go I keep things basic and turn to my MAC foundation and powder. If I have time, I use a liquid liner from Maybelline, and my cheap beauty supply lip glossâ€”which you can't go wrong with." Ogumike also says that, while her job has constraints when it comes to going full-on glam, she still finds outlets for expression. "I love to get my nails done," she says. "There are fun ways to show your personality through your hair, and nails, so I try to lean into that when I can."
My culture is the foundation of who I am. It is the idea that I cannot take anything I have for granted and that when I have a great opportunity, I have to make the most of it.
With eyes on buzzy athletes, like Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka, who have used their platforms to discuss mental health scrutiny in their respective worlds, Ogumike says she admires their courage and prioritizes time for herself to preserve her mental health. "I was highly pressured at Stanford in academics. I also felt the need to prove that I was as good as my sister, who was on the team there and performed really well," Ogumike says."That pressure from academics and basketball can be draining."
It taught Ogumike the importance of carving out time to simply, be. "I actually found a lot of comfort watching TV alone as silly as it sounds. It was the time that I had to myself where there was no pressure," she says. "It allowed me to decompress and leave my space and it's something I still love to do on a chill day for some zen time." After talking to Ogumike one thing was crystal clear: Her laser focus on her career, influence, and even her TV time alone solid evidence that you can truly have it all if you just set a goal and work towards it.
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