Jordan Brand has truly raised the bar when it comes to elevating women who are walking in their purpose daily. This has ranged from amplifying women in wellness, sports, and community. The inaugural class of the 2022 Jordan Women’s Collective full of innovators, game changers, and rule breakers show that Jordan Brand has never been afraid to operate outside the box of limitations. We had the honor of being able to connect with this groundbreaking group throughout their inaugural season and were further privileged to be able to sit down with a few of these exemplary women, opening dialogue around their respective professional journeys, how they drive impact in their communities and their overall experience within the Jordan Women’s Collective. As progressive leaders in the industry, we were honored to spotlight women in wellness and sports, by digging deeper with Ana Sierra, ASWBL Founder, Chelsea Baez, Operations Manager of MADE Hoops, and Kwynn Butts, Co-Founder of The Move.
Made for the W: We see you all doing a lot within the community with Jordan Brand’s support. Tell us about some of those events and the experiences and why it’s so important to you to support the advancement of women in sports.
Chelsea Baez: “This year, the NYC Women’s Cohort celebrated the 50th Anniversary of Title IX by collaborating with the Red Hook Initiative out of Red Hook, Brooklyn, to celebrate the milestones and access Title IX has granted women. During this celebration we focused on the importance of sport, wellness, and creativity. Our goal was to not only teach our girls the importance of Title IX but spark some thought behind the advancement of women in so many career paths. Being able to collaborate together with my fellow collective sister and pull together an activation that is beyond impactful to our youth, shows the power behind us.”
MFTW: Jordan Brand has welcomed this new era to honor women by amplifying different athletes and creatives across the world. How has Jordan Brand’s intentionality helped elevate your own work as a woman in sports?
Kwynn Butts: “It’s been a super cool experience for me, as a lot of women in the NYC Cohort have been to really open to help people and connect, just as simple as me reaching out to Annette to work with Soho House for a future event or understanding that Jourdan Ash is great at getting sponsorships, and Chelsea has all the basketball plugs. We’ve been able to help each other build up the personal brand we’ve all created, as there is still potential to do more as we figure out what we’re doing through the Jordan Collective, while still creating moments for ourselves. It’s been amazing to have a more intimate exposure to each other and each other’s brands. I heard of the moves being made by fellow members of the Collective, but to be able to have moments to connect and work together has been helpful.”
MFTW: You all do an amazing job with controlling your narrative, whether it’s fashion, sports, and your respective brands. Describe how it is so imperative to carefully mold that and make it your own.
Chelsea: “Being able to be authentically you is a blessing but we all aren’t blessed with acceptance. I’ve realized, through the years, that no one can control your narrative besides you. One thing I’ve always felt strongly about is never dimming your light – the people who are supposed to experience your light will experience it, and the people who will try to dim it, will fade. Stand on who you are, stand on what you believe in, and always be passionate about what you do and the right people will naturally flow into your circle.”
Kwynn: “With The Move, my co-founder and I made sure we were clear on who we’re trying to serve by making sure everyone, especially women of color feel comfortable jumping into fitness and wellness, as we navigated the narrative of the brand’s voice and perspective. That’s really what’s key for us. That’s how we drive messaging, pull together events, the visuals we choose to show – all of that is a part of making women of color feel comfortable jumping into fitness. When you do it right, the right people will find you, and it will resonate with them. While even building my own brand, I like to make sure I’m being authentic. I want to make sure that I’m the same person online, as I am in real life. I think it’s really important to me, to just be as much as myself as possible, at all times.
MFTW: What are some conversations that you have had with Jordan Brand to further provide insight on how they can continue to support you and surrounding communities to elevate young girls and women in sports and culture?
Ana Sierra: “It’s beautiful how Jordan Brand took the time to invest in different industries. Even though it’s a basketball brand and they’re keeping that and culture at the forefront, they understood and entered this strategically. They understood that all women need to be supported in varying realms, beyond sports. They formed a new spectrum by investing in different creatives where other women in the world will relate. The Jordan Women’s Collective is speaking to many who can see someone like them being highlighted, who may have not felt as visible before. Jordan Brand has also gone above and beyond in the community as well, in sponsoring and supporting all our individual activations, like the one I did in March for Women’s History Month. Amplifying the story of women who have paved the way for us, through their connection to community. Jordan Brand can just continue to show up, as they have been. The legacy they’re building, with the inaugural class in tow, and adding more ladies in the years to come – women collectively working together for the greater good. I want this feeling to stay, by being invested into, knowing we all deserve this.”
MFTW: Jordan Brand brought Chicago, New York and LA together, in the best of ways, through this. How has it been connecting with each other? Has there been any collaborative efforts?
Ana and Kwynn both shared the sentiment that since connecting at WNBA All-Star weekend, amongst one another’s cohorts, they can surely say the possibilities are endless, and the wheels are turning to bring some amazing teamwork alive.
Chelsea: “WNBA All-Star weekend really put into perspective for me how amazing this 2022 Collective is as a whole. We are inspiring. We are powerful. We are innovative. We are creative. We are unapologetically us. We are dominant. This group of girls has not only welcomed me openly but motivates and inspires me everyday to go after it. We are truly a sisterhood and at this point it goes beyond the brand.”
MFTW: With Jordan Brand providing you the platform and exposure, share the importance of showcasing the everyday woman in each of your lanes and how that will pave a way for younger girls to have opportunities in sports for the future.
Chelsea: “The work is being done and has been done. To be honest, I think we’ve all been showcasing our work and our brands before even being a part of Jordan Brand. Us going hard in our own respective lanes is why Jordan Brand has included us into the collective and I think now being a part of the collective it’s definitely given us a bigger platform and more resources to really push the limits. Exposure matters, representation matters but above all the work matters. By continuing to stay focused on the goal and work, we’re showing brands and companies that there is a return when investing in our spaces.”
MFTW: We at Made for the W are beyond grateful to be in this space to share such needed stories, but knowing there aren’t many of us to do it, what do you think it will take for more women-led platforms to be present as well as traditional media doing their due diligence to tell these stories.
Ana: “We gotta go full throttle, and collectively keep our foot on the gas, by continuing to not give up, and organically, it will start to happen. Hopefully, we’re not having these conversations 10 years from now, trying to fight for a spot. It’s going to take for people in power and positions to speak up. All our voices are important.” We further asked what we, as media platforms, can do to assist in this process. You have to make room for partnerships and collaborations in this space, like you two have done at Made for W, for filling that void I yearned for in the media, to elevate and highlight women in sports and sneaker culture.”
Chelsea: “Opportunity and resources to be in spaces to tell these stories.Being present, and aware of what’s going on in today’s climate. Being authentic and original to the person whose story is being told. Holding yourself accountable to not only the work that’s being released but to the person whose story is being released.”
MFTW: Tell us about the evolution of the move and how wellness is so vital for us all, especially women of color, and how we need to incorporate this into our day-to-day lives.
Kwynn: “First, I have to credit my fellow co-founder, Briana Ryce, as it was her idea that she brought to me. Years ago, we attended many workouts together. Briana was able to recognize the absence when it came to women of color being involved and present, with us being the only two black girls in their classes. So, we decided to do something about it. We tapped into the lack of awareness and how that industry doesn’t cater to women of color, despite there being interest and something substantial to contribute. It’s partial awareness, partial activity and connection with fitness establishments and trainers. It’s really helping women seeing other women like them doing it. The Move has surely made it as easy as possible for women to be involved and for them to be comfortable in spaces that aren’t necessarily designed for us.”
MFTW: Describe to us your role with Made Hoops and its growth up until now. How has the journey been as a woman in a male-dominated space within the basketball realm?
Chelsea: “I started with MADE Hoops Full Time in October of 2021,” but I was an independent contractor for them for 3 years prior. I am MADE Hoops Operations Manager, my role at MADE is to assist with organizing, planning and managing events along with helping navigate a path of systemizing ops more efficiently. There have definitely been times when I’ve struggled to find my place within sports. Not knowing what you want to do is scary but I’ve been blessed with opportunities where I’ve been able to thrive and figure out what my passions are. In the basketball realm, being a woman is hard. I had to shut down negative mindsets and dialogue behind my reasoning to be involved in basketball, redirect people’s attention to the actual work being done, and really fight for my respect which I’m still fighting for. I’ve always been the type to do what I want, I don’t care for many people’s opinions and I think having that mentality has really benefited me. My work speaks for itself and the men I’ve worked with over the years can attest to that. I always stand my ground, am transparent and authentic, never bite my tongue and always speak up when something is sitting right. At MADE, I definitely feel that respect amongst my coworkers and especially my male coworkers.”
MFTW: How did ASWBL come to life and why did you feel it was so necessary to execute? What has it meant to be able to bring young girls and women together in the name of basketball?
Ana: “I have to ASWBL’s creation to the void in Chicago. After graduating college and moving to Chicago during my prime as a hooper but also a corporate opportunity, I didn’t want to leave behind to go play overseas. With me hailing from NYC, the Pro-Am culture there is abundant for women. So, coming to Chicago was a reality shock for me to have to come to terms with. Luckily, I didn’t, and that’s where ASWBL comes in. I knew Chicago exemplified basketball culture, down to its roots, so the potential was there, but the space for the everyday woman, whose first love was basketball, wasn’t there. I got tired of asking and took the initiative to build a league. I didn’t realize it would receive so much traction. It’s something that became a dream, after I was living it. The importance and influence of being able to bring these young girls together, with basketball at the core. I’m grateful that ASWBL has been able to be a sanctuary for many, whether it’s a place of peace, needed outlet, and safe space.”
To close this amazing conversation out, we want to know what was your one unforgettable moment of this entire experience and what will you take with you as you move forward creating space for women in sports and culture.
Chelsea: “Visiting MJ’s Home was definitely an unforgettable experience and as well as our NYC retreat, I love a good bonding moment. The sisterhood. The bonds and relationships we’ve formed with each other as well as our Jordan Brand reps, is strong and I plan to hold onto to these relationships.”
Kwynn: “The conversation we had at the NYC cohort retreat with Michelle Roberts, former Executive Director of the NBPA, and Nina Chanel, a Black contemporary artist and painter who makes art with meaning. Both powerhouses in their respective lanes. I feel like you don’t often get a chance to converse with people in those spaces, and they were just so candid and really inspirational. Being from different backgrounds but having similar impact on sport and culture. It kicked things off really well because after that, we were able to watch Nina Chanel’s product launch with Jordan Brand and go to her party. Obviously, every moment we get to watch basketball and how the players’ relationship with the game and the league has evolved, because of people like Michelle Roberts.”
Ana: “For me, it was the Chicago cohort retreat, on our Houston trip. I had two favorite parts of the retreat. Initially, it was the surprise element of it all. Not quite knowing what to expect but experiencing an array of excitement, laughter, connection, and bonding amongst one another, while Jordan Brand rolled out the red carpet for the us in Houston. My second favorite part of it was meeting a childhood idol of mine. Growing up as a young girl, playing basketball, she was most likely instrumental in one’s love for the game and the pride they played with. This was no different for me when I was able to share space and conversation with the legend herself, Shery Swoopes. Just being able to have that space to ask her questions, be super authentic, and have it all happen organically. It brought tears to my eyes and a moment of vulnerability that I’ll never forget. It brought forward a lot of different emotions, from loving the game. I am never really starstruck, so I surprised myself when I saw her come in. Swoopes, the legend, the GOAT in front of me. I remember copping her shoes as a shorty and screaming at the television when she played, as a fan. I was able to align Sheryl, the player, to who she is as a person.”
This was such an amazing dialogue we were able to engage in and being given the opportunity to highlight this incredible group of women in the inaugural class of the Jordan Brand Women’s Collective is a pretty big deal. They have already made history, and they’re just getting started. We look forward to witnessing the continuous raising of the bar, because these women were destined for greatness in every realm they exist in.