|IN HER WORDS: Sparks center and Morningside High School alumna Lisa Leslie, right, takes fans behind the scenes in her candid autobiography "Don't Let the Lipstick Fool You,"|
Lisa Leslie talks about motherhood, basketball and life
Lisa Leslie has one of the most impressive resumes in basketball – two-time WNBA champion, three-time Olympic gold medalist, three-time WNBA Most Valuable Player, not to mention a role model to a generation of young athletes. Now you can add author to that long list.
The 6-foot-5 forward for the L.A. Sparks, currently in her 10th season, has recently released her autobiography “Don’t Let The Lipstick Fool You: The Making of a Champion” which details her rise from growing up in Compton her single mother to her record-setting career at Morningside High School in Inglewood and at USC.
Accompanied by her husband and fellow author, Michael Lockwood, Leslie discussed how she first got into basketball, a sport that others had pushed onto her as a six-foot teenager in the seventh grade.
“I didn’t want to play it at first but I did it to gain popularity,” Leslie said. As she began learning the sport, she saw it in a much different light.
“It became an outlet for me. After school, it was an opportunity for me to have fun. Then I realized basketball could help me reach other dreams.”
Those dreams took her not just to accomplishments on the court, but off it as a model and commentator for ESPN.
With candor that reflects her down-to-earth persona, the book also discusses her family which is where she got the inspiration for her trademark of wearing lipstick on the court.
“My aunt J.C. (Judy Carol) was ultra feminine,” Leslie said, comparing her to singer/actress Diana Ross, “She never wore pants, always wore heels and she always had on shiny lipstick.”
It was that outlook that inspired her to combine that feminine persona with the hard-working efforts of her mother, the women Leslie calls her greatest inspiration. She worked as a truck driver to support the family and later overcame breast cancer.
The book also discusses some of the personal family matters, including some that involved her sister, Dionne. Leslie added that by being vulnerable, she hopes to remove some of the perception of athletes being free from real-life issues that many deal with.
“Everybody can relate to it on a certain level where someone in their family at some point in their life did something they shouldn’t have,” she said.
For basketball fans, the book also gives a behind-the-scenes glimpse into her time at USC, where she played for fellow Trojan legend Cheryl Miller her senior season, as well as her decade with the Sparks and her years on the U.S. Olympic team.
The end of the book also briefly discusses her marriage to Lockwood, a pilot for the United Parcel Service and former captain in the U.S. Air Force. The strong connection they shared was evident from start as Lockwood gently held the chair out for his wife before they sat down for this interview.
“I was made to be married,” Leslie said with a smile. She also explained the joy of being a mother, having given birth to daughter Lauren a year ago on June 15.
Lockwood’s book “Women Have All The Power: Too Bad They Don’t Know It!” was written for his three daughters – two from a previous marriage – but it gives women of all ages advice on how to set the bar high for the men they bring into their lives while giving insight into how men view relationships differently.
“There’s so many daughters who don’t have fathers to care about them and to teach them the things that I’m teaching my girls,” Lockwood said of his inspiration, adding that it also stemmed from his oldest daughter asking questions about boys and dating.
Both he and Leslie were raised to understand the traditional roles of family and marriage so it is no surprise the book takes a candid, straight-forward approach in telling women not what they want to hear but what they should know about men to help them find the right partner.
“Just like men have to learn about women from women, you should go to a man to ask about them, not one of your girlfriends,” he said.
Despite claims that some men may not appreciate secrets being revealed, he said that most men have responded well because they know they have daughters and sisters that they want to be respected.
The final chapter of his book deals with the “Y2K Woman,” the woman of today who is focused on pursuing her career with almost the same drive that most used to put towards their family. It’s a section that will likely attract the most controversy but Lockwood only has to point to his wife as an example of a “Y2K woman” that related well to what the book had to say.
As Leslie leads the Sparks in their quest for another title and prepares to play in her final Olympics this August in Beijing, her book reminds you that she’s just a girl from the inner-city that made it big and inspires girls of all ages and backgrounds to follow their dreams, whatever they may be.