As professional sports continue to diversify their teams and programs, African American female athletes have been a major asset in propelling the art of competition forward within the last 10 years. Although Black women embody the largest percentages in basketball, softball, and track and field, for every “first” or “only”, there has been scrutiny from the media before praise for their accomplishments. Household names like the Williams sisters, Naomi Osaka, Lisa Leslie, Simone Biles, and Laila Ali, have defined the odds and have blazed trails for young Black women to dominate in their respective sport. The following women are making their mark by making their way into our homes and our hearts.
Los Angeles native Starr Andrews is a professional figure skater and truly one of a kind. Earlier this year she made news after winning the Pewter Medal at the 2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in January. Making Andrews the only African American female skater to earn a spot on the senior women’s podium in the last 35 years, since Debi Thomas in 1988. She is also the first Black woman to win a Grand Prix Medal in the singles discipline. In addition to her many firsts, Andrews is a 2019 International Challenge Cup silver medalist, 2019 Egna Trophy silver medalist, and a 2022 Skate Canada International silver medalist.
Starr Andrews is first Black woman to medal at U.S. nationals since 1988 – The Washington Post
Dawn Staley Is Still Coaching A’ja Wilson – The New York Times (nytimes.com)
Staley proud to be 2nd African-American coach to win title – Los Angeles Sentinel | Los Angeles Sentinel | Black News (lasentinel.net)
Women’s Basketball announces Sydney Carter as director of player development – University of Texas Athletics (texassports.com)
In 2010, she went viral for an ice-skating video on YouTube of a performance routine to Willow Smith’s “Whip My Hair.” Recognized as raw talent and talked about on every social network, television and media personalities/ channels like Ryan Seacrest, Lipstick Alley, Vibe, World Star Hip Hop, and Black Celebrity Kids, praised her performance. Since the upload, the video has over 60 million views.
During her journey Andrews has suffered injuries and sustains a heart condition that required surgery last November. Her mother, mentor, and coach Toshawa Andrews, also a skater, has cardiac microvascular disease, which has caused over several heart attacks. Although her heart condition is not as critical as her mother’s, Andrews continues to remain confident in her skills as a champion on the ice.
A’ja Wilson is professional WNBA player for the Las Vegas Aces. She was drafted by Las Vegas with the no. 1 overall pick in the first round of the 2018 WNBA Draft. Wilson is an Olympic Gold Medalist, 2022 and 2020 WNBA MVP, 2022 Defensive Player of the Year, and helped her team win the 2022 WNBA Championship. Before becoming a professional she was a three-time All American champion, three-time Southeastern Conference (SEC) Player of the Year and was abducted into South Carolina Hall of Fame. She is a protégé of Olympic Gold Medalist Dawn Staley, head coach of the South Carolina Gamecocks, the second African American female coach to win the NCAA Championship, as well as five-time SEC Coach of the Year.
Born in Columbia, South Carolina, Wilson was born into a basketball family. Her father and brother both played professionally overseas. Wilson was one of very few Black students to attend a private school in South Carolina in grade school and high school. Wilson played a total of 119 games after making the varsity as an eighth grader, averaging 24.7 points, 13.9 rebounds, and 4.3 blocks a game throughout her high school career. In college Wilson played in 37 games her freshman year, leading to four single-game freshman records in the SEC and three single-season freshman records in the SEC, and won the SEC Freshman of the year award. Fast-forward to 2021, the University of South Carolina honored the basketball anomaly with a statue in front of the Colonial Life Arena.
Usually, when basketball and fashion meet, it’s a man on the other side of the photo showing off their personal style in the hottest trends. But former WNBA star turned Director of Player Development, Sydney Carter, is changing that narrative each time she steps onto the court.
Carter was selected 27th overall in the WNBA draft to the Chicago Sky in 2012 and enjoyed a four-year career in the WNBA. During Carter’s seven-year international career, she played in countries such as Latvia and Israel. As a rising star in the industry, Carter joins the Texas Longhorns after spending the past two seasons in College Station on the women’s basketball staff under legendary head coach, Gary Blair, at Texas A&M.
Carter dazzles fans in-person and online each game with her stunning fashion picks that are both professional and admirable. Her fun and polished reels on Instagram and Twitter caught the eyes of many in 2022. After years of dominating on the court as a player, she has rebranded herself with style and grace, making her one to watch during the women’s season.
Several African American female athletes have emerged as trailblazers in professional sports over the years, dominating their respective courts with consistency and true competitiveness. Whether they’re in the rink, on the court, or on the sidelines, each of these ladies are paving the way for new professionals to be unique, encouraging them to stay true to themselves, while showing young women that they can claim the accolades they deserve along the way.