The Changing Face of Beauty in Women's Sports

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Growing up I can't remember feeling strongly about beauty.

It was just never my thing.

When I was really little, I remember crying hysterically when my mom made me wear a dress.

I wasn’t the most popular girl in the class, and I certainly wasn’t the prettiest. Looking back at what I put my hair through would make any woman who knows anything about beauty want to cringe.

When it came to clothes, I could be found in one of two outfits. The first: a school uniform inclusive of a navy blue sweater, plaid skirt, tights and loafers – a set that I literally loathed putting on every day. The second outfit I preferred never to take off: a basketball uniform, comprising long mesh shorts, a tank top that was three sizes too big, and high top shoes.  

For literally 15 years of my life, the only thing that I concentrated on making beautiful was my jump shot. I was hooked.

Looking back, I still cannot tell you why I felt that way. It certainly didn't win me a lot of dates or popularity with my peers. I spent the same amount of time on homework as anyone else. In the mind of a teenager, there were no direct, tangible benefits to my incredibly strong obsession with basketball.

Over the years, basketball became my life, an identity that I would spend my high school and college careers holding on to as tight as I possibly could, defending with everything I had.  I was a “baller” –a dangerous three point shooter to be specific – who could take on anyone, anytime.

On the court, I felt beautiful.

But when the buzzer went off in my last college game, I felt lost.

I didn’t know who I was. Sure, I had good grades (those were always important), but I had little money, no work experience, and absolutely no idea what I wanted to do moving forward.

Things got ugly.

I struggled to find words when talking to my parents; basketball had dominated so many dinner conversations over the years.  My friends were, for the most part, all former teammates who went on with their lives. And the first question that came up with relatives was, “Are you still playing ball?” Saying “no” hurt more than anything.

I felt like I lost my voice.

To cope, I started writing. Blogging, to be specific, about my feelings toward women’s sports. I followed my local WNBA team, went to some local Women’s Pro Soccer games, and followed the Olympics very closely.

I wrote about what I saw – the stories, the uniqueness, the wins, the heartbreaking losses, the competition and the incredible talent.  I didn’t do this for money, attention or traffic. I did this for me. 

Because I knew deep down inside that women’s sports were beautiful. Over time, I learned I wasn’t alone feeling this way.  My writing led to relationships, which led to a career in sports marketing that I love almost as much as I loved basketball growing up.

Things are starting to look beautiful again.

This past week, my career allowed me the opportunity to work on a new campaign for Pantene, a major player in the beauty industry. On Thursday, Pantene announced their support of 11 elite female athletes as its newest beauty ambassadors, including Natalie Coughlin from the USA and Victoria Pendleton from the UK. These eleven women will be featured in Pantene’s first global marketing campaign to support the Olympic Games. You can read more about it here.

The significance of the announcement, in my opinion, transcends beyond the products. It’s a new, fresh message to women everywhere: “healthy is the new beautiful.”

This message, when communicated to women around the world through a powerful vehicle like sport, has the ability to break through not only geographic and language boundaries, but cultural and economic ones as well. The global impact of this penetration could not only sell products for Pantene, but empower women on a whole new level. 

For example, this move tells me that I didn’t waste half of my life as a basketball player chasing something that didn’t matter.  Instead, it tells me that my life, which always will be dedicated to celebrating sport, is beautiful. 

Pantene’s use of sport is no coincidence. It just so happens that Hannake Faber, vice president & brand franchise leader for global haircare at P&G, is a former competitive diver.

During the press conference, I asked Faber if her athletic background had anything to do with her brand’s new direction. “The timing was perfect,” she responded, “As an athlete, I was exceptionally excited that this was an ideal fit for Pantene. This is very authentic to who we are.” 

I’d like to thank Faber and Pantene for taking a leap of faith in this year. I honestly believe women everywhere are ready to redefine beauty into something that is no longer fake and unattainable, but very real and alive: a healthy, empowered lifestyle.  We are ready to accept female athletes like Natalie Coughlin as our leaders, the ideal spokespeople for this new, fresh image.

Disclosure: Megan Hueter consulted in the promotion of the Pantene launch event. However, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are Megan’s and Megan’s alone, and do not reflect those of her current employer or any clients/subsidiaries.

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