I had the pleasure of being interviewed by an incredible non-profit, Career Girls. The organization's goal is to prepare young women at an early age to attack their goals, dreams and future careers. Here is more about the remarkable work that they do:
It isn’t enough to tell young girls to “dream big” or “aim high.” Without proper encouragement, or concrete methods for turning their abilities into tangible careers, many young women can simply flounder in the educational system. Career Girls is an organization dedicated to providing young girls of all income levels and ethnic backgrounds with the academic tools and support they need to achieve their professional aspirations. We do this by providing a “real world” context for a child’s academic studies, specifically through interviews with positive female role models and a comprehensive collection of easy-to-follow educational resources.
By hearing from successful women they can identify with, and learning about the educational paths these professionals took to reach their goals, female students can take direct steps toward nurturing their own intellects, skills and talents in order to create fulfilling and productive lives of their choosing.
It is an amazing, inspiring resource for young women with a plethora of career choices to reference, amazing tools and priceless information. I am honored that they chose me as one of the women to share about their professional and personal paths. Below are some of the clips from the interview about my tall experience, TallSWAG and life advice for young girls. You can watch the full interview HERE.
FINDING MY VOICE
TALL GIRL FASHION TIP
A TALL BEST
FAITH AND OBSTACLES
LIFE ADVICE FOR YOUNG GIRLS
Woman of faith, NCAA Women’s basketball champion, gold Medal Olympian, WNBA Champion, Most Valuable Player, difference maker and the list goes on and on.
Alicia Jay: How tall are you?
Ruth Riley: 6’4.5”
AJ: I see you getting that .5 in there…I know that’s right! Do you like being tall? What is it about being tall that you like?
RR: Like anything else in life, being tall has its advantages and disadvantages. It took me a long time to feel comfortable with my height. My mom would always tell me to stand up straight but adolescence was not a friendly period for me. Once I got to college, I became more confident in who I am as a woman and then I began to embrace my height!
AJ: Unfortunately for a lot of us adolescence wasn’t a friendly period, were there any specific bad experiences that stand out?
RR: Bad experiences often came in cruel comments that people made or times when emotionally I just do not want to deal with the inevitable attention.
AJ: Got it. There are so many of us that can relate to both of those things. Now, a lot of people have followed your career but don’t really know you as a person. Can you describe yourself in one sentence?
RR: I am a compassionate, easy-going, woman who tries to live out my faith each day.
AJ: Now tell us something about yourself that people would be surprised to find out…
RR: I love to joke around. Most people would assume I am very serious.
AJ: So we know you are a jokester, what about your fashion side? What do you like to wear and how would you define fashion?
RR: My favorite thing to wear are lululemon pants and a comfortable yoga top. And as far as the definition of fashion, I think fashion is an outward display of your personality, just like no two people are exactly the same, I don't think that any has the exact same sense of fashion.
AJ: Agreed! Now that we know some things about you personally, what about professionally...what do you do for a living?
AJ: That is so exciting! I know the season is starting soon, good luck! Do you like what you do? What is the best part? Is there anything you don’t like about it
RR: I LOVE what I do! I love sports in general, so the fact that going to work for me is heading to the gym, is a beautiful thing! I love the dynamic of working together as a team for a common goal. The most difficult part about my job are the sacrifices that I make with my family and friends. I have missed significant days in the lives of those I love because most times it is impossible to take a day off for days like my Mom's birthday or a friend’s wedding.
AJ: I’m sure that part is hard but I can imagine there are a lot of amazing moments as well. What is your most memorable WNBA moment?
RR: My most memorable WNBA moment was winning my first WNBA Championships in 2003 with the Detroit Shock.
AJ: Nice! That is definitely memorable. You love sports but did you feel pressure to play basketball because you were tall?
RR: Yes, society is always going to put pressure on those who are tall to not just play, but be great at sports.
AJ: Don’t we know it! If I get one more person asking me if I play basketball, I swear! So, outside of your basketball career, what are your goals and dreams?
RR: I love the platform that sports gives me to make a positive impact in the lives of others whether it is speaking to kids at schools or doing humanitarian work in South Africa where we use sports as an avenue to teach leadership skills along with HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention.
AJ: So with all of your accomplishments, what would you say is your biggest achievement?
RR: This is a difficult question to answer. The greatest honor I have ever had was representing my country in the 2004 Olympics and winning a Gold Medal! I have just recently been inducted in the Academic All-American Hall of Fame which is a great achievement because it is a combination of my academic and athletic accomplishments.
AJ: Your path has been amazing, if you could only give one piece of advice from everything you have experienced, what would it be and why?
RR: Believe in yourself, Dream BIG, surround yourself with positive people, and then work really hard to accomplish your dreams. My mom encouraged me to follow my heart, and then taught me the value of hard work to make my dreams a reality.
When you hear the name Chantelle Anderson “WNBA player” may be the first thing that pops into your mind. Yes. That is definitely part of her ‘makeup’ but Chantelle is a remarkable woman of faith that has accomplished a lot and is working everyday to conquer goals and dreams that many don’t even conceptualize, let alone enact.
Believe it or not, Chantelle and I played against each other in high school (no, I will not tell you how long ago that was:) and over the years it has been incredible to see everything that she has done and it’s even more incredible to see what is to come.
Recently I interviewed Coach Anderson (yes I said coach, read on to see why) and here is what she had to say about her tall life and where it is going…
Alicia Jay: How tall are you?
Chantelle Anderson: 6'6"
AJ: Do you like being tall? What is it about being tall that you like?
CA: Yes I love being tall! It's given me so many opportunities basketball wise, more than I can count. As I've gotten older, I also like that I stand out whenever I go places. I always say that when you're tall, you never have to worry about making an entrance. You just have to make sure you look ok when you walk in. Haha. And it's so true. In a lot of situations it's an advantage.
AJ: I definitely agree but have you had any bad experiences related to your height?
CA: Yes, for sure. I was teased a lot growing up. Kids can be really cruel. And of course we all go through a phase when all we want to do is fit in and I never could because of my height. I'd definitely say the good experiences outweigh the bad though.
AJ: I know that’s right! Speaking of good, what is your best ‘tall’ story?
CA: Hmmm, I'd say there are way too many to choose from. People are often amused by seeing a 6'6" woman, and especially when I wear heels and am even taller. They're always saying funny things. From telling me I'm tall, like I haven't noticed or heard that before, to saying they'll dunk on me, to propositions like it'd be an accomplishment to "conquer" me. Haha...yes people can be very entertaining. I get at least a couple laughs everyday as a result of their reactions to my height.
AJ: I can definitely relate. We could trade stories all day long lol…so, we have covered the fact that you are tall, now describe yourself in one sentence.
CA: I'd say I'm an absent minded deep thinker, chronically too hard on myself and too idealistic in dealing with others, and determined to maintain authenticity above all else.
AJ: I must say, that was a great use of one sentence! So how do you use all of that, what do you do for a living?
CA: I'm the assistant women's basketball coach at Virginia Tech. I played in the WNBA for six years and now I get to help teach young ladies the basketball and life lessons I learned along the way.
AJ: OK Coach Anderson, we see you! So you mentioned that you played in the WNBA and I know that you played overseas as well, what were the biggest differences between the two?
CA: The biggest difference is just the culture of it all. I loved living overseas and having the opportunity to experience different cultures and ways of doing things. It makes you appreciate diversity while being thankful for the wonderful country we have here. Basketball wise, the style of play is different. And the WNBA is home to the best athletes in the world, from the top to bottom of every roster.
AJ: What was your most memorable WNBA moment?
CA: Stepping back onto the court after coming back from a torn Achilles and having the San Antonio fans give me a standing ovation. It was an amazing moment that I will never forget.
AJ: That definitely is a very memorable moment. Did you feel pressure to play basketball because you were tall?
Yes, when I first started. I hated it but felt like I had to play. And as I got older, sometimes I wanted to quit but felt I couldn't because everyone expected and depended on me to play. Thankfully my Dad didn't let me quit and basketball has taken me more places and given me more things than I ever dreamed it could. I wouldn't trade any of it.
AJ: So in addition to your accomplishments in basketball what are your goals and dreams?
CA: My overall goal is to use all of my experiences--life, professional, and spiritual--to help young people navigate their own paths more smoothly. Wherever that goal takes me is where I'll be.
AJ: That is awesome. There are not many people in this world that have a goal like that. So we know you are amazing, now tell us something about yourself that people would not normally know.
CA: Hmmm, that's always a hard one...Many people are surprised to know I used to be painfully shy, and that even now I need a self-pep-talk sometimes before talking to someone I don't know. I've just had to do it so often I've gotten kinda good at swallowing the nerves and just going for it.
AJ: I have known you for many years and that is something that I definitely didn’t know. So with all of your accomplishments, what would you say is your biggest achievement?
CA: Basketball wise, my biggest achievement is having Vanderbilt University retire my jersey. It's like a small piece of the desire to leave a mark on the world bigger than just me. Other than basketball, I don't think I've had my biggest achievement yet. I'm still working on what that will be. Finishing my book and getting a publishing deal was pretty big. Not sure now if I'll ever publish it...but it was a great accomplishment personally.
AJ: Please do! I am sure your book would be amazing. We want to read it! So, you are working on your biggest achievement, but if you could be known for doing one thing, what would it be and why?
CA: I want to be known as someone who was always genuine and true to herself, no matter what that meant in the grand scheme of everyone or society in general. And because of that, was able to relate to and help others. If people can't say anything else about me, I'd want them to be able to say that.
AJ: Helping others is definitely something that is a central part of your life and so is Faith…why is it so important?
CA: It's important because God saved me from having everything I wanted without the true satisfaction of anything. There's no peace to this life without God. And without peace, a sense of purpose is empty and a sense of accomplishment is fleeting. That knowledge in invaluable.
AJ: What a powerful statement. I almost feel like I can’t ask anymore questions. But since this is primarily a fashion site, what is your favorite thing to wear?
CA: I love a great pair of jeans and my absolute favorite jeans are Height Goddess. The fit is amazing and they have 40” inseams which is unheard of. I think every tall woman should have a pair (or pairs) of Height Goddess jeans.
AJ: I agree! Thank you so much for spending time with TallSWAG. You are an amazing woman. Before we go, is there anything else you would like us to know?
CA: I think you covered a lot. Thanks so much Alicia for being a great representative for tall and beautiful women. Who would've thought we would be where we are so long after playing against each other in high school. Haha. You're awesome. Oh, and people can follow me on Twitter! @MissChantelle
*Side note: I swear I didn’t pay her to say that last line. Thanks Chantelle! I appreciate it and definitely think the same of you:)
Wanna checkout those Height Goddess jeans? HeightGoddess.com
TallSWAG is a 6’6” view of fashion, beauty, love and life. My view is great (patting myself on the back) but there are so many amazing stories of life that I decided to start interviewing tall women and sharing their views with you (sharing is caring:). I couldn’t think of a better person to kick-off these weekly interviews, then with Holley Monelle.
Holley Monelle is in a constant act to make a difference. She is truly a person who lives her life to serve and be the change they want to see in this world (Gandhi). She is an educator, manager, host, radio personality, in my opinion comedian and an appropriately titled “change agent.”
I got a chance to sit down with Miss Monelle in NYC and am glad that I did. Read this interview and you will be glad too.
Alicia Jay: How tall are you?
Holley Monelle: 5'11
AJ: Do you like being tall? What is it about being tall that you like?
HM: I love it! Overall, I'm observant and am always very quiet before joining into conversations because I prefer to listen before speaking to gauge where I stand. I find that in some cases, one might be overlooked for said qualities but being taller often helps me to command attention when I walk into a space without having to say anything.
AJ: Have you had any bad experiences related to your height?
HM: Aside from walking into the occasional low-hanging tree branch, no.
AJ: I can definitely relate! What is your best ‘tall’ story?
HM: Hmmm. I don't know that I have a best story but short(er) men always try to approach me and have offered to 'climb me like a tree.' As tempting and romantic as that sounds, I've always declined. I was also once referred to as a 'tall glass of Ovaltine' -- that was definitely one of my funnier 'tall' moments.
AJ: That's a new one. When you aren't duckin bad pick-up lines, what do you do for a living?
HM: I'm a change agent, radio personality and educator. I align myself with people and projects that are geared toward doing more for those who need it most. More specifically, I work as a Teaching Associate for an East Harlem middle school extended learning program, host a bi-weekly radio podcast, manage and host an education initiative called, The Hall Pass Tour and am also the music manager for the two headlining artists on the tour, j.RENEE and ScienZe.
AJ: You have a full plate...slim it down for us...describe yourself in one sentence.
HM: I am a work in progress -- learning, growing and striving each day, to be better than I was the day before.
AJ: What are your goals and dreams?
HM: When I was growing up, for every role model I had guiding me on what NOT to do, there were at least 3 people in my neighborhood doing those 'wrong' things and I was fortunate enough to make the right choices for myself. My goal is to be everything I needed as a child for a child who needs it now so that he/she doesn't have to struggle to win. Whether it be through the Hall Pass Tour, my work as an educator or as a radio personality - my goal is to move forward by helping people become more. My dreams include taking the Hall Pass Tour nationwide, teaching English abroad, traveling the world and launching a motivational speaking campaign targeting schools in low-income communities across the U.S., assuring youth that everything they desire is attainable.
AJ: With everything that you want to accomplish, if you could only be known for doing one thing, what would it be and why?
HM: Shining my light unapologetically. Because one should never apologize for choosing to be great.
AJ: Tell us something about yourself that people do not normally know.
Any contact with corn starch makes me hyperventilate.
HM: Good to know. I will keep my corn startch in my bag. Tell us about The Hall Pass Tour. What are you looking to accomplish with the tour?
The Hall Pass Tour is an idea that my business partner (j.RENEÉ) and I developed. It’s a series of seasonal (fall and spring) after-school music concerts designed to support the advancement of education while offering a creative space for communities to support their youth. Our aim is to increase access to and preparedness for higher education. We’ve partnered with an incredible education nonprofit organization, College for Every Student (CFES), who's committed to raising the academic aspirations and performance of under served youth so that they can prepare for, gain access to, and succeed in college. In April 2011, we piloted the tour in five of their New York City schools and were pretty successful.
The most important piece of the tour is student involvement. We went into each of the five schools, held student auditions and chose opening acts and co-hosts to represent their campuses. Students were charged with the task of not only performing - but also sharing their college and career aspirations so that they can help create a college going culture in the low-income, under served communities they represent.
Right now, we're gathering data from the pilot tour, reaching out for more sponsors and funding and gearing up to launch the nationwide tour this fall. We'll be starting in the Northeast region of the U.S and making our way across the country from there.
AJ: That's amazing. Good luck with making the Hall Pass Tour national! Is there anything else you would like us to know?
HM: Visit the Hall Pass Tour Website (www.hallpasstour.com). Please support the movement!