Finding her Essence: Pride, Inspiration and Responsibility
Who are people you view as role models in your family?
First, my late grandmother, Betty Cooper. She was a strong woman who raised many children where we lived in Paterson, New Jersey. She only had three children, but also helped to raise all of her grandchildren as well. Id also name my mom, Stacey Ransaw, too. Shes a breast cancer survivor and she taught me to wake up grateful for each day and to cherish every moment.
How did your grandmother most impact your life?
My father passed away when I was 11. My grandmother stepped in to help take care of us. My grandmother meant business. She made sure that school came first and set us up to succeed. In the inner city, kids dont always have access to that. I was lucky to have her and avoided sliding into rough patches.
As a musician, who is your role model in the music industry?
Missy Elliot and MC Lyte are female musicians I look up to. Missy Elliot does it all; shes a singer, MC, producer, etc. She created a lot of great music in her career and shes still creating music for everyone. Shes making a comeback right now and the industry has missed her presence. She is different and one of a kind, while many artists sound the same and redundant. You know Missys work when you hear it. You know her rapping, singing, or producing. She was fresh and different. When she was out, hard rap was hot, but instead she said, lets make something to dance to.
Who is someone you look up to in the sports world?
Jackie Joyner-Kersee. I loved her. I ran track as a kid and she was an athlete I respected. I admired all of her accomplishments; I wanted to be great just like her! I had the chance to meet her in 2007 at the Womens Sports Foundation gala- that was a cool moment.
How do you take time to reflect during Black History Month?
I always reflect with Martin Luther King Jr. I take time to listen to his speeches. Recently Ive celebrated by sampling his speech, Been to the Mountaintop in a song. I called the track King and released it this year. The song says, hes young, he could be like everyone else but isnt because he has his freedom. I celebrate through music. And reading. I will do some reading daily.
Which issues affecting the African-American community are important to you?
Im a celebrity ambassador for HEI, Health Equity Initiative. In this role Ive learned a lot about underprivileged communities - how health is very much affected by socio-economic status. People with less money have less awareness and knowledge about health. Basic things like check-ups with your doctor get missed. There exist a lot of health problems in African-American communities for many reasons including the food we eat and our access to general healthcare. Money equals access. Many of us die at early ages because we havent established consistent relationships with physicians. That relationship is the norm in other communities and I want to get the word out about the importance of that.
How do you hope to influence younger people?
I have a mentee. This is her first year in college. We talked about things like what to look forward to in college, choosing schools, understanding the big picture, and visualizing her future. We need to do this more- mentor in our community. A lot of kids dont have stability at home, are missing something from their mom or dad, and they look elsewhere for that. I try to provide sisterhood.
How can the WNBA impact minority-based communities?
I think the league and the New York Liberty have done a good job in the past couple years of holding clinics in inner cities. This year the Liberty went to my hometown, Paterson. The kids there need to see someone that looks like them be successful. Their dreams might seem out of reach until they see someone they can relate to and someone that comes from the same place in person. That persons presence can motivate without even saying a word.
You excel in both the sports and music industries, are there similarities in the demographic you speak to and appeal to?
Both basketball and music are forms of entertainment; there are many similarities between the two. I look at it like this, you have to know your demographic. You dont want people to miss your message so you have to speak in a language people can understand and relate to. A lot of artists try to be like others instead of themselves. I try to be myself on and off the court. As a basketball player I want to use my platform to be a role model and show kids that working hard and being yourself is cool, and that they can do it, too.
What is your favorite aspect of black culture in America?
The family atmosphere. Ive had a lot of people who arent a part of my blood- family that I consider to be family. Even though there are many single-parent households in black communities, we still have many family-oriented personalities. Maybe it is because we lacked a traditional family unit that we will often say sis or bro to friends. Were attracted to that and you will hear people say, hes as close to me as my brother. That is something I value; the close relationships.