Watching 6�4� forward Tangela Smith power her way to the basket and knock down opposing players in her way, at a glance her personality may appear to be the same: tough, physical and demanding.
Little do fans realize that she�s not all basketball, all the time, even though her play on the court speaks otherwise.
She started playing competitive basketball at age 12, after her middle school coach asked her to try out for the team, but she�s maintained other interests as well.
Always intrigued with style and fashion, Smith now co-owns a hair salon in Atlanta with best friend and former Sacramento Monarchs guard Lady Grooms. Smith also aspires to pursue a modeling career. She has modeled for print magazines and computer brochures, and plans to do more in the future, whenever her basketball career concludes.
�I like the clothes, and that�s mainly what I want to get out of modeling,� she said. �I want to model clothes for tall women. A lot of clothes aren�t made for tall women, and I want to change that since I�m so tall,� she added.
She admits that her two careers don�t cross paths often.
�It�s the opposite. When you are playing basketball, you aren�t trying to look pretty. It doesn�t matter what you look like. But in modeling, you have to always keep yourself up, and keep your style going at all times,� she said.
Despite all of her career success, Smith�s proudest accomplishment is receiving her college degree. She graduated from the University of Iowa in 1998 with a double major in cultural studies and sports and leisure and a minor in business administration.
A self-proclaimed �family-oriented person,� Smith views her strong connection with her family as the most significant aspect of her life.
�It�s my number one after God,� she said without hesitation.
In May, Smith visited a local Charlotte elementary school to promote the WNBA�s �Be Smart, Be Fit, Be Yourself� campaign, which encourages fitness, nutrition and self-esteem building. Instead of simply watching the kids complete the obstacle course, Smith loudly and enthusiastically cheered them on, and even ran parts of it with the kids.
But, in addition to athletics, Smith enjoys helping children succeed academically.
�It�s very important for kids to read and keep reading,� Smith said. �It teaches them everyday stuff.�
She also spreads the message for the WNBA�s Read to Achieve program, which promotes the value of reading and literacy, while also encouraging families and adults to read regularly with young children.
�I love seeing kids� faces and them asking questions,� Smith said after a June visit to the University City Library, where she read two books to a group of 75 children.
Smith was enthusiastic and eager to interact with the kids, signing autographs and taking pictures after the reading ended. She never once mentioned that she had sustained a painful black eye during practice just a few hours before. She never thought about canceling the library visit because of her injury. She simply pressed on, knowing how much of an impact her presence would make on these children.
�Kids nowadays look up to us as role models, and we have to be there for them. It�s just great being a role model so they can have someone to look up to and aspire to be,� Smith said.
This season, Smith is the second-leading scorer and leading rebounder, averaging 10.8 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. She�s been one of the Sting�s most consistent players, despite having to adjust to a new team, a new coach and a new town. She�s spent her entire career up to this year in Sacramento and acknowledges that the transition to Charlotte has been filled with ups and downs.
�I wouldn�t say it�s been easy. I wouldn�t say it�s been difficult. It�s just been a big difference being around new faces and new coaches. It�s something that takes a while to get used to,� Smith said.
But she hasn�t let her personal troubles interfere with her play on the court. She knows that she is here in Charlotte to help her team win. And as the second-leading scorer and leading rebounder on the team, she�s working on doing just that.
By: Lauren Moskowitz, charlottesting.com