On June 25, Seattle Storm All-Stars Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart debuted in ESPN The Magazine‘s 10th Annual BODY Issue. The two shared their thoughts on the importance of being a part of this significant photo shoot. Los Angeles Sparks All-Stars Nneka Ogwumike and Candace Parker also discussed their experience of appearing in a previous BODY Issue as well.
Seattle Storm Players:
How has the reaction to you guys being on the BODY Issue been?
Sue Bird: It has been great. I would say 99.9% positive, there are some people – mostly on Twitter, so I try not to read those comments – that don’t like seeing naked bodies, but I don’t view it that way at all. I think it is a celebration of people who are athletes doing something courageous, and all of us stepping outside our comfort zone. That’s how I see it.
Breanna Stewart: Majority of it was positive feedback. And to be apart of the BODY Issue was a big deal. I think it is showing athletes behind the scenes and showing that we take care of our bodies. And some people don’t enjoy seeing you naked on magazines or on the internet or the cover, but as an athlete I think it was a great opportunity for us. Sue and I were happy that our pictures came out really nice.
Can you go more in-depth on that experience, and what does it mean to both of you to be apart of such a historic issue?
Bird: The experience is actually great. Our photographer was wonderful, everybody involved made us feel super comfortable, and I joke all the time, for me at my age, to be playing for as long as I have and to be in locker rooms for a long time, it wasn’t that uncomfortable. When you drop the robe, and get going you almost forget that you are naked. It definitely helped that everyone made the whole thing so comfortable. For Megan and I to be the first gay couple in the magazine, I think it goes beyond just being on the BODY Issue, there was a real message there and I was definitely proud to be apart of that.
Stewart: It was quite the experience. Going into it, I didn’t really know what to expect. Obviously I knew I was going to be naked, so they give you a robe if you want it before and in between shoots, but it got to a point where you were comfortable with the setting, the photographer and the make up artists and everyone around you, that you just say ‘alright, lets just get this done’.
What do you hope people take away from this BODY Issue?
Bird: First and foremost, I want people to know that it is celebrating the body, and what it means to be an athlete and all the time it takes to put into your body and promote a healthy lifestyle, and we all look different. When you look at the magazine you see all different body types, but at the end of the day it is people taking care of themselves.
As far as the gay thing goes, it was definitely a proud moment, and I think it is all about changing people’s outlook on things and changing the narrative and the conversation, and the more normalized it becomes, the easier it will come. I think this was an awesome step in that direction.
How have you been handling all the media around you – with this BODY Issue and your e60?
Stewart: It has definitely been a busy week with the BODY Issue and the e60 all in one week. But the e60 kind of piggy backs off my Players Tribune article back in the fall, and it just gives people a more in-depth look into my story. Honestly, I haven’t watched the e60 yet, it is something that isn’t the easiest thing for me to watch, but it is something that I will find the time the time to do. I do know that Tracy and Julie did a great job doing it and making it wonderful, and I have heard nothing but positive feedback from my family. It is putting myself in more vulnerable positions, but more relatable with everyone else watching me.
From your vantage point, how did Breanna deal with all the media?
Bird: It is not the easiest. And it makes you realize just how crazy it is for her to speak out on her story and for her to share it. Because I don’t know if it is necessarily for her. She may down the road find it therapeutic but it is hard for her to talk about it and watch the e60, so it is really great she is doing this because she will be helping so many that are watching her. And I am just really proud of her.
Los Angeles Sparks players:
Talk about how the BODY Issue has changed/progressed since you guys did it, and how is it now?
Nneka Ogwumike: I did mine two years ago, and honestly I had mixed reviews since I come from such a conservative culture being Nigerian. I talked to Candace a little bit about it to get some advice, and I remember when you did it and it came out and I was like ‘Oh my god, this is awesome’. I was able to talk to her about it, and honestly had a lot of fun doing it. I think it is a very empowering issue for women. It speaks to the confidence that these athletes have and it shows an athletic side of the person. It is almost like you are showing off your work, our bodies are our assets. So I really enjoyed doing it, and haven’t heard a bad thing from anyone else that has done it also.
Candace Parker: Everyone has their own journey of ‘Why?’ and what is the purpose of it. And I remember when Nneka talked about it with me and her decision to do it, I thought she looked absolutely gorgeous and as females there are a lot of different bodies and body types and there are different body images for athletes in different sports. For me, I wanted to do it because I had a child. I remember so many people saying I wouldn’t be the same after having my daughter, and I think the BODY Issue was me telling everybody – ‘Look, women can do it all. We can create life, and come back and dominate a sport.’ I think that was the purpose for me doing it. I think Sue and Megan looked great on the cover, and obviously Breanna as well.
Did you feel a sense of self-pride in doing the BODY Issue? How did you think Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart did representing the WNBA in this recent issue?
Ogwumike: Well for me, it was one of those experiences that it will be the first and last time. It was so immersive and exposing, but in a very good way. It was completely up to me and that was really what I loved most about the experience. Everyone goes through their own journey and I would say mine came at a time in my life where I was feeling comfortable and ready to do something like this. I would definitely say that that was the same for Breanna. She has come out with her personal triumph and I thought it was very honorable for her to come out and be comfortable in her own skin with her background and the story that she told. I really admire her for that.