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Angel Reese on Double Standards, Making History and the Future of Women’s Basketball



Angel Reese on Double Standards, Making History and the Future of Women's BasketballAngel Reese on Double Standards, Making History and the Future of Women's Basketball

LSU basketball star Angel Reese opens up about life after her team’s historical championship win.


In April, when Louisiana State University (LSU) and the University of Iowa played for the NCAA Women’s Basketball National Championship, the world witnessed a title match that became so much more than just a final game. In many ways, it was symbolic of the compelling state of women’s sports, and the decades of work and advocacy that it has taken to get to a place of respect and interest.

The game drew a record-breaking average of 9.9 million viewers (peaking at 12.6); a handful of the young players had inked NIL (name, image, and likeness) deals and spent the season stacking their bank accounts; and the trash talk on the court sent so many spectators and pundits into a tizzy that it became the subject of tweets, online debates, and think pieces for weeks to follow. If you compare the moment to a storm, there’s no debating which player was in the eye of it all: LSU’s standout forward and the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player, Angel Reese.


When I talk to Reese via Zoom in July, the 21-year-old rising senior is in the midst of a whirlwind summer. “I never know what’s going on,” she tells me, laughing. “I’m just here to get in the car and go.”


The night before, she was at the ESPYs, rubbing elbows with celebrities — and winning Breakthrough Athlete of the Year. Before that she was in Leon, Mexico, playing for Team USA in the FIBA AmeriCup. Following our conversation — which takes place right after she wraps her Teen Vogue photo shoot in Los Angeles — she is off to Variety and Sportico’s Sports & Entertainment Summit, where she will formally launch an eponymous foundation that is dedicated to empowering young women.


An aptitude for basketball runs through Reese’s veins. Her mother, Angel Webb Reese, played in college and professionally, and younger brother, Julian, took to the sport from a young age and now plays at the University of Maryland. Growing up, daughter Reese lent her athleticism to volleyball, softball, cheerleading, and track. Her mom encouraged her and her brother to pursue all sports, but “she didn’t make us pick,” says Reese. “We just picked on our own, and I loved that she let us do that.” By high school, though, basketball had edged out the other options. “I’m super competitive, so having a brother, I always wanted to beat him in basketball.” Plus, “I thought I was pretty good.”


And she was. Reese often played with older kids and on boys’ teams in her recreation league, and she had exposure to WNBA talent. “I used to go to the Washington Mystics games all the time, so I would always see great players,” she says, naming Candace Parker and Maya Moore among her favorites.


“The Southern hospitality, that’s real,” Reese says. “Down South, in Baton Rouge, they love me. I’m 17 hours away from home, but I never feel away from home.”


She quickly bonded with teammate Flau’jae Johnson, known for balancing her starting position alongside Reese with a flourishing rap career. “When I first met Angel, I was like, ‘Dang, she a beast!’” Johnson says via voice memo from vacation in the Bahamas. “I think we really became close on the court. She respects my work ethic and what I bring to the game and my energy, and I respect how she carries the team. As a friend, she’s real supportive. She’s the type to always be there for you, always show you love, and build your confidence.

Early last season, as Reese, Johnson, and the rest of the LSU Tigers began winning their way to a national championship, Reese’s mother learned that a fan had nicknamed her daughter “Bayou Barbie.” Reese swiftly — and smartly — trademarked the moniker, which is a fitting one given her affinity for all things beauty. The six-foot-three-inch college senior usually gets her nails done every two weeks, but just ended an extended stretch between manicures for today’s shoot. “This is my first time having them done in 20 days,” she tells me, looking at her hands and smiling. “I’m so happy.”


Her hair, which she loves to switch up, was in box braids while she was playing in Mexico, and a high, cascading ponytail for the ESPYs. Today it’s long and wavy, parted in the middle. Regardless of the style, she says, “my edges always have to be done.” And so do her lashes, which she orders from Amazon and does herself. “I’m not paying $200 every time I have to get my lashes done,” she explains, quoting a price she was shocked to learn one of her Team USA teammates pays. “I try to save as much money as I can.”


And Reese is making a considerable amount of money. Through partnerships with brands including Coach, Amazon, and Mercedes Benz, she has become one of the highest-earning college athletes, with an estimated NIL valuation of up to $1.6 million. Her dream is to play in the WNBA, but, she says, “WNBA players don’t make as much money as they should. Being able to grow this now, while I’m in college, and doing this now can help me when I go to the WNBA.”


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