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The Beauty Of The WNBA

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Beauty allows us to shape our individual stories and find ways to connect to others all at once. With The Top Shelf we discover personal narratives through beauty routines. In The Beauty Politic, Into The Gloss explores how beauty connects communities, and how it informs a sense of self for the people within them. Beauty can be used as a tool not just for self-expression, but for empowerment and preservation as well.

Let's say you wanted to be a lawyer, or a doctor, or a beauty writer (hey, why not!) when you grew up. It probably wasn't something you had to start thinking seriously about until at least college—professional athletes, on the other hand, commit to their crafts way before they're even old enough to drive. The lifestyle of a professional athlete is defined by their sport, and in celebration of Glossier's new Body Hero Exfoliating Bar and Dry-Touch Oil Mist (and official partnership with the WNBA), ITG spoke to eight WNBA players about the ways they get beauty to work for them. From fighting preconceived notions about what it means to be a woman in sports, to the best tricks for game-ready makeup, these players have a thing or two to say about caring for bodies that have to keep going, and going. We'll let them explain.

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Seimone Augustus

Guard, Los Angeles Sparks, from Baton Rouge, Louisiana

“I’ve had both fans and haters from a very young age. When I was around 10 I started playing on boys’ teams and I dunked on some kid in my first game—after that the gym was packed for every game. I was on the cover of Sports Illustrated when I was 14, and that’s not me bragging—a lot of negativity started coming my way and I didn't know how to process it. I started researching how to release energy, how to transform it and utilize it, and meditation was something that came up. During those early days I would meditate to songs I could relate to, and that would bring me some calm. And as I got more into it, I came across frequency beats. I’d put my headphones on and just sit for 10 or 20 minutes to find my peace before I entered practice or a game. I love how my body is able to feel vibrations and connect with source energy.

Women in sports already get trolled for nothing, so of course we also get trolled when our beauty isn’t on point. A few years ago they wanted us to wear skimpier uniforms, and it really made us more self-conscious. It's very hard to go to work and do the job that we do and look like a beauty queen. Now I wash my face with cold water and apply the Glossier Futuredew oil serum. I like the way it makes my skin feel, and how it’s not as thick as lotion. Before that, I would always check to see if I had dry skin hanging from my nose or somewhere around my eyes. And now I don’t leave the house feeling dry—I have a glow.

I’ve had locs for 10 years. Every three months I do a detox—I fill the sink with water and put in a little apple cider vinegar, baking soda, and lemon juice. I let my hair sit in that mixture for 15 to 20 minutes, then I wash and condition it, and it really does make my hair feel a lot softer and look a lot fluffier. I got my locs touched up right before I went into the Wubble, but about a month in they were grown out. One of my teammates noticed and cleaned them up for me. I have over a hundred locs in my head, and it’s so much work—I don’t even like to do it for myself! That was really great.”

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Lexie Brown

Guard, Minnesota Lynx, from Orlando, Florida

“I grew up in Orlando, moved to Atlanta to play on a team there, went to college in Maryland, and then after two seasons I transferred to Duke. Basketball was my constant. You have to be 22 the year of the draft—for most players that's after your senior year. Because I had one more year until I turned 22, I did a master's program at the business school. There were so many nights of tears and mental breakdowns, but two of my teammates and one of our managers were in the program with me, and we helped each other through it. After I retire from basketball, I would love to have a position where I could use statistics to help teams make decisions. I think that's something I would be really good at.

In terms of beauty, I like whatever makes my life easier. I started doing eyelash extensions three years ago and it changed everything for me. When I'm in Minnesota I have a girl that comes to me, but when I’m in Atlanta I go to Lashtyp. For my hair, I usually get a sew-in—I couldn’t go get it touched up when I was in the Wubble, and it was actually kind of a blessing because I learned how to finesse my own hair. I brought bundles with me and started watching YouTube videos, and suddenly ponytails seemed so self-explanatory—like, why did I not think of ponytails earlier? I tried to maintain my nails in the Wubble too, because acrylics help me not bite them, but that one I failed at. I bought some press-ons that did not last through one practice. I brought little gel nail polishes just to keep my nails painted, but they looked disgusting. Actually, one of my friends who plays for the Sparks, Reshanda, brought a whole nail set and gave me a full manicure, with tips and everything. She did a really good job, but it took three hours—I didn’t make her do them again after that.

I love massages, but they’re so expensive. If I'm sore I'll usually just work it out—my recovery process is staying as active as possible. We have a Peloton bike in the garage, so I'll just hop on that. Robin is my favorite instructor—she has the hardest classes by far. I love that my body can just keep going. I see regular people take simple falls and they're like, down for forever. But with athletes, you’d have to do something insane. We keep on getting up.”

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Stefanie Dolson

Center, Chicago Sky, from Port Jervis, New York

“There is a kind of body—quick, strong, with these incredible abs—that is seen as the perfect athletic body. I am tall, but I'm not that strong, and I don't have a six pack. Oh my God. I wish I did, but I don't. I didn't know how to be beautiful at a young age, but as I grew up and started loving the sport, my perspective changed. My hips are the reason I can screen so well, you know? Playing taught me that my body was beautiful.

When I put on makeup, I don’t really think about looking pretty—I want to look cool, I want to look like a badass. I love to draw, and makeup is just art that uses the face as a canvas. I wear makeup every time I play, but nothing too extra because I don't want to get it all over my uniform. I usually just use a little Covergirl concealer, stick foundation because it stays on better, and hella powder. I need a lot of powder because I sweat. Then I use bronzer, Boy Brow in Brown, some waterproof Maybelline mascara, and that's it. If I go out at night, I like to wear something jazzy—I love graphic lines, bright colors, and glitter. I have a big Morphe eye palette, and I use a lot of Pat McGrath eye palettes too. Her lipstick is also great. If I do a cat eye, I prefer to use a black liquid liner pen. I like the one from Nyx—honestly, I’m not very bougie when it comes to makeup. I prefer the drugstore, inexpensive things to the expensive ones.

If I have a hard day on the court, I definitely try to rest the next day. When I was in Chicago, I’d take my dog to the park and relax. My dog is literally the greatest thing in my life—I wish I could have brought him to the Wubble. I'm 28 years old, and I’ve had some ups and ups and downs and injuries, but for the most part I’ve been able to work every day. My body is my job. When I retire and don’t have to be as careful with it, I’d love to get good at skydiving. I’m definitely an adventure junkie—when I’m done with basketball, I’m doing everything.”

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Natalie Achonwa

Forward, Indiana Fever, from Ontario, Canada

“I played at a high level really young and that's obviously physically hard, but I didn’t know I could go to college for free playing basketball, or that the WNBA existed. I actually played soccer before I played basketball—my father is from Nigeria, so as soon as I could walk I had a soccer ball in front of me. I had a growth spurt when I was in sixth grade, and my soccer coach was like, ‘Hey, you're kind of tall, maybe you should try basketball.’ I was like 5’7’’ in middle school, and at that time, I wasn’t able to see the beauty in my body. I just remember thinking I had these huge thighs that looked like tree trunks—now I make a living with those thighs, and people stop me all the time and say, ‘Oh my God, you're so tall and so beautiful.’ I wish I had listened to my mom telling me that it was a gift and that I should embrace it.

Throughout college I wore a lot more makeup than I do now. Then I read that if you take care of your skin and keep your eyebrows done, that should be all you need. In the morning, I brush my teeth, rinse my face with water, apply some Aveeno Positively Radiant moisturizer which I like because it has sunscreen in it, and go. I fluctuate my hairstyle, but my edges always have to be laid. I usually use the Ebin New York 24 Hour Edge Tamer with a toothbrush or a baby edge brush, and then I put on a silk scarf. My real routine is at night. If it’s a regular day and I just worked out, I either use the Neutrogena Naturals Purifying Cleanser or the Oil Free Acne Wash if my skin needs more of a deep clean. My chin is my breakout spot, so I sometimes use the Aveeno Oat Mask with Pumpkin Seed Extract on that area. After that, I hit the peaks of my face with Mira Brightening Boost and put Olay moisturizer all over. I finish with Mango Balm Dotcom. Before I go to bed, I like to use Aromatherapy Stress Relief Lotion. I especially like it after a bath—it has lavender, orange, and chamomile in it, and the smell is very relaxing.

Everything I do contributes to how successful I am. If I have a game I'm not about to eat McDonald's because I feel like it. Or, recently I really wanted to cut my grass because it looked crazy, but I had practice in the morning and didn’t want to exude that hour of energy. When my mom is done with her job at 5PM, she goes home. She’s done for the day. Professional athletes live our job. I wouldn’t be playing at the highest level or be a two-time Olympian if I didn't take this seriously.”

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Kalani Brown

Center, Atlanta Dream, from Slidell, Louisiana

“I started getting into beauty at the end of my high school—just getting my nails done and putting weave in my hair—but when I went to Baylor I totally changed. My teammates were like, ‘Wow, you’re really pretty, you have a body,’ and started experimenting on me. That’s when I got a lot more girly. You know, there’s this narrative among women in sports, and tall girls in general, that we’re all masculine. Liz Cambage just did Playboy—she’s probably the tallest woman to ever do that. Megan Thee Stallion is tall, and sexy, and confident. I’m here for girls who don't look like the standard body, and I want them to know that you can be cute doing whatever you want to do.

I used to only use water and occasionally alcohol on my face, and apparently that’s seriously bad. Now that I have all these skincare products, I think the least they can do is make me feel clean. Starting at number one in my lineup is the Enzyme Cleansing Gel from Mario Badescu. That kind of tingles, and I think it leaves my skin brightened and refreshed. Coming in at number two, we’ve got the Rose and Witch Hazel Toner. I'm still learning about this stuff, but my skin has been really clear so I think it's been working. Number three is their hyaluronic cream, or the Priming Moisturizer from Glossier. That stuff is bomb. And number four is the Facial Spray with aloe and rose. But my favorite is the Flower and Tonic Mask. I love how it dries up, and when I wash it off my skin feels so smooth.

I switch up my hair every month. I have someone that does my wigs, someone I go to for weaves, and then another person I go to for braids when I want a more protective style. I don't wash my hair too much because of my weave, and I always keep oils like castor oil and argan oil in it. Then I just run my Chi flat iron through it and I’m good to go. The moment I get a new style I’m thinking about what I want to do next. In the summertime, I’m not going to get curly hair because I’m going to be hot—braids would be better. For the fall, I think I want to do some long, straight hair. I’ll go as long as 30 inches. I love it, but sometimes my opponents complain about my hair slapping them in the face. Remember, it’s a contact sport, so you’re going to get hit with my body, my hair, everything. There’s no rule about hairstyles, and, I mean, you’re my opponent for a reason."

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Amanda Zahui

Center, New York Liberty, from Stockholm, Sweden

"My experience with basketball is kind of flipped upside down—I watched all these Americans in the Euro League, and it wasn’t until colleges started reaching out to me and saying I could make it to the WNBA that I figured out where all the Americans went when they weren’t playing in Russia.

I went red for the first time in 2016. It's bold, but it's still grown and sexy at the same time. I think it fits my personality. I actually feel the same way about my favorite perfume, Poison Girl by Dior. I hate the name, but it feels lady-like without being old lady. My hair is very damaged because of the bleach and the color, so it’s important I keep it moisturized. I use a lot of deep conditioner—Tracee Ellis Ross has her own brand, and that’s what I’m using right now.

I use three different moisturizers—Pond’s when I go to practice, because I know I’m just going to sweat it off. Glossier Priming Moisturizer is if I’m going out on a casual, normal day. And then I also use this shea butter that my grandmother makes herself—this is straight from the Ivory Coast. I’m breaking out right now because the water in Russia is really harsh, so I’m using that. I’ll also use that on my body, because I’m running low on Body Hero. I love feeling smooth—I use my scrub gloves in the shower, and always moisturize when I get out.

If I do makeup then I do makeup for real. First I use a little Fix spray, which I was told is good for moisture and makes the makeup stick better. I love Fenty a lot and use their Match Stix—I use Bamboo as a concealer, and then I use Moca to get my cheekbones going. After that I use Sephora bronzer and some MAC blush—I like Gingerly for everyday and Peaches if I’m going out to dinner, because it pops more and goes better with my MAC Hyper Real Glow palette. I love my lash extensions because I feel like they make me look less busted when I show up at practice at 9AM. I also love the Glossier lip gloss, but I don’t like to wear lip gloss when I play so I just use this Swedish lip balm called Decubal. I actually keep it in my sports bra during games.

When I’m not playing, I love to read—if there’s a couch, I’ll find it. Right now I’m reading The Coldest Winter Ever, which I’m really enjoying. I’m also reading I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou with a book club I’m doing with a high school AAU team. It started this spring when everything went down with Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. It’s been really great to help our young humans develop as they slowly take over the world. They are going to lead us in the future."

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Gabby Williams

Forward, Chicago Sky, from Sparks, Nevada

"I got drafted my senior year at UConn, and I went to Chicago two weeks later. The league gets you an apartment, and it was nice having some income coming out of college. But once I went overseas I realized how little I got paid in the WNBA. If you want to make any money, you play in Europe. I think one of the issues with the WNBA is lack of exposure. This summer was really proof that when you put us on TV, people watch; when you put out our merch, people buy it. We’re fighting misogyny and sexism, but we’ve proven that with the right exposure we can be profitable. This league is filled with some of the most incredible, smart, confident women. We already exist in a space where we don't belong, and seeing women thrive and be themselves really inspired me to do the same. I’m athletic, and muscular, and I have curly hair—I find beauty in those things, but I didn't always growing up.

When I started watching RuPaul, and getting obsessed with the ballroom scene and drag queens, I started to love beauty as an art form. Most recently, I've been trying to get into cosplay. I’ve loved anime since I was a kid, and I’m super inspired by the way manga makeup is drawn. I always let the cosplayer in me come out for Halloween—I did Harley Quinn one year, and it was so fun to think about what that character would look like if she was mixed, and had curly hair. I did a female version of the joker too. There aren’t any rules, and you can really make it your own.

I like a dewy look, so I either start with Priming Moisturizer or Anastasia Sheer Glow primer. Then I go to my eyebrows, which can take 20 minutes—I draw some fake hairs with a pencil, and then go in with Boy Brow to make them look fluffy. I love the Juvia’s Place Nubian Palettes because I feel like they’re the most pigmented, and they’re Black owned, which is awesome. I struggle a lot with dark spots—I have fungal acne, and they start off as bumps and kind of just turn into scars. I really like the Nars concealer because it’s precise, and I like Fenty foundation. Then I put highlighter on my cheeks, cupid’s bow, the inner corners of my eyes, and down my nose to try to thin it out, which is probably something I learned from RuPaul.

I could never figure out what to do with my curly hair, so one day I just cut my own bangs. I kind of love it. I keep telling myself I'm going to grow them out, and then a picture day comes around and I cut them again. In terms of product, I use this brand called Eden that’s Black owned, and I like the Pattern argan oil a lot. I also like their leave-in conditioner, but I actually find the best hair masks when I'm overseas. I’ll put it in, braid my hair, and wash it out after practice. The fact that I’m able to finish a practice every day is really impressive to me. A morning practice is probably 9:30 to 11:30, and we’ll lift, then shoot 200 rounds, then do individual workouts with the coaches. I get to afternoon practice at around 4:30 and get home at 7:30 or 8PM. Sometimes I feel like there’s no way I can do it, but it’s all about persevering."

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Sue Bird

Guard, Seattle Storm, from Syosset, New York

“I started getting college recruitment letters as early as the summer after sixth grade, but I didn’t think much about an actual career in basketball until the WNBA was founded, which was my junior year of high school. I had heard about players going to Europe to play, but when I was 16 I wasn’t thinking about Europe. With the WNBA, suddenly you could play professional basketball in America.

As an athlete, you’re on a stage. I’ve always subscribed to a philosophy of look good, feel good, play good, and for me, that has always been about my ponytail. When my ponytail’s done right, it puts me at ease. There have definitely been games where I got popped in the head and it messed up my ponytail, and that ease went away until I fixed it. I actually use different hair products on a regular day versus on game day, and part of that has to do with superstition. On game day I take a shower, and right after the shower I slick it back and put it into a pony. I use this Frizz Ease Surf Spray Foam, which isn’t too mousse-y, on my curls, dry my hair with a diffuser, and then use a Garnier leave-in conditioner. I use Herbal Essences Volumizing Max Hold hairspray, and that’s it. I might also redo the top part right before we go into the arena to get out any bumps.

When Megan [Rapinoe, United States national soccer team co-captain] and I started dating, I barely washed my face. There are a lot of similarities between our sports, but one of the big differences is that she plays outdoors and I play indoors. I’m almost never in the sun, but she had so much sun damage. Megan started using all these products, and now that I’m knocking on the door of 40 I’ve started to take some of her knowledge. I use the Biologique Lait VIP O2 cleanser in the shower, and then right after I use P50W. It smells like absolute doodoo, but a little goes a long way. After that I use a bit of their Colostrum serum, and last is the Eminence Firm Skin Acai Moisturizer. I also have a bunch of sunscreens that I use when I do go in the sun. I use Coola on my face, Sun Bum spray for my body, and a zinc Cerave stick that’s a little thicker to cover up my scars—I’ve had six surgeries, and I get really psycho about not letting the scars darken. I’ve used Mederma, which is fine, and I’ve also tried popping vitamin E capsules on them, but it’s actually most effective to just cover them with a Bandaid if they’re fresh.

CBD used to be on the banned substance list, but this summer the WNBA took it off. When you’re an athlete at a high level, even if something might give you a point zero one percent advantage, you really can’t leave that stone unturned. CBD is anti-inflammatory, and even if it gives me a little boost I’d rather have that than nothing at all. I love to get a full-on massage using CBD cream to help care for my body, but I can also just rub it in when I have a spot that hurts. I had this recent surgery where something was wrong in my knee, and I couldn’t run. It’s not like something happened, and I was injured—the doctors had question marks on what it was. Now that I have the ability back, I just have such a new appreciation for it.”

Photos via the athletes, respectively