Dear Ms. Billie Jean King,
The first time we met, I was in my early twenties. I attended a book signing event on the Upper West Side in New York for Pressure is a Privilege, a book you authored and I read. I must have been the youngest person there by several decades. Even so, when I said hello to you, my voice cracked and tears dripped down my cheeks. Usually, I only cry at funerals. When I met you, I was not mourning a death, but instead, I felt overwhelmed with emotion as you added hope to my life.
Two years before I met you, thanks to an internship at CBS, I fell in love with the art of storytelling. After my internship, I took a course in college called Women and Leadership, taught by Liz Abzug, the daughter of former congresswoman and feminist, Bella Abzug. In that class, I became more educated on women’s issues and the lack of equality in the world.
I was shocked and disappointed when I learned that my brain was less valuable housed in my body as opposed to my brother’s body. Even as recently as 2018, women made 81.6 cents to a man’s dollar.
Thankfully, you, along with Liz Abzug, made me realize that if I didn’t like the way the world worked, I should fearlessly fight to change it.
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You explained, “Champions call for the ball because they want to prove themselves, they want to play their game and they see having the ball as an opportunity to make something happen.”
I decided journalism/storytelling was going to be my ball – my weapon to combat inequality. So, I pursued my dream to become a sports reporter, an occupation previously reserved mostly for men. As I envisioned, I told stories that shed light on sexism, racism and hate in our world. The idea was to use stories to break down barriers and educate people on the issues above. While I was living my dream, I also was seeing first-hand the inequality that still existed in our society. Many women in sports receive significantly less compensation and more scrutiny than their male counterparts. At times, the challenges of being a woman in a male-dominated field were both demoralizing and infuriating. I knew if I wanted to create real change, I needed more freedom to tell my stories and use my voice.
At a crossroads, I thought about your story, your words and your advocacy.
You fought for equal pay for women in tennis and helped start the first women’s tour, despite more than your fair share of pushback from many people.
While you won grand slams, you also beat Bobby Riggs in the Battle of the Sexes. With all eyes on you, you proved that women are capable and competent athletes even in comparison to men.
You took chances and put yourself out there to chase what you wanted and fight for what you believe.
You explained in your book, “Certainly, there is pressure with having the ball, but champions don’t run away from this pressure – they recognize that taking the ball and being in the spotlight can be scary but it is also a privilege.”
With your influence, I ultimately created a company called The Unsealed, which tells personal stories in the form of open letters that are socially significant and inspirational. The idea is to use vulnerability and personal experiences to create more compassion, unity and yup, you guessed it, equality in this world – not just for women but for everyone.
I am taking my ball and trying to hit home runs, providing a platform for women, members of the LQBTQ plus community and people of all different races and religions to speak up about injustice and encourage love, kindness and fairness. Not everyone likes or approves of my stories or my mission. There is no clear path of where this venture will take me. And there are certainly no guarantees other than the fact that this aint’ going to be easy.
However, before I started my company, you already gave me the words to persevere, as you explained,” Champions grab the ball and go for it, with confidence and adrenaline flowing. You can dread getting the ball or view it as an opportunity, a chance to show them what you’ve got and make a difference.”
When I met you, I was unexpectedly and uncharacteristically emotional because, at the time, I felt the world was trying to deflate my power. But you, your story and your message were reminders that our power can’t die in the hands of others. As long as we fight fiercely, it always lives within ourselves.
Despite all the unknowns, I am never going to give up the ball. I will never stop telling important stories because, as you explained, if I don’t have the ball, I can’t score.
Thank you for showing me that I can follow my heart and also change the world!
With love and hope,
One thought on “To Billie Jean King – This is the message I got from your mission”
This must be the weekend to write about tennis and how the sport and its players can impact our lives for the better. 😊 I know you played soccer but did you ever make an attempt at playing tennis? I bet you would’ve been a great competitor. I’m glad that meeting Billie Jean King had that deep of an impact with you in your life that it moved you to tears. I’ve told you this on several occasions that your depth of passion and genuine interest in the caring for others is very unique and rare. As you take the ball like the champion you are and continue to serve for the benefit of so many I’m proud to just be in the same arena to witness your fight for victory for equality. We the Unsealed community are your doubles partner and we got your back! Let’s Go! (Fist pump)