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WNBA Star Skylar Diggins Dishes on the Year of the Female Athlete

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When you have middle school b-ballers mimicking your Nike basketball headband game, a Mercedes from Jay-Z (a college graduation gift), and an ESPY for Best WNBA Player under your belt, you have the right to be a little cocky. But Skylar Diggins, 25, is anything but.

“You have to be tough, run your race, shoot your shot, and be the best you can be," she says. "A lot of times we try to compare ourselves to others and that’s how we determine if we are successful or not instead of asking ‘Did I reach my goal for myself?’” Diggins, who just wrapped her third WNBA season with the Tulsa Shock, shared more with Shape about her refreshing outlook on life and women in sports. (Want abs like Diggins'? Try these 9 Core Exercises That Get You Closer to Six-Pack Abs.)

Shape: When you're not on the court or in the gym, what are you most likely doing?
Skylar Diggins (SD): I love to travel, which is good because I have to travel a lot regardless. I actually just got back from the Life is Beautiful art and music festival out in Las Vegas! It was amazing. My boyfriend was one of the featured artists there, so I went out to check out the festival and got to see Stevie Wonder and Kendrick Lamar perform. I’m really into music and going to concerts—some of my favorite artists right now are Kendrick Lamar, Kanye, Jay-Z, Beyonce, Rhianna, Pharrell, Jhene Aiko, and Alina Baraz. There’s a sound for everything—whatever your mood is.

Shape: If you weren't a pro player, what would your next-best dream job be?
SD: I have a business degree from Notre Dame, so I would want to do something in business. I’d love to be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. I’m naturally domineering and bossy, so I would be great at it! I’m a point guard—I tell people ‘Do this! Do that! We’re running this way!’ I’m a delegator.

Shape: Do you have any quirky pre-game rituals?
SD: Too many to name! I’m quirky! One of my biggest quirks, period, is that I love to quote movie and song lyrics in everyday situations. People either look at me like I have three heads, or they laugh when I make my references. But as far as before a game goes, my headband is my signature—the way I put it on, when I put it on, the whole routine. And I’m not even really superstitious, it’s just the routine of it that helps me feel ready to play. Just like when I get new basketball shoes, I write messages on them! My mom also sends me an inspirational quote before a game, and I always have to read it and talk to her before games. She helps me settle in. I can’t remember a time I haven’t talked to her before a game, going all the way back to middle school! (Need a new mantra? We like these 24 Motivational Quotes for Athletes and Runners!)

Shape: Makeup on game day: yay or nay?
SD: I’m okay with it—I don’t want to have a full face of makeup on for basketball though. It’s inevitable that with all the sweat it will be all over your towel! I keep it simple, maybe a little bit of mascara. I’m certainly not going to contour and highlight for a game!

Shape: Who is your athlete girl crush?
SD: I love what Serena Williams is doing—she's amazing! Everything from the way she trains to her competitive nature and mental toughness, besides all the accolades. I love that she's sassy and strong. She has an athletic, strong, body type and a lot of people shy away from that. She takes a lot of scrutiny for it, but when I’m watching her, I’m inspired. Her resilience and her confidence in herself and her body are great. It’s something that people need to see, especially young women of color. Look at all of the barriers that she's been able to break through. And what she and Venus have done for gender parity in tennis is something we're still fighting for in the WNBA.

Shape: What is the craziest thing that has happened to you since going pro?
SD: I always think it’s crazy to see my fans. For instance, I’m also a Nike sports model and have these global campaigns. People in France, Germany, and Japan will send me pictures of themselves in front of these big banners and billboards with my face on them. That stuff is weird! I don’t see myself in that light, so when I’m highlighted in the same campaigns that some of my favorite female athletes growing up were in, for me to be that for other young girls, is humbling.

Shape: Viewership and ratings for WNBA games on TV have gone up in the past year. What do you think has brought more fans to the game?
SD: Women are doing things you’ve never seen before—playing above the rim, the game is becoming faster, there have been rule changes, and the tempo and skill level of the game have picked up. It’s a great time to watch. And getting even more viewers is about educating people on when our season is (it’s June through September, FYI!) and getting them in the stands for the first time. Most people that come to see a game want to come back again.

Shape: How do you feel about men's sports usually getting more attention? Women's soccer coverage far exceeded men's this year; do you think that will affect the WNBA too?
SD: I hope so. People talk about all of the things we can’t do as women, but no one focuses on what we can do and our capabilities. As players, we also have to continue to be advocates for our game. We need to be present and available. During the off season, a lot of WNBA players go overseas to play. It would be irresponsible for players to turn down the amounts of money that are available there, it’s their job to play and they have to be able to provide for their families. But with that, the players aren’t as able to be involved in the U.S. with the marketing of the WNBA as they would like to be. The more we are able to get our voice out there though, the better. This has been the year of the female athlete, and it’s a great crescendo into the Olympics, where we’ll see even more great stories about women and get to know some non-traditional sports. While we still have strides to make, I would rather be moving slowly than not moving at all.

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