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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Angel Reese declares for the WNBA draft … in Vogue

Angel Reese in the Louisiana State women’s basketball team’s locker room in Baton Rouge, La., July 14, 2022. Reese announced this week in a photo shoot for Vogue that she was forgoing her last year at LSU to enter the WNBA draft. (Camille Lenain/The New York Times)

By Vanessa Friedman

LSU may have lost to Iowa in the Elite Eight round of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament, but even two days afterward their star forward Angel Reese was still making headlines — this time in Vogue.

On Wednesday, Reese, 21, decided to use the glossy to announce she was forgoing her last year of college to enter the WNBA draft, taking place later this month. That choice, complete with Reese posing glamorously for a shoot involving clothes from Valentino, Diesel, Wales Bonner and Christian Louboutin, is simply the latest expression of the blossoming love affair between fashion and sports, an intermingling of industries that will reach new heights this summer with the Paris Olympics.

The basketball player said she had been inspired by Serena Williams, who chose to use Vogue to announce her retirement from tennis. (Williams got a cover shoot, befitting her status.) Most likely, however, Reese is modeling — no pun intended — her career on Williams in more ways than just one.

After all, as a college athlete, Reese — who was called the “Bayou Barbie” after she moved to Baton Rouge because of her penchant for eyelash extensions, long pink nails and dressing up — has been one of the highest paid NIL (Name, Image, and Likeness) stars, with deals valued at $1.8 million. She has 2.7 million followers on Instagram, where photos of herself in uniform alternate with photos of herself in outfits from Fashion Nova and with Louis Vuitton purses. Both data points matter in the same way that the record-breaking 12.3 million people that watched the LSU-Iowa game matter. Reese clearly understands the power of image to transform a talented athlete into a brand that can then be parlayed into all sorts of deals, not only during her playing career, but far beyond.

It is not an accident, for example, that Tom Brady, in his post-football life, started the “Brady” line of athleisure, or that a large chunk of Michael Jordan’s wealth comes from his Air Jordan sneaker line. Nor that Williams herself has a fashion line, S by Serena. Nor that seemingly every week brings a new announcement from LVMH, one of the Olympic sponsors, about a different athlete who has become an ambassador for one of its brands, including Christian Dior and Louis Vuitton.

At the same time, an athlete who is also a celebrity can add value to a team by attracting attention from an audience not interested in sports. For Reese, who is looking to be an early draft pick, underscoring her potential in that arena is not just about emulating an idol, but also making a strategic move. It’s a slam dunk.

To that end, an alignment with Vogue — even more than Sports Illustrated, which featured Reese in its swimsuit issue, or Women’s Health, which put her on its March/April cover — is simply a basic résumé builder. Just as whatever designer Reese decides to wear on the red carpet for draft day will be part of the game.

Only in this one, everybody wins.

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