On the surface, it looks like 22-year-old WNBA player Jillian Alleyne lives a charmed life.
After a standout college basketball career at Oregon, she was named the co-Pac-12 Player of the Year and was the 20th pick in the 2016 WNBA draft. At just 22, she’s cemented her spot in professional sports playing forward/center for the Phoenix Mercury.
But as we learned when we spoke with Alleyne for our 'What's Your Beautiful' series, her rise to the top wasn't without its share of challenges.
Alleyne grew up in Southern California, and her childhood was far from the carefree LA lifestyle you see in the movies.
“Growing up wasn’t too glamorous,” Alleyne says.
Her mom worked multiple jobs to make ends meet for Alleyne and her sister, and their living situation was often uncertain. The family experienced periods of homelessness peppered with eviction notices and frequently moved from place to place.
Though not always easy, Alleyne says her early life instilled in her the core values that have helped drive her success.
“[My childhood] was full of hard work, persistence, support from my mom and sister, and my faith in God, which helped me get where I am today.”
One constant in Alleyne’s young life was sports. She says no matter what the circumstances, her mom always made sure there was food on the table and that Alleyne was able to participate in athletics.
“Basketball was my main sport, but I loved doing other things like dodgeball, playing football, wrestling, all the things girls usually don’t do,” she laughs. “I loved that I could prove the boys wrong—just because you’re a boy doesn’t make you any better than me.”
Around the 8th grade, with help from her coaches, Alleyne realized basketball could be something more than just a way to compete on equal ground with the guys. It could be a career.
“When I was transitioning into high school, that’s about the time I realized I could actually make something of it.”
And that’s exactly what Alleyne would do. After playing competitively in high school, Alleyne went on to become a star at Oregon, securing the number two spot on the school’s all-time scoring list with 2,151 career points.
Today, Alleyne enjoys leading by example, showing young women that they don’t have to settle for the rules of the traditional “man’s world.”
“The best thing I can tell girls is to be resilient,” Alleyne says. “People will tell you you’re not good enough. They will compare you to your male counterparts. But that doesn’t define you. No one defines who you are. Only you can do that.”
Alleyne says to her, being beautiful means being a strong woman, confident in who you are.
“Beauty to me means being yourself,” she says. “Powerful. Confident. Determined. All of those words sum up beauty for me.”