At the Nike Women presentation in Paris, Document spoke to Brandi Chastain, Vashti Cunningham, Leticia Bufoni, Zeina Nassar, and María José Rojas about how dreaming crazier pushed them to the top of their game.
“If we show emotion, we’re called dramatic,” said Serena Williams in the new Nike Women’s Dream Crazier campaign. “If we want to play against men, we’re nuts. And if we dream of equal opportunity, we’re delusional. When we stand for something we’re unhinged. When we’re too good, there’s something wrong with us. And if we get angry, we’re hysterical, irrational, or just plain crazy.”
Nike redefined those stereotypes by showing females, who despite being considered crazy, went on to break that so-called glass ceiling in sports. The world’s biggest apparel and footwear company brought together women athletes of all shapes, sizes, and colors in Paris last week to unveil the Women’s World Cup soccer kits, but also to celebrate the power of female athletes who have competed their way to the top, through a powerful fashion show attended by Virgil Abloh, Naomi Campbell, Marine Serre, Adwoa Aboah, and more.
The Nike commercial ended with Williams saying, “If they want to call you crazy, fine. Show them what crazy can do.” On hand in Paris were women who did just that. There was Zeina Nassar, the Muslim boxer from Germany who fought against the prejudice she received for wearing a hijab in the ring until the International Boxing Association (AIBA) amended their guidelines last month to allow female boxers to wear hijabs at international competitions; Leticia Bufoni, the Brazilian skateboarder who is the only female athlete to win three gold medals in the X Games in one year, and who ignored the critics who called her lesbian for taking up skateboarding; and Brandi Chastain, the American soccer player and two-time Women’s World Cup champion who led her team to its iconic victory over China in the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup with her historic penalty kick. Document spoke to a handful of the athletes at The Paris Bourse, the former home of the Paris stock exchange, about how they triumphed in sports, despite the negative comments they received along the way.
Brandi Chastain, American Women’s World Cup Champion and Olympic Gold Medalist
I was born in the late ‘60s, so participating in sports as a young girl, I think most people looked at me and thought, What does she think she’s doing? I had a wonderful mother who was wearing a business suit to work as a vice president in the Silicon Valley before it was called that, and she taught me how to be powerful and strong, and don’t be swayed by what other people say. I never took anybody’s criticisms, or even their encouragement. Whatever it was I wanted to do, I did, so I was never deterred by anybody’s crazy, why are you doing this, or you’re a girl mentality. [In 1999] they said you’re not telling the truth, that the Women’s World Cup will sell tickets and fill stadiums, and you’re just saying it. To some degree, we would look at each other and go, We’re going to do it! And then we would go, Are we really going to do it? We believed, but we’d never seen anything quite so immense in women’s sports. It had never happened before. The product was good, the soccer was excellent, but we’ve never done it before. I think it’s a compilation of people and companies like Nike. For today to have happened, Nike has invested not only its best and its brightest in technology and innovation, and science, but it’s recognizing the value of women in sports, and soccer as this world uniting force. It’s undeniable what soccer does to warring countries, to people who disagree. We can all come together and speak the same language, and today what Nike did with this unbelievable presentation was every size, every shape, every color, every age had a place on that stage, and that speaks volumes. It’s powerful.
Vashti Cunningham, American Olympic Track and Field High Jumper
I’ve experienced things where guys maybe don’t think I should be playing at the same time as them, or competing at the same time as them, because there’s been times in high school when there would be no girls in the competition in high jump, so I would literally have to go jump with the guys. They would sit there and look at me and give me the side eye like it’s going to be easy—and I would beat all of them…After that moment I never got that type of shade from the guys. They joked about me being better than them. I’m just like, ‘It’s a joke to you guys, but I’m going to beat you every time.’ The type of person I am is that I always want to prove everybody wrong, especially if they’re thinking down on me, or looking down on me. I know my self worth, so I’m going to make that known to them. My dad always talks about how I was playing on the team. The coaches would tell me to do one thing, and I would switch it up and do my own thing, and I would end up being successful.
María José Rojas, Chilean Footballer
They’ve called me crazy many times. It’s usually because I try to accomplish my dreams. I have traveled the world for 11 years, I have played in seven countries, and every time I set my goals, and no one can stop me…that’s for me what’s football about, playing, but to also getting to know the players and achieve goals. I show them that anything is possible, and now Chile is going to the World Cup, so that is massive. We’re trying to [achieve] equality and put women together, so we have the same opportunities that we deserve. It was awful [when I was a little girl]. In South America it’s all about men and growing up with only boys playing on the street, they always call you names, and sometimes bad names, so it’s not easy, but that makes you stronger, and you realize that you love something and football is my passion. So that’s why I never stopped and I proved them wrong.
Leticia Bufoni, Brazilian Skateboarder
I started skating with the boys because the boys on my street bought a skateboard. I was the only girl skating, and they used to make fun of me, saying that skateboarding wasn’t for girls. They used to say that I was supposed to be playing with dolls, [but] I just loved [the skateboard] so much since the first day I touched it that I wanted to keep skating. I didn’t care what they were saying. I just wanted to skate. Every time someone tells me I can’t do something, I just want to prove them wrong. I started learning super fast, and at one point, I was skating better than them, so they got super pissed at me. They got really mad every time I landed tricks before them. The trick that everyone was trying to learn was a boardslide on a rail. Everyone was trying, and then I started trying, and then after a few minutes, I was landing the trick…My neighbor used to call me a tomboy and a lesbian because I was the only girl skating with the boys and I was wearing baggy pants, shirts, and hats. If you love something in sport or in life, you just gotta go for it, follow your dreams and never give up.
Zeina Nassar, German Boxer
I was very young when I started boxing. I was fascinated with the sport, and I thought that if they can do it, I can also do it. I’m very proud of myself that I can motivate others to come to the sport. It’s very important that people dare to do the first step and just go out there and just do it, and after that it will all roll by itself. Boxing gives me an incredible self confidence. I feel stronger. I know my limits. I set goals for myself and I want to succeed. There are people who ask me, why are you wearing the hijab? Why are you boxing? Why don’t you just get rid of it? I didn’t care about it. My focus is the sport, and I always cared that the sport is in front of all of this. I care a lot about the sport. Boxing is my life. It’s very important for me and I have a lot of fun doing it.