The phrase “More Than an Athlete” was popularized by Lebron James in 2018, but its something Ashlee “Ash” Samuels has always stood for. Even as a young student-athlete, Samuels has always possessed a desire to help others achieve their dreams. As the owner and CEO of CRASH! Creative, LLC, CRASH! The Glass and I Want Placement; she’s helping athletes, entrepreneurs and philanthropists brand themselves as “more than.”
Growing up in Wytheville, VA, Samuels was likely to bust out laughing if you would’ve told her that her future would consist of countless hours in front of a computer screen. Back then, she had a Spaulding in her hand and aspirations of playing in the WNBA on her mind. Her prowess in the post and rebounding ability soon earned her an athletic scholarship to High Point University. However, after a junior season riddled with injuries, Samuels soon realized playing professionally was no longer a dream worth pursuing. And so began her transition into becoming “more than an athlete.”
Upon graduating with a degree in Sports Management, Samuels’ deep-rooted love for the game of basketball continued. She spent the next five years working as regional director for a well-known sports organization, traveling throughout the Southeast. She quickly found that event coordination wasn’t what fueled her. “It was the experience that I was so passionate about and I wanted to find a way to build on that. I wanted to be the person who comes in to create the visual, the aesthetic of the event, and that’s kinda how Crash came about,” she explains.
By 2015, Samuels shifted her focus to brand identity, event management, marketing and design under CRASH! Creative, LLC. In 2017, she formed CRASH! The Glass with a focus on professional women athletes. But there was something more at play. For Samuels, “it wasn’t about a paycheck. It was a responsibility.”
As an athlete, people don’t always feel you’re equipped to deal in an arena outside of your sport, hence the infamous Laura Ingraham comment, “Shut up and dribble.” Under the Crash umbrella, Samuels is working to help athletes eliminate barriers and walk confidently into the spaces they feel they belong in.
To date, Samuels has worked with athletes such as WNBA stars Imani McGee Stafford and Cheyenne Parker of the Chicago Sky, Tedd Ginn of the New Orleans Saints and NBA Hall of Famer Tracy McGrady. She’s created the visual concepts behind major athletic events like the Peach State Classic and the Phoenix Invitational. In addition to her current businesses, Samuels is also the Executive Director of Operations for the Global Mixed Gender Basketball (GMGB) League. The purpose behind the league is one that’s near and dear to her heart—equality! It’s an opportunity to further her mission of helping to obliterate the pay gap and gender inequality in professional sports.
But let’s be clear, Samuels is “more than” a self-taught graphic and website designer or event coordinator. “I’m a thinker. I’m a doer. I’m a creator. I’m a problem-solver. I’m an opportunity maker and I’m fine not having a title that describes everything I do.”
Currently, Samuels has begun to focus on yet another dream; the film industry. While in the middle of redesigning her website to include film design and production, Samuels was offered the chance of a lifetime. “Last year, I got a call on Christmas for an opportunity. I would have to be stationed in DC working on the film, and I would have to leave the next day.” Samuels “took a leap of faith” and boarded a plane to DC the next morning.
Hired as prop master, Samuels soon had her hand in multiple behind the scenes aspects of the production. “Anything I could provide, I was doing.” From the websites featured in the movie to the posters you see and the pizza boxes with “Crash” displayed on them, Samuels’ has officially made her leap into the film industry.
The movie, ‘Twas the Chaos Before Christmas, was directed by Terri J. Vaughn, starring Cynthia Kaye McWilliams, Sherri Shepherd and Affion Crockett. It premieres on BET, December 7th, at 8pm.
When it’s all said and done, Samuels isn’t chasing fame nor fortune. She simply wants to be a resource. “If you believe what you have is bigger than you, you cannot stop. It’s not about you anymore. It’s about you doing what you were called to do, and I buy into that.”
Whether she’s helping someone else achieve their dreams or pursuing her own, Samuels has no plans to slow down. “I think it would be a disserve to me. I think it would be a disservice to the world if I stop now.”
And so it seems, the young girl from a small town in VA has a few more glass ceilings to crash through.