Oftentimes, we find ourselves well into adulthood before we figure out what we want to do in life. Most of us change careers a dozen times from the day we’re first asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up” until it’s no longer a question but a choice that must be made. For LeShonda Martin, founder and editor of WAGS Redefined, growing up in the hoop state of Indiana meant having a ball in her hands.
“The first chapter of my life was spent on the hardwood,” recalls Martin. So it’s no surprise she dreamed of one day having her name on the back of a WNBA jersey.
As an athlete, Martin was dedicated to sports from an early age. When Mercer University offered the student-athlete a full scholarship to play basketball, she happily traded in nights out on the town for 5am practices. That was until she was unexpectedly cut from the team due in part to changes in coaching staff the start of “a series of unfortunate events” that would become a defining moment in the life of the then 18-year old.
“It’s never fun to feel like your destiny is at the mercy of another human being,” she explains. Martin transferred to Emory her sophomore year and continued life as a student-athlete, earning her Bachelor’s in Psychology followed by a Master’s in Sports Administration from Georgia State University. Still, it was that life-changing moment at Mercer that empowered Martin to be in control of her own destiny by way of entrepreneurship.
Martin spent the next few years after college doing various jobs. It wasn’t until she met the love of her life, NFL veteran and free agent Sherrod Martin, that she walked into her happily ever after and her purpose. Martin recalls being in a room of NFL wives and girlfriends during her husband’s days as a Jacksonville Jaguar and thinking the women she was surrounded by had stories that needed to be told.
“When you looked at coverage of NFL players in the media in 2014 and 2015, it was disproportionately about domestic violence and rape cases and I remember thinking that’s not my experience. That’s not how we live,” professes Martin. She saw the need but didn’t answer the call immediately. The idea was put on hold and she went about life as usual working and planning her wedding.
Upon returning from her honeymoon, the vision came flooding back to her. Martin began searching NFL wives via the internet and was disturbed by the results that populated such as “NFL’s hottest and sexist wives.”
“There were no articles showcasing these women in the light that I had experienced. I’m a part of this community and all anyone wants to talk about is how we look? My objective is to change the conversation about the women and families to a more truthful one,” she explains.
And that’s how WAGS Redefined was born…
There’s a misconception about pro athlete wives and girlfriends that Martin tries diligently to erase with each story featured through WAGS Redefined. They are not gold diggers and trophy wives living glamorous lives with nannies and Bentleys. She adds the disclaimer that there are always those situations sprinkled in the mix but it is far more the exception than the rule. Martin makes it a point to showcase that this is a community comprised of strong women who are caregivers, household managers, and entrepreneurs, deserving of their own identity outside of their high profile relationships. They are not defined by the men they marry. Martin playfully but in truth recognizes that players most often “outkick their coverage” with women who come to the table with much more than just a pretty face.
WAGS Redefined has grown to be more than Martin originally envisioned: “I saw the general public as my market initially.” In giving these women a voice, a community formed naturally; something Martin is extremely proud of. Women are able to identify with one another through the stories shared on the website and via social media. What started as a solo passion project for Martin has flourished into thirty WAG contributors and the launch of a digital publication. She plans to begin hosting WAGS Redefined events next year.
Martin is also in the process of adding producer to her resume: “I am working on getting a show to air waves that is an extension of the WAGS Redefined brand.” She knows that reaching a broader audience to dispel the myths about WAGS will require a visual presence different from what is currently being showcased through reality TV: “It’s not black cards and private jets every day. It’s not always a glamorous life. Here’s the struggle. It’s not cattiness. Here’s the camaraderie.” It’s those aspects of life as a professional athlete’s significant other that Martin hopes to capture.
Martin definitely has a full plate these days as a wife, mother and entrepreneur. She’s been able to find some balance by having a supportive husband. As a couple, they are determined to keep God first through prayer, marriage devotionals, church and faith-based conferences: “When you know Christ, you know all about purpose and what you were put on this earth to do.” Rest assured, Martin is living proof that sports wives and girlfriends can do it all while walking in purpose. She does it every day while raising her son, supporting her husband and empowering a community of women.
Visit WAGS Redefined for more interviews and the digital magazine: www.wagsredifined.com