ONYX host Monica McNutt recently had the opportunity to sit down with Chloe Pavlech, host and digital content manager at Overtime Media. ONYX, a platform dedicated to celebrating Black women in sports, is a safe space for these women to discuss their experiences: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Hopefully the conversation will inspire a new drive for change.
Pavelch earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of College Maryland and a master’s degree from UConn, where she reached the Final Four twice as a player development coach on the women’s basketball team. Below are just a few highlights from the conversation with Chloe Pavlech.
What do you love about being a Black woman in sports?
That’s a great question. For me, I think every day that I am a Black woman in sports, I am a trailblazer. Just automatically, I’m thinking about the women who’ve come before me and how, you know, every day there’s still so much work to do. And the fact that I get to open doors and now I’m in a position where I can actually reach out to younger people and bring them up with me. I think it’s funny because I think you play that mentor role for me and now I’m starting to play it and it’s weird because one, you know, that means I’m getting older. But two, it’s just a beautiful thing to be able to be in that position. And to be able to help girls and actual opportunities for them and put them on. Because a lot of what I realized is that because being a Black woman in ports, that’s something I think about every single day. Whereas someone who’s not, maybe they don’t think about who they are in sports, how they identify, they don’t necessarily think, ‘Oh, you know what, when I have this opportunity, the first person I should reach out to is a qualified Black woman.’ Right. Whereas for me, that’s my first thought. And that’s the type of network that I have. I feel privileged to be in this space and you know, what I’ve learned from other Black women, is we gotta continue to open doors for us, and that’s what I’m trying to do.
So the flip side of that coin, how are you most challenged as a Black woman in sports?
Everyday is a challenge. Put that on the table … not only is it a challenge for me, but it’s also a challenge for what I believe in, which is women, which is having a lot of support and dedication to women’s athletes. That’s another battle within itself that I know you know all about. I would say my biggest challenge for me is, luckily at Overtime, I’m not even one of those people that always wants to hype my company up, but I’m surrounded by men who believe in women and who really support women, which I think is huge.
There are certain challenges that I faced before Overtime like what I think, what I say is constantly being questioned, triple checked. I don’t have a degree in broadcast journalism from a prestigious school, but that’s another topic in itself. But being able to be surrounded by people who actually support what you do, especially white men, can just help you and also open doors for things that you believe in and create opportunities for you. But the challenges that I face are just, you know, still constantly being questioned. Like I haven’t proved myself on playing, coaching, with everything that I do know. Just cause, you know, I talk a certain way with the kids and the way I interact doesn’t mean I don’t know my sports or it doesn’t mean I’m not qualified.
I have been so grateful for my opportunity as a women’s basketball player that I wasn’t even really concerned with the larger perception, which I’m checking myself on because just because it worked well for me doesn’t mean it can’t be better. I think back to the Black Panther when Shuri says that to her brother. Just because something works doesn’t mean it can’t be improved. So that’s what I see in terms of what you’ve been able to do with elite women’s basketball (at Overtime), and I just love it so much.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Yeah, it’s been, it’s been special, and I think for me the biggest thing was even when doing that, I just wanted the sport to get more love, you know, and now you see all these different companies launching their women’s basketball accounts, starting to focus and lock-in more on what they’re doing with the women’s game. And I mean, it’s just, it’s really just all about opportunity. I just think about when I have a future daughter, I don’t ever want her to think that she matters less than the boys. And I think for me, probably what really hit home the most was when we had our takeover event. And I remember, you know, we had a group of 12 girls, 12 of the best girls in the country. Right. And I’ll never forget it when they talked to me after the event, they were like, ‘thank you so much for treating us like the boys.’ Mind you, these are like 14- to 17-year-old girls. And they already understand in society that women are treated differently than men. And that’s something that really stuck with me cause I’m like, they already know this right now. That’s a problem because that means they’re already probably limiting themselves and what they want to be and what they want to do. So like I said, as we get older and, you know, hopefully if I’m blessed enough to have kids, like that’s just something that I’m always thinking about constantly. Creating a better world for hopefully like my future daughter or the future young girls behind us.
I’m sure you have been asked because I know that I have been asked the question of, ‘where did you find your voice?’ At 30 years old, I’m now at a place where the message remains the same, but your voice in terms of personal growth can change. But I don’t ever remember having this, ‘Aha, that’s who I am as Monica.’ So when people ask me about authenticity, I’m like, I’ve only ever been myself. So how do you answer that?
Since I met you, you have always been real and everyone knows that who meets you. There is no sugar coating, you are going to say what you think and say what you feel. Whereas a lot of people won’t do that. Why or how you got the confidence to do that, I don’t know that it comes from sport. Did it come from how you were raised? I mean, it’s probably a bunch of different factors. I think for me even like finding my voice, I’m still doing that, but I think that just comes from a product of getting older. For me, being authentic, though, that’s my brand. But that’s because of who I am. I don’t care who you are, I’m gonna talk to you because I like talking to you. … Being authentic, I found that is something that is very rare. The majority of people don’t know how to be authentic, but that’s also, I think, because of my line of work. People I interact with, within my own friend groups, and my core people know how to be authentic, but I say in life, I haven’t felt that the authenticity is there with everything and that’s just based on who you meet.
A lot of people are so worried about how they come off to other people, how they want to be perceived, people are worried about being liked. I’d be lying to you if I said I wasn’t worried about that growing up, but now I don’t care. If you don’t like me, okay. My mom loves me, so I’m gonna be okay. I have my people, so as long as they believe in me and as long as they also think and know that I’m being authentic, I’m right and I’m good with myself. I’m not worried about anything else.
This is the last question as I get you out of here. I need three words, and you can go along, you can explain these words, whatever, but we always ask our guests, if you are talking to the next generation of Black women in sports, what are three words that you want them to hold onto … just keep these three words with you as you navigate through sports and beyond.
Ooh, dang. That’s a good one, and I knew this question was coming too. … What I will say is the first one is power. And that’s just knowing how much power that you have that is just waiting to be unlocked. That’s what I’ll say. The next one I’ll say is joy. Don’t ever let anyone try to dim your joy or your happiness or who you are, right? Cause you are just this light that is shining bright and everything you do, have joy and have pride in it. The third one I want to say is beautiful. Because we need to know and understand how beautiful we are and there’s always gonna be people that have recommendations or want to kind of change how you look or what they perceive as beauty. But that all starts in here. And when you own how beautiful you truly are, you know, you’re going to see that. Cause I see it. I see it every time I get to talk with a Black woman just like yourself. Right. I see it every time I see one of my friends, right? I see it every day, but we need to know that. How beautiful we really are and that we’re queens.
This interview was edited for clarity.