Busta’s Person of the Week: WNBA star Paris Kea: ‘Push yourself outside your comfort zone’

Busta’s Person of the Week: WNBA star Paris Kea: ‘Push yourself outside your comfort zone’
July 07
11:21 2021

By Busta Brown

You’ve read it or heard it said: “Prayer without works is dead.” So, a dream without works will remain just a dream. Paris Kea understood this at a very early age. “My parents taught me to never give up and always try harder than your last effort. So, when I decided I wanted to play basketball, I put in the necessary work each day. I began working on my weaknesses at an early age. I’m right-handed, so as a child, I would be outside all day practicing how to dribble with my left hand, shoot and do lay-ups with my left hand. Now, my left hand is equally as dominant as my right. 

“Working on your weaknesses and turning them into your strengths is what my parents taught me and I use that in all aspects of my life. Hard work will pay off,” said the superstar WNBA point guard. 

Paris Kea plays for the New York Liberty and it was her faith plus hard work that made this University at Chapel Hill record holder’s dream a reality. She holds the second-highest career scoring average at 18.0 points per game at Chapel Hill. In 2017, she achieved her career-high of 36 points in a game versus the Tacheles’s rivalry, Duke. 

During the game, the Tarheels were struggling and needed some momentum. “When we play Duke, everyone steps their game up. The environment, the nerves and energy are at an all-time high, because there are so many factors that go into that rivalry. It was the moment I lived for, and being able to showcase my skills and put my team in a position to win, along with scoring 36 points; it was amazing. I wasn’t thinking about the points, I just wanted to be present mentally and spiritually for my team. I wasn’t aware until later that it was my career high,” shared the superstar point guard. 

In 2019, Paris graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and was drafted into the WNBA at the top of the third round as the 25th overall pick. Now Paris is in the big leagues. Her childhood dream has come true. I asked her to share the moment when she first walked onto a WNBA basketball court: “It’s indescribable! Hearing my name called, wearing the jersey, seeing all the fans and lights was absolutely amazing! I was also feeling nervous and I thought about all of the hard work that I put in, and it eventually led to that moment. I realized that there is nothing you can’t do when you put your mind, faith and hard work into it. That day I saw it all pay off, and it was an adrenaline rush. I was nervous, and didn’t want to mess up. I wanted to do everything perfect. That’s when you have to believe in yourself, and the hard work you put in is all for that moment,” she said. 

Paris Kea is one of the sweetest, yet toughest young ladies I’ve met. There are so many things to love about the Tarboro, N.C. native. Her love for family, community, charity, youth, and her advocacy for mental health awareness, just to name a few. 

Kea’s success didn’t come without a few challenges. Her freshman year was a redshirt season, which is an athlete who is withdrawn from college sporting events for a year to develop their skills and extend their period of playing eligibility by a further year at this level of competition. Once she completed her freshman year at Vanderbilt University, she transferred to Chapel Hill in 2015, where she sat out for a year. It was an extremely difficult situation for Paris, and with good reason. In 2014, she was one of the top-ranked girl’s high basketball players in the nation and still holds the all-time scoring record at Walter Hines Page High School in Greensboro. 

“Being on the bench at Chapel Hill for a year, cheering my team on, and trying to lead a team on from off the court, was difficult, but it taught me a lot. It taught me how to become a better leader, teammate, and how to be more present mentally,” shared Paris. 

Another challenge is one that lots of pro athletes are facing today. Coming out to their family, friends and fans. “This is why mental health is extremely important, because everything comes from the mind. It’s very important to train your mind, so you can stay focused on what’s truly important to you, and not lose yourself in what others think and say about you. Being a part of the LGTQ+ community is hard sometimes, because it’s hard finding spaces that are accepting. So, I had to learn to love myself more than ever. Having a strong mind helps me stay keyed in and able to have a well-balanced life. I knew at a very young age, because I had a crush on my teacher,” Paris shared, as we both laughed for nearly a minute. Then we shared our crushes with each other. Mine was my 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Easter. My good friend and vegan influencer, Tabitha Brown, reminds me of Mrs. Easter. Both have that beautiful and unique ability to discipline you with complete kindness and love. I told Paris that I wouldn’t put her on the spot and ask the name of her crush, but she did share that it was a female teacher. 

I asked about the day she came out to her family. “I grew up in a traditional Christian family, where we go to church, Bible study, pray before each meal, and before we go to bed. A strong Christian family! And my lifestyle doesn’t necessarily fit. But I had to learn that my God is accepting of me. Now my family, friends and fans are very supportive, and it feels amazing,” said Paris. 

She joked about how some family members address her partner, Vanessa. “They will say, ‘this is Paris’s little friend,’ and then laugh.”

She also shared how her parents asked the important questions about her life, which helps them better understand one another. “If you don’t understand something or someone, don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions. Don’t be afraid to learn the truth,” she said. 

While Paris was speaking, I thought about how divided we are as humans and if we asked the tough questions about one another’s heritage and if we learned to accept their truths and vice versa, then we can find a healthy and fair balance. It wouldn’t heal the world in a day, but it would plant a seed that will eventually blossom into a much better future for our children’s children. 

Dr. Martin Luther King said, “We fear each other, because we don’t know each other. And we don’t know each other because we don’t communicate with each other.” I wasn’t afraid to ask Paris about her lifesyle nor was I afraid to accept her truth. And Paris has this warm ability to speak to you, and not at you, and that’s the magic of true communication. 

She and her partner don’t have children, but she is looking forward to parenthood. “When I become a parent, I’m going to teach my children that my job as their parent is to help them find their purpose in life, not make the choice for them. Not to tell them who or how to be. I’m not saying it’s for everyone, it’s just what I believe. I’ve learned that through my process of coming out,” shared Paris. 

What’s in the future for the WNBA point guard? “First, I’m going to focus on my ACL rehabilitation, so I can get back on the court. I’m going to open my own gym and wellness center. I want to become a sports psychologist, so I’m working on my master’s.” 

Her favorite quote: “One of my mentors always told me to keep on pushing. Those two words can mean so much. No matter what you’re facing, just keep pushing, and push yourself outside of your comfort zone.”. 

My phenomenal Person of the Week is Paris Kea. 

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