Pretty in Any Color: Women on the Court Make the Style Rules

Angel Reese considers herself “a pink kind of girl.”

Pink nails, pink hair tie, pink shoes, sometimes even “a little bit of pink in my lashes,” Reese said of the eyelash extensions she applies before basketball games. “Everything’s pink.”

It’s all part of the pregame routine for Reese, who in May transferred to Louisiana State after a breakout season on Maryland’s women’s basketball team. Before Reese hits the court, she swipes on lip gloss and gels down her edges — her hairline — to prevent flyaways.

“Grandma would always emphasize, ‘Don’t let anybody make your makeup sweat,’” Reese said.

Reese’s devotion to her appearance for games expresses who she is as much as her playing style. Players in women’s basketball freely mix a traditionally feminine beauty standard with finishing touches that are popular in Black and Latina culture, like gelled edges. It’s a freedom that some say is an advancement in a sport whose athletes have historically been pressured to fit a mass-market ideal that has long benefited straight, white women. Reese is Black.

But the introduction of name, image and likeness deals in college sports and an influx of marketing money in professional women’s basketball have added dollars-and-cents stakes to female players’ decisions to glam up. In interviews with a dozen college and professional players, women talked about how the decision on how to express themselves through their appearance has been changing.

“I’ve never really felt the pressure until the N.I.L. thing started,” said Reese, whose endorsement deals include Xfinity, Amazon, Wingstop and a Washington, D.C.-area supermarket chain.

Credit…Camille Lenain for The New York Times

‘There is a pressure for me to look a certain way.’

Stanford forward Cameron Brink usually applies concealer, eyebrow gel, mascara and maybe a little blush before she heads out for a game, but she scoffed at the idea of in-game touch-ups. “I look like this when I was playing, I’m going to live with it,” she said.

Her shot-blocking was a key piece of Stanford’s run to the 2022 Final Four, where the team lost to Connecticut

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