Exclusive: Sha’Carri Richardson On Staying True To Herself And Her Plans To ‘Put On For Dallas, Texas’ This Summer


Watching Sha’Carri Richardson on the track, the power with which she hits the ground running, the vibrant hair flying, and nails that would make Flo Jo proud propelling her forward, she seems larger than life. So, it’s a surprise to me to chat with the fastest woman alive and hear such a light, small and sweet voice speaking back to me. But as we talk, it fits perfectly with the humility she exudes.

Still, Richardson has a big reason to be boastful if she wanted to be for a moment. We’ve gathered, over the computer, of course, to talk about her latest campaign. She’s a part of Sprite’s relaunched “Obey Your Thirst” advertising, which first became a cultural slogan in 199430 years ago. She joins sports icons like Kobe Bryant and Lebron James, who have been part of the campaign, as well as current NBA star Anthony Edwards in new ads, but she stands alone as the first woman athlete to partner with the soft drink brand.

“It’s exciting that it’s a campaign that is back and thriving and showing that it’s still just as relevant as it was then and is relevant even more now,” Richardson tells ESSENCE.

When asked about joining the greats as part of the beloved campaign, Richardson, an icon in her own sport, can’t help but think about the women athletes who came before her.

“I feel like there’s been phenomenal, amazing female athletes who have come before me, but to be picked to join this lineup, it’s honestly a moment of not validation, but just more self-validation of every sacrifice that I make in my day-to-day life as an athlete,” she says. “It’s seen, and it’s valued, and it’s also supported. So that’s the greatest part.”

She also joins the greats who are known for standing out through self-expression. Her style from head to toe and the way she verbally expresses herself are authentic. With that in mind, we talked to Richardson about what, or rather, who inspires her one-of-a-kind swagger, starring in a Sprite campaign with her family, how she decompresses between races and training, and what keeps her inspired to always obey her thirst.

ESSENCE: The colorful hair, your fun nails, the tattoos, they have all been your signature for a long time. What would you say inspired the way that you express yourself?

Sha’Carri Richardson: I would say when it comes to just inspiration for my beauty or just how I express myself, it comes from the women in my life. I feel like I’ve come from women who have shown me that being your authentic self is all you need, as well as, of course, being respectful. It’s a big thing I’ve gathered from them when it comes to nails, when it comes to my hair, when it comes to how I dress, even how I express myself. It’s something that I learned growing up from the women in my life.

The women in your life got to be in your “Obey Your Thirst” ad. What was that like getting to not only be the first woman athlete who is a part of these campaigns for Sprite, but also to be able to share that moment with your grandmother and your mom?

Oh my gosh, I love this question. Thank you for asking. I’ll honestly say that with this, again, being a relaunch of “Obey Your Thirst” and also me being the first woman athlete as well as having the influence of my grandmother and my mother as well and them being able to share this moment with me, it was precious. It was priceless for them to actually be able to share a moment with me of just reflecting on the journey that we all have had together. The sacrifices and the support they’ve given me just over my lifetime, to be able to sit in that moment with them and just create an ad that speaks so much volume, not just in a product or not just in a company or not just even in being an athlete, but speaking to family, speaking to women, speaking to just that energy of support, love, and understanding, I feel like that was the greatest moment for me. It’s a top-tier campaign that I’ve been a part of lately because of the inclusion of my family. The thoughtfulness of it will always be a memory for me and for them as well.

It’s been really amazing to see your face on billboards and in ads and soon with this commercial on TV, getting to be true to yourself this entire time. That’s not easy for a lot of people who feel like they have to change to be marketable in one way or another or they have to transform. And so why has it been so important to stay true to yourself on this journey and what has informed that? I know, as you mentioned, you have the support of your family, and then you’re also a woman of faith.

Again, I like these questions that you’re asking. I would definitely say, of course, having touched on the support of my family, being able to maintain who I am, my family still seeing me just as the little girl I was up until now, that means everything. I would definitely say my faith as well. It is a big thing for me to remember continuously where I come from. Ultimately, remembering where I come from and knowing where I come from got me to where I am now. And so there’s nothing to change. If anything, it’s just things to make better and things to improve upon. But there’s nothing that has to dramatically change because what got you there worked for a reason. It’s shown that staying authentic to yourself will put you in the right positions where you’re meant to be.

It’s not even necessarily “right,” but where you’re meant to be, where you’re supposed to be for a purpose bigger than just your journey, and also for the impact that you’ll have on the world. I would definitely say that being grounded in who you are and continuing to show that to the world, that will ultimately inspire others to just show themselves to the world and allow what’s meant for them to be. And I feel like that’s been my journey.

Exclusive: Sha’Carri Richardson On Staying True To Herself And Her Plans To ‘Put On For Dallas, Texas’ This Summer

How do you decompress amid the training and the races and photo shoots? What do you like to do in those few moments that you have to yourself?

I would say in my free time, to decompress, just to balance out everything, I love to put my feet in the pool to be outside and just take in the fresh air and the scenery of nature. It’s something that I really enjoy. I really like to talk to my family. I feel like it is a decompression when they just start talking about their lives. I don’t even have to talk about me or what’s going on with me. I also like to journal. That’s something to jot down my thoughts. And also, yeah, I enjoy a nice meal too. I feel like that’s a moment that satisfies me. It’s not just competing or having to talk or anything else. I would say those things.

What keeps you inspired to obey your thirst?

Oh my gosh. What keeps me inspired to obey my thirst is remembering that no matter what’s going on, keep the main thing, the main thing, meaning focus on what it is that I feel like I need for myself as an individual, for my career as an athlete, for my growth as a woman. Obeying my thirst is obeying the grind so I can continue to be in the position of greatness to share my greatness and inspire other greatness to be put into the world.

And I have one bonus question I wanted to ask you: Texas is having a moment, and you are Dallas born, you’ve lived there, you’ve trained there. How does it feel to see your state like this? I mean, Beyoncé has been like “Texas is everything, Cowboy Carter!” Texas culture has not been elevated, but it’s been put out there for the rest of us in the United States to be like, okay, Texas! How is that for you as somebody who is the pride of Texas as well?

Beyoncé, being a fellow Texan herself, honestly, it is something that I feel like even in the state, we just have always had that mindset. I feel like our slogan is “Go big or go home.” And it’s always been that in everything that you do, put everything into it. If you’re not going to do it to your fullest, you shouldn’t do it at all. So it’s a great energy to feed off of, and understanding that back home and seeing it’s getting a certain level of love and recognition is a big deal. And I just want to keep that motivation going for me to put on for Dallas, Texas, going into the world, going into the summer for the [Olympic] Games. I just want to continue to show that big things come out of Texas.

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