Beija Velez has been designing sneakers and basketballs since she was seven years previous. Born in Atlanta and raised in Decatur, GA, the mannequin, designer and artistic says that she’d fill sketchbooks with drawings, all whereas dreaming of someday taking part in within the WNBA.
“I had an entire complete sketchbook the place I used to be simply at all times ideating and imagining,” she says in a ZOOM name in July.
Beija’s creativity and magnificence have led her to a number of ventures all through her profession, from working as an on-camera persona for Complicated to doing inventive marketing consultant as a social media supervisor for Usher.
Her newest work features a particular collab with Wilson Sporting Items, the official recreation ball of the WNBA, the place she designed her very personal basketball in celebration of the W’s twenty fifth anniversary.
Beija’s ball, which dropped in July and sold out after two hours, is an ode to the town that has bred her passions and wishes. It’s additionally a testomony to her love for the sport.
“I believe coming from Atlanta, the place it’s a cultural hub of latest dances popping out of there, the fireplace scorching wing plates, new music,” she says. “I really feel like [it’s] a metropolis of innovation, tastemakers.”
Rising up down South, Beija says she’d usually play in opposition to the boys within the cul de sac she lived in. By the age of 10, she was dominating on journey ball circuits, suiting up for the Georgia Metros. Her staff even received the U10 Nationwide Championship on the Walt Disney Extensive World of Sports activities. As a senior in highschool, she even earned a scholarship to East Georgia State School in Swainsboro, GA, simply three hours exterior of ATL.
The day by day grind of being a school student-athlete was powerful on her, although. Morning lifts would begin at 5 am, adopted by runs and extra coaching or lifts. Whereas her obligations have been to her staff and her research, her aspirations have been additionally geared toward creating her personal trend model. Quickly, Beija discovered herself skipping class and going thrift buying at Goodwill, the place she’d discover gadgets like a pair of sweatpants and re-purpose them into her personal signature items—stitching the pants legs to make them slimmer, and maintaining the higher half baggier, like harem pants.
Her thrift store-ventures-turned-side-hustle was the early inspiration for her model, BEIRIE.
“I might promote them out of the trunk of my mother’s automobile. Simply hustling, simply attempting to get some bread…I’ve at all times simply been a hustler.”
Beija ended up dropping out of faculty after one semester, proper earlier than the season began. She selected as a substitute to give attention to her model full-time. Finally, she bought a job at Want Atlanta, an unique streetwear boutique within the metropolis that sells high-end, upscale manufacturers and has been steadily visited by celebs and musicians, like Usher and his spouse on the time, Grace Harry.
After working there for a few 12 months, Beija says she was requested if she’d be curious about aiding with Usher’s social media.
“I really helpful different folks for it as a result of they wished folks to handle the social media and I’m like, ‘effectively it feels like y’all want a photographer and my ass ain’t no photographer.’ I’m an web child. I grew up within the period of Myspace and Tumblr, HTML coding and placing glitter on pages and folks paying $5-10 to make their web page shake.”
Whereas Beija initially turned the supply down, she finally accepted the place and bought proper to work. She utilized the data she’d gained from platforms like Tumblr to social media advertising and marketing, ensuring that Usher’s aesthetic was cohesive on his feed whereas focusing on completely different audiences. The chance additionally meant touring with him to completely different occasions, akin to a visit to Cuba in 2016 on behalf of the President’s Arts and Humanities Committee for a cultural arts alternate.
That’s additionally when she first bought involved with Complicated Journal, who was there to do a narrative on him.
When the place with Usher ended that 12 months, Beija discovered herself in a “darkish place” afterward and went again to promoting sneakers at Want. Her “homeboy” Patrick helped her rise out of an ensuing melancholy and reminded her of a ardour she’d at all times had: basketball.
“Patrick was identical to, bruh basketball like basketball, basketball, basketball is the reply,” she remembers.
After constructing such an in depth bond that summer season, tragedy struck when Patrick devastatingly handed away in a automobile accident on Christmas Eve in 2016. He was 25 years previous.
“This ball [dropped] on his birthday,” Beija says. “And Wilson didn’t even know that it was his birthday, they wished to align it with the WNBA All-Star recreation. So these synchronicities and simply God displaying up within the universe is simply divine to say the least.”
Shortly after Patrick’s passing, Complicated hit her as much as supply her a place as an on-camera persona host. There, she was featured in a collection of movies that showcased her distinctive type and love for hoops, akin to a three-point basketball shootout.
After working at Complicated from 2017-2018, Beija put in her two weeks, as destiny would have it, on the identical day because the one-year anniversary of Patrick’s demise. Maybe the angel up above knew there have been different plans in retailer for her, as Beija continued to pursue her modeling profession with a lot success.
When requested about her type, she says she attracts inspiration from her dad and mom, particularly her father, who moved to Atlanta to turn out to be a rapper earlier than he turned a pastor.
“I really feel like I’m very fluid inside simply my expression via gender. I’m simply sort of impartial indirectly… I prefer to be snug, and I really feel like how snug I’m generally makes [other] folks uncomfortable. And it’s like, I actually do need them to really feel that as a result of I need them to be like, why [is] she so chill and so assured herself? I wish to really feel that vitality.”
Beija’s love for the sport by no means wavered, and her Wilson ball is symbolic of that. It additionally honors all of her family members which have supported her all through her complete journey.
The colour blue, which suggests trustworthiness and reliability, can be her nickname, child blue. It was given to her by her good pal, Shake.
“Child blue is simply so contemporary. It’s identical to some icy vibes. It’s so clear,” she says. “I truly used to have a baby-blue white panel Wilson ball that I used to hoop with on a regular basis. In order that was positively an inspiration [too].”
Blue can be a shade within the Chicago Sky’s uniforms, the place her “homegirl” Diamond DeShields at present performs.
“She was like the highest basketball participant in Georgia and I at all times regarded as much as her. Now we’re actually nice mates, which is loopy.”
The ball options intimate, private particulars which might be a mirrored image of her. Her tattoos—a laurel wreath and the phrases persistence forgiveness and integrity in Spanish—are engraved onto the blue leather-based in silver ink. There’s additionally a line from her journal, which wraps across the ball, that claims, ‘It hit me that it was time I began going exhausting with basketball. Basketball is artwork to me and it saved my life and I knew it could save me once more.’
She additionally has the phrases “RIP Patrick” engraved on the ball. On the finish of her interview with SLAM, Beija says that she’s going to fly to Atlanta the next week to do a photograph shoot together with his household in honor of Patrick and all that they’ve been via.
She then shares how grateful she is for the entire individuals who have supported her all through the years, from mates and coaches to her dad and mom. “I need everybody to really feel celebrated,” she says. “I really feel like I’m the face of this, however I wouldn’t be right here if my dad and mom didn’t pay for the coaching when generally they wouldn’t pay a invoice simply so I might prepare for basketball.”
She additionally desires to proceed to help different creatives and visionaries, particularly these of shade.
“I bear in mind being that individual simply attempting to look as much as somebody or attempting to achieve that dream. And it simply felt so on the market. And it simply felt outlandish. And I used to be like, is that this actually doable? So to be so in myself and strolling in my fact now’s simply, it’s past me. And I’m simply blessed. And I stay up for actually simply giving the subsequent individual religion and hope in their very own life.”
Picture credit through Dalena Le, Chris Martinez, Breyona Holt and Chris Straley.