I must apologise for the lack of #WCW last Wednesday. I was three days into my Dream Job (but that is a story for another blog post) and exceptionally exhausted with almost no down-time. Even more devastating though is that last Wednesday was State of Origin – Game One, and it would have been the PERFECT Wednesday night to introduce to you our #WCW for this week (and last week). Ladies and Gentlemen, Mary ‘Kaye’ Konstantopoulos of Ladies Who League. Mary is the Founder of Ladies Who League, a blog, podcast and all-round destination for all things women in sport. So, now perhaps you understand my dismay that I was not able to post on Origin night – like I said, perfect.
I was first introduced to Mary through a mutual contact, Danielle Warby of SBS, just after my interview with Michelle Heyman went mental. I received an email from Danielle introducing us over our mutual love and swooning of dear Michelle, and we organised to have coffee that very same week.
When I met Mary, her smile was the first thing that I noticed about her. It is quite possibly the most honest, radiant, widest smile you will ever come across in your life. Mary beamed, she shone. She was someone that I got along with instantly, though I definitely put that down to how fabulous Mary is as she is just one of those souls that gets along with absolutely anyone and everyone. We ordered our drinks – a chai tea with soy milk for Mary – and got to talking about women in sport, life, dreams, goals and everything in between. We sat there for a few hours chatting effortlessly, all the while Mary’s excitement and lust for life were making me giddy with inspiration and renewed energy.
This was another one of those interviews where literally everything that Mary said, I have highlighted for inclusion. When I received Mary’s answers, I cried and was riddled with goosebumps. The standout trait of Mary for me – and I am unaware whether she knows this or not – is that every single time you talk with her, you are left feeling like a goddamn fucking goddess who can take on the world and anything that life throws at you. Seriously, every time. Whenever we have caught up over dinner, or at a sports game, or with a quick “Hi, how are you?” type email, I come away from it feeling like I am glowing. Mary will awaken dreams in you that have lain dormant for years – like a swift little life dream wonder ninja. She has so much enthusiasm and passion and zest and she listens to everything you have to say. Not only that, she will believe it and realise it for you. She is a huge part of this project and my blog as a whole because at that first little coffee date that we had, I ran past her everything that I envisioned Don’t Ask Leah and The #WCW Project could be as was met with a resounding YES! Mary is someone that is excitable and whose energy penetrates you deep, DEEP into your soul.
If you have never heard of it, Ladies Who League is – or rather, started off as – a blog, podcast and online community for all things women in sport. When we met, Mary blew me away when she told me that she was a lawyer and that LWL was her side-gig, her love-child. LWL was a beast even back then and saw her writing and recording and interviewing and attending games in her spare time. But to learn that she was a full-time lawyer as well? It blew my fucking mind. I could barely find the time to write a single blog post and there she was, every luminescent inch of her running her own business and working full-time. She sure showed me.
So ladies and gentlemen, yes, this is a long post; it is a long post because this woman deserves all of my words. All of them.
“I tell people that I have a wife at home – my mum who makes sure all my basic needs are met and that I am clothed and fed,” Mary said to me when I asked her the all-time-cliché question that we ask women, How Do You Do It All? “Sometimes I tell people that I am like Hermione Granger and have a time turner,” she continued - a woman after my own heart, “but how I do it is quite simple. I love it. Ladies who League is the thing that gives me the twinkle in my eye and I absolutely will not stop until women in sport are appropriately recognised. Even then I probably won’t stop either.” I have spoken and caught up with Mary when she has been in a slump of busyness and overwhelm, and even then, her sparkle and her glow does not dim. Simply being in the presence of such determination and pure joy, sparks the very same in me.
Though we bonded over our mutual love and respect of women in sport, it wasn’t until I met Mary that I was able to put words as to why it was so special to me, and why I felt it was so important to share with the greater population. “I often say that I carry women in sport around like a beacon of light inside of me. Because for so long so many women have played sport simply for the love of it, there is a sense of it being really genuine and authentic,” Mary articulated. PREACH. “Mainly though, it’s that they play sport because they love it. They have also, in so many cases, had to juggle sport, a job, study and kids – so they remind me of the importance of living with purpose and always chasing what you love.” And then, being the professional and afficianado that she is, Mary once again opened my eyes as to the deeper and inner workings of what it actually means to be a woman in sport in a way that I had not even thought of, “women are often far less media trained than the men so they often share wonderful stories too.” Now, I realise how simple that sounds, but it is so true. Take Michelle Heyman for example. She is one of, if not the most popular and well known female footballer in this country and even still, even with that behind her, she was open and vulnerable and so very willing to share every part of her when I interviewed her. You get to know them as who they are beyond the sport, which then lends to who they are as an athlete. It’s fucking poetry, really. “I hope that as women’s sport continues to grow that our athletes will not lose their genuineness or their authenticity – because it’s magic.”
Mary is a genuine woman, she really is. When you meet her (and I really hope that everyone has that absolute privilege one day) you immediately feel like you have the permission to be exactly who you are, because Mary is exactly who she is. Through and through, completely and utterly. Mary attests a lot of who she is to the journey that she has been on with Ladies Who League, “it has taught me so much about embracing who I am and celebrating the achievements of others. It has also taught me about being independent and backing yourself. Because it is my own business, if I didn’t back myself back in the beginning no one else would. This meant I had to have confidence in my brand, but more importantly in myself.” Something that I loved when I interviewed Mary, was how confidently and unapologetically answered the question that trips up everyone, What Do You Love About You? Like I have mentioned before, it is always the question that stumps women, but Mary answered humbly and honestly and I fell in love with her all over again, “So many things! Physically, I love my hair which I liken to a mane. When I was younger I used to straighten my hair a lot, but now I have embraced the curls. They are very much part of who I am. I also love my smile and that my body is strong and supports me physically.” And then she said this, and I get goosebumps every time I read it because the conviction in her voice is EVERYTHING, “I love that I am stubborn and fiercely passionate about equality and diversity. I love that I have a ‘say yes’ attitude and that I try to help as many people as I can. But most of all I love that I have embraced vulnerability and use it as a guide in my life. It has truly helped me to pursue a genuine and authentic path, which is something I am truly grateful for.” Queen. Fucking Queen right here. What I loved is that she answered the question with the love and the respect and the humility in which it was asked. And then she said this, and it made me laugh, “Of course there are moments in all our lives when we look in the mirror and want to look different and especially when I was younger, I wanted to be thinner. But a couple of years ago I read an article and one of the quotes in that article stuck with me – ‘there is nothing more boring than hearing a group of women sit and talk about their weight and their diets’. And I agreed. I haven’t weighed myself since that day have simply focused on eating well and exercising.” Ever since I read that, it echoes within me at least once every day. There is nothing more boring than hearing a group of women sit and talk about their weight and their diets. Yes, yes to that ten million times over.
Ladies Who League has morphed into something really big and vitally important. Ladies Who League is something that we all need right now, every day, for eternity. In our #WCW’s words, “Ladies who League is about embracing women in sport exactly as they are – our female athletes are so good at embracing who they are. I have learnt to do the same.” Mary channels her happiness and her passion into the beast that is Ladies Who League and has managed to manifest an insanely strong following; more than that, Mary has successfully formed a beautiful, supportive community of people whose focus is all things sport, all things equality and all things LIFE. Mary confirmed this, “I’ve also been exceptionally fortunate that I wanted to create a community where women could come together to talk about sport. What I’ve also managed to create is a family that has also embraced me and my joy as it is. It’s remarkably beautiful and I am incredibly fortunate to feel so supported by people in the work that I do.” Mary always talks about being fortunate, which I love as it proves time and time again just how humble she is. Not only that, but the work she is doing is IMPORTANT and RELEVANT and it just so happens that being a woman in a field that is very much male-dominated is a bit of a plus! “To be honest, I think that my gender to this stage has given me an advantage. Because I am a woman I offer a different perspective and I think that is refreshing.” And her efforts have not gone unnoticed, “Another day that was really special for me was when the NRL finally announced its Women’s Competition last year. The announcement was made and I cried at my desk. Later that day I received a call from the NRL to say thank you for all I had done to contribute to that moment and announcement and it was truly one of the happiest day of my life. I cried for women like Kasey Badger who never had their opportunity, I cried for women like Ruan Sims who have waited so long for their opportunity and I cried for the next generation who I don’t know yet because they will get their opportunity. But mostly I cried because we finally got there.” Goosebumps. Right? RIGHT?
Mary repeated, “As I said earlier, I carry women in sport around me like a beacon of light.” Well Mary, I want you to know that I carry you around me like a beacon of light. So thank you, thank you for being my strength in moments throughout each and every day. Honestly, thank you.