We the Game: Beija Velez

In this installment, we go behind-the-scenes with Beija Velez, a creative storyteller, focusing on modeling, designing, basketball, and more. 

 

Beija Velez works in the design, music, and modeling world, but she gets a lot of her creative energy from sports and basketball in particular. We caught up with Beija to feature her in our ongoing #WeTheGame story series. Check out the full Q&A below.

 

Where did you grow up, and what was your childhood like?

I was born in Atlanta, Georgia and grew up on the eastside, in DeKalb County. I was the second youngest of 5 children and lived with both of my parents and my great-grandfather at the time. Growing up, my parents had just enough to make ends meet, but despite having seasons of struggling financially, they always found room to support my dreams. May it be sports, designing, or making inventions, I grew up in an environment where I had the space to imagine, and a support system that wanted to help cultivate my dreams. A lot of people unfortunately don’t have the privilege of growing up while having a sense of hope and vision because they’re literally trying to survive. My foundation showed me how truly blessed I was to be able to believe I could be something. I was actually able to witness my crafts manifest into something so profound and divine. My childhood definitely contributed to who I am today, and how I approach all different aspects of my life now.

 

When did you first get introduced to basketball?

Prior to basketball I was a huge soccer player. I was so skilled at such a young age, I remember being like 7 years old playing against the 11-12 year old kids, and killing them on the field. One game, I got kicked so hard in my shin I immediately thought to myself, “Yup...that’s a wrap for me”. Towards the end of my time playing soccer I started hooping with the neighborhood boys in the cul-de-sac, and I was straight up embarrassing them. My second oldest brother Shaun would hoop with me outside, and seeing the way he played really inspired me to go harder and take basketball seriously. My parents eventually got me onto an AAU team, the Georgia Metros. We ended up winning the 10u national championship in Florida at Walt Disney Wide World of Sports, which is so hilarious and deep to me now that I think about it.

 

You had a scholarship to play in college, but gave it up. What was your process to coming to that decision? Did it scare you to make that call?

I had been offered a basketball scholarship my senior year of high school to play JUCO ball at East Georgia State in the middle of nowhere. Even before I got that scholarship, I didn’t want to go to college. I told my parents I wanted to immediately go into the workforce after I graduated, and start stacking money, so I could invest it into my designs. My parents told me to at least give college a shot and try it out. I hated it so much. I felt like a huge whale in a small pond, and I remember people would laugh at me saying I was dreaming too big thinking I could play basketball and also be a fashion designer. At the time, it was rare that those two worlds coexisted. No one had even really seen those types of multi-faceted creative lanes coexist the way they do now. Because of that, I can somewhat understand why people were so small-minded. 

I ended up dropping out of college after literally one semester, and I remember having the meeting with my coach to break the news to him. He was shocked. Coach told me to promise him that I’d finish college eventually because it was going to be very hard for me to excel in life as a woman without a college degree. His intentions were pure, and he genuinely wanted to see me flourish, but I’m so glad I followed my instinct to take that leap. I ended up leaving school so I could fully immerse myself in my brand BEIRIE. I wasn’t afraid at all. It felt right in my gut and all made sense in my head. I remember my parents were pissed off that I dropped out, and they thought I was throwing my entire life away. Now they understand I had a bigger purpose in life, and that was just another season that was supposed to be added to my story.

 
 
 
 
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Last day of 2019. This entire decade was me turning dreams into reality. Had a lot of people doubt me when I dropped out of college on a basketball scholarship & said I was chasing my vision to model, design, creative consult and style. 23 years old and checked all those off the list. Learned new parts of myself, tapped more into my duality, modeled for Rihanna’s @savagexfenty, @nike online campaigns and my face plastered in stores and billboards worldwide, had a lot of fun modeling and creative consulting with @converse, did a running campaign in Barcelona, Spain and designed my 1st shoe with @adidas, did on-camera hosting for @complex, some personal shopping for @ciara, interviewed @jbalvin, worked alongside the legend @usher and so much more. I’m from Decatur, Georgia man......posting this to show the next person that you too can have the capacity to imagine and materialize! This shit was not easy at all. Made a lot of money then went completely broke, one of my dearest friends @23lobo_noche passed away and it ripped my heart out, couldn’t walk for 2 years due to a foot injury...so many trials and tribulations. Experienced some of the highest highs and lowest lows....but that’s life. Enjoying the fruits of my labor now and beyond grateful to all of the amazing people that have endlessly supported me and sowed unto me. 2020 we going even harder

A post shared by Beija Marie Velez (@beijamvelez) on

 

Do you remember your first time being on-camera? What was that like?

Since I was young, my parents always filmed my basketball games, speeches that I had to do in elementary school for award ceremonies and a lot more. My first time having to do on-camera hosting though was in 2017. I was hot garbage. My homeboy Patrick Sanabria had just passed away in a tragic car accident on Christmas Eve of 2016, and it tore my heart out. He had just helped me get back on my feet after I got fired from a job and I felt like I had no purpose in life. I was about to throw in the towel. I remember him constantly telling me, “basketball is the answer”, and it really gave me a sense of hope again, then he lost his life shortly after that.

I went into a deep depression, and a couple of weeks after that Complex hit me up at the top of 2017 to do a screen test to be a news host. At that point I had just lost my friend, had $0 in my pocket and just said, “ F*** it, let me try.” (Complex had already hit me up like 5 times prior to this moment, and I declined because I was working with Usher at the time and couldn’t commit.) 

I remember clear as day how nervous I was to film, having absolutely no clue how to read a teleprompter and sound natural. I looked so stiff on camera and was talking like a robot. I hate thinking about it now because it was mad cringy, but slowly over time I got more comfortable and really started to get the hang of it. After my homeboy passed, he was obviously still weighing on my heart heavily. I recall having to cut in between shots while filming scripts because I would get really emotional and have to go to the bathroom to just cry and let it out.

Being on camera that year was crazy to say the least, but I’m just really glad that I said yes to that opportunity because it changed my life forever. It taught me a lot about being sharp, public speaking, and to always be prepared no matter what’s thrown at you. 

 

If there’s one thing that attracts you to basketball over other sports, what is it? What’s been the most rewarding experience you’ve gotten through basketball?

What attracts me to basketball, over other sports, is the mental space you need to remain in from that first whistle blow to that last buzzer going off. I love the upbeat pace of the game. I always felt like I was walking into a war zone and was so passionate about competing that I viewed the game as a life or death situation. I always put my heart on the floor, and personally, for me, basketball was the only sport that ever made me feel so alive.

The most rewarding experience I got through basketball was the hustle mentality. I remember one practice, my high school assistant coach, Coach Shugars, went off on us because we were slacking and being mad lazy. He said, “Why are y’all acting like y’all don’t care? You have one life to live, and you’re here now, so you might as well give your all.” The passion behind his voice really woke something up in me, and from that day forth I had it in my mind to show up on the court as the best version of myself every time. It impacted my overall mindset and how I approach life. Whatever I commit to, I’m giving my all, 110%. No questions asked.

 

Aside from basketball, you seem to have skills in just about every cultural pillar: fashion, media, design, modeling, hosting. Why branch out into so many spaces as opposed to focusing on just one?

Since I was a kid I always had my hands in so many different things. It’s impacted me as an adult, and it legit feeds my soul experimenting and exploring new spaces. For a long time, the societal norm was projected onto women that we have to be basic as hell. We need to cook, clean, and do the laundry and I’m defying all of that. Not only do I want younger girls to look up to me, but everyone, all genders, races, and ages. In hopes that they too can expand their capacity to imagine and pursue anything that makes them happy. 

I don’t think we were created to do just one thing and commit to it for the rest of our lives. Basketball gave me this “go-getter mentality”, and it’s had a ripple effect, touching my creative career now. I feel like at some point in their life everyone should try out something new. Even if you’re afraid, or you’re not gaining monetarily from it. Just do it because it teaches you new parts of yourself, and you never know what will manifest out of new beginnings. 

 
 
 
 
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Behind-the-scenes footage of me getting my body scanned/motion capture to have my own character in the NBA Live video game. I was still suffering from a 2 year old foot injury—not being able to walk—when I did all of this. Grateful is an understatement. I was just a kid from Atlanta so it’s still surreal to wrap my head around. You can swipe to see some of the process from calibrating my body suit, to face + hair scans. I want to thank everyone who has been endlessly supporting me and showing love playing as my character in the NBA Live Mobile game app. I’m up against @djsackmann next in the Influencer’s Tournament so make sure y’all vote for me to go to the Final Round. More coming soon @easportsnba @eanbalm #EASports #EAambassador #NBALive #NBALivemobile

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What’s your advice for young girls who see what you’ve been able to do and want to follow in your footsteps?

Don’t ever let anyone tell you, you can’t do something. I had so many people literally laugh in my face and tell me I wasn’t going to amount to anything. My freshman year of high school I got jumped by the basketball team, and it really made me feel like I wasn’t worthy and had no purpose. Someone I dated in high school laughed at me in my face, and told me my fashion brand was horrible, and I would never excel in that area. 

People who try and tear you down are battling their own insecurities and self-hatred will project that onto you because your potential is a threat to them.

If you want to do anything in life, go after it, be yourself, and don’t let anyone or anything get in the way. At the end of the day, you’re in control of you. Whatever lane you want to pursue, study the people in that field and the people who inspired them. Do your homework, believe in yourself, and remember that faith without work is dead.

 

Be sure to follow Beija Velez on Instagram and Twitter. For more #WeTheGame stories about the people, places, and culture of the game, follow @wilsonbasketball on Instagram. Check back here regularly for more exclusive full interviews with some of the brightest stars in the game.