Louisiana State University has known great basketball players like Shaquille O’Neal and “Pistol Pete” Maravich, but the LSU Tigers—and basketball fans in general—have never seen anyone like Angel Reese. The six-foot-three-inch playmaking forward led the school’s women’s team past fellow phenom Caitlin Clark’s Iowa Hawkeyes this year to the program’s first NCAA national championship.
Reese, a Harper’s Bazaar Icon for 2023, possesses a mix of on-court talent and off-court charisma that’s palpable. At 21, she’s already a star—and one likely headed to the WNBA at a time when women’s basketball is exploding in popularity. (For more on our 2023 Icons, including cover stars Kendall Jenner, Doja Cat, and Paul Mescal, click here.)
My biggest priority right now is just being me. My goal is to play in the WNBA, but I also have aspirations to be a model, just being able to tap into both sides. A lot of people don’t see women’s basketball players being able to do both. I want to push that new narrative of being able to be cute off court but when you get on the court, just being able to ball.
I’ve always been confident. I am unapologetic. I stay firm on what I believe in, and, being a Black woman, I can do whatever I put my mind to. When I was younger, I knew basketball was going to be my avenue of getting through life and getting to college.
I don’t have time now to do anything that doesn’t make sense. I don’t get as much sleep as I used to, and I don’t have much free time, so if I do make time for you, then obviously you’re important to me.
I love being able to see the little girls that look up to me, who are inspired by me. I didn’t know how many people that I had inspired and touched, but now it feels like every time I go out somewhere, everybody actually recognizes me. Even men. Usually, men don’t really respect women’s basketball. But just to be able to say, “You inspired me …” It’s guys saying that! Even older women saying, “You’re speaking out about things that I was scared to speak out about.” And people who haven’t had a voice … being able to use my platform, my voice, to talk and touch the people who don’t have a voice.
I want to get another national championship. That’s my biggest thing [with] college, just walking out national champion and getting a degree. Then going into the WNBA. I hope that there will be more teams so that everybody has an opportunity, because there are so many great players and they currently only have 144 [roster spots] in the league. I want the WNBA to grow. So hopefully, by the time I and Caitlin Clark and all these other players go out, there will be opportunities for others to get on a team.
This interview and the photo shoot were conducted before the SAG-AFTRA strike.
A version of this article appears in the September 2023 issue of Harper’s Bazaar, available on newsstands August 29.