When WNBA champion and NBA commentator Candace Parker shared in December 2021 that she had not only been married for two years to Anna Petrakova but that they were also expecting a child together, it took a lot of people by surprise. The decision to share such a private part of her life was not one Parker took lightly. As she revealed in a recent interview with TIME, she only chose to do so to send a message to her daughter, Lailaa, 13, from her first marriage to former NBA player Sheldon Williams.
“I always tell my daughter to be herself. I always tell my daughter to be proud of who she is. And I always tell my daughter to speak for herself and speak up for those that she loves. And I can’t say that to her if I’m not doing it myself,” she shared. “I don’t want her to ever think that I’m ashamed or not proud of our family. That was a step that we had to take. But we had to take it on our own terms.”
In the interview, which also includes Petrakova, it’s noted that the couple’s relationship first began as a friendship when they played on the women’s basketball team UMMC Ekaterinburg in Russia. Things would eventually change between the two as late nights spent talking evolved into sharing a kiss and realizing they had feelings for each other. They didn’t see themselves marrying another woman though, so they tried to hide their growing affection.
“We literally denied it to ourselves for three years I think,” Petrakova said. “Then we just finally accepted it. That was a long, hard process.”
The pair would get engaged in 2019 and marry that December in front of 50 guests who had to keep their nuptials and their overall relationship private. But now things are out in the open (they also have a son named Airr they welcomed in February 2022). Now that it all is, Parker is grateful for the positive feedback she and Petrakova have received.
“I was always against ‘coming out’ because I felt like in this society, in this day and age, you shouldn’t have to do that,” says Parker. “Society had a way of putting this pressure on people to come out. And I don’t think it should be that way. I think there were a number of media members who knew about my family. And they supported it. They didn’t out me. Or they didn’t put pressure on me to expose my living situation.”
“We live in an oversharing world,” she adds. “You should be able to choose the parts of your life that you share and the parts you keep private. And I hope I was able to open up the door of conversations. And open up the door of how valuable it is to have support.”