Shows like Basketball Wives pulled the curtain back on the elusive partners of highly paid professional athletes. Along with that unfettered access, viewers were also granted space to form their own opinions of the glamorous women with privileged lives often seen standing behind their famous men. Subsequently, not all of the public’s sentiments over the years have been positive about WAGS (wives and girlfriends) however, and Telli Swift is well aware of this. But she knows her truth.
A trained nurse, Swift was raised in a military family, so public service was an integral part of her life growing up.
“I was a military brat, I moved every 3 years or so due to my father’s job,” she shared. Eventually, she put roots down in California and charted a path as an ER nurse, then pivoted to work into plastic surgery.
“My grandmother’s a nurse, so is my mother, I guess it chose me.”
She met her professional boxer fiancee’ Deontay Wilder in 2015 and although she’s fully devoted to the family they’ve created (eight children between the two of them), her own professional aspirations are a priority as well.
“I’ve always been a worker and my career means a lot to me,” she told ESSENCE. Swift runs a number of beauty ventures, including a recently launched unisex fragrance brand. Her tenacity is something she says has been met with confusion since her partner is a successful athlete. This underestimation just fuels her ambition, she said.
“I do believe that WAGS are stereotyped 110%,” she shared. “There are so many partners of professional athletes that work and don’t necessarily have to, but they choose to because their purpose aligns with it. I 100% understand that. It’s beautiful for women to be able to take care of themselves organically without having to depend on a man. I’ve always been taught that by my father. You should never need a man, but want a man.”
She said she signed on to co-star in the E! reality show WAGS in 2018 to help debunk those misperceptions and although the show was short-lived, her mark has endured.
Years later, she’s leveraged her popularity to launch a wildly popular non-profit, Boxing Wags Association to help raise funds for caretakers. To date, they’ve raised thousands that have gone to the support of breast cancer and spina bifida patients.
“I’ve been immensely blessed and it’s my mission to give back as much as I can,” Telli told ESSENCE. “I’m living a life of purpose and although my family comes first, my career is a close second.”