By Lacey Yahnke
Journalist, athlete, musician, advocate, inspiration.
These are just a few words used to describe Camilla “Pepper” Persley, a 10-year-old New Yorker who joined “On Her Turf at the Olympics” yesterday.
Yes, you read that right. Pepper is still a child, but she has already made a name for herself in the women’s basketball world. At the ripe age of 6 she began interviewing WNBA players, which evolved into writing articles, attending Zoom press conferences and gaining access to the sport’s top athletes four years later.
Pepper sat down with co-hosts MJ Acosta-Ruiz and Lindsay Czarniak to discuss her future, filled with dreams she is already living out in her present. (Full video of the roundtable segment is embedded above.)
“I have a lot of backup plans for my backup plans,” said Persley. “My number one [goal] is to be a WNBA player, turned reporter. So I guess a reporter, turned WNBA player, turned reporter again. Or I guess I could do it all at the same time.”
All at the same time is a bit of an understatement. Pepper manages the hectic schedule that elementary school often brings: school every day followed by basketball, softball, soccer, taekwondo or violin practices. Before bed she becomes a journalist and watches the WNBA teams that she hopes to one day play and report for.
Despite her youth, Pepper is a rising sensation because of her mature rapport, insightful questions and charming personality. She is already a change-maker and understands just how much representation matters for future generations.
“It’s really hard to imagine yourself being something [or] doing something without an example or standard set,” Persley explained. “It means the world that little girls, kids and just people in general see me and [say] ‘Oh, kids can do this as well. They can have a job [and] manage it [with] school and all the other things they might do.’”
Pepper knows there’s work to be done: the glass ceiling for women in sports – and especially women of color – is far from shattered. But she is progress. She is the moment. And she is a renewed hope for what’s come.
“It’s important [for] people [to] understand that it’s a possibility for kids [to] not only want to grow up and be something, but also try to make change [while] they’re still a kid.”
During the Olympics, you can also catch up on all of the major storylines in women’s sports by watching “On Her Turf @ The Olympics,” a 30-minute show that streams for free on Peacock. Hosted by Lindsay Czarniak, MJ Acosta-Ruiz, and Lolo Jones, the show streams Monday-Saturday at 7pm ET and Sundays at 6pm ET. It is also available as a podcast.