The Washington Mystics' Aerial Powers is pulling back the curtain on an unprecedented WNBA season
Powers has been posting YouTube vlogs about her experience in Bradenton, Florida, where all 12 WNBA teams will play this season.
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Washington Mystics guard/forward Aerial Powers will be on camera a lot over the next few months, both during WNBA games and in vlogs giving fans behind-the-scenes access. Photo credit: Domenic Allegra
Since arriving in Bradenton, Florida, for the 2020 WNBA season, the Washington Mystics have been prolific on social media. Forward Myisha Hines-Allen has been all over TikTok—“She loves TikTok. Every day it's like three new TikToks,” her teammate Essence Carson said—while guard/forward Aerial Powers has created several YouTube vlogs (video blogs) with her girlfriend, AzuréRae.
Powers started vlogging about her personal life a few months ago, following the success of her YouTube channel devoted to gaming and e-sports. “I was like, ‘I should do more personal stuff than just my gamer stuff because I know some people get into my gaming stuff [and] some people don't,’” Powers said at the team’s recent media day. “So everybody kind of likes to be like, nosy, I would say. In our business, like, ‘What's going on in the wubble [WNBA bubble]?’ and … we want you guys to know what's going on.”
On July 8, Powers and AzuréRae released their first vlog chronicling the trip from Washington to Bradenton and their first two days on-site. “I prayed over our luggage because, y’all … our suitcases are full to the top!” AzuréRae said before heading to the airport.
Luckily, there appeared to be no issues with the size or weight of their luggage, and they soon arrived at their home away from home in Bradenton. Their first Instacart order was less successful: they forgot to add pasta sauce to their order, and the blueberries they received were moldy. They were also facing a few more days of quarantine and daily COVID-19 tests for the foreseeable future. But all in all, “it’s been a good two days,” Powers said at the end of the 16-minute episode. “… We’re trying to get settled in, man. It’s nice out here.”
A day later, AzuréRae chronicled a day in her life in Bradenton, which included taking a COVID-19 test, putting some WNBA-provided Clorox wipes to good use, and Powers participating in a women’s e-sports event. AzuréRae admitted to some anxiety about coming to the WNBA site, saying that although the league was doing all it could to keep people safe, “I’m just a little nervous, honestly, because we are in a bubble with so many people. … I just want the best for everyone and no one to catch this because listen: the first case, I’m out.”
Day 5 in Bradenton was an important day for Powers because it featured the team’s first practice of the abbreviated training camp. She was well prepared, showing off a freezer containing nothing but ice bags, and enjoyed a breakfast of eggs and Eggo waffles before heading to the gym.
After practice, Powers asked several teammates how the session had gone and how they were feeling about the season. “At first, I was a little nervous because I didn’t know what to expect, but I mean, we’re here. There’s no turning back,” said Hines-Allen. Carson was excited: “We just ready to get this poppin’!” And newcomer Alaina Coates said that everyone on the team had been very welcoming and encouraging. “We make everyone feel welcome here at the Washington Mystics … it’s what we do,” Powers replied proudly.
Other things the team has done during training camp include playing the game Heads Up!, playing video games, having a team pizza night, and throwing a football in the driveway. The Mystics got adventurous with their pizza toppings, from Powers mixing hot sauce into her pizza sauce to point guards Leilani Mitchell and Shey Peddy putting avocado on their pizzas. Forward Emma Meesseman was partial to ham, while AzuréRae went with pineapple, mushrooms, and pepperoni. The avocado and pineapple toppings were loudly debated—but we also learned from Meesseman that Hines-Allen makes a delicious avocado salsa.
When some of the players ventured outside to throw the football around, Mitchell showed off a cannon of an arm. Coates displayed a strong arm, too, but had less success punting the ball. At least for the YouTube audience, football was interrupted when assistant coach Asjha Jones drove by on a golf cart and Powers chased after her.
“I just wanted to talk to you! It’s for the people!” Powers exclaimed. Turning to the audience, Powers said, “Y’all know who it is! … We got the G.O.A.T. [greatest of all time]!”
Powers asked Jones what she thought of the team’s first four practices. “I feel like it’s going great … Everybody’s going hard, energy’s there, and we’ll figure it out like we always do,” the Olympian and two-time WNBA All-Star replied. Powers said at the Mystics’ media day that she would try to get the head coach and general manager Mike Thibault on a future vlog—and that she would be sure to “hit him with some questions, too. Don't worry, I got you guys.”
Coming to YouTube soon: a recreation of this photo?? Powers spoke with Washington Mystics head coach and general manager Mike Thibault before a game against the Chicago Sky on September 8, 2019. Photo credit: Domenic Allegra
Several of the Mystics players spoke highly of Powers’s vlogs and Hines-Allen’s TikToks on media day. “I didn't expect everybody to be this goofy, but I'm just glad I get to be a part of it,” said Coates, who also wrote on Instagram that Hines-Allen is both “my new bestest bud” and “my new TikTok partner.”
Forward Tianna Hawkins agreed, even though she is not always comfortable being on camera. “[Powers] sometimes springs it on us randomly,” Hawkins said. “… When I see her, [I’m] just like, ‘Okay, let me get mentally prepared’ … but it's been cool. You can tell she's all into it.”
Carson added that the Mystics “let everyone be themselves,” and Powers’s vlogs and Hines-Allen’s TikToks are a great way for them to do that. “Basketball or just any sport, it is the dream job, right, but with that comes the ups and downs, the ebbs and flows,” Carson said. “Sometimes you're overly stressed; sometimes you’re relaxed. And with that, sometimes you need some laughter to balance things out.
“And AP and Myisha, they do a great job with that. And we love them for it. I would never tell them to stop; I want them to continue being themselves.”
Besides Powers, several other WNBA players have been vlogging from Bradenton, including Bella Alarie, Lexie Brown, Karima Christmas-Kelly, and Isabelle Harrison. These vlogs seem to be a win for all involved, giving players moments of levity and offering fans an unfiltered peek into a season where access and attendance are filtered like never before.