We're celebrating International Women's Day (IWD) all month long by featuring some of the incredible women on the Superfeet ambassador team. This year's IWD focus is #ChooseToChallenge, encouraging people to celebrate women's achievements while raising awareness about gender bias. Read on to learn more about military vet turned beauty queen, Superfeet Ambassador Athena Fleming, and her experience. Follow Athena on Instagram: @athena.fleming.
Tell us your story.
I was named after the goddess of love, war, wisdom, and arts and crafts. It feels like a lot to live up to but I do my best. I'm a public relations professional and graduate student living my best life in Los Angeles. My shetland sheepdog, Cowboy, and I love taking road trips and once drove from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean making stops at every tourist destination along the way. I highly recommend Dollywood!
What or who inspires you?
I'm inspired by my twin brother Curtis who has Down syndrome. We take turns cheering for each other when he is competes in Special Olympics and when I'm on the pageant stage.
I love roller skating! I find so much joy out of rolling the streets while listening to my favorite tunes. I'm sweating and exercising while having the time of my life. During the pandemic I decided to start learning some cool dance moves on my skates too. I feel like Christy Yamiguchi in my head but probably look more like a woman with a mid life crisis to others, lol.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
My proudest accomplishment is enlisting in the military. The four years that I spent in the Coast Guard were life changing and I'm a proud veteran who advocates for women veterans rights in my state and nationally.
Do you have a Spotify playlist or a favorite song you'd like to share?
When I need a confidence boost because I'm going to roller skate in public and try a new move I put on Not Shy by Twice. I love listening to KPop when I exercise because it makes me want to move and usually has a great positive vibe.
What is your favorite Superfeet?
My ME3D personalized insoles. I love being a Superfeet Ambassador because I really believe in this company. I have a service-related injury on my right foot and finding the right insoles has improved my quality of life and allowed me to be active again.
Have you ever felt like you have had to check your authentic self at the door?
As an Black woman I have often felt like I had to check my authentic self at the door. I not only have to code-switch, I have to gender-switch because I was told that being a feminine and passionate woman was too much and would make others uncomfortable. However, I am proud of the woman that I am and I understand that I am not for everyone and cannot make everyone happy. I've learned how to communicate my authentic self so that I no longer have to hide it away.
Has someone assumed you could or could not do something because of your gender?
When I was in the military my first duty station was concerned that I would be unable to keep up in the filthy engine room. I had to clean sewage and dirty boat bilges, as well as lift heavy things. It didn't take them long to discover that what I lacked in upper body strength I made up for with creativity and that being a woman actually had everything to do with my success in the Coast Guard.
Have you ever felt excluded from a conversation, situation, process, or decision because of your gender?
I currently work in government communications and I often have to help manage conflict and crisis communications. Unfortunately, I have had to say I told you so on a few occasions because others thought I was over exaggerating or just being too emotional.
Have you ever felt shame or inadequacy because you didn’t live up to expectations placed on you because of your gender?
I feel really lucky to have been raised by Mom and her wife. They both taught me to be unapologetic about my heritage and gender. I learned early on that while I cannot control the situation, I can control my reactions to it. I've always just felt sorry for anyone who didn't understand the beauty of girl power and wanted me to feel shameful about something that makes me unique and valuable to the world.