“My American Idol”
My freshman year at UNC I was a cheerleader. One of the teams I cheered for was women’s basketball. The team was just returning off their 1994 NCAA Championship. Although I’d never been a fan of women’s sports, I immediately became mesmerized by the talent of the women. Tracey Reid, Marion Jones and senior Charlotte Smith (see left pic) led the team in a stellar season. Carmichael Auditorium would be packed with fans and I would be anxious and excited to flip down the entire basketball court to pump up the crowd.
One of my favorite memories was on December 4, 1994. The Tar Heels were playing NC A&T. It wasn’t expected to be a close game, but the athleticism of our girls was still supreme. And then I saw it happen. I was really there sitting in the front on the sideline. I watched Ms. Charlotte dunk a basketball in a game! This is the day that she became my ‘idol’. I watched her throughout the season with style and grace. Not only was she a talented athlete, but she was beautiful. She showed me that being dark skinned is a sexy, soulful thing. I watched gleefully as she accepted Player of the Year and then went on to play overseas and WNBA.
Being just a miniscule freshman I was often too scared to talk to her. Last week I traveled back to Chapel Hill to watch a UNC women’s basketball game. My cousin, senior Latoya Pringle (see right pic), currently is a 6’3 center for the team (obviously I didn’t get the height). And guess who is one of the assistant coaches? Charlotte! I became that young giddy kid again who was nervous to even see her see me looking at her. It brought back those memories for cheering for her over 13 years ago. But would she take a picture with me?
I waited like a groupie until after the game with my family. My cousin brought Charlotte out and said, “This is my cousin. She cheer–” Charlotte interrupted her and said, “I REMEMBER HER!” Hip hip hooray!! Fireworks went off in my head. We took our picture (she ducked down so I wouldn’t feel midget status) and life was good.
M.Y. January 2008