Mo’ne Davis is on fire. Not her baseball pitch, but her brand.
Eight months after the 13-year-old’s 70-m.p.h. arm helped take Philadelphia’s Taney Dragons to the Little League World Series, Davis is the inspiration behind a line of high-top sneakers and silicone watches. She’s got a biopic in process for the Disney Channel, HarperCollins published her 191-page memoir in late March, and the April issue of Seventeen magazine features the tidy South Philadelphia bedroom — complete with zebra-print sheets — that Davis shares with her little sister, Mahogany.
And Davis and Tulsa Shock point guard Skylar Diggins introduced pop stars 5 Seconds of Summer to millions of youngsters tuned in to the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards during the last weekend in March.
“It’s cool,” Davis said, nonchalantly, peering from behind black-rimmed Ray-Bans. “There are some fun things like meeting some of my favorite celebrities.”
Add these recent image-building coups to Davis’ already substantial optic moments — starring in a Spike Lee-directed commercial for Chevrolet, landing a Sports Illustrated magazine cover, and being crowned the Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year — and you’ve got a Philly-bred girl on her way to Grace Kelly status.
But unlike our East Falls’ princess, Davis has the power of today’s social media (she even gets tweets from FLOTUS). And with the effective management of her mother, stepfather, and personal advisers, she may one day sit at the helm of a lifestyle and entertainment brand as recognizable as Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen.
“She’s more than just a great baseball player,” said Davis’ coach Steve Bandura, who, since she pitched those two shutout games in a row, has been fielding requests for appearances on talk shows from Good Morning America to Jimmy Fallon. It was also through Bandura that Davis was photographed by fashion photographer Albert Watson for the November “Women who Dare” issue of Harper’s Bazaar.
“She’s being chosen because of what she represents — an inner-city, African American girl who is accomplishing so much and breaking barriers.
“Every time you think, or hope, it’s going to die down, she pulls something else and it starts all over again,” Bandura said, weary but excited.
Although Bandura still funnels some requests, Davis’ A-lister appearances are now being handled by Los Angeles-based Dolores Robinson, who was introduced by Earvin “Magic” Johnson at the September Dodgers game where Davis threw the first pitch. The Philadelphia native and mother to actress Holly Robinson Peete steered the careers of actors Martin Sheen, Michael Clarke Duncan, and Wesley Snipes in the 1980s and ’90s.
“I’m taking what I know about show business and applying it to this spectacular little girl,” Robinson said. “It’s not that much about baseball anymore; she’s just so inspirational. I went to the People’s Choice Awards with her, and you never saw so much fuss that people were making.”
Robinson’s challenge is to take advantage of Davis’ star power, yet maintain her status as an amateur athlete: Davis has said she wants to play for the women’s basketball team at the University of Connecticut.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association would not disclose the monetary limit that would disqualify Davis from college sports, but the organization did have to sign off on the Chevy commercial and the Disney Channel project.
“Everything she does has to be approved through the NCAA,” said Robinson, noting that all of Davis’ earnings have been put in a trust. “The calls keep coming in from everywhere: hair companies, baseball equipment, lines of toys.”
In the fashion and lifestyle world, the potential for a Mo’ne Davis is endless.
Brands from Dove to Philly-based Free People continue to create advertising campaigns focused on “real” women, and the curvy, yet muscular, models they want often are athletes — they aren’t too thin, and clothes hang well on them. This month, Serena Williams, in a turquoise sheath showing off toned arms, became the first African American female athlete to grace the cover of Vogue magazine.
At 5 foot 4 and 105 pounds, Davis has the same modelesque look, one that could appeal to brands as feminine as Kate Spade or as sports-focused as Nike. (And speaking of, Davis is a sneaker-head herself, owning more than 100 pairs, according to her mother, Lakeisha McLean.) And she’s got a sizable amount of girl power that she has no problem expressing.
“Just be you,” Davis said when asked whether she had any fashion advice for girls her age. “Don’t let anyone judge you — and even if they don’t like what you are wearing, keep wearing it. You don’t have to impress anyone.”
Davis, a nail-biter, likes the style of Disney actress Zendaya Coleman, recently in the news for her faux locks that sparked controversy on E’s Fashion Police. (Davis’ beautiful braid extensions have since been removed, and her natural hair is now in a shoulder-length blowout.)
Her reputation for compassion is a plus, too. In late March, Davis asked Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania to reinstate one of its varsity baseball players after he tweeted an insult about her and was subsequently dropped from the team.
“She is who she is,” said Priscilla Sands, president of Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, the private school that Davis attends on scholarship. “When she comes down the hall, I see her yelling at her friends to wait up — like an everyday kid, not one who got back from Nickelodeon. She has the ability to be where she is completely.”
That’s why her new sneaker collection was such a natural collaboration, said Steve Reynolds, president of the burgeoning philanthropic shoe line M4D3.
“Mo’ne is a perfect fit,” Reynolds said. “She’s a role model. She’s synonymous with girls’ empowerment.”
The Mo’ne Davis shoe will be available in June on the M4D3 website; $11 from each $75 sale will go to the “Because I’m a Girl Initiative” of Plan International USA. The nonprofit donates money to organizations that help poor girls globally.
Davis will have a chance to travel as the face of M4D3’s baseball-stitched high-top. And Reynolds, a 25-year veteran of the shoe industry, anticipates the New York-based company will donate in the “six-figure range” to the initiative. Davis, however, will not be paid.
Davis also won’t get compensated for her collaboration with Ambler-based JoyJoy! watches.
But $45 of the $70 set — one watch head and three interchangeable bands — will go toward refurbishing the baseball field at the Marian Anderson Recreation Center, where Davis got her baseball start. Brett Pulli, owner of JoyJoy!, hopes to raise at least $90,000 for the Mo’ne Davis project.
Award-winning author Hilary Beard, who spent nearly seven weeks getting to know Davis while writing Mo’ne Davis: Remember My Name, described the girl as shy and reserved. But Davis, she said, also had an “it” factor.
“We know Mo’ne for sports now, but we may know her as a CEO, you know?” Beard said. “When I think of the brand of Mo’ne, I’m thinking what we see today is just the tip of the iceberg.”
By Elizabeth Wellington
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