Sports Illustrated and Empower Onyx highlight the diverse journeys of black women in sports – from veteran athletes to rising stars, coaches, executives and more – in the series, She-evate: 100 Influential Black Women in Sports.
If you asked Denise Jones to describe herself, she’d say she’s a sneakerhead and a fan of all things Los Angeles sports. She says her ability to talk and discuss anything with anyone is a secret weapon, which she uses in her myriad professional roles.
Jones is proud to be well-versed in many different roles in the sports media industry: on-air television host, sports personality, producer, writer, business developer and consultant are all roles she has held. busy. His resume features high profile clients like Nike, Adidas, Puma, Shoe Palace and many more. But more than anything, the young professional attributes her success to her ability to be malleable and hardworking.
“I understood the fun in what I do,” Jones says. “I thrive on deadlines. I thrive on those really grumpy moments that turn your stomach into knots…moments of excitement, moments of nervousness, moments of defeat. I find I feel most alive .
But to understand Jones’ feelings, you have to go back to his beginnings.
Growing up in Compton, Calif., some of his favorite moments growing up were the kid-friendly watch parties his family threw to watch legendary Los Angeles sports moments like the 2010 NBA Finals battle between the Lakers and the Celtics, Kobe Bryant’s 81-point game and the Los Angeles Kings’ Stanley Cup title in 2012.
“These are such important times for the city… You’ve seen the whole city literally bleed purple and gold,” Jones says. “You’ve really seen them kiss and you’ve seen them get serious together.”
Jones grew up in a close-knit family that emphasized sports and community. His father was one of his first coaches, while his mother attended most of his matches. The Jones family was bound by sports.
Basketball was Jones’ sport of choice, and the skills and mindset she acquired through the sport were immeasurable. “You have to understand what it’s like to juggle wins and losses, understand what it’s like to depend on yourself, understand what it’s like to work with a team,” she explains. . “It contains so many lessons that you can naturally apply to any field. If you’ve ever played a sport, you have things that can’t necessarily be taught, but more experienced…you’re naturally a different person because of that.
Another perk of her upbringing was listening to the variety of shows on POWER 106. Jones went to Huntington Park High School, and her commute was filled with daily talks from Liz Hernandez and Big Boy, as well as DJ Kool Aid. spinning the latest hits. The impact of this journey became evident years later when her mother suggested she turn to radio.
“I love to talk,” Jones says. “I can discuss anything with anyone anywhere… I listen to almost every show for days in a row and think they are talking about anything. That would be amazing, let me try.
After applying to almost every radio station in Southern California, Jones began an internship for independent gospel radio station KJLH, which was owned by Stevie Wonder.
“If you know radio, it’s so much work,” Jones says. “I was trying to be the first in and the last to do anything, events, programming and races. I learned so much while I was there.
Along with his radio internship, Jones was also working in a bank and going to school; those years laid the foundation for his love of the grind. Jones landed an internship at POWER 106 after his time at KJLH and worked at POWER for about five years. Eventually, she became the youngest producer on her nightly show.
After her time in radio, Jones began to focus on creating for herself and sharing her projects on social media. She has built relationships with All Def Digital, The Fumble Sports, The Young Turks; Jones broke through by hosting one of his first Nike functions. “It was really cool because one of my first interviews was with Devin Booker,” Jones said. “It was so much fun…it was one of the best interviews I’ve ever done because you really saw an athlete [persona].”
With those early events under her belt, doors began to open: she began forging relationships with companies like Dick’s Sporting Goods, Puma, Adidas and Wilson.
Now Jones has a job as a sports media host Lakers Nation and works on the fan engagement side with the Los Angeles Football Club.
“[Lakers Nation] is just a bunch of fans of the game,” Jones says. “Being able to come on board as a fan first was thrilling and exciting…this is my home team, what a full circle moment.”
During the NBA off-season, she works behind the scenes in business development with a number of organizations, including Jordan Brand and Cashmere.
Jones acknowledges that being professionally mobile and open to partnering with different types of businesses has been imperative in her career so far: “The biggest lesson and why I am where I am today is is because I was able to stay flexible,” she says. “I was able to really move and be flexible and pivot wherever it was. [needed].”
Alongside Jones’ starring roles, she works hand-in-hand with shoe retailer Shoe Palace to give back to the community through local LA girls’ clubs with their collaborative podcast called His catch.
“Community has always been very important to me,” she says. “I come from a family of six, including my grandmother. It’s always been a band everywhere we go…I want to make sure there’s always a band for everyone.
This year, Jones wants to encourage and connect women in sport through her WITS initiative. The moniker, which stands for #WomenInspiredThroughSports, is derived from Jones’ experience with the natural minds and intelligence of women involved in athletics. Launched in 2018, Jones’ goal is to create a space to connect women – and male allies – who have experience with sports and champion a community for them.
“I’m constantly surrounded by women who have overcome adversity,” Jones says. “Resilient and disciplined women; women who are leaders. They know the power sport brings to their character and whether they still play the sport as adults or not, the lessons they learned in competition are the ones that always stick with them.
So what drives Jones to keep working when she’s already accomplished so much? She says she wants others to enjoy her own adventures. She finds her motivation in the hope that she will have enough unforgettable moments to share with others in the future.
“I have a very close relationship with my grandmother, and I love hearing her recount things from the past and sharing those important moments,” she says. “I want to make sure that when I get to that age I have enough moments to share…I always want to have a cool story to tell.”
Pendergrass Flame is a contributor for Strengthen Onyxa diverse multi-channel platform celebrating the stories and transformative power of sport for black women and girls.