Kayla Alexander An Inspiration of Everything Beautiful

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If kindness was a person, Kayla Alexander would have been her full name. We no doubt live in a world where chasing a dream seems to be a ‘survival of the fittest’ journey. Where it’s easy to become self centered and carried away by the things that should be carried. Regardless of all these ups and downs in our world, which can easily be used as an excuse not to show some little kindness here and there, Kayla has chosen not to thrive alone. How precious it is, when one doesn’t just rise, but also uplift others. This and more makes Kayla Alexander a total beauty, inside out.

She graciously combines being a basketball player, an illustrator, a speaker, a mentor and an entrepreneur. Kayla inspires us with how she looks out for the younger generation. This exceptional creative captures our heart with how she reflects her love for God in all of these capacities, and how she hinges all her achievements on Him. A rare kind she is, in all beauty, humility, brilliance and inspiration. This Olympian leaves us in awe with how she proactively find ways to be a problem solver in what you could best describe as ‘a million unique ways.’ It’s how she thinks deeply. Shows empathy. Reasons outside the box. It’s simply about how she turns everything she touches into gold!

Join us on this special issue-
As Kayla shares a truckload of inspiration on her odyssey to the Olympics, her journey as a creative, and everything in between:

We are in love with how you do not just breathe possibilities but also inspire others to do so. Can you please share a glimpse of how you began your journey as a basketball player and an illustrator?

As a kid art was always my first love, I always carried a pencil and paper around and would either draw characters for my made up books and movies, or I would draw outfits I wish I owned. I have been tall all my life and always struggled to find fashionable clothes that fit, so I would put my frustrations on paper through design. My parents noticed my love for art early on and would always buy me art supplies, sign me up for art camps and always encouraged my passion and love for art. In high school art and fashion were some of my favorite classes that I looked forward to taking every year. I distinctly remember in elementary school my teacher had a laminating machine that she would let us use. So I would create bookmarks with cute characters on them, laminate it to give it a professional look and then sell them to my classmates.
Basketball entered my life in the seventh grade when one of my good friends (who is now my business partner) Nicole Murphy invited me to a basketball tryout. I was standing 5’8 at 12 years old so she asked me to join her at the try out. Not knowing what I was getting myself into I agreed, and long story short I was terrible. I was bricking layups, playing hot potato with the ball and had no skill. What I did have going for me was my height, my athleticism and eagerness to learn. I’ll never forget the day they announced the final roster, I was selected to the team to I’m sure everyone’s surprise. My coach said: Kayla, I can’t teach height, but I can teach you the game of basketball. They took a chance on me, and I am incredibly thankful because God used basketball to shape and change my life in ways I never thought possible.

How do you effortlessly combine being a basketball player (an Olympian), an illustrator, a speaker, a mentor, an author and an entrepreneur?

I don’t know if I would call it effortless, there have been many times where I have felt a bit overwhelmed. However, I’ve learned over the years it’s all about balance and time management. The Lord has blessed me with a lot of different interests and gifts and I always knew I wanted to explore them all. Most people know me as an athlete, but I am so much more than that.
God gave me basketball, a sport that he used time and time again to teach me and bring me closer to him. Through this sport I discovered FCA (fellowship of Christian Athletes), met my spiritual Momma as I call her (Ms Betsy), was baptized, met incredible people and have seen the world. Through basketball I was able to receive a free education, earn a living, and learn valuable life skills such as discipline, sacrifice, time management, hard work, communication skills, teamwork and so much more. Basketball also gave me the platform to explore my other gifts and passions.
Using my basketball platform, and the life lessons it’s taught me I wrote my Children’s book “The Magic of Basketball.” I wrote this book with my sister Kesia, because I believe in the power of sports because I’ve seen the impact it has had in my own life. I wanted to inspire young kids to believe in themselves, to dream big and not be afraid to put in the work for what they want. Through writing this book I was able to use one of my other gifts – art, to create all the illustrations.
If you ask any of my family members what I always wanted to be as a kid, they always say a teacher. I always knew I wanted to teach and work with kids. I had the best grade 1 & 2 teacher, Mme Cossette, and wanted to be just like her. Then basketball entered my life and everything changed. The passion for kids never went away, so I am so thankful that I can still mentor young girls through a program called NBYMP (National Basketball Youth Mentorship Program). I am able to encourage, give advice, share my faith, listen and in a way teach – it’s just not in the traditional sense.
I’ve had the entrepreneurial mindset ever since I was a little girl. From designing clothes I wish I owned, selling bookmarks as a kid, offering custom illustrations for purchase online, to writing my book, I always knew I wanted to create and build my own business. So when my friend Nicole called me one day complaining about her shopping woes – that I very much related to, Tall Size was soon born.

Tall Size is the first ever marketplace designed for tall women to shop for clothes and shoes that will fit their bodies. No longer do we have to settle for flood plants, resort to the mens section or scour the web for hours in hopes of discovering a tall clothing brand. Now thanks to Tall Size, women can shop a variety of tall brands all in one place, on shopping cart! We aren’t even a year old yet but I am so proud of what we’ve built so far. And the best part is, we are just getting started. We currently serve women in Canada and the USA but we have plans to eventually go global. We want to be the go to destination for tall women.

We see how you unashamedly reflect your love for Jesus alongside all the many hats you beautifully wear. At Hello ICON Magazine, we believe and agree nothing can substitute the place of God in the life of every human. Beyond religion. Beyond depression and even the happy times. Beyond failure and even success. There will always be that void until one finally connects, maintains and sustains a personal relationship with God. Can you please share some highlights of how you connected with God on a personal level for the first time? And how you have maintained that relationship overtime.

I grew up in a Christian household, so I was introduced to God at an early age. I always knew of him but I don’t think I truly understood what it meant to know him and have a personal relationship with him until I was much older. There are a few examples that come to mind.
The first was in college. Our FCA leader Nathan Bliss was teaching on how you can’t work your way into heaven. He shared how if someone had come to know the Lord at the end of their life, truly believed and repented they would be saved. When I heard this, my reaction was anger. Why on earth would I be mad about this? Because I didn’t understand that salvation was a gift from God that couldn’t be earned. I always lived in a way where I was trying to make sure my good always outweighed my bad. I was trying to earn my way into heaven. So when Nate explained this, I asked why should I bother trying to live this good and perfect life. If God accepts all, I can do my own thing and then come to him later in life after I had my fun. I had to learn that if I truly was saved, loved God and had a relationship with Him, my heart would be transformed. I wouldn’t live a good life because I had to but because it pleases God and I wanted to please him. For me that was when the transformation truly started to begin. I also started getting into His word, reading about who God was and understanding His nature. Throughout my life God has constantly revealed Himself to me in a variety of ways, and I am so thankful for his patience, forgiveness, his discipline and endless love.

 


Dreams. We believe every creative has a dream. Aspirations and goals that give us utmost fulfillment when we reach them. As a creative, how would you best describe your ‘dream life.’

I’ve always been a big dreamer, don’t get me wrong I’m a realist, but when you serve a mighty God, He allows you to dream big dreams. In many ways I’d like to say I’m living my dream life. I get paid well to play a sport I love, that allows me to travel the world, meet incredible people and have new experiences. My family always likes to remind me that I’m living in LalaLand and not the real world.
It was always a dream of mine to be a published author and illustrator, to put on an all girls basketball camp (I’m finally doing that this summer), to build and own a business (I’m currently doing that with my friend and sister) and to teach (I’m doing that through my mentoring). What I’ve learned while accomplishing my dreams, is that your dream life will require a lot of sacrifice, dedication, consistency, hard work, failure, patience and more. The dream life doesn’t just happen it’s built!
And as I accomplish one dream, I’m always thinking up a new dream a bigger dream. What I want my life to look like, the impact I would like to have, the things I would like to experience and accomplish. As I continue to look at the future I would like, I know that I want to have an impact on those around me, use the gifts God gave me and glorify him in the process.

 

How was growing up like?

I had a great childhood. I grew up in a Jamaican household with parents who loved the Lord. Although my parents were strict, they were fair, loving and sacrificed a lot for me and my younger siblings. I believe I had the capacity to dream big and go after everything I want in life because of the support of my parents and siblings. My parents created an environment at home where we were encouraged to try new things. My parents instilled the values in me that I have today, in how I try to conduct myself and live my life.

What does Art mean to you?

To me art is a form of expression, a way to communicate. In my opinion there is no right way to art. Art is simply your creativeness on display. I see art expressed through paintings, fashion, dance, architecture, even through sport! The ultimate creator is God, and if you look around you constantly see his work (art) on display. Whether through his people, a breathtaking sunset, the variety of animals and insects that roam the earth to the sound of a bird chirping. Art is everywhere.

As cofounder of -‘Tall Size’ please share more on the drive behind the awe-inspiring space.

I’m 6’4 tall, my friend Nicole is 6’0 and my sister Kesia is 5’10. I remember we were on the phone discussing our shopping woes – the difficulty in finding fashionable jeans that went to our ankles and fit our hips, or finding long sleeve shirts that covered our wrists. That’s when we decided to do something about it. Originally we thought about just starting our own clothing line, but as we did more research we realized that there were tall clothing brands that exist, they’re just hard to find because they are online, and are small owned businesses. So to begin, we compiled all the tall brands and tall friendly brands that we could find across the globe and organized it onto one website. A woman simply had to put in the country she was shipping to and what she was looking for, and our site filtered out all the possible options available to her. The feedback we heard was that this was helpful, but that our shoppers wanted all the products available to shop in one spot instead of linking out to multiple stores.
That is how tallsize.com was born, the first ever marketplace designed for tall women to shop clothes and shoes designed for their bodies from multiple brands. We partnered with close to twenty different tall brands to list their items on our website. Tall women can now shop jeans and pants that go as long as 41 in, maxi dresses that actually hit the ground, shoes that go up to a size 15, and so much more. Tall women can also shop with ease knowing that the clothes that they are viewing will actually fit their bodies. Although tall women naturally stand out in the crowd, they often feel invisible and forgotten by the fashion industry. As a result many tall women struggle with self confidence, don’t feel feminin in the clothes they wear and feel like they have nonsense of style. That is why we do so much more than “sell clothes”. We write blogs with tips and outfit inspirations, we show women how to measure their bodies for best fit, and we even created the Tall Size Style Quiz to help tall women discover their personal styles.
Even though we are a marketplace for tall women to shop clothes and shoes, we are so much more. We are building community, and trying to uplift our fellow tall women. We currently service women in the USA and Canada, with the goal to serve all the incredible tall women across the globe.

You can follow Tall Size on Instagram and Tiktok!

As coauthor of the book- ‘The Magic of Basketball’ what will you consider your biggest joy on this masterpiece in terms of its impact and reach? On your debut book we also love how the cover was illustrated by you (just as we do our cover pages) Any specific reasons on your decisions for having an illustrated cover?

The Magic of Basketball is a book I’ve wanted to write for a while – so finally having it out in the world for young kids to literally touch, hold and read is still surreal to me even three years later. The best comments are when readers and parents say that the book inspired their child to play sports, or to write out their dreams and goals, or taught them valuable life lessons.
I wrote this book for a number of reasons. First I wanted to show young girls and boys the power of sports. Sports teaches us so many valuable life skills that go way beyond the basketball court (discipline, hard work, time management, confidence, etc). Sports also demands a lot of us, but gives so much in return (friendships, education, healthy lifestyle, travel). The second reason I wrote the book is because I wanted to combine my love for kids, teaching, art and sports, and a Children’s book was the perfect avenue to do so. I also want to note that this book wouldn’t exist today if it wasn’t for my sister Kesia. She helped me perfect the book and was the one whose idea it was to make it a rhyming book.
As far as the illustrations, as I mentioned before, I absolutely love art. I enjoy drawing, so I used an app called Procreate on my iPad to do all the illustrations. If you notice, the main character is a little black girl. This is intentional. One, this book is literally about my life journey with the game of basketball. Two, there are not a lot of children’s books where a little black girl with natural hair is the main character, let alone the main character who plays sports! This representation was super important for me. Young kids, especially little girls need to see different examples on display of what they can aspire to be.

 

Creatives have been described as ones with the ability to feel things deeply. Living in a world full of so much chaos and uncertainties can no doubt be ‘a lot.’ In between all, we are grateful for creatives like you whose words shine a light in dark places(in the lives of people) Do you have quick tips for other creatives out there afraid to use their Art for just purposes. Perhaps unsure of what people may think. Or probably struggling with self doubt?

If I’m being completely honest, one of the reasons it took me so long to write and publish my Children’s book was due to fear. Fear of wondering whether my book would be good enough. If people will enjoy it, want to read or buy it. If the illustrations are good enough. I had to learn to let go of that fear, and just be obedient in what was on my heart- which was to share this book with an important message with the rest of the world.
So my advice to creatives out there is to put your work out there! As Nike says, just do it! If you wait for perfection, you’ll never do it. If you know God has put something on your heart to share with the rest of the world, be obedient and watch Him bless it.
Also, failure is what you make it. It can either be something that kills your confidence (a choice) or it can be something that teaches you and propels you forward (also a choice). At the end of the day it’s all about perspective. As long as you give your best effort, and are proud of what you have created, put it out in the world. Will everyone like what you create? No, but the right ones, the people who it’s meant for, will love and appreciate it.
Last but not least, the goal is to always glorify God and do His will. If He’s telling you to do something, do it!

We all have that unique story of finding a light at the end of various tunnels of our lives. Those moments when it feels like our backs are against the wall. But we believe one thing remains constant in the end- the undying and never failing love of God. What we like to describe as the one true source of strength, joy and fulfillment. Can you please share some glimpses of any moment like this for you? The challenge and how God came through for you.

The moment that stands out most for me was my journey to the Olympics. God used this journey to mature me, strengthen my faith and trust in His plans and ultimately as a story that can hopefully encourage others.
One of my dreams was to be an Olympian, and represent Canada at the highest level playing the sport I love. The first time I tried out for the Canadian Senior Women’s basketball team was in 2012. I did not make the team. I tried out again in 2014 (I think), and was cut again. At this point I was frustrated and hurt so I decided to stay away from team Canada for a bit and focus on my wnba and overseas career. However, that dream of one day representing Canada kept calling my name. So once again in 2018 I tried out for the team, and made it! That year the team would be competing at Worlds. Unfortunately my joy was short-lived. A week later we had two exhibition games in the USA ahead of the world tournament and I ended up tearing my MCL. This injury was heartbreaking, and I cried hard.
I would do my rehab and come back to full strength 2 months later, but I would miss out on worlds. The following year was the beginning of the qualifying tournaments for the Olympics, starting with the fiba Americup. During this tournament I played well for Canada, but in the semi finals game against Brazil I injured my knee again. This time my MCL and PCL. Rehab took much longer this time and I would miss the second qualifying tournament that we played in. I continued my rehab and made it back to full health just in time for the final Olympic qualifying tournament and would help Canada qualify for their third straight Olympics! The year of the Olympics, COVID happened so the Olympics were postponed a year. The following year in 2021 I would finally see my dream come true… nearly nine years later.
I share this story because God taught me so much during this process. He taught me patience, even during difficult times. I learned to give up control and only control the controllables. I couldn’t change my situations, but I could change my mindset, I could trust that God saw the bigger picture, I could trust that he had a plan for me that I did not yet understand.
He showed me my weaknesses. The first time I was cut from the team I was not good enough. There were so many elements to my game that I needed to work on and improve. The rejection was redirection, to the path of improvement.
God also used my injuries and setbacks as an opportunity to encourage/ inspire others. During this time I learned to be joyful and trust in the Lord. I had a positive outlook, which when asked about I gave all the glory to God. It was an opportunity to share my faith and made my situation not about me, but about God.

We understand how balancing work time and rest time is a struggle for many Creatives. Please can you share a few tips on how you try to balance work time and rest time?

As an athlete, you quickly learn that if you want to perform at the highest level, rest and recovery is key. And this stands true in all aspects of life, balance is key. Even the Lord rested on the seventh day, and He is almighty all powerful. We are but mere human beings. So if the Lord rested, we need to rest as well.

Burnout is also real. You can absolutely love what you do, but end up being miserable if you don’t have balance. That happened to me while playing ball. I had gone years, going non stop from one season to the next with little to no rest and down time. I was so exhausted mentally, physically and emotionally that I could not perform and had a breakdown. That was a valuable lesson- that I unfortunately had to learn the hard way about the importance of rest, but more importantly listening to my body.
Rest is good, it allows our bodies to heal and recover. It allows you time to get clarity and new perspective, and re-energizes you. For me a healthy and balanced lifestyle includes getting consistent and good nights sleep, eating healthy, staying active and spending quality time with the Lord, my loved ones (friends and family) and in nature. There is something about God’s creation that inspires me, sparks creativity and truly allows me to unwind.
Lastly, I think hobbies are important too. It’s great to have your passions, and love what you do, but hobbies that allow you to unwind, serve others, or even challenge you in a different way are an important part of a balanced lifestyle – at least for me.

What would you consider most fulfilling about being a basketball player?

The impact I am able to have. I love that through this sport I can inspire and encourage others. Basketball has allowed me a platform that I otherwise might not have, so I try my best to use it for good, and to help others.

If you could do a collab as an illustrator with any other artist, what art would that be?

Two illustrators I absolutely love include Vashti Harrison and Holly Nichols. I absolutely adore Vashti’s work, her art, her style, all of it! It was actually Vashti and Holly who inspired me to start doing art through the app procreate on my iPad!

Who are your ‘ICONS’ in the Creative Industry?

My “ICONS” are people who are authentic and true to themselves, those who push limits and aren’t afraid to try something new, who refuse to be put into a box, are examples of excellence on display and love what they do!
Some examples include:
Vashti Harrison, I love what she’s created in her books, stickers, characters, always putting beautiful brown characters on display
Holly Nichol, She is an example of someone who created a career for themselves through their art.
Beyoncé, to me she is excellence personified, when you look at her performances, her attention to detail, the heart and soul she puts into everything she does, very few can compete with her level of execution. She also is not afraid to express herself through her music which I can appreciate.
Rihanna, I appreciate her fearlessness, how she went into a saturated makeup industry and made it inclusive. She also wasn’t afraid to step away from what was safe, to explore a new passion.
Lisa Leslie, Stephen Curry, Maya Moore, LeBron James, Serena Williams, although these four are athletes, their art was how they played on the court. However what inspires me most about these athletes is that they refuse to be seen as just athletes, they are so much more. They are business people, family people, creatives in so many ways beyond their sport.

What does success mean to you?

To me success is living a life that glorifies God, being able to say I am able to make a living doing something I am passionate about, while having a positive impact on those around me and enjoying God’s creation. Success to me is knowing that I used the gifts God gave me, that I was obedient and He was able to do all the great things he wanted through me during my time on this earth.

Let’s go a little poetic: If poetry is a rainbow and you have a choice of one color in that pallette, what would that be and why?

Blue! I love the color blue! Blue is so calming, like the ocean and the skies. Those who know me often say I have a calm and easy going demeanor. I like blue because it reminds me of God and his creation. For example, when you look at the sky, the blue changes color from sunrise to sunset, and when other colors mix in, it’s breathtaking. Same with the water, the ocean and sea can be and sound peaceful. At the same time the waves of the ocean can be unpredictable and terrifying. It’s a reminder of God and his nature. All powerful, He is the one that controls the skies and the waters.

Please briefly tell us something we do not know about Kayla Alexander.

I have played professional basketball around the globe, and will be returning to France to play in the Fall.
I am a proud Canadian.
I am a big journaler, during my quiet time I like journaling /writing out my prayers and thoughts to the Lord.

Massive Love Kayla!

The ICONIC Team

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