It's Finals week in the NBA and Alicia Jay Smith, Game Operations Manager for the Golden State Warriors, is team no sleep.
She slips her 6'6" frame into a sleek pair of black Alloy Apparel pants with a matching black boatneck tee––one of her go-to outfits for days when she lacks the time or energy to throw on something jazzier––and steps into her four-inch metallic pumps, bringing her towering frame just shy of seven feet.
Yeah. She's tall.
And if that isn't enough to make her stand out in a crowd, try throwing being a virgin into the mix. A 35-year-old virgin, that is. Not that she's boasting about it, nor is she pretending like she hasn't considered giving someone access to her cookie jar.
“I'll be honest with you. One of the reasons why I'm still a virgin is because I know once I start, it's going to happen constantly," she confesses.
“I want it to be with one person because personally I don't want to be with multiple people, but I know if I had started, that would be the case."
Today, Alicia speaks confidently about her decision to save herself until marriage. She openly shares her story and her struggles on her site Tall Swag, a fashion and lifestyle blog dedicated to her fellow long-limbed ladies. She even shot a pilot for Lifetime titled The Tallest Virgin in the World that dives into the real life of being a tall, single woman. But confidence isn't something that is developed in times of triumph, it's built in moments of struggle, and that's something that Alicia knows all too well.
Growing up in Portland, Oregon where the African-American population for the state hovers around 2 percent, Alicia's light skin and curly 'fro often became the source of ridicule from both childhood peers and adults alike. “I was called the N-word walking down the street in my neighborhood, and my PE teacher called me a black B-word," Alicia recalls. “My teacher used to bring me up in front of the class and tell people that I was terrible at spelling."
The racism didn't end at school, either. At home she was not only the darkest person on her block, but also on her mother's side of the family. When her father remarried, she caught heat for being too light. “Within some of my step-family specifically, [they thought] I was better than everybody else because I was whiter. So, I got [ridiculed] from both angles."
While her mom couldn't shield her from harsh criticisms, she could pour into her self-worth. The Smith household was Christian but not religious, and instead of forcing Alicia to attend church and practice abstinence, she taught her the value of being a woman and gave her the option to choose the path that she wanted to take in regards to her spiritual beliefs. "She laid them out and she said I can do this or I can do that," she recalls. "But when she talked about virginity and she talked about waiting for your husband, it was just something that I said, you know what, I do want to wait for my husband. I believe that whoever I marry deserves all of me and to share in all of that. So the church had an impact, but my mom really was the one that sparked this journey of virginity for me. I will always thank her, because I think when you force something on someone they rebel against it. And for her to give me the freedom to choose is the thing that was invaluable in my life."
Deciding that she was worth the wait was only half the battle. Taking a vow of purity not only cost her relationships, but also friendships from those unwarrantedly offended by her lifestyle choices to not have sex. She also doesn't drink, a decision she made after her older brother was killed in a drunk driving accident and watching her father battle with alcoholism. “There have been people that I thought were friends that could not handle the fact that I chose not to do certain things. When it comes to something like virginity or not drinking, I am not a judge of anyone. I want people to choose whatever they want to do and personal choice is a beautiful thing. But if you don't want to be my friend because of the choices that I make, I can't really complain about it because you weren't really a friend in the first place."
In high school being tall and being a virgin in a society where neither were positively embraced left Alicia with bouts of depression. To this day, parts of her past are still blacked out. It wasn't until attending college and joining the basketball team where she was surrounded by women striding securely in who they were that she began to view her height as a blessing instead of a curse. "I realized I'm not alone in this and it's actually an amazing thing to be tall. Over time I just looked around and said what am I doing? Why am I believing these lies that these people are telling me? Going forward, I grew in my confidence."
Finding power in her differences allowed her to embrace those who shared her commonalities. In 2007, she started her fashion blog for the tall in hopes to help others who struggled to find stylish threads. “Growing up, I wore boys' hand-me-down clothes because there was nothing for me. And to go from that to the resources that we have now is amazing."
As the site and positive responses grew, so did her voice and the courage to take the blog to new heights by speaking out on the more personal elements to her story, including the struggle with dating as a tall virgin. While her commitment to virginity is admirable, to some men, it's not necessarily desirable. “They think [virgins] aren't sexual people at all and that we don't like sex and that is not true at all. I just want to do it with one person."
Working in the NBA means that the players are off-limits, too, leaving her with those who approach her the wrong way or scaring off those who can't handle a tall woman who's comfortable in four-inch heels.
Despite the odds, Alicia is confident that it'll all play out in her favor. “It's another filter to find who he is," she says. "If someone can't handle confidence and they can't handle me waiting for them, they're not the person that I'm supposed to be with. I'm a firm believer that God leads him to you."
"If someone can't handle confidence and they can't handle me waiting for them, they're not the person that I'm supposed to be with."
But to keep it real, it gets hard. There are moments of impatience and questioning as to when her Boaz will come, especially since motherhood is something that she desires. "I'm imperfect, but at the end of the day, God does have everything planned out even before we're thought of. So all of these tests and trials are there to prepare me for what He has planned for me in the future."
She's not sitting around idly, though. When she's not beasting it on the sidelines at the games, she's walking in her purpose as a voice for those who need to be reminded of the beauty in their individuality, regardless of body type, race, or religious beliefs.
“It is okay to show the world who you are. It is okay to want to be something that isn't the societal norm. Overcoming the fear of being bold, you have to say no that insecure voice. That has helped me become the strong woman that I am."