Santia Deck: Full Speed Ahead
Santia Deck has been chasing her dream ever since she was just a little kid. Two years ago, she became the highest-paid woman to play professional football, signing a multimillion-dollar deal with the Women’s Football League Association (WFLA). Her talents aren’t limited to the field, either. She’s also a published author, a fitness model, TV personality and host, and social media influencer with hundreds of thousands of followers. And now she’s made history again as the first Black female athlete to own her own sneaker company, TRONUS. She’s keeping her eye on the prize.
Santia Deck grew up playing football and just having fun with her three brothers in Houston. Little did she know this was actually the start of something really big. “It’s kind of crazy how things come around, and now I’m doing it professionally,” she says.
As a self-described tomboy, she says she went along when her brothers went to football camps or training, and, in high school, she trained for track and field with her brother, her training buddy. He was always a bit faster, she adds, but it gave her an opportunity to do drills that most women don’t get to do until college, if that. She won a full track-and-field scholarship to Texas A&M University-Kingsville and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English and literature, writing a book, The Struggle (CreateSpace Publishing), to shed light on child abuse and give hope to those who are on a healing journey.
But, even in school, she knew she wanted to encourage other girls and young women, too, in their own fitness journeys, and she started posting videos of her track workouts. Viewers started commenting, focusing on her abs. “So, that became my thing,” she says. “I was doing cross-promotion with other influencers. Everyone would always say, ‘Follow her, check out the track athlete with the ripped abs.’” When Deck’s mom noticed her growing following, she told her daughter, “You should brand your look. What do you want to be called?” Deck wasn’t sure, maybe Princess of Abs, she thought. But her mom asked her, “Why be a princess when you can be a queen?” And, that’s how she got the title Queen of Abs.
Now the 29-year-old is making headlines around the world as a powerful role model to budding young female athletes. In 2019, she became the first woman to sign a multimillion-dollar deal with the WFLA. Because of the pandemic, they haven’t played yet, but they will launch the season in May next year. “It’s been crazy how much response I’ve gotten, from good and bad,” she says. Bad? Really? Yep. In fact, when she first signed her deal, some bloggers were posting that she should be in the kitchen cooking and having babies instead of trying to play in the NFL. “First of all, I’m a girl, and yes, we are trying to get the same opportunities as men, but I’m playing with women,” she says.
Last year, Deck really hit her stride when she launched TRONUS, her own running shoe company. She’s always loved sneakers, but, as a female athlete, she was well aware of the limitations when it came to collaborations with recognized brands. And so she decided to create her own company, offering affordable shoes. The other big thing is that she wants to be able to sign female athletes to her shoe company one day, sponsoring them but paying them what they are actually worth.
Deck spent several years developing a sleek futuristic sneaker, creating a super-comfortable “walking on air” kind of experience — the running shoes are a big hit with everyone from teens to her 89-year-old grandmother. And she’s happy with the fact that she has control of the company. “It would have been a lot easier if we could have used somebody else’s money, but we understood that it’s bigger than that at the end of the day,” she says. She wants to be able to create generational wealth, and pass down the company to her family. “So when I have children, I want them to be able to own it one day … and that was more important to me than anything else, as well,” she adds. Recently, Deck signed a deal with Foot Locker, and the sneaker outlet is the first major retailer worldwide to feature TRONUS products.
Inspired by women like Serena Williams and Rihanna, her own mom and her faith, too, Deck found the courage to pursue her dreams. “My faith in God would be the first thing … just to know that anything is possible,” she says. “And I would say, honestly, [that] my mom has definitely been the anchor in all of this.” Add to that the tremendous support from her fans and her followers, and Deck feels boosted in her endeavours. “All of it combined made me say, ‘OK it’s scary … but I don’t think it’s impossible’ — the worst that could happen is that I tried to create a shoe company, which is still pretty cool,” she says. And then she thought that, if she could open doors for other women, that simply outweighed any of the negative thoughts she had. “So, I said, ‘I’m going to just jump and see what happens,’” she says. “And it went well!”
It’s funny the things we discover about ourselves as we go through life. For Deck, she has recognized that she loves being an entrepreneur. “Being an athlete, I thoroughly enjoy football and rugby … but it’s also been pretty cool to just see everything transpire and turning my dreams into reality has been a beautiful thing,” she says.
What is her advice to women? “I would definitely say, ‘If you want it, go get it,’” she says simply. “You will always have people telling you that you shouldn’t be doing this, ‘because you look like this, you walk like this, you talk like this, it’s not possible.’”
Instead, she adds passionately, “Go full throttle, put all of your energy into it. Don’t listen to the naysayers. Protect it like it’s your baby.”
Interview by Estelle Zentil