By Dee Ford Byas
As she sits back with a cigar, Lauren Witherspoon, 25, describes running her business, running on a lacrosse field, and being a runway model.
Born in Riverside, California, and raised in Arizona, the founder/director of the Arizona Youth Lacrosse Association — AYLA — got interested in playing the game of lacrosse when she attended Desert Vista High School, in Ahwatukee, where she received a full scholarship to American International College, a private college in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Her interests and passion for the sport grew, leading her onto bigger platforms and having a desire to encourage “diversity in the sport,” she said, promoting lacrosse to communities of color valleywide.
Crediting lacrosse for changed her life and providing opportunities that she wouldn’t have otherwise experienced, Witherspoon has gotten used to running for sports and uses the same vigor to run her business, Constantine Cigars, a company she started while a college junior, offering “premium tobacco at a non-premium price,” she stated in a past interview with Dariyea Hollins. Witherspoon’s business, Constantine Cigars, is among few female-owned companies in the tobacco industry and noted as the first Black woman-owned tobacco company giving a “luxury cigar experience” in Arizona, from being a featured vendor at American Legion Post 65 to local car shows and more.
A model on and off the field, Witherspoon teaches youths about the sport she loves, while pursuing her business venture and modeling in fashion shows locally and abroad. She has been featured in New York Fashion Week, Phoenix Fashion – Top 40 Models, and Tempe Fashion Week LabelHorde Fashion Show. Working with Priority Talent Agency and Hannah Noelle Models, her recent appearances include the Phoenix Fashion Show Chateau Luxe on April 15-16; Tempe Fashion Week, April 23; and Vía Moda “The Way of Fashion” Show on May 28. Making sure to mention her glam team, Witherspoon shares details about her background and endeavors with the Informant below.
• What does your family consist of (i.e.: parents, siblings, pets, etc.)? My family consists of my parents, Tralise and Larry; my godmother, Tina; two full brothers, Immanuel and Gabriel; two half siblings, Sonia and Asher; my two God siblings, Sh’kineh and Jerard; and my two dogs, Sir Winston II and Sir Cooper II.
• How long have you been involved in lacrosse and what got you interested? I’ve been playing lacrosse for about seven plus years now. I became interested after my high school club team had put out an ad for new players. I went to the meeting and joined the team afterwards. Thanks to Desert Vista High School, I had the opportunity to join lacrosse!
• Why do you want to share the sport with youths in Arizona? Not only do I want to share the sport with Black youths, but also with other ethnic youth athletes that are located in under-served and low-income communities throughout Arizona. After receiving an athletic and academic scholarship, I realized that there is a lot of money available for players interested in playing lacrosse. I played for two years and went straight to college afterwards.
• Describe the sport and your endeavor, camps, workshops, more – Lacrosse is a team game, originally played by North American Indians, in which the ball is thrown, caught, and carried with a long-handled stick having a curved L-shaped or triangular frame at one end with a piece of shallow netting in the angle. The point of the game is to shoot the ball in the goal past the goalie. Whichever team scores the most, wins the game.
It is a very unique sport and involves a lot of running back and forth on the field. Transitioning from basketball to lacrosse was a challenge for me at first because I was not used to the amount of running that was necessary to play lacrosse. Attending different lacrosse tournaments, athletic training, clinics, and club teams helped me to get in shape for lacrosse and develop my skills. By my senior year in high school, I was starting as a midfielder and draw specialist for every game.
• What is a common misperception that people have about it? A common misperception that people have about lacrosse is that it was established by Europeans. This statement is incorrect because it was actually established by Native Americans Indians in 1100s and was originally known as stickball. Europeans then altered the game in 1630s and renamed it as lacrosse. Another common misperception that is associated with lacrosse is that it is a luxury sport, so only rich people can afford to play the sport
long term. Although lacrosse can be expensive, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t affordable. With the proper. resources and support, there is a possibility to grow with the sport. I had the opportunity to play lacrosse for a team that supported me. Which led me to taking my athletic career to the collegiate level.