For all the travel-starved Canadians dreaming of standing in security lines and browsing duty-free, Megan Rapinoe has a dispatch from the future: “Airports are still the same,” the soccer superstar says with a laugh. “They’re just less crowded.”
After a year-long break brought on by the pandemic, clearly things are not quite back to the way it was. “Life is quite strange right now,” Rapinoe muses. “We’re all pretending like we’re going back to normal, but nothing is really the same.” Still, she’s glad to be back at work, although “it’s a bit of a rude awakening, because it was really nice not to be on a plane all the time.”
Like, say, across the world to Japan. Along with her “day job” as forward for the Tacoma, Washington-based pro team OL Reign, Rapinoe is of course a key member of the U.S. Olympic soccer team: she scored two of four goals to help her teammates take home the bronze medal at the summer games in Tokyo, while Canada won gold. Rapinoe’s fiancée, U.S. basketball player, Sue Bird, made it to the top spot of the podium. “I’m so proud of you,” Rapinoe captioned a photo of them embracing on Instagram.
But the Olympic highs weren’t without lows. There were jabs from Donald Trump (yes, still)—“The woman with the purple hair played terribly and spends too much time thinking about Radical Left politics and not doing her job!” he said in a statement — as well as criticism over her choice to kneel during the American national anthem to denounce racial injustice.
Rapinoe, a vocal advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and equal pay for female athletes, is no stranger to this kind of backlash. She’s also not one to stand down and be quiet. The 36-year-old has come to be known — and admired — just as much for her activism as her feats on the field. (On top of her bronze medal, she’s got a gold from the 2012 London Games, two Women’s World Cup wins and a Women’s Ballon d’Or.)
Now, she’s adding a new line on her resume: ambassador for Shiseido. “The most amazing thing my mom passed down to [my siblings and I] is to always wear sunscreen, certainly in an outdoor sport,” says Rapinoe, who calls Shiseido sunscreen “unbeatable.” She stars in a campaign for the luxury beauty brand’s newest skincare launch, Ultimune Power Infusing Concentrate 3.0. “I use it at night to lock in the moisture and re-set for the day,” she says.
The Shiseido campaign bears the tag line “Power is you,” so when we chatted, pre-Olympics, naturally our conversation turned to the topic of power: Who has it, how to claim one’s own and, most importantly, how to use it for good.
What does power mean to you, Megan?
“To me, power is being able to fully express yourself, and live out your individuality. We all know that there’s no one like anyone else, but we’re told this is beautiful, this is powerful, this is smart. I’m constantly trying to challenge that. When I think of power, I also don’t want it all for myself. I look at it from a perspective of abundance rather than scarcity. As a society, we generally do the opposite. Like, there’s only so much power, and if you can grab a big piece of it, you get to keep that. In the same way that I find it really important that I’m able to live my full expression as a human being, I want that for other people as well. It’s not a zero sum game.”
Seeing power through the lens of abundance takes away that fear of losing it, which is often when power becomes a tool of oppression
“Maybe if I was a cis, straight white guy I would feel differently about power because things always made sense to me. But coming from someone who is traditionally cut out of the power structure, now that I have an opportunity to have more power, I don’t really want to continue to create the same network that originally cut me out. I think about that a lot. Who has the platform, and what are they doing with it? How are they helping other people, and bringing all the different perspectives to the table? That’s where the power lies, because we get something that’s so much greater than just the individual parts.”
How do you make sure that abundant approach to power is reflected on the teams you play on?
“Traditionally, the power structure on sports teams is that you have a captain, and then there are older, veteran players who are at the top of this hierarchy. I don’t love that because I think everybody has something to bring. What I and the other older players bring will be experience, this institutional knowledge, but it doesn’t mean we’re better than the younger players. I go about it like, ‘How do I get the most out of myself, and how do I get the most out of everyone else? Can everyone feel valued and respected on this team, and like their special talent is being fully realized?’ That’s when the special moments come, whether that’s chemistry or great performance or everyone just really enjoying playing together.”
What was your journey to claiming your own power, or even realizing that you had any?
“My mindset has evolved over the years, almost out of necessity. Whether it is LGBTQ rights or being an ally or with pay equity — like, if we don’t talk about it, our federation isn’t. I’ve realized that not only can we change things from the inside out, we can be a big voice for other people, too. When I was younger, it was all these data points that were like, ‘Okay, you speak out and then you see what happens. If you get backlash, it’s not always a bad thing.’ Using whatever tools you have to make the world a better place is everybody’s responsibility. The more we collectively band together to do that, the quicker things change. I’m just trying to hold up my end of the bargain, and continue to talk about things I find important, and use my platform not to gain more for myself, but challenge paradigms and change culture.”
Do you think there’s something powerful in a solid skincare routine? Seems like a hard left turn, but I do think they’re connected.
“I do, and not for the purpose of needing to look a certain way because I’ve been told that’s beautiful, but because of how it makes me feel. I always say going out on the field: ‘Look good, feel good, play good,’ in that order. You have to have the good vibes coming from the inside out, and then you get to step out into the world with an armour of confidence on you that goes a long way.”
Shiseido Ultimune Power Infusing Concentrate, $135 (50 ml), shiseido.ca