From the sultry tone of Rayana Jay over a Caribbean-feel beat, comes her song “Undefeated” that conveys the importance of female empowerment and that no matter what one may go through, she can still come out on top. “Undefeated” features an all-female writing and production crew and was recorded in Women’s Audio Mission, the only professional recording studio in the world built and run entirely by women.
Featuring the Lady Eagles Track & Field Team of Paul Robeson Campus High School in Brooklyn, N.Y., the video displays images of prominent women of color athletes in a variety of sports including Lisa Leslie, Laila Ali, Michelle Carter, Simone Biles, Sloane Stephens, Ibtihaj Muhammad, Simone Manuel, Venus and Serena Williams, Florence “Flo-Jo” Griffith Joyner, Candace Parker and Gabby Douglas, among others. In this day where effective representation matters, it’s important for young girls and women of color to see themselves in a positive light and in prominent roles as leaders. The various images of playing fields and instruments suggest that they can be great in whatever it is they may want to achieve, no matter the discipline.
ESPN’s The Undefeated, which recently featured the music video on its site, has dubbed the song an anthem “to celebrate the resiliency of black female athletes who face opponents on the courts, the playing fields and the track as they battle stereotypes and the weight of racial history.” Historically, the portrayal and imagery of black female athletes across sports has been less than appealing, with the presentation of their bodies being viewed alternately as mannish and overly sexualized. Navigating everyday challenges and the belittlement and oppression of society, while still finding a way to succeed is no easy task. Jay notes how women of color have to work twice as hard just to receive half the love or recognition as their counterparts, and that even when they give 100 percent and are near perfect, it is somehow not enough. Though these accomplished athletes may be good at what they do on their respective turf, there is still pressure to be better than everyone else and prove themselves. The song also sheds light on the stereotypical narrative of a woman of color being “too bold” – trait that is both celebrated and admired when breaking barriers in sport.
In her video and with her lyrics, Jay tries to put the athletes at ease by letting them know that though their good may not be viewed as good enough according to some critics, the very same people have not taken a walk in their shoes. Jay wants them to not shrink themselves or dim their lights to what others think they should be by appeasing the masses. She asserts that she and all the female athletes who have ever fallen will rise while keeping their heads held high.
Jay wants to let all the girls and women of color know that it’s no secret that society will try to paint a less than fruitful picture of them, but regardless of the projections, opinions and critics, they still won’t lose. Rather, they will prevail and hence be undefeated.
Jessica Dennis is a summer intern with the Women’s Sports Foundation. She is currently a student at St. John’s University and ran track & field in high school.