Let's Talk UNLV

In this compelling episode of Let's Talk UNLV, the dynamic and inspiring Danielle Fontenot, Executive Director of the Las Vegas Aces Foundation, takes center stage. Dani shares her remarkable journey from a challenging past, including childhood trauma, to becoming a beacon of resilience and strength. Hosts delve deep into the vital intersection of mental health and faith, exploring personal transformations, cultural dynamics, and the imperative of breaking societal stigmas. Danielle's powerful insights and her dedication to empowering others to conquer emotional blockages make this conversation a must-listen. Join the hosts as they navigate the waves of growth, resilience, and self-discovery with this incredible athlete and mental health advocate.

What is Let's Talk UNLV?

Rebels, tune in to 'Let's Talk UNLV' with Dr. Tanya Crabb and Dr. Sammie Scales. Your express pass to everything UNLV — campus highlights, programs, and the latest buzz. Join us weekly as we chat with student leaders, administrators, and faculty, diving into the core of what makes us Rebels.

The program brings guests from different areas of UNLV every week to discuss campus highlights, programs and services, research interests that are essential to being a Rebel. Let’s Talk UNLV places its emphasis on connecting with student leaders who represent the voice of students on our campus. Guests also include administrators, faculty and staff responsible for upholding the mission of the university, which is teaching, research and scholarship.

Short, sweet, and Rebel strong – subscribe now for the inside scoop!

Unknown Speaker 0:00
This is a k u and v studios original program. The content of this program does not reflect the views or opinions of 91.5 Jazz and more the University of Nevada Las Vegas or the Board of Regents of the Nevada System of Higher Education

Unknown Speaker 0:20
Welcome to another episode of Let's Talk UNLV

Unknown Speaker 0:23
hey you envy 91.5 We are joined today with the most magnificent Danielle, the executive director of the double championship winning Las Vegas aces yet

Unknown Speaker 0:36
again, sign up the

Unknown Speaker 0:38
double double winning last cuz they bad. Come on.

Unknown Speaker 0:43
That's what I call doubly dumb. You just just go off. I used to be like you're not in your rights, right? I'm not because I don't even know I supposed to be doing that. We were supposed to go back to back. Yes,

Unknown Speaker 0:54
effortlessly. They put in the work. I love it. We're so honored to have you. Is it okay, so I say Danny, what do you prefer? Daniela? Danny,

Unknown Speaker 1:02
you know what I'm so even with it. I promise that my husband calls me Danny. Okay, so he always, you know, that's the it's from day one. My coach call me dan. And then my family call me Danielle or D I promise. Like, I just I rock with

Unknown Speaker 1:15
them all. Listen, I feel like I'm part of the family. So I'm gonna say Danny and family.

Unknown Speaker 1:24
So I imagined that you can feel the excitement in the space. Yeah. So today we're going to talk about a topic that's been in the news a lot and been in our minds and hearts a lot. And that is the topic of mental health. So before we get started, I just want to say that the topic of mental health can be triggering for some people, depending on your situation, your circumstances on what's going on with your life. So I want to let everyone know that if you are in crisis, or if you're feeling like you aren't able to continue on that there are resources to include 988, which is the suicide hotline and 911. And also, I want to give everybody permission to take do what you need to take care of yourself. If you need to step away, step away. If you need to go talk to someone go talk to someone. That being said, this conversation is going to be pretty dope. Yeah. So you may want to consider sticking around.

Unknown Speaker 2:10
Yeah, green. Well say it will say a doctor time. Yeah. So Danny,

Unknown Speaker 2:15
can you please share your origin story with us? How did you get here? How did you get to UNLV? How did you get to Nevada? How did you get to the aces? How did you get how did

Unknown Speaker 2:25
I get here? And that's so it's so beautiful of a story. First, I have to say that just being here and being from Houston, Texas, H town. And now we have a southern drawl. So when I got here, I realized that I couldn't see my country, Nevada, I had to say Nevada. And so that's where I met with it. But I got here because I am now I'm a former player. So we as we know, here in Nevada, we have the Las Vegas aces, like you said, two time World Champs. And I played for this franchise over 20 years ago, when it was I'm laughing at your face.

Unknown Speaker 3:07
Like 20 years over? That's a good thing. Because you don't even look like yeah, you're thinking she was too. You know, you were so hilarious. I mean,

Unknown Speaker 3:16
and when you were a toddler

Unknown Speaker 3:19
as a kid, but it's so funny, because we're gonna I want to be able to talk about that too, because it leads into this with this mental health. Right? Okay, so I tell people that and I get that look like scuze me, can you run your age to me? And it's funny because I want to say King, you know, like, I really want to dive into like what that is, because it's really about taking care of yourself internally. And then that's that shine that's outwardly that smooths it all out, right? I love her. And so people look and they're like, like, Well, don't take it easy in life and some things but only because I met and honest when it's rough. I'm like taking the turn, I'm like, Hey, we don't have a rough side of this mountain, right? But it's not going to you know, stay like that there is a smoothing out of sorts. And so I just allow myself to go through that rejuvenation and resets as they come and I flow with it. And this was a reset moment for me. So a full circle moment of coming back to the place where I thought I drowned. Because that's not to get off the studio. This was a feeling for me

Unknown Speaker 4:20
to come off.

Unknown Speaker 4:22
I was recruited, I'm never recruited. I was actually drafted in the WNBA in 2002. And I played a full year and then a partial year in the WNBA. And it was not because I did not have the talent. I was actually 11th in the first round a first round of the WNBA draft. And so meaning that I was holding my own on the court. What I did not know was the business of basketball. And it took me very fast faster than what I could emotionally handle. I can handle the speed of basketball, but this business I win money, family and all of that and coming from a place where our feeling was struggling. Many people don't know i was actually homeless when I came into the league because my parents had lost their home, my junior year, but I was playing ball. No one knew that. No, I so fast forward to how I'm here is that the Las Vegas aces? Who has a an amazing president in Nicky Fargas who is quite wonderful. This beautiful melanated woman, and she is a former coach at LSU, which happens to be where my former coach from Baylor is now wow, Kim Markel. So this is, so when you actually find yourself in your your Trinity, like you're sorry, I was like, Wait, so my coach came from Baylor to LSU LSU. Coach came from there to to the aces. And I'm like, I'm connected to Baylor LSU and this, I was like, full circle. Come on, it was just already telling me, I don't know. But some way I'm involved. They started having alumni weekend's to really bring back the people who laid the foundation for this game. I mean, it makes sense, right? But no one else in the league was really doing it in that way. But she had the idea to do that. And so coming back here, I was nervous. I really didn't know if she was serious when I got the text message to say, Hey, this is Nikki for Fargas with the Las Vegas aces. And I'm like, what? You know, and so I'm looking at it, I'm like they want they want me like no way not not the one who was the first round draft pick who did not make it, who was embarrassed, who was ashamed talked about Danny, all this. But you know what? I came. And it was the most amazing experience. And I didn't think I deserve to be here. I did not think I deserve to be back. But I was like, You know what? I'm coming because I'm not that same child. That was 21 that came out in into this space where I didn't know there's a lot that's happened. And I'm grateful that for those times where I didn't know what I was doing. Because you know what in life, you're not going to always know your moves this this impromptu. Okay, some of it is just you go with the flow. And that is meaning that you don't have a full script, you know, for what's happening. And that's just being a little less, and leaving room for God to like, move in that space for you. And it's just a little bit does love it. You just gotta make a little room to know that you're not in this alone. So I came back here with full gratitude of embracing what I did not know. And Nikki said it was my energy when I walked in the room because I was wandering there smiling the biggest because I was so grateful. That just a little bit of that, that that time I had here made me special in a way. And you can't get give me get me to give up that piece of my pie. That's fine. That's my Scott. Hmm. And so I came on back. And that's how I got a phone call. And it happened in January, which was on the 11th When I got the phone call from Nikki. And once again, wait, wait, I got it. It was um,

Unknown Speaker 7:52
wait Lisa NEMA elevens my angel number if I smile, okay. My angel number. Okay. But you said he loved me look at my paper look, look at any go down that would you say?

Unknown Speaker 8:04
So those are twin those those are twin energy with this thing about 11. You will round pick. It was 11. I was 11. And so it was a 111. It was a first round 11 Pick 11. The first the first month on the 11th day my 111 again, yeah, right, brought me back and she called me she said I just want to welcome you back. And it happened on that on that time. But I actually didn't arrive here until you know, beginning the season in April. And this year, this year. So that's what I'm saying that you could, you could really the reason why you should ground is because before you know it, you could always already be in the dream that you didn't even know you were creating. And then that's the shock. That's the that's the thing that makes you say, Wait, what is this my life? Is it feels so scripted? And it was like, Well, yeah. Did you did you narrate it? Did you? Did you give narrative to it. And I didn't realize energetically it's the sound of silence that speaking continuously. Even when you're not saying anything. It's your energetic feeling that is filling the space it should literally your air, and your emotions and your passion and your love and your heart that is jumping out of you. That's the Holy Spirit. All right, come on. I'll just say it and I mean whole as meaning that sometimes there are spots. And when you are a person that says is the spot, but is it a spot or a door that's just open. And so it was just opportunity. And I didn't fully know what this was going to be for me. All I know is that can you tell that that show run? Yeah. Is that your train? Is that your train of thought? Is that the train that you're on? And so that's what I mean. And so that's my origin story about how I got here, and just and how I'm connected Now, and sitting here is a surreal feeling. Because you said when your number is 11, also,

Unknown Speaker 10:07
and I'm born 811, are

Unknown Speaker 10:11
you? Okay? So Angel numbers, but let me tell you the irony of that. I'm talking, I said, Holy, I said several things that would, you would assume that there must be some spiritual ness to it, right? But the thing about it the way I grew up, looking at symbols like that was considered to not be something of God, this is true. So I had to have conflict in my spirit. Like, why would I say Angel numbers? And it was just like, because you don't realize that sometimes, like how you should break words down, maybe the angel is the angle, which

Unknown Speaker 10:45
is, which is really interesting, because scripture relies a lot on number 47. Three in the 40 days, like the whole ARB. Yeah,

Unknown Speaker 10:56
so I call it emotional math. Yeah,

Unknown Speaker 10:58
a lot of a lot of a lot of faith based traditions rely heavily on numbers and numbers are reflective of important milestone moments. So it you know, I'm so glad you talked about that. Because I think sometimes the ways in which we are raised and certain faith traditions don't align with who we are as humans, and they're sort of a misrepresentation of faith. And they make that they feel that disconnect, because I'm similar to you, you know, that the faith tradition that I grew up in, was so rigid, I thought I'd I really just assumed that they just started to know I was already headed to hell, because I couldn't follow all the rules. Yeah, that's, that's what

Unknown Speaker 11:35
it is. The component was dark is demonic. It's not right. But the reality is, it's all in sync. Yeah, that was the communication. And I did not start exploring those things into my 40s, believe it or not, because I was taught so differently, you know, and I still have family members, etc, will say, Well, you know, that's not this and not that. Okay, not for you. But for me, it's all working together. Yeah. For me, and, you know,

Unknown Speaker 11:57
can we bring it? Can we talk about the fact that that faith and mental health like those, those two things, sometimes feel like they stand in conflict with each other.

Unknown Speaker 12:08
They stand in opposition, like the number 11 is opposing. And so when you get to your twin tower moment, like where you're looking face to face it yourself. It's a very, it's a surreal type feeling. And one that I feel like women should have someone that you give, have guidance to walk you through. Because actually, that's what that is funny that we're here as UNLV as rebels, and then we always highlight rebellion as far as like being rebellious digging in standing your ground, knowing who you are. But at the same time, what if you have to rebuild about against the thing that created you? And then you have to define what re Bell are rebelling? mean, the resounding the bell? Are your is your bell tolling, your the rings of yourself? You know, are their bells going off? Meaning Are you engaged with yourself? Have you started to look at words and give depth to them, and open the box, don't just check it. Don't just check in and say box, open it up. But we're so scared to open the box. And it's funny that boxes refer to meaning things and you say box and open it up because it's that Pandora's box was in there. And the first thing that we know is about seeking ourselves and to seek yourself because I realize like my eyes are in my head. And if I ever in fact, I I really won't ever be able to see my face only through reflection. So only the reflection,

Unknown Speaker 13:33
I have a question for you. So you know, as we talk about mental health, I know that that everyone has their own mental health journey. And you know, even as you were talking about the faith perspective, when it comes to mental health, I think I think oftentimes, what I felt was out of alignment for my life wasn't my faith, it was the teachings of my faith. Like, I feel like I'm in line with my spiritual center. But I feel like the direction that I received was through a lens that did not necessarily take my being into consideration, not my gender and not my ethnicity. You know, the faith I grew up under, had me to be subservient, had me to be less than had me to be not fully visible. And the faith that I grew up on, didn't make room for any other avenues of mental health. Because I don't know about y'all, but I grew up in a household where, you know, therapy, what the hell is that? If you if you Jesus, if you Jesus wanted you to be well, he cure you. And but Jesus made the therapist, I feel like

Unknown Speaker 14:34
I was like, well, actually, if you follow Jesus, then you would follow paths. It's funny, because there's a there's a big part of Jesus's life that we have no idea. It's not there. Yes. But at the end of the day, we are saying that this is the way like this is like what would Jesus do? You know, and the same thing about is that we're saying that's the right path without even knowing the full story. So, okay, so then It's like, then you could ask yourself, are you really reading for, for like comprehension to where you combine both the logical and theoretical, and you're really starting to say that you are taking time to have critical thinking about what you're reading? Are we just accepting was being fed to us because we don't want to do the work. And because, you know, Jesus wasn't accepted through the teachings, this was not something this was a duck people were begging for, you know, and then after the death, it was something that came, then there was a lifting in support of that. And so it's like, when are you willing to die to aversion that you realize that you really no longer desire to be, but you're going to honor the fact that you least had something to go on. But you're not going to take my innocence, because that's really not up for grabs. So

Unknown Speaker 15:53
So something that I want to say just because I'm sorry, darling, I'm dead. It just occurs to me that we've strayed down a different path and the road worse than so our listeners are probably like, wait, what? We're back on the until when we. So I just want to say that, you know, the the ways in which we talk about mental health, all stem from our lens and our perspective. So, you know, for those that are those listeners that are like, well, I don't have a faith perspective, I don't have a spiritual perspective. I follow this. I follow that I don't believe in that. This is not saying that your perspective needs to be anyone else's perspective, our mental health journeys individual, and we call into the collective all of our resources around it. Yes. So did anyone to y'all have a conversation about mental health growing up was that oh, that's,

Unknown Speaker 16:43
that's what we're saying. So I think this is why it's such a beautiful conversation, because as black women, we always consider everybody else who's listening. Right? We're always like mental health within. I'm saying that in this space, that mental health is circles, hoping circles. So when we don't have full complete story or history of our family, like I don't even know my great grandmother, neither, okay. And so what I'm saying is that, because of how we were raised, I had something very traumatic happened to me at the age of five, where I was dealing with being sexually abused by my uncle. But I say Uncle, you think of a grown man, my uncle happens to be 11 At this time, and I was five. And so I can say that, which is a heavy topic. So anyone listening, I know that that can be like a triggering thing. What I'm saying is that if it doesn't trigger me in that space, then I can revisit it, which is bringing us back to how I got here, because I thought I drowned. And I came back to a place thing. No, I'm really well in those emotional waters. So the fact that I can say that means I know how to direct myself emotionally. And I'm not drowning in my own emotions of like, is this good? Bad, good, bad, good, bad, good, bad. And I realized that I'm layered, right. And so I had the experience that was really hard for me to take at five was contrast, meaning something that happened to me that my body felt as the sensation was good, different, or I didn't know it was new, let me say I can even say was good was a new sensation for my body, my body, but then it also felt like something else. Because it made me feel not. Not good. It was like so how do you say family member I'm supposed to love play with come over to my grandma's house. We do this all time. But the same time, I don't know how to. It's just confusing. Contrast can be confusion, if no one is talking to you. So mentally, I already grew up very awkward. Because I didn't have I didn't feel safe with myself. And that was one thing. That on top of several things that happened that didn't make me feel okay with being in my skin. And I happen to be a sixth one. And some change woman with chocolate skin that already internally I don't feel good because of my experience with my family, then to come out into the world and have people tell me that I'm not beautiful, are reflected. So I have a compounded effect of my mental stability of what I can carry, and not realizing until 40. I had been carrying that since five. So that's how we circled that back around to mental health and how it gets personal. Because I always feel bad about talking about how it is for me as a black woman because I feel like she doesn't,

Unknown Speaker 19:28
you know, you don't want people uncomfortable. And then Danny, so I'm just over here. Yeah, the whole time. And I'm thinking so many different thoughts. And I'm a process after and maybe weeks to come and wants to come to beto. But nevertheless, we're so from five until a certain age when were you introduced into the idea or the opportunity to explore healing and really diving into the mental health component. Was there any playable so obviously you said you did feel safe with yourself. That's powerful, right? So at what point did you start peeling back those layers and really getting to the little girl that's five years old to heal, and really explore this whole component of mental health.

Unknown Speaker 20:11
Well, so the IT people think I got a situation happens. And then I had to get to an age where I said, Stop, you know, because then now I'm feel like I have exhausted this space of feeling that this is okay to happen to me. So then now I'm going to say stop. And it took me from the place where I said, Stop, which was around, you know, maybe in between the age of five or six. It took, it took years, until I was at the age of I think I was maybe 16. And I had a conversation with a very close cousin of mine, you know, your cousin's sisters, the ones that are there, we'll see, she also experienced the same type of abuse, but from, not from a family member, but from, from her sister's father. And so then that created something but I saw my mom went to help. And it was something like, unheard. So the way I got to really dealing with it was having a conversation with my cousin asking her, do you think it's smart? If I tell my parents? And she said, Yes. And then I said, Okay. And then I went to go talk to my mom and dad about it at the age of 16. Right before I'm going off to college, because I went to college at 17. Wow, tell them what happened. The nerve, I'm trembling, and I'm shaking, I'm like, Oh, my God. But I finally laid it out. And this is what I wasn't ready for the reaction. Because the response is not what I thought I had what my cousin got from my mother was very different when she leaned in to help her. My mom didn't lean in to help me like that. And I saw a discomfort with my dad. And so then what happened was nothing. And then the thing that just the words, the sentence, don't say anything, it'll kill your grandmother. So then really, the hush in the shush comes from inside. But there's healing. The reason why I come with good news is because at the age of 40, I had a conversation with my mom and dad about this, but it took years of constantly kind of poking and staying because it was the irritation, Finally, turn the light on, and realize that both my mom and dad also experienced a form of sexual abuse growing up. And so a lot of times mental health is because your parents don't know what to do with it. And but I went off to college and thought that I was so hurting, and then I balled out of control. Wow, it was transmitted energy. I went there, and I was so angry, and I was suffering that my junior year. I, it just I burst. And I had one of the most remarkable, I guess, seasons in my collegiate career. And nobody knew that I almost cried every single day.

Unknown Speaker 22:53
Isn't that something that is powerful, transferable energy? Yeah.

Unknown Speaker 22:57
And you know, and this idea that people often assume that healing is a quick fix. And that realizing that healing is a journey. It's not, you don't just suddenly wake up one day, and I'm fine. You know, it's a little, it's all the little pieces that come together. So all the little opportunities, you're growing into yourself

Unknown Speaker 23:17
in waves, yeah, of waves of growth. And when I first got there, because of what I was going through, I wasn't paying attention in class that well, and they put me in a test to see if I needed to be tested for my Learn for learning disabilities. And then I told my parents and they thought I needed special classes, and then it makes you feel like, now you're not smart. And then it made me feel that I wasn't intelligent. And really, I had an emotional disability, or an emotional blockage. And, and it didn't allow me to be as present and to get it because I didn't learn in that type of way. And so I thought I was at a PWI being a young black girl who could play basketball very well, but was very was struggling from abuse at no one knew, but was there to do what I needed to do. And that's how I got drafted in the first round that the WNBA go. Can

Unknown Speaker 24:08
I share our origin story? Yes. So how I met this remarkable human being was that Dr. Raven Townsend on I, O. We're, we've we're running up on time, but to my problem has

Unknown Speaker 24:20
not been almost 30 minutes. Five minutes. He said five minutes. So to goodness. To make

Unknown Speaker 24:28
a long story short, we did a presentation for the ACES for teachers. And I saw this beautiful human standing in a corner with the most magnificent smile that I had to approach and talk to. And we got to talking and so one of the things I wanted to share I hope you will share before we have to sign off is how you got to this work because your transformation led to you wanting to engage more with mental health. For others. Would you like to talk about that

Unknown Speaker 24:58
really quickly because I know we have time But first of all, you were amazing. I have to edify this woman. I babble when I get around her. It's because she's so inspiring to me. And so yeah, say

Unknown Speaker 25:09
that, and I love I just love all all about, uh,

Unknown Speaker 25:12
oh my God, amen. Second, and listen, that's all, I know that you're here and I don't even know you, but y'all are in the same space here. And so, as far as like coming back, was that the question as far as

Unknown Speaker 25:23
so tell us how your mental health journey has inspired the

Unknown Speaker 25:26
work? Yeah, because I felt broken. And then I realized that it I feel broken because you want to have the resources to give to pay it forward to give to people and then the one of the most irritating things is to do something you want to do and not have the means to do it. And so I realized that I needed to work on how to get people past emotional blockages so that they could not be like like Erykah Badu said, a bag lady Kinkaid. So our purse because I live, so, so parsed. And it's like, we're just irritated beyond it, we're exhausted. And so if I want to actually get past corporate, maybe not caring enough about the giving to children in these underserved communities, which I'm so confused, how are they still underserved, and how they're not underserved children, they're underserved resources in these communities. So I realized that I could be part of that if I didn't feel the way I did about money. But I realized money does not come out from outside of you, you are the currency you are the money you are the gold, you are the weight, you're the weight in your own gold. And when you start to put value on that, then these other things are just bank notes. They're not money, money doesn't come from outside of me comes from the creativity. But if my creativity is blocked, because I can't get to my womb, because I have an uncle Scar there, then that's gonna be a problem. So that's when I started to do inner work, and tell women about how to be okay with a mimic of emotions until you get to mastery of emotions. And so you get your own mode of emotions. And that's shown. And we want that man good.

Unknown Speaker 27:05
I'm so sorry that I pick up let me pull it back. Oh, we only have five minutes. to Now can we add some time to the

Unknown Speaker 27:13
I O Mo.

Unknown Speaker 27:19
Come through I know if they can't see us, but they felt that I felt that

Unknown Speaker 27:23
in my heart

Unknown Speaker 27:30
and 11 and all of this thing's gonna

Unknown Speaker 27:33
make me cry.

Unknown Speaker 27:36
We got to come back. We got to do this again. This is a conversation worth having. Please

Unknown Speaker 27:40
come back so many

Unknown Speaker 27:42
already minutes. So we hope you will come back and listen to some more because these

Unknown Speaker 27:47
women will be more amazing. They will be more than he will be back with us because she is awesome. Yes, she will have more of these conversations because my soul this was my soul food. My soul is full

Unknown Speaker 27:59
microwave version. Yeah.

Unknown Speaker 28:02
I went to lunch. I didn't know you know, I sat down and I'm feasting. Oh, man. And we share so many similarities and I work my passions,

Unknown Speaker 28:12
because that's happening off the camera that y'all can't see. Is that black girl look? Yeah. No, she didn't. That's that not that you get? It's a language. You don't have to say nothing. Yes. Gave her look like the snap. They would just say yes, snap.

Unknown Speaker 28:29
Oh, my she read my mail. Surely. Surely I'm bug.

Unknown Speaker 28:34
She's on my phone line. You have been on my line. You have been in my spiritual livestream. Thank you for that. So

Unknown Speaker 28:42
all of this you are hearing this excitement this buzz? We will we will definitely be having this conversation again. Because this is not a one and done. Danny Not a one. I

Unknown Speaker 28:51
just want to say thank you. Thank you not know me. Thank you for surviving. But thank you for thriving. And when you say that you came back to a place that you thought that you had drowned in. That's a warrior. That's a champion. That's an overcomer. I mean, so thank you. I know thank you for doing the work and continuing to do the work. And Being courageous is just to show up as your authentic self. I'm so grateful for your being

Unknown Speaker 29:16
made me cry now. And that's what that is. We're all in a crisis. Yeah. You gotta just cry down. It's those on your holy waters.

Unknown Speaker 29:28
I love it. So and that is a wrap.

Dr. Renee Watson 29:34
For more or less talk UNLV Be sure to follow us on social media where you can get the latest updates on the show plus great behind the scenes content. We're on Facebook and let's talk about all the podcast Twitter and let's talk UNLV and Instagram and let's talk UNLV

Transcribed by https://otter.ai