Natasha Cloud is one of the most outspoken athletes in sports. The Washington Mystics guard has taken on a leading role in racial justice movements across the country, and most recently, helped elect Rev. Raphael Warnock to the U.S. Senate along with her WNBA peers. But she wasn’t always this comfortable in her own skin.
It took Cloud time to figure out her intersecting identities as a bisexual and biracial woman. She didn’t start dating women until her second season in the WNBA. When she did, however, she felt elated. Everything started to feel more comfortable.
“For me, it was so transformational to finally be out as who I am as a bisexual woman, as a biracial woman,” she told me. “It’s so crazy, because when I finally did tap into those feelings, it really brought my whole world together.”
On this week’s edition of “The Sports Kiki,” I spoke with Cloud about her activism and coming out journey. She was one of multiple WNBA stars who skipped last season to focus on the fight for racial equality.
Cloud received the 2020 Outsports “Female Hero of the Year” award for her indelible impact on athlete activism.
But before Cloud could fight for others, she had to figure out herself. Growing up in Pennsylvania, Cloud says she was always attracted to women, but didn’t want to explore her feelings.
“I feel like a little kid talking about it,” she said. “I strictly dated men. I am bisexual. I would look at women and be like, ‘Oh, she’s really bad,’ but I wasn’t there yet. I wasn’t comfortable with myself yet.”
Cloud also had questions about her racial identity. She grew up in an all-white family.
“I had a lot of shit I was trying to decipher through and figure out like, ‘OK, I identify as a Black woman, but I’m very, very proud to be biracial,’” she said. “‘How do I tap into my Blackness,’ and from there it was, ‘How do I tap into this bisexual thought process that I’m having?’”
After admittedly “not picking the right women to start with,” Cloud decided to slide into the DMs of Aleshia Ocasio, the pro softball player. It took Ocasio six months to notice Cloud. A birthday “like” finally did the trick.
“I was like, ‘Yo, this is crazy. What’s going on right now?,’” Cloud said. “Then I finally ‘liked’ one go her pictures on her birthday, and she DM’d me and was like, ‘I’m trying to be on Cloud Nine.’ And that took me!”
It was a fast romance. The couple got engaged in July 2019.
“You know what they say about lesbians: We move really quick,” Cloud said. “So the next week, she flew out, we played in Atlanta. She was still finishing up her degree at the University of Florida, so she came and watched. From there, it was over. I won her over.”
Cloud has ascended to WNBA stardom, partially through her steady play on the court, and partially through her transformative activism. She won the 2019 championship with Washington, averaging 9 points and 5.6 assists per game, both career-bests. But this year, in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and the raging pandemic, she opted out.
Cloud spent her summer protesting and organizing. She worked with LeBron James’ “More Than a Vote” and Malcolm Jenkins’ Players Coalition. She also amplified her voice, penning a poignant essay for The Players’ Tribune calling out athletes who remain neutral on racial issues: “Your silence is a knee on my neck.”
While Cloud always spoke her mind, she traces her social awakening to a 2019 visit to a Washington D.C. elementary school. Three bullets penetrated the school in one month, and on one occurrence, the kids were in the building. Incensed, Cloud decided to use her platform and do something. For the rest of the season, she dedicated her platform to gun control measures.
“People will tell me, ‘You’re an activist! You’re an activist!,’” Cloud said. “I’m like, ‘No, I'm just a regular person who sees something wrong, and has a platform, and can use it to be a voice for the voiceless.’”
With President Joe Biden in office, Cloud vows she’s going to keep up the pressure. Over the next few weeks, she will meet with her team to plan out her projects for the new year. But she is allowing herself to enjoy the moment. On Inauguration Day, she shed tears.
“It was an emotional day,” she said. “To see all of those countless hours, those tears that came in the summer, from the tragedies that were going on to the all of the work put in. To come to that moment the other day, where we created this change in our country that we so desperately needed in every facet. It was surreal; it was emotional; and it brought back a sense of hope that we had lost for the last four years.”
Click here to check out this episode of our Outsports podcast, The Sports Kiki. You can also subscribe to the show on Apple’s Podcast page as well as on Google Podcasts, and wherever you’ll find Outsports podcasts.