Adrienne Smith has a very well-earned nickname: Wonder Woman.
One of the most accomplished women’s football players in the world, she scored the first-ever touchdown in the history of women’s international football, on a 52-yard catch during the 2010 Women’s World Championships in Stockholm, Sweden. That’s when she won her first of two gold medals as a member of the first U.S. Women’s National Tackle Football Team. A wide receiver and quarterback, she currently plays for the six-time WFA national champion Boston Renegades.
But the “warrior strength” attributed to the DC Super Hero is not her greatest superpower — that would be her vision. “I help people see how they can be the greatest version of themselves, and I feel very fortunate to be able to do that between sports, entertainment and education,” said Smith, who is also a writer/actor/producer and a serial entrepreneur with an MBA from Columbia.
Smith will discuss her ventures, including Gridiron Queendom, a sports media enterprise dedicated to female football players, in an event hosted by the USC Marshall School of Business, the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies and the Athena Conference on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022, from 11 to 11:50 a.m. at the Greif Center. RSVP here.
Smith launched Gridiron Queendom in 2013. “I needed to give back to the sport that had given so much to me,” she said. “I wanted to create an entity that supported and promoted women and girls around the world who love football. And one thing I learned through playing football, is that music and math are not the only universal languages. The third universal language is sports.”
The tagline for Gridiron Queendom is “Girl, Play Football.” “It’s a command,” Smith said from Las Vegas where she was participating in a women’s football event. “Stop asking for permission for whatever it is you need to do. Do it. Verb it. You want to write something, write it. You want to lead, lead. What’s stopping you? Go!
“People have been brainwashed to believe that certain things have to be gendered. Ovaries don’t stop you from creating things, they help you do things. So take your ovaries and verb it!”
From the time she was 3, Smith has loved football. Growing up in Florida and Virginia, she’d tackle her teddy bear, Ginger, while watching games. “I was blessed to be born to a mother and father who said, ‘Adrienne, you can do anything you want to do.’ My father got me a Nerf football for Christmas when I was 7 and taught me to throw a perfect spiral. I continued to play, and I happened to be good at it. The boys in the neighborhood would pick me for their team.”
As a young girl, she also played softball, retiring her ballet shoes for cleats once she discovered the sport, and then played basketball in college and after graduation before her football career launched in 2006.
Smith brings the can-do spirit of that young girl not only to Gridiron Queendom, but to everything she does. Her first venture out of Columbia was Harlem Hip-Hop Tours, co-founded with a fellow graduate to provide “edutainment” field trips for schools and youth groups. She embraced entrepreneurship after her mother died. “She was my best friend. … I had a moment with God, where I said, ‘If I still have to be here on this planet, then I’ve got to be doing the things that I want to do in the way I want to do them.’”
She also created Blitz Champz, a football card game that builds kids’ math skills. She tapped into her network from Columbia to get that done. “Your classmates are the greatest resource. In conjunction with that business acumen, I find my network has helped me throughout all of my entrepreneurial endeavors.”
Playing Different Positions
Smith adamantly refuses to be pigeonholed. As an undergrad at Washington University in St. Louis, she was pre-med and majored in Japanese and minored in film. “Everyone laughed at me. ‘Adrienne, what are you gonna do? Make movies in Japanese about being a doctor?’ But no one’s laughing anymore.”
After graduating, she moved to Japan and worked as a translator and Coordinator of International Relations for the Japanese Board of Education. During those years, she also wrote for, produced and co-hosted a TV show that educated Japanese people about American culture.
That experience led her to an MBA in media and entertainment from Columbia, after which she worked as an internal consultant for media entities such as IFC Films, AMC and IFC Entertainment. As an independent producer, she helped develop “The Harimaya Bridge,” a 2009 film starring Danny Glover. Smith continues to pursue screenwriting and acting as well. She recently won an award for a screenplay and had a spot in the popular TV show “Orange Is the New Black.”
“Whether I’m writing screenplays or acting or producing, it’s the same sport. I’m just playing different positions. It’s a natural extension. Just like I’m a wide receiver and a quarterback,” she said. “That’s why I look up to Oprah. She is a TV and film producer, an actress and the first Black woman to create an entire network. She doesn’t pigeonhole herself.”