Twillie Cottingham is Ms. Black Alabama International Ambassador 2020, and she will compete for the crown of Miss Black International in the Summer of 2021. Twillie enjoys serving her community and has held several pageant titles including Miss Alabama National US (Top 10 at Miss National US), Miss Alabama Black International (3rd Runner-up at Miss Black International), Miss Alabama Essence (Top 15 at Miss Essence National), Miss Phi Beta Sigma (Gamma Epsilon Chapter), Miss Phi Beta Sigma of Alabama, Miss Black Alabama US International, winner of Miss Black US International, Miss Alabama Beautiful, and 2nd Runner-up at Miss International Beautiful. She is one of the founding members of the non-profit organization Royalty of PBS, a queen-to-queen mentoring program for Phi Beta Sigma Queens across the country. Twillie is an accomplished pianist of 25-years, violinist, and flutist for 20-years. She is also the latest producer of The Royal Tea "Queens, Quarantine & Pageant Things" a Queen Virtual Conference Series that empowers the next generation of Queens. She is currently a production assistant for ESPN/ESPN2/ESPNU/SEC Network and a sports talk radio host/producer for 94.1 WEUP 50-Yard Line Sports Show. Twillie Cottingham is the definition of your All-Around/All-American Girl. She serves as a brand ambassador for serval companies and has slowly become a YouTube sensation.
LS: Tell everyone about your brand and journey?
TC: I am a woman who knows all of Lebron James’ stats, but isn’t afraid to embrace my inner Savannah Jame. I love all things sports, football, basketball, gymnastics, track and field, diving, you name it…I love watching it and cheering on the sport. My late father played in the NFL for 9 years and my mother played basketball, so basically, sports are in my DNA. However, my mother wanted to instill in me that sports aren’t my only avenue. I am a classically trained pianist, violinist, and flutist. I am also a trained dancer. God has truly blessed me with some amazing gifts and it has been my personal goal to share these blessings with the world and be the change agent he has called me to be. In 2019, I was crowned Ms. Black Alabama International Ambassador, and due to COVID19 our international competition has been delayed until June 2021 and that’s when I will compete for the title of Ms. Black International Ambassador. As a proud Alabama A&M alum, we were taught, “service is sovereignty”, to give back to the community that has given to you. As a titleholder, I stand on the platform of “Let’s Play” teaching kids the benefits of playing organized sports. It develops, teamwork, self-esteem, and how to create goals and achieve them. I have a passion for sports and I have developed a professional career in working in sports production as well as my own platform of Takeoff Twillie on YouTube (don’t forget to LIKE, SHARE, and SUBSCRIBE).
LS: The voice you have that is fueled by such a strong platform is powerful. What does that power mean to you? What are some ways you use your platform to fuel your vision?
TC: The power to me means, I can effect change. I want to encourage kids living in this “new norm” to put down the tablet, put down the game and go outside! I want to inspire families to play together, exercise together, and even cook healthy family meals during this pandemic. Growing together physically and mentally.
TC: My creativity flows from my creative instincts, my friends, and my inspirations. I am constantly reading and studying the latest social media trends, editing software, and even the classics that some folks forget about and don’t use. I want to be the Will Packer of sports. I am obsessed with sports documentaries like ESPN’s 30 for 30, E60, and others but I love telling and sharing the stories that haven’t been told before. I avoid being burnt out by taking necessary breaks and having a work-life balance. Balance is needed with anything you do in life. You can’t create quality content if you aren’t rested mentally, physically, and emotionally. Additionally, you need to be healthy, yes you are creating content on a computer, but it's easy to eat Little Debbie's and not exercise. You have to get a balance of endorphins and snacks.
LS: What would you say are the five rules to success in Sports Media?
TC: If I had to write the five (5) rules of success for Sports Media it would consist of:
1. Network - Networking is key in this industry. We are all in this together and we want to see everyone succeed. Always look out for your fellow sportsperson, especially women in the industry.
2. Get Involved - Get involved with organizations that can help you succeed in your career. I am a member of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), Women in Sports and Entertainment (WISE); and Women of the NFL. I have never had a problem reaching out for help, seeking mentors, or just exchanging information to have in my network. Members within these organizations are always willing to help you and the next generation of industry leaders. It doesn’t matter if they are criticizing your content, or referring you to a job, just get involved with these organizations because it will assist in empowering your goals and dreams.
3. Surround yourself with people that have like-minded goals. Most millionaires become millionaires by speaking and working with other millionaires. Use this mentality when it comes to sports. No one understands this world better than the people within it. Use each other for ideas, struggles, and even for a cheering section.
4. Mentor – Seek a mentor. Having an awesome and amazing mentor in your corner can push you to be a better person, a better colleague, and a better industry leader. Remember, you can have more than one (1) mentor, you can have however many you deem fit. You need someone who will give you true advice and someone who can serve as both your coach and fan in the background but also helping elevate your career.
5. Believe in yourself. I know it sounds soooooooo cliché, but there is no one in this world like you, so why be anyone else? Yes, a million women are dreaming about becoming the next Maria Taylor, but there is only ONE Maria Taylor and only ONE Twillie Cottingham. Embrace what she has done for the industry and for black women and all women of color in the sports industry, but bring your own pizzazz to the table. Stewart Scott was different and it worked…again be you and they will adjust accordingly.
LS: If you could change anything about the industry what would it be?
TC: I would change that it’s a cut-throat competition and the diversity of reporters. I am so tired of seeing the same model of reporters covering sports. They all have a similar style, look, and race. I would love to see more people of color covering sports. Also with the competition being so fierce and tight to make it. I want us all to win, so stop feeling as if we can’t all be great at covering sports. There is room for everyone at the table – look at the amount sports there are to cover from cornhole to basketball from football to ax throwing, there is room for everyone.
TC: Ha, that’s sweet people think that; but I am nothing in comparison to the women who have laid the foundation for me. I shall begin by thanking my mother. She has a degree in mass communications and seeing her love for being creative and telling stories struck my passion for it. I have to acknowledge women like Pam Oliver, Lisa Salters, Sheena Quick, Jemele Hill, Kelley Carter, Rhiannon Walker, Janae Adams, Kelsey Nelson, and every other woman of color who is breaking the glass ceiling so I can continue to do what I love.
LS: What was that moment like when you decided to create Royalty of PBS? Tell us about the hardest part of your journey?
TC: The greatest part about creating Royalty of PBS was connecting with other queens across the world. I love that we all share the same goals, tribulations, and excitement we have for our pageant titles and community. My hardest part of the journey would be trying to accommodate to everyone’s needs. As much as I think it's possible, it isn’t. You just have to do the best you can.
LS: What advice do you have for aspiring YouTubers?
TC: Just get started! I know it's hard to fall into imposter syndrome and always wanting to be perfect but here’s the secret - the content will never be perfect. It doesn’t matter how fancy the camera is, the editing software, or even the background - good content is good content. Just put it out there and go from there. I am telling you now, there is room for everyone.
TC: As I always say, I’m trying to be like Pinky and the Brain and takeover the world. After I do that, I want to continue to grow my youtube community. Again, make sure you subscribe, like, and share – Takeoff Twillie. As well as follow me and my pageant journey on Instagram (@TakeoffTwillie). You may donate to my pageant journey www.thembiapageant.com and click on the donate tab and write in the note box “Ms. Black Alabama Twillie” so the donation will go directly towards my title and my platform. You can also cheer me on as I compete and win the title of Ms. Black International Ambassador in June 2021 on the beautiful island of the Bahamas. May you also lift me in prayer during this next chapter of my life after facing the craziness of 2020, hopefully, we stay safe in these crazy times and we see each other at the finish line.
TC: I have always loved and lived by the quote: “Never let the fear of striking out, keep you from playing the game.” Never let the fear of anything stop you from doing your heart’s desire.