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Reebok’s Jasmine Bellamy Is Dedicated to Leading the Tough Conversations

Jasmine Bellamy

Sports Illustrated and Empower Onyx are putting the spotlight on the diverse journeys of Black women across sports—from the veteran athletes, to up-and-coming stars, coaches, executives and more—in the series, Elle-evate: 100 Influential Black Women in Sports.

They say heavy is the head that wears the crown, but not so much for Jasmine Bellamy. She delights in her job as Reebok’s self-proclaimed head merchant and culture transformer. Of course, that’s not her formal title, but it perfectly sums up the dual role she plays for the sports and fitness brand.

Officially, Bellamy is the brand’s U.S. head of merchandising, planning, allocation and logistics. That means it’s her responsibility to consistently deliver a hat trick of intuition, taste and timing to drive sales and grow profit margins while minimizing product markdowns. Sounds complicated, but as Bellamy puts it: “I get to lead the teams that touch every product that comes through our stores, or through our digital site, in a way that pulls a customer in to make a purchase,” she says.

In the almost two years that she’s been with Reebok, Bellamy’s creativity and analytics helped sustain the company as one of the top-10 sportswear brands in the world, despite a global pandemic that caused an unprecedented disruption in commerce.

Her other gig as “culture transformer” has positioned Bellamy as one of Reebok’s greatest minds fixed on strengthening its in-house diversity and inclusion efforts. As the company’s head of change management under the United Against Racism for Reebok initiative, she’s created a safe space for employees to have tough conversations about dismantling assumptions, bias, hostility and microaggressions.

“I call it joyful disruption to be able to hold space literally for almost 600 people in a session to talk about diversity, equity and inclusion, and to give them tools to be able to navigate not just this particular moment successfully, but for them to be able to change business,” she says. “To show them there’s just a new way to be in business that is not systemically racist.”

Bellamy’s venture into apparel merchandising began outside of the sports and fitness orbit. She launched her career as an intern with the 195-year-old iconic fashion brand Lord & Taylor, as part of INROADS, a nonprofit organization that helps ethnically diverse students advance their careers. During her college years, she rotated through several retail sectors with Lord & Taylor, including management and buying. “I was an oddity. A black girl in the buying world was rare,” says Bellamy. “We were just starting to make our mark.”

That experience would foreshadow what was to come next.

Bellamy was really intentional about her career path and thrived at Lord & Taylor. Her strategic planning and forecasting made her a corporate standout. She was a natural networker, and her vision and likability made her an office influencer. “I became the co-chair of the multicultural development committee for Lord & Taylor,” she says. “I was coming in to share [Black] culture within the context of these white public spaces so that people could really understand more about us.”

Looking back, she says that first foray into what’s now defined as workplace Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives triggered a calling that would soon lead her to champion the United Against Racism for Reebok initiative.

For Bellamy, there was no lifelong dream to work with a retail sports brand. Like most kids in her neighborhood, she enjoyed playing sports but never competed on a team. “We just didn’t have access,” she says. “I grew up in the Bronx and went to Catholic school, so I didn’t get to participate in organized sports, but I was always naturally good at street games like kickball or softball, basketball and tennis.”

So when the opportunity to work with legendary tennis star and seven-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams presented itself, Bellamy jumped at the chance. In 2000, Reebok had inked a $40 million clothing deal with the then 20-year-old Williams—thought to be the richest endorsement contract for a female tennis athlete at the time. “I was brought in to develop and really guide the direction of the Venus Williams Collection when it first started,” she says.

You’d think Bellamy would count that as her greatest career accomplishment, but for her, her proudest moment is the work she does when she dons her culture transformer hat for Reebok, and rolls out DEI strategies to ensure that company execs aren’t just talking about them, but instead, talking about how they’re going to carry them out.

“To see how we have changed as humans at work has been absolutely unbelievable,” says Bellamy, whose DEI work has caught attention outside of Reebok as well. “You think of an idea, but when you see it start to shape the culture and take root in the hearts of other humans, it’s mind-blowing.”

“To be able to sit in my little corner of the world and be shining light, to create change, that I hope will ripple out from our organization to many others—that I would say is probably the biggest, the greatest achievement I have in these two years,” she says. “Probably in my entire career.” And that’s not heavy at all.

Empower Onyx/Sports Illustrated present Elle-evate: 100 Influential Black Women in Sports

Madelyne Woods is a contributor for Empower Onyx, a diverse multichannel platform celebrating the stories and transformative power of sports for Black women and girls.