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Levi Watson
Levi Watson

Berner Like This 'LINK'

Powered by his globally recognized Cannabis brand, fashion line, 38 albums to his name, and nearly 2 million Instagram followers as of this writing, any move by the 38-year-old founder of the Cookies empire tips the market scale like a fist on a triple beam.

Berner Like This

I was making funny videos, and I had some friends on the show already, and my name was thrown in the mix. I realized this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Some people might be a little more scared about the situation, but because of my past in athletics and being a tennis player, I'm like, "What can reality TV be that's too difficult to deal with?"

Berner: You know, it's funny, I never said any of this aloud before, but now talking to you, I'm like, "Oh, duh!" Sports is the best version of reality TV, I think. I got in a fight with my ex-boyfriend because he wouldn't watch "The Bachelor," but he'll watch WWE. I'm like, "It's the exact same thing." Anyone who watches sports likes watching reality, and with the highs and lows and the agony of defeat and heartbreak, it's seriously the same stuff.

Berner: I was 3. I had a coach and was playing in real tournaments by the time I was 8. It's so crazy, 'cause when you're living it, it's just what's happening, but now that I'm 27, I'm like, "You were a literal infant." I started playing national tournaments by 11, and by 14, I was ranked No. 15 in the nation for juniors.

Berner: I told my parents when I was 8 I wanted to be a professional tennis player. I loved all sports. I played basketball. I played softball. I golfed, and I loved all of them, but there was something about tennis, where, being alone out there, when you would do well, there was such a high from it, and I'm kind of an independent person. My parents asked the pro at wherever I was practicing, "Do you think she can go pro?" He was like, "Eight years old is too late to start getting serious." I cried that whole day. And I had this chip on my shoulder, like, "I am going to be a professional tennis player, and everyone else can go f--- off."

The reality is, you might see a 6-year-old at Bollettieri [IMG Academy] or any of the academies, but that same kid could be completely burned out by 12 or want to start a band by 16. There's so much about the mental health aspect that no one addresses. Parents are so often like, "Oh, she has talent. She's going to do it." And you need to make sure she's emotionally fulfilled throughout this, or she's not going to have the passion for going pro.

Berner: I was on that trajectory to go pro, but then I basically had a breakdown. I was not happy, and I missed my family, and I was putting way too much pressure on myself. I was working on changing my full-hand grip, and there was so much pressure because my parents were paying for all this travel. Even though my ranking was great, I didn't feel my happiest. I went back home at 16, and I told my dad, "I don't know if I can do this." I remember, we were on the tennis court, and he said, "I'm gonna hit you this ball, and you can tell me if you wanna keep playing or not, and regardless of what you say, I'll still love you." I'm starting to get deep here -- but I hit the ball, and I was like, "I have more in me."

I ended up winning the public school singles championship and was named the New York City female tennis player of the year or some s---. It was the first time that I realized I never dealt with sexism before because I always practiced with the boys, but we never competed against one another. This was me in their space, and I think it was really important to show that I could hang and that I wasn't intimidated or scared. The best part of all this, besides all the bulls--- awards, is when I then got a full scholarship to the University of Wisconsin, the Public School Athletic League granted our school the money to have a girls team -- that my dad then coached.

Berner: I was No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles for most of my time there, and I was named team MVP my senior year. But by the time my senior year came around, I realized that competition just wasn't making me happy anymore. I loved practice, but I actually didn't like the competition. I liked getting better, but competition was judgment day for me. I was so hard on myself. I started to think, "I think I have more to me than just tennis."

Berner: It took a while because my whole identity was tennis. And not to mention, going pro is difficult for many reasons, but one of which is the cost and expense. Unlike being part of a team sport, you're basically an entrepreneur, and if you don't win or get a sponsor, you don't get paid. Imagine the players on the Knicks only getting paid if they won!

Berner: Exactly. I don't mean to throw shade, but I'm just saying -- I had to make a decision financially and emotionally. I think it's important for athletes to know there's life beyond your sport. There's so much more that your sport gave to you besides the trophies that are in your basement right now. That experience, I think, made me emotionally prepared and confident enough. People say to me all the time, "You're so fearless!" and I'm like, "It took me a long time to be fearless, 'cause I wasn't always fearless on the tennis court." My more mature, 27-year-old side realizes I wish I just was playing for the joy of it instead of for the joy of other people being happy that I won.

Now, I don't have any coaches. My parents are not involved at all, and I feel this freedom that I didn't feel with tennis. It's still like performing. Tennis was performative, and now I'm a video producer, and I'm on this show. I feel like I always was like, "Why the hell did I put 20 years of my life into this sport that I was so good at, and it didn't pan out for me?" Sometimes, if you're really good at something, it doesn't mean it's your long-term thing, and sometimes tennis was the perfect thing for me, when I was 18, but now there's just so much room for so many different dreams in your life, and just because you're really a special athlete means you're probably special at other things, too.

Berner: I couldn't watch tennis for at least a year because I was too sensitive. People would be like, "Do you want to come to the US Open?" I was like, "I don't wanna pay to watch my friends play." I just can't get myself to do that. Now, tennis is my favorite sport to watch. I think, specifically, women's tennis is so interesting because the serving holds are not as predictable, and the personalities are so great, and I love watching tennis and appreciate the sport for what it is.

Berner: Mostly just on social media. Occasionally we'll get coffee or something. It's funny, though, when we were growing up together, they were just the person standing in the way of your goal, and you had to play them. They wanted to beat you, and now, years later, we now can connect on a whole different level. That is really special. We had to learn how to not deal with women like they're your competition because, in reality, out of sports, women are actually your greatest asset because they just understand you.

Berner: I taught tennis after graduating, but now but now I just play with former college players and professionals or with professionals who are just back in the city and wanna hit it. Honestly, it's fun to just be able to come in for one day and for an hour, go hard, and then be like, "OK, I'm putting the racket down now." I still love the sport more than anything, and I was so happy that Bravo gave me this chance to put it on a platform to show just that women can be really f---ing athletic and good at what they do.

Berner: Well, you get a ton of humor. You definitely get some tennis clips, and you also get to see that I'm 27. I'm still coming of age, I'm still establishing what I want my career to be. I'm single, so I'm still figuring out my love life. I also think that you see a vulnerable side to me. A lot of people know me from videos online or my tweets, but you get to see those are so curated, in that this is two sentences, and the one minute video you're laughing at took me three days to write and four days to edit.

[On the show], you're just seeing [me] being me. It is vulnerable, but I think that's important. I was always vulnerable on the tennis court, and sometimes it was bad because I'd start crying or freaking out, but now, being vulnerable, when I'm crying, is actually is good. I have to laugh at myself. I didn't want to cry at all on TV, and when I did, I was like, "Don't be that girl!" but I'm honestly OK with it.

Berner: Oh, this is easy: Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova. Serena Williams wears her heart on her sleeve, and she puts her foot in her mouth all the time because she's Serena Williams and she kind of can, but then I think Maria Sharapova would be the popular girl in high school who no one really likes but everyone respects. Everyone wants to be her, but no one likes her, and they're definitely afraid of her in the hallway. Wouldn't you want to watch them together?

I've heard this song before. My name is Kenneth Mejia and I was a Berner in 2016. After that travesty of a primary I #DemExitedand #GreenEntered, working to build my local Green Party in Los Angels, CA and winning over 41,000 votes running as a Green for U.S. Congress in 2018.

I hope you will join me tonight and tell your friends. You've got three ways to watch: Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Let's talk about how we can make the most of this moment for Grassroots Democracy! This system is breaking down all around us, leaving many desperate, in harm's way or worse. Let's change the system! 041b061a72


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