Managing Director, Marketing & Communications • United States Tennis Association, Eastern Inc. • White Plains, N.Y. • Age: 33
Michelle R. Blake Wilson learned more than how to hit a killer backhand or a stealth top-spin lob as a Harlem Junior Tennis participant. “I had a tennis coach who would tell us ‘Your life has to mean something bigger than yourself,’” says Blake Wilson of coach Claude Cargill, co-founder of Harlem Junior Tennis.
As managing director for marketing and communications at United States Tennis Association, Eastern Section, Blake Wilson introduces children to tennis, a sport that not only develops athleticism, but also teaches life skills such as honesty and integrity. For many, tennis has opened doors to academic and professional opportunities they might not have had otherwise. “I’m improving the lives of children,” says Blake Wilson. “That’s what gets me up in the morning.”
Blake Wilson is also driven by her desire to help young women develop self-esteem, an issue that has greater significance since the recent birth of her daughter, Blake. She credits husband, Jason Wilson; mother, Linda Blake; and brother Jason Blake, with providing the solid foundation that allows her to excel in her work.
Blake Wilson received a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Hampton University and quickly established herself as an accomplished brand strategist in the fashion retail industry. As the product of a tennis family that includes professional player sibling James Blake, however, Blake Wilson longed to meld her love of business with the sport she had played since childhood. After earning an MBA from Columbia University, she joined USTA Eastern as director of marketing and business development in 2006. In October 2007, she became the youngest managing director in USTA Eastern history. “Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do something, no matter what your limitations,” she says to aspiring professionals.