Achea: We are here today with the young little Noah Conley along with Mary Conley. We have been long time friends and she is now back in the city of Columbus for the summer. Her husband, Michael Conley, plays for the Memphis Grizzlies and has been on the team for his entire career. It is very uncommon for players to be on the same team for the entire career.
Mary: No not at all and I didn’t learn that until a few years after being there, but it has been great because I have been able to keep the same group of friends there and not have to worry about hopping around from team to team.
Achea: Right, that is pretty much the reality for athletes and their families in general. Michael and Michael never played on the same team as each other, but we both live here in Columbus. Both of our husbands are obsessed with golf and maybe a little too much. It is apparently a major stress reliever for them.
Mary: It is, and as much as I would just like to have him around I do have to give him his time to golf because it is good for his mind, body and soul.
Achea: Absolutely. Honesty the old saying that behind every good man there is a great woman, but I don’t like that term ‘behind’ I prefer ‘beside’.
Mary: That’s a good point, I like that too.
Achea: So, you have been standing beside Mike for almost four years, you have two beautiful boys.
Mary: We just welcomed our second little one four weeks ago. It has gone by so fast. We met our freshmen year of college and when I think about what our lives were like then, to being friends, to dating, then getting engaged and becoming parents and figuring it all out together. It has been fun but it has been a process.
Achea: My hat off to you, to me you are the epitome of a superwoman. You are married to a powerful public figure, which comes with its own set of expectations and then you still have had to not only be his wife, but then you walk into being an NBA wife, and you are also a mom and primarily a caregiver for the boys especially when Michael is on the road, and then you essentially decided you wanted something for yourself. So, tell us about what you started, what inspired you to start it and how it is doing.
Mary: What inspired me a couple years ago, was that going to the games was my time to shine in the fashion department. I got to wear what I wanted and I just had so much fun planning my outfits in advance and I was always too thoughtful on what I wanted to wear. Whether it was a week night game or a weekend game, whether it was nationally televised versus locally televised all determined what I wore. People would then ask me questions on what I was wearing and what determined what I was wearing. So, I decided to start Living LeReve, which is my fashion blog, three years ago. My middle name is LeReve, which means to dream, so I thought that the name was perfect. It took off and I started slowly because I wasn’t quite sure on what I wanted to do so it was just an outlet for me to share what I was wearing, to dress up, and have the opportunity to meet with local brands and local stores. I have a larger base in Memphis because we are there longer throughout the year, but I am starting to get into the Columbus crowd also. I started this blog when I didn’t have kids, and if I had started this sooner I could have been at my prime with the blog before I had kids. I would have been able to dedicate a lot more time to it. The truth is being a mom is my number one priority, and other bloggers have the ability to go and travel to various blogger events around the world and I wish I could go, and there are small windows I can go. But my kids are my priority and it’s been fun having them. My blog has ventured to more of a lifestyle blog because people want to know how I work out when I am pregnant, how I travel with kids, and how I handle two kids by myself when my husband is on the road. Its changed and its growing with me but we are in a good place right now with it.
Achea: I love your style and fashion sense. One of the things I really appreciate is that you seem to have an emphasis on high and low.
Mary: I do. And that is what people want to know about; what is your brand about and how are you different from everyone else. I say high low because people know that I can afford high end items, but people like that I still shop at Marshalls or TJ Maxx and mix those lower end products. Sometimes they look just as good as the high-end items. I am proud that all my followers can in some way relate to my blog. It is important to me to stay true to who I am throughout my journey even though our lifestyle has changed. I just want to be relatable and I think I am more of a low-key person.
Achea: That is one of the things that I think I love about you most Mary, is that you are so relatable. The expectation a lot of the time is that you wouldn’t be. And I am guilty of watching basketball wives, and I don’t even know why. I think it’s because I am in such a mental health space and I like to treat them like case studies and see how each person differs and relates to their experiences. With that kind of a television show, when people realize that when I am a real live basketball wife sitting in front of them, the first question they ask me is “Are they all really like that?!” The expectation is that you wouldn’t be relatable.
Mary: The biggest comment that stuck out to me was when my cousin came to a game with me. She was 11 or 12 at the time and she met all the other wives commented on how this was nothing like the show and wondered if they were all like that. It broke my heart that the show was portraying all of us like that and I think most of us are very down to earth and low-key. There might be an extravagant vacation here or there, but we are for the most part just an everyday wife and mother. We are just trying to make everything work.
Achea: I think it’s a lot like the real world, you have your extravagant wives, but it’s more of their personality type than just the simple fact that they are basketball wives
Mary: That’s a good point. Whether they are a basketball wife or not, they are still going to have those items, and act in certain ways because that is their personality type. As opposed to coming into being a basketball wives as a low-key person, you’re most likely going to stay that way.
Achea: Exactly, and that’s the thing that I love most about you is that you have stayed grounded. I would imagine that it would be kind of hard to stay grounded or become grounded when you come into that lifestyle, because you are immersed into money.
Mary: It would be very hard, and there are times where you are surrounded to all of these expensive items. I think about it and having a $4,000 to $5,000 bag hurts me inside to know that I would have that. I see these beautiful shoes and they are gorgeous and I want them and I can have them so why not. It’s a balance to keep myself from buying all of these things. When you compare me to others, I probably don’t seem as extravagant because it still hurts me to spend that money like that.
Achea: Its interesting, because in the height of Michael’s career we are the same, and that is why we like each other. I love and appreciate a good splurge every now and then, but I equally appreciate a bargain every now and then. But I remember when Michael was playing the Birkin was a big deal. I think that they are beautiful but I have not gotten one yet. I just can’t see myself spending upwards of $10,000 on a bag, it’s like a car. When Michael was play8ing he had a stylist that he was working with, and I began feeling the pressure to like keep up with the Joneses. His stylist called me and told me how much it was going to cost and he had ordered it for me, and I was thinking $4,000 and he told me it was $10,500 and oh no I told him they could sell it to someone else. Does it have any special abilities?? I could just not see myself spending that much money on it.
Mary: I actually don’t want one because I would be too nervous carry it around, and it would just sit in its dust bag on a shelf. It just doesn’t feel right to own something that expensive. Are there actually wives who think that they have to have one?
Achea: I don’t know. But to make myself feel better, I do think about that. Do you know how much I could have had??
Mary: That is a great reminder! I am just saving a lot of money not doing extravagant things every day.
Achea: Since we are on this whole basketball wife kind of thing, have you ever had someone who didn’t recognize you until they saw you with Michael, and then they ignore you until that moment and then shower you with compliments. Have you ever experienced that?
Mary: Yes, and I try not to get offended unless people are very rude to me at first. But if we are together and you approach my husband but don’t acknowledge me or apologize for interrupting us, I get frustrated because we are still humans. But I would never say anything because I don’t want to be rude. I just don’t understand how people can connect that way, how do you approach someone and not acknowledge that they exist. But I am still a representation of my husband and I want to act accordingly.
Achea: What you said is so important. You are a representation of your husband. Do you think that the same is true for someone who doesn’t have a famous husband?
Mary: I do. I don’t think that people are as aware of it but I believe you are always representing your spouse and your name and I have always cared about that. I wasn’t going to wear sweats in college because I wanted to be respected by my professors and I have just always had that mindset. But people don’t always care about appearances in the same way. I just like to carry myself in a certain way.
Achea: You do have this way that you carry yourself that is very admirable and respectful. How have you maintained your own identity being married to someone who is famous?
Mary: It took a while at first because I am his wife. But I am my own person and I just had to do something that I wanted to do that was apart from him where I wasn’t using his connections. I styled for a local magazine in Memphis and my editor didn’t know my husband played for the Grizzlies and I was proud that I had kept that from them and I had gotten the position myself. I have used his connections before, but I have worked hard to do my blog on my own to help me stay true to who I am.
Achea: The name helps take the association away, and you want people to buy into you and your brand genuinely.
Mary: I have thought of having Michael post something about my blog which would help me get followers, and Michael has a good point that the people who follow him wouldn’t be a good fit for following me. The people who do follow me genuinely want to know about my life. I feel like I have a genuine following and it feels good to have that. I am very sensitive and negative comments get to me, so I always delete them right away because this is a negative free space.
Achea: I don’t have very tough skin, well I guess I do now, but I had to have it. Starting something called Real Girls Fart, and then something that a lot of people associate with negativity that was my whole point. And having my mental health component I do get a lot of support. But the negatives are very negative and they hurt. When we first started doing these videos I would get negative comments about myself and the name. I would get in my feelings for a couple of days and then I would say okay the comments that they are making and have a general confusion of what the brand is I use it as an opportunity to educate them. This has created this dialogue around important topics. I assume with a lifestyle blog it comes as more of a personal attack on you.
Mary: It is but I have to just talk to someone close to me to help me work through the negative comments. The people saying these things would never say them to me in real life and I shouldn’t let them get to me.