Leslie Osborne of Sweat Cosmetics and FOX sports shares her pro-soccer journey
We interviewed Leslie Osborne, a former pro-soccer player for the US women’s national team and player in the 2007 Women’s World Cup.
In 2006,she was named a finalist for the US Soccer Women’s Player of the Year, and she appeared in 62 games total for the US women’s national team.
Leslie played for nine seasons, serving as team captain the whole time, for teams in the WPS and NWSL. She played for FC Gold Pride (2009), the Boston Breakers (2010-2012) and the Chicago Red Stars (2013) before retiring in 2014.
Since then, she has worked as a soccer game and sports analyst for FOX, covering two World Cups and many US women’s national Team international friendlies.
She also co-founded Sweat Cosmetics in 2015 with a few of her fellow athletes. The make-up and sun care brand provides active women and athletes coverage with an easy twist brush applicator.
Leslie lives in California with her husband, Ricky Lewis, who is also a professional soccer player, and is mother to three daughters.
As part of our Healthy Human Brand Ambassador interview series, this interview highlights the inspiring actions of one of our community influencers.
(Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)
I would say it was a long journey. I turned professional in 2005, and I signed my first endorsement and contract and I was playing for the USA women’s soccer team. I felt like I was struggling to protect my skin from the sun and wear sunscreen.
Anytime you play soccer or run for a long period of time--when you wear liquid sunscreen--it’s a hot mess. It runs into your eyes, makes you break out, burns your eyes and doesn’t stay on well.
On the other side, I wanted to look good and feel good because when I did, I played better.I wasn’t a huge proponent of wearing makeup. I didn’t want the orange stuff on my jersey, I didn’t want to break out from makeup, and I didn’t want people to actually know that I was wearing makeup.
Fast forward from 2005 to 2011 or 2012, I started realizing that a lot of my teammates were going through the same thing. Nobody really had a product out there that they felt they could protect their skin from the sun, but also give them some coverage.
When I started playing for the Boston Breakers in 2012, four of my teammates and I realized that we were all struggling with the same thing. And two of my co-founders had actually come up with this idea when they were playing in college.
When I met Taryn Hemmings in Boston, and she told me about the idea, I was like: oh my gosh, I have been struggling my whole professional career with this.
So we set out on our journey. It took us three years--a lot of sleepovers, a lot of journaling, a lot of messaging chemists, a lot of talking to teammates, friends and moms from a lot of different age groups.
We were trying to figure out: Do other women struggle with the same problem, or is this just an athlete problem?
What we realized is this was a problem amongst all women who are living an active lifestyle. And that’s really where Sweat Cosmetics started.
Sweat’s been my life since 2012 and I feel like I’m kind of a walking billboard for our company because like right now I’m wearing a Sweat Cosmetics tank top and our hat.
And I wear the products all day and everyday just because I’m a minimalist. I don’t like to put on a full face of makeup, I never have.
Second of all, I never have time. I have three young kids, and I’m always on the move, and so, 30 minutes or 20 minutes of putting makeup on is just not realistic for me.
I wear all of our products and the products I’m most passionate about is our mineral foundation SPF 30 twist brush, and it actually took us almost 2 years to create this product. There are four different shades, and it’s hypoallergenic, dermatologist approved, oil-free, fragrance-free, silicone-free, and it’s just gonna give you some coverage.
It’s going to take away oil and shine and redness, but it’s also gonna give you that SPF-30 protection. You twist up the brush, you tap it down, and the powder comes out on the top of the brush, and it makes you look put together. And that’s all I need.
It’s a natural, minimalist makeup, but if you want more coverage, you just put on more coats. That’s the beauty of our product. Some people like a little bit more makeup, some people don’t like a lot.
That’s probably our most popular product and if someone’s coming to our site for the first time, that’s most likely the product that you would purchase.
I use our translucent twist brush the most, because it’s just sunscreen: zinc oxide, SPF 30. I put it on myself and my children, and my husband who’s black can also wear it because it’s just sunscreen. He puts it on his forehead, his bald head, his neck, when he golfs and when he’s outside.
My girls and I live in California, so we’re outside all day, everyday, and so I take the brush and I put it all over them, and they love it.
I pride myself on watching them put on their own sunscreen. That makes me a happy, proud mommy. And a lot of people buy that product because everyone can use it in their household.
So, all of our products are literally just designed for the active woman. We stand by that and we’re one of the only athletic beauty brands out there.
I started playing sports actually older than most people. I had an older sister that was three years older than me and I started playing whatever she did. I didn’t actually start playing soccer until I was 10. So, I was kind of a late bloomer. Now, a lot of kids are starting to play when they’re like 3, 4, and 5.
Right away, my parents said that I was born to have a ball at my feet. I absolutely loved it. I excelled very quickly, I was playing with kids that were three years older than me and boys, and from the start, it just came very natural to me.
And I also loved it. I fell in love with the game and by age 11, I actually made the state team. And from there, I went from the state team to the regional team to the youth national team, and so by the age of 14, I was already representing our country playing for the youth 16 national team.
It was then, I would say my freshmen year, sophomore year in high school when I was playing that I realized that: Oh my gosh, I’m going to get a college scholarship—to one of the top soccer programs in the country and if I continue to work as hard as I’m working, I may one day play professionally.
And that was in 1999, when the women won the world cup. That was my sophomore year in high school where I was like—holy cow, these women are my role models—maybe if I work hard and get better, maybe I can do that one day. And it became more attainable rather than just a dream.
When I went on to play college at Santa Clara University, we won the national championship my freshmen year and I got called in to the full US women’s national team my junior year and I was playing with all of my role models like Mia Hamm and Julie Foudy and Brandi Chastain and Kristine Lilly. That’s really when I think I realized that I could have a career out of this.
I played from age 10 to 32, so a big chunk of my life was the game and I loved it, and I’m so thankful that coaches saw that in me and encouraged me to continue to take it to the next level. But it was truly the love for the game and my work that really helped excel me to that point.
Absolutely. I had a few, a lot of different setbacks along the way. I had a lot of things work in my favor, but I feel like a lot of it was not luck, it was more my work rate and my dedication and passion.
In my junior year in college, I got called in to the US women’s national team and I was training for the 2004 Olympics. So that would be my first Olympics that I was trying out for and I had to take a year off of college, so I moved away. There were four of us college players amongst all of our role models. So I was playing with women that were 30 years and older--women I had looked up to my entire life--and I was 18 years old.
We trained for almost a year for residency once you make the Olympics team. So you know, you had to give up a lot and sacrifice a lot. You know, I was away from my team, my boyfriend, my family, school, everything and I worked so, so hard. I was scared shitless everyday to go to practice to be with these women that were very intimidating as my life. And I ended up getting cut from the team.
There were two of us that made it and two of us that didn’t and I was one of the ones that didn’t make it. The coach told me, you know you just don’t have the experience. I’m taking you. I felt like oh my god, I—not wasted a year of my life, but I had no confidence left, I felt terrible about myself and I had to go back to college and I felt really defeated. I had hit rock bottom. I didn’t want to play. And that had never happened to me before.
It took awhile for me to get my confidence back, and luckily I had my senior year in college left and I had a great season with my teammates. The next year when I was playing for the US women’s national team again, and I got called back in with a new coach, I had to put all of that behind me. I set out for my goal, and that was to make the world Cup team in 2007.
The next one would probably be the biggest one. I did make the World Cup in 2007. I played in all the games, helped our team win bronze, and it was pretty awesome. My next mission was to make the Olympic team in 2008 in Beijing, because I had been cut in 2004.
I was playing really well--probably the best soccer of my life. Two days after making the Olympic team, I tore my ACL. It turns out that not only did I tear my ACL, but I tore my ACL and tore my ankle—all the ligaments in my ankle.
So, four out of five doctors said that they would not operate on me and said that I would not play professional soccer again. One doctor, actually the 49ers doctor said that I will do both surgeries for you at the same time. He said: I can’t promise you you’ll play at the same level, but I’ll redo your ACL and your ankle.
And I did it. It took me a year and a half to come back and play again. I never played for the US women’s national team again. I never played in the Olympics or World Cup after that. But I did play five more years professionally. And I’m super proud of that because I got to play the game I loved.
It was the hardest 18 months, watching my team win the gold medal in Beijing, as I rehabbed my entire left leg. I had a cast on my ankle and a cast on my knee. I didn’t walk for two and a half months. I had to re-teach myself how to run, how to move.
But I look at it as a blessing in disguise, because that’s really when I started to figure out who I was outside of soccer. For my whole life, I had been Leslie Osborne the soccer player. During that time, it allowed me to get into TV and get into working for non-profits. It propelled me to transition seamlessly, although it was a very, very, very difficult time for me.
In 2008 and 2009, when I wasn’t on the field, I contacted our professional league and I asked them if I could do TV for the league and do interviews. And it was really fun for me, so throughout the next five years of me playing professionally, I just did TV stuff on the side, so I got comfortable and confident in front of a camera.
When I retired in 2014, I actually did the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada and was in Canada for six weeks for Fox Sports as well, so I actually covered two women’s World Cups. Some of the best memories of my post-soccer life are definitely in the 2015 and 2019 World Cup and being part of that.
There’s been so much progress made and there’s still so much more to be done, right? So, if you look at from 1999 until now, 20 years later how the game has grown and the equitable part of that is getting so much closer, but there’s still such a huge gap, right?
And I’m so proud of the US women’s national team being on the forefront of that. And seeing so many other national teams following suit and paving the way as well and I think it takes being very brave and staying together and being unified as a group--standing up to their federation and demanding more. Because it’s fair--not because it’s a man versus women thing--it’s based on being fair and equitable.
Hopefully, five to ten years from now, we can say that we’re on the same playing field as the men. That’s the goal and I think that’s what we’re all going to try to go after. And continue to push these international federations and FIFA to do better and treat us fairly.
We’ll see. It’s actually funny. My husband played professional soccer, too. So, I met him when I was nineteen years old and he was playing soccer and he actually played in the MLS for LA Galaxy and the Colorado Rapids. We’re a soccer couple and a soccer family, so it would be really funny if our girls don’t end up playing soccer, which would be heartbreaking.
But we know that the chances of them playing, all three of them are actually very slim. It might be best if they all don’t play because with us being so competitive--soccer was our life--I don’t know if it would be healthy.
I want them to play something. I want them to be on a team sport and I want them to be passionate about something. I think being part of a team sport is the best thing you can give a child in terms of all of the skills and characteristics that you learn as being part of a team.
Yeah. I mean I look back at my journey and the best memories I have are playing when I was a kid. And I just encourage kids to play whatever they play because they want to play and they find the love in playing that sport and be in the moment. Enjoy it, because it’s going to quickly pass.
And be committed. Be committed to yourself and be committed as a teammate, because that’s the best gift you can give. If you have a team that everyone is dedicated and committed, a lot of good things are going to come from that.
It has rocked my world. I know that a lot of people feel that way. I think this is the longest I’ve never been on an airplane. On the other side, I’m like this has been the best five months at home that I’ve ever had. Although I try to be present as much as I can with my girls, I feel that this is truly the most present time for our family.
And so, having a baby through this pandemic—a lot of people were freaking out for me. But I felt like what was in our control was in our control and what was going to happen was in God’s hands. I think the silver lining has been that my family has been together more the last four months than we’ve ever been.
And in terms of being active. I’m a class person. I love hot yoga, I love going to community classes. I’m part of that culture and I love it. I miss my community, I miss my friends, I miss having adult interaction everyday because, being a stay at home mom, you needed that and I strive for that. But I’m just getting more creative.
I was supposed to run the NY marathon in November with two of my former teammates—Heather O’Reilly and Abby Wambach, and so I’ve been training for that, but obviously that got cancelled three weeks ago. Now I need to figure out something else to do—I’m very goal orientated. I need something to work towards.
But everyday, I work out. It’s part of my lifestyle. Working out is not just to stay fit, it’s to help me be a better mom, a better wife and a better entrepreneur. I feel like it gives me energy, as tired as I am sometimes, I never regret working out and it’s a part of my day. There’s no excuses for me.
We’re into Frozen right now. I was dreading this and now my three year old is watching Frozen, but we just went to Carmel this last weekend and I introduced Aladdin to my girls, because that was one of my favorites, growing up, and so now all they want to do is watch Aladdin, so I’m much more happy about that than Frozen.
Balance, variety, nutrition, and exercise and to be the example for your family. I think it starts young. Teach them how to cook healthy foods and have that active lifestyle when they’re kids. That’s the only thing that they’ll know and that’ll just be ingrained in their life.
I would say the pink Cruiser tumbler—I always find a way to bring it with me because of the straw access. It’s perfect for me and it’s just so easy to drink. So that’s why I find myself drinking so much water because of it.
They’re in my car, they’re in my stroller. I take it with me in the wagon, I take it on our bike rides. I put it on my Peloton bike. I take it to the pool. It’s in our backyard. I take them everywhere.