When reflecting on her dual Asian-American heritage, Jessica Pegula believes that representation for aspirant players is crucial.
Pegula grew up with an American father, Terry Pegula, and a Korean mother, Kim Pegula, who are both successful sports business figures in the US. The multi-billionaire pair owns an NFL team, the Buffalo Bills, and an NHL team, the Buffalo Sabres, and the entrepreneurial approach of her parents has inspired Pegula to one day run her own tennis tournament.
Ahead of the upcoming 2023 Italian Open, Pegula was asked by reporters about the importance of her heritage as an Asian-American sports star. In response, the 29-year-old explained that she sees her status as a role model for underrepresented younger players and fans who look up to her.
"I think for me it means maybe a little bit different, but sometimes I forget the impact you have on, especially like when I see a young Korean girl or family, they come up to me and they, like, love my mom and they love me just because they see themselves being represented on a bigger stage or an area where there's not a lot of Asian-Americans, let alone Asian-American women, especially in sports. Especially my mom being in the NFL, NHL, it's kind of like non-existent."
Also, Pegula feels that her shared experience of growing up in a dual-heritage home resonates with others who look up to her as a sports role model. In particular, the world number three feels like she has an important role to play in representing people from Asian-American backgrounds through her profile.
"I don't think I realized it till maybe, I don't know, three or four years ago when I started to play better, have better results. My mom was more in the spotlight. You get those people that come up to you, Oh, my God, my daughters love you, they're such big fans. They're also half Asian. We're from Korea, we came over here. You realize the importance of representation."
"I think for me that's kind of what it means, is seeing the difference you make. Even though I didn't exactly grow up fully Korean, it's something that now I think me and my family and my sister have also wanted to learn more about because we realize how important it is for those that come over here and those that are in Asia and they see us in these different lights kind of representing them when there's not a lot of us."