HER App partnered with Great Heights for an interview with Ali Krieger & Ashlyn Harris from the USWNT (United States Women’s National Soccer Team) to talk with our Head of Community about their journey as a couple, giving back to the LGBTQ+ community, the most badass queer wedding and what the future has in store.
Photography by Luv Rox
Shana: What is the story of your relationship that people don’t get to hear about?
Ali: I feel like playing soccer together set us up for success and for our relationship to last this long. I feel like normally I would jump into something right away, and might take it too fast. I think we did a great job just kind of taking it slow in a way that we felt was appropriate to create a safe space and make it really successful for both of us. Plus we were going through a lot and things got really stressful for both of us. We had to figure out playing in different countries, working together and trying to figure out that work/life balance, especially at the highest level. I think from the very beginning, not many people know that we were friends first for a long time, rather than just jumping into a relationship together. I’m really happy we did that and I think that’s something that might be left unsaid.
Shana: I think that your long distance relationship gets overshadowed and needs to be talked about. Ali, you were overseas for about 5 years, right?
Ali: Yea, I was for 5 and 1/2 years from 2007 August till December 2012.
Shana: 5 years long distance? If that’s not the most lesbian story, I don’t know what else is. What were things that you all had to establish very quickly in terms of communication and especially boundaries while long distance?
Ashlyn: I think what a lot of people don’t know is how difficult it was for us, and how much time we had to invest in what we were trying to create. I genuinely woke up at 3:30 a.m. to speak to her before she started her day. Those were the sacrifices we had to make to make our relationship work and you know what? I don’t regret it. I’m happy that we don’t have to deal with that now, but those are the things people don’t know about us and it was really hard to have that time change. I couldn’t just take off weekends and go visit her and vice versa. We really had to focus on spending quality time together, whether it was Skype or whatever type of Facetime equivalent we had 10 years ago. We would send each other care packages filled with stuff to show that I am thinking about you, I see you, and I know this isn’t easy – but we’re in this together and we’re going to make it work. We really nurtured our relationship from the beginning and we took it really seriously. I don’t think a lot of people know that side and know how hard it was, but it was important you know, we really wanted to make it work.
Photography by Luv Rox
Shana: It’s amazing to hear that you found different ways to communicate and to be able to share that for couples who are also in long distance relationships. What would be your advice to couples who are currently in long distance relationships?
Ali: DON’T DO IT
Ashlyn: We’re in such a good place with technology that it is easier (not sure if it’s a good thing) to stay connected. When we were trying to make it work, we were still burning CDs for each other and writing the songs on the CD, so times have definitely changed.
Ali: A few things that were so important to us was 1. Communication and 2. Having trust within our relationship. You are living these separate lives, coming together to mold it into one and that is very very difficult because you’re living separate. You’re going day to day and then reporting back to each other what happened to feel like you’re in it, when you’re really not. 3. Make your partner priority. Taking time out of your day to talk and show that you are in this together. All three are really key for long distance relationships.
Shana: You all are great examples of what a healthy, workplace relationship looks like. When I watch the Orlando Pride/USWNT games you see Ashlyn yelling or Ali yelling and having to communicate in high stress situations, I wonder how you navigate that together? I know it’s different between being on the field vs. being at home.
Ali: First and foremost respect is huge and I know that regardless if she is yelling at me from behind on the field, off the field we try to speak very respectful to each other all the time, very calm and collected. Because I think that is first and foremost in a relationship and with your partner, you have to respect each other. I think that translates onto the field, so she’ll be telling me something and I honestly won’t take it personally because we are at work and we want to get the job done. We both want to win, and we are both very very competitive and that’s something we share at the highest level, and that’s what has helped us get there. At the end of the day, the end result is that we respect each other, we love each other and we care about each other and that comes first. In the workplace, we are there to do our job and there to do it well. I think we’ve taken that very seriously, and think we’ve done a hell of a job with that in order to gain our teammates and fans support and respect. Because we really are there to do our job and do it well and it’s none of people’s business what is said behind closed doors.
Shana: In other interviews, you mentioned that element of professionalism, and your description sounds like that would be your primary definition of the word. When you started dating, was it more so that you were leaning into that element of professionalism, or was it more so during those times that it was still taboo to be out and be together? Or was it that you all are private people and allowed yourselves to come out when you were ready?
Ali: I think the latter part of the statement you just made. I think we were like you know what this feels right. Up until now, we were a bit hesitant, but that was more from a privacy perspective rather than a hiding perspective. We were never really hiding, I think our closest friends and family always knew that we were together and built this life that we really love. Our organizations knew, it wasn’t really hiding from them. But officially announcing it felt like we were finally out together, because we had never really announced it as a couple. But I think we were just hesitant because of sponsorships, because of different opportunities that we might miss out on if companies weren’t respectful of who we are, our sexuality and being our authentic selves. But now it was like F— it, and if they don’t like us that’s their prerogative and that’s their loss. We just want to be our authentic selves, live our lives to the fullest and not feel that in this day and age we have to hide from being ourselves and being happy, which is most important.
Shana: For you all personally, what have been some of the most positive responses that you’ve received from people? What are some of those memorable moments that you’ve gotten to see since officially saying that you two are together?
Ashlyn: I would say for Ali and I, we get stopped so often now and I feel like coming out has made us a little bit more approachable. I feel like we are understood a lot more and it’s so good to have conversations with people and see the impact it has made on them. Yet, they don’t understand the impact they’ve made on us and creating a safe space where we feel like we can be genuinely ourselves and be celebrated for it. It’s this really cool, mutual respect to have a community that comes up to you and feels like they’re in a safe space – where you help impact or change their life in a small way just by being yourself, and that is so rewarding. Part of me sometimes feels a sense of guilt that I didn’t do this sooner, because I didn’t know the impact not only positively on my life and our life, but other people’s lives. It’s been a really cool full circle moment for us, not only as individuals but as a couple.
Photography by Luv Rox
Shana: That’s awesome! I think there is no better way to transition then to focus on all of the gay shit that you had at your wedding, which was AMAZING!
Ashlyn: I think it’s so important to pay it forward from top to bottom. We aligned ourselves with companies, partners, vendors and wedding planners who spoke our language, who understood us, who saw us, who celebrated us while creating a safe space for us to be our full selves. In order to do that, we looked at each other and we were like we have to pay it forward, we need people to see that this is happy, that this is normal and this should be celebrated. I know the wedding was super public, but there’s a reason for that. People need to be able to open up magazines and see two women together. People need to see Great Heights advertisement with two women being celebrated for a partnership in a marriage that they hold really dear. It shouldn’t even be a thing. We shouldn’t feel a certain way when we see two people of the same sex together. The visibility piece is so major and we wanted to make sure that every single person that had a part in the wedding had a part in changing culture, that’s what was important to us.
Shana: Between not having phones at your ceremony, but being able to see your reception on social media – I think it was great to have a space where you could have the community come together, see your happiness and the normalization of this moment. People have been waiting for this wedding for years! Was there a kind of awareness in that as you were planning or was it more this is how we feel, this is what we are going to do for our day?
Ali: I think Ash and I sat down and we said listen, this is going to be a big deal. We want people to enjoy it as much as we will on that special day, because we know how much of an impact it’s going to make on both youth and adults in our generation. More importantly, and I feel like it was so important for us to have a piece of the ceremony just be for us. The people who are in that space mean the world to us, they are our closest family and friends. We wanted to make sure we weren’t walking up the stairs to a bunch of phones in our face, that was just unrealistic and not as elegant or classy. To capture the moment that we wanted, we wanted to have an unplugged ceremony. We wanted to make sure everyone was physically, emotionally and mentally with us and that was something that was so special – I think that Ash and I will always cherish and always remember that moment. And then of course, we wanted people to see the party and the happiness and the love of everyone, not just of us, but all of our family and friends being there. It’s so important to see that this is also a normal wedding, a celebration of two individuals who love each other. It’s not about anything other than that, really. We wanted to be sure that it was well done, the video was so amazing and we are so grateful for our partners with the videography and photography – they were just unreal and really expressed what we wanted out of that day. We were so thrilled to share it with you and the world. I’m so glad the feedback was so positive.
Photography by Luv Rox
Shana: Watching the reception on social media, and just being fans of you, this was probably one of the most positive ways a love story could be told. And it’s incredible to see how much of a part you had in creating your own narrative. After this, what are some of the ways you want to be an impact moving forward?
Ali: We want to continue to use our platform and voice for the LGBTQ Community as well as fight for issues that we really believe in. Soccer doesn’t define us at the end of the day. It’s our job and we love it and we feel so passionate about it. It’s what has helped us build these platforms and these big voices that we are now able to carry on for years to come. And we’re going to do that. That’s something we are so appreciative of, what the sport has given us in return and that is so rewarding in itself. We are going to continue to push the envelope, cross boundaries with different types of companies – not just in the sports world but in the beauty world as well. We have a couple of big announcements coming up that we are partnering with other brands that are crossing paths and changing lanes. That is the only way we can create change and grow. Ash and I are so thrilled to continue using our voice to help our community, the LGBTQ community, but also just our generation. To help people see us, what we are about and to broaden ourselves as humans and not just footballers. So it’s really an exciting time! We obviously want to grow a family in the future and the skies the limit, we’re just off to a really good start. For example, partnering with Great Heights has been an incredible partnership because we are aligning ourselves with companies that have the same vision and have the same outlook. We only want to help that intensify and continue to be successful. We’re so happy that they created these wedding bands for us that are everlasting and they also resemble love between two individuals, and not just the opposite sex. It’s been incredible, and we are going to hopefully continue that for the future.
Shana: You all are so inspirational, and I believe you will do that moving forward! Let’s go through a couple of rapid fire questions that we received from the community:
1. Who gets up to walk the dogs in the morning?
Ashlyn: Ali LOL
2. Who is the better cook?
Ashlyn: Please, you know I can cook!
Ali: If I do try to cook, she’ll come over and change the whole meal
3. Do either of you have any future tattoo plans?
Ashlyn: I always do
Shana: Can you spill what?
Ali: Ash always has something new on her mind that she’s going to put on her body. But I might have another, idk, tattoo planned.
Ashlyn: She probably has a quote she’s going to put somewhere
Ali: Probably a little A & A 😉
4. Have you seen the new L word? Who do you resonate with so far?
Ali: Just the first episode, and Ash is Shane in a nutshell
5. Ali are you still fluent in German?
Ali: Yes, but a little rusty
6. Do you have any ideas for future plans after soccer?
Ali: I would love to go into sports broadcasting and get in the men’s game. I think we need more badass females talking about soccer and I think we need more females on the panel and in the broadcasting world in the men’s games. I would love to be apart of that and hopefully help change that for the future
Ashlyn: I’d actually like to get into some type of acting. Or hosting my own TV show or being a talk-show host. Creating a bit of diversity on all these morning shows
Shana: That’s all the time we had today. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us at HER!
Ashlyn: Thanks so much for your enthusiasm, and supporting our community. We are really happy to have brands like Great Heights who really push our cause forward and be a part of this change.
Check out more from Great Heights here
This interview has been edited for clarity