Ellakisha S. O’Kelley was born and raised in Albany, NY. She attended the University at Albany where she was initially accepted into the top nationally ranked School of Criminal Justice program while competing as an athlete on the track team. After excelling in her second year at the university and breaking all the program's sprint and hurdle records, earning Division II All-American honors three times and conference champion six times, she transferred to the University of South Carolina (UofSC) to finish up her last two years. After joining the program, she immediately earned several accolades on and off the track, including, being the first woman in the history of the South-Eastern Conference (SEC) to win both hurdle titles in a single SEC Championships (contributing to the history-making SEC Championships title for the women track & field program), becoming a 6 x All-American, and being awarded the Best Female Student-Athlete of The Year Award for the entire university in 2000.
After obtaining notable achievements in her collegiate career, she pursued a professional track career. Following a fourth-place finish at the 2000 USA Olympic Trials, she joined the Nike brand and signed with her first agent. Despite gaining some notable post-collegiate achievements, such as, becoming Sydney Olympics’ 100m hurdle alternate, landing a top 15th ranking in the world for the 100 hurdles, and competing internationally for the USA; she struggled with the politics of the sport. After going through three agents and numerous coaches during her track career, insurmountable odds presented themselves in the face of competing successfully. A sports injury and financial turpitude expedited her decision to permanently leave the track world as a competitor.
Following her athletic passion, she became a head coach for an NCAA Division II collegiate men and women’s track & field and cross-country program, as well as, a coach for a handful of professional athletes. Ellakisha learned a lot about the complexities of the politics within sports from a different angle- the business side. She decided to channel her focus on the empowerment of the athlete by becoming an attorney for athlete advocacy, consequently, walking away from her then coaching position to pursue her journey.
In addition to her legal advocacy for athletes, entertainers, and entrepreneurs she channels her empowering efforts in our society as an author and speaker. She is improving lives through her book Code v. Code , Seek ELLAvation empowercast, and various speaking platforms such as TEDx.
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