For BYU’s Shaylee Gonzales – a star on the court and an entrepreneur off it – it was ‘time’ for the NCAA to change its rules
Shaylee Gonzales had her first camera long before she became a star guard for BYU’s women’s basketball team. She was in college then, taking pictures and making videos of her friends. From then on, his camera became an extension of his hands.
But it was at Mesquite High School in his native Arizona that Gonzales turned his hobby into a real career opportunity. She took a photography course and started a photography business which she called Sincerely Shaylee.
“My photos weren’t very good,” Gonzales told the Salt Lake Tribune. “It was in high school, so it was nothing too serious, too professional. But it was just a little way to make money.
From an early age, Gonzales had a gift for creativity. She created her own paintings and decorations for her childhood bedroom painted in black, white and purple. She also started her Youtube channel during her freshman year in high school in 2015, which first featured her vacationing with her family or on school outings – all filmed and edited herself.
Gonzales turned his love of creating in this way into a large following on social media, which also allowed him to benefit financially from the relaxation of NCAA name, image and likeness rules.
“It’s almost like my own little one — like I’m my own boss, like I have my own job, basically,” Gonzales said. “Social media is basically a job. I make money doing business with brands. And I could definitely do that in the future as well – continue and grow my brand even more.
Candice Gonzales, Shaylee’s mother, said her daughter likely gets her business acumen from her father, Josh. Gonzales’ parents are in real estate, they rent office buildings and other properties, they own a home care business that employs over 650 people, and they own an AAU basketball team called Team Arizona.
“I think Shaylee’s advantage is that her dad is really an entrepreneur,” Candice Gonzales said. “He’s always trying to find ways to improve things and start things off. So I think he was sort of the driving force behind it all.
The BYU Second Guard has around 425,000 followers on their various social media accounts, including Instagram, TikTok, YouTube and Twitter. What started as videos she made for fun morphed into ones that show the life of a Division I athlete – from game days to road trips to recovering from a ACL injury. She also posts videos of her and her four siblings performing synchronized basketball routines, and some of them feature her Cougars teammates.
Her following began to grow tremendously during her freshman year at BYU, when she continued making game-day videos with her teammates — a practice she began during her senior year in high school. But for much of his time at BYU, Gonzales hasn’t been able to monetize his followers or his brand much.
This has changed with the new NIL rules.
“When NIL came through, I was like, ‘It’s about time,'” Gonzales said.
Gonzales has signed a few NIL agreements since the new law was passed. Major ones include a deal with Mountain America Credit Union — she’ll be featured on podcasts, commercials and billboards while promoting them on social media — and Thrifthood, a vintage clothing company in Provo that dresses her outfits in pregame. She also has several smaller deals, many with cosmetics or clothing companies.
The partnership with Thrifthood allows Gonzales to show his passion for fashion. She’s a self-proclaimed clothing lover with an eclectic taste – from baggy sweatshirts to a beautiful dress and heels.
“I love the clothes,” Gonzales said. “I do a little too much online shopping.”
The opportunity for Gonzales in the NIL space also gave him the idea of having his own merchandise and logo. She sells hats, shirts, phone cases and other items on his website to his fans, who go by the name Shaybaes.
But being so much in the public eye has its downsides, Gonzales said. Lately, she’s stopped posting on social media because she feels “burnt out” and hopes her fans will understand why she’s taking time off. And although she is now able to complete her scholarship with her supporters, it has never been a matter of attention for her.
“I don’t do it to gain followers and to be famous or anything,” Gonzales said. “I do it because I like it and I think it’s fun. I do it because I like to inspire others.
The potential to inspire her fans was why she was so open about her recovery from ACL and meniscus surgery. She shared clips of herself in the hospital bed right after the surgery. She explained how recovery affected her mental health.
“I think it’s important to show the ups and downs so people can see that life isn’t all rainbows and butterflies,” Gonzales said.
Gonzales may have over 400,000 followers, but she said she’s lucky few people are posting negative comments, which can be abundant for women in the public eye. However, she is still careful not to post too much about her personal life as she finds herself in what she considers a “unique” position.
“I want to be a woman and go to BYU, to be LDS, it’s a very, very unique situation, I want to have this sequel,” Gonzales said. “And I find that sometimes super stressful and overwhelming with all these eyes on me — like posting and knowing that a lot of other people know a lot about me.”
Candice Gonzales described her daughter as a kind person who puts others before herself, and also someone who cares about what people think of her. She thinks her daughter has been able to compartmentalize in ways that she understands which opinions matter and which don’t.
“I think she may have been able to distinguish between actual human contact and computer contact,” Candice Gonzales said. “She’s more worried about what someone will say to her in person and what she thinks rather than the person, maybe, on the internet who isn’t real.”
From an early age, Gonzales seemed destined to play basketball. Both of her parents played at Grand Canyon University and they currently own the AAU team she played on. His two younger brothers and two younger sisters also play basketball.
“It’s kind of in our blood,” Gonzales said.
Candice Gonzales said Shaylee fell in love with basketball when she was around 8 years old after playing in a weekend tournament with seventh and eighth grade girls. At 10, her mother saw that she had the potential to play at a high level.
Candice Gonzales recalled a sequence during her daughter’s sophomore year of high school when, as time ran out, she got down on her knees to retrieve the ball and, from that position, shot him just inside the half court and did it.
This season, Gonzales is averaging a career-high 18.5 points, as well as averaging 5.3 rebounds and 3.8 assists. She has scored at least 20 points in eight games this season.
Gonzales has two more years of BYU eligibility, and she plans to play both. She acknowledged, however, that those plans could always change. Her dream is to play professional basketball and she plans to go abroad to nurture her love of travel and stimulate her creative side.
“Living in a different country, I think, would be amazing,” Gonzales said. “And I feel like it could also bring out my creative side with photography and social media. I feel like it would be a great opportunity to grow my brand even more if I played as a pro. .
To this day, Gonzales is surprised to have gained popularity on the internet. When asked what she thought of her on a billboard, she had no words to describe it.
But what seems to be at the forefront of his mind is opportunity. When she started her journey on social media and seemed to always be taking pictures, always posting, she looks back on that time as “Business Shaylee mode” kicks in. She said she would probably start a another photography business one day.
She also looks to “little Shaylee,” who has worked as hard as 21-year-old Shaylee now works to continue building her brand — a brand she believes has a future beyond BYU.
“I knew if I built a brand here in college, being a Division I athlete, that once I was done I could have my own business, potentially,” Gonzales said.