In early March 2023, well-known professional esports and entertainment organization FaZe Clan announced that it had signed its first all-female esports team. Competing under FaZe Clan’s Valorant banner, the team features five pro players who are already pretty known within the esports space: Jennifer “refinnej” Le, Emma “emy” Choe, Vannesa Emely “panini” Emory, Madison “maddiesuun” Mann, and Diane “di^” Tran. The announcement of this new team brings FaZe Clan’s team roster up to a total of 14 teams.
“It’s been a long time coming but we’re stoked to officially announce bringing on our first all female esports pro team for Valorant,” Erik Anderson, Head of Esports at FaZe Clan, said in the team’s announcement press release. “Signing this group of talented women is just the beginning of bringing female gamers to the forefront at FaZe and I can’t wait to watch them play as a team.”
One of their first public appearances as a team already occurred in North America’s Game Changers Series I, which kicked off in April 2023. Hosted by Riot Games, Game Changers is a tournament specifically for women and non-binary players and runs throughout the year. The team qualified for the main event in Game Changers, making the top 8 in Series I. And with its first qualifier complete, the team seems extremely excited for what’s to come in the future.
That excitement was clear in a quick chat that Digital Trends had with team members Madison Mann and Jennifer Le on the future of the team and what pressure they expected to potentially face as the first all-female team.
A new start as a team
Following the team’s initial announcement in March, the response from the esports community was overwhelmingly positive. Fans were showing their excitement on Twitter, both under the official announcement and on the player’s own accounts. Both Mann and Le agreed that they were feeling especially great to be playing on the team together. “It is an honor to not only be part of FaZe but also for being the first all-female pro team for FaZe,” Mann said.
But even before forming their team under FaZe Clan, many of the women were friends and have played on other pro teams together over the last few years.
Le, Emory, and Mann previously played together for Complexity GX3 while Tran and Choe played competitive Counter-Strike: Global Offensive for Count Logic Gaming Red. Prior to their time together at FaZe Clan, the team of five also competed together in 2022 for the Champions Tour Game Changers Series III: North America under the team name “Hamboigas.” The chance to play together once again brought the team a sense of knowing that they already gelled well. And for Le, having the chance to play together once more was enough to draw her in.
“It feels surreal being able to be reunited with Diane and Emy,” Le said. “I’ve always loved them and we have this core with the addition of Maddie and Panini and I know we can accomplish our goals.”
Down to handle the pressure
In an industry that has become known for having a wide gap between the number of professional male and female players, the participation of women in esports has been gaining quite a spotlight over the last few years. This gap extends from gaming as an entire industry – one that has long been known for not being the most welcoming to women. There is a history of toxicity within the gaming space where female players often find themselves on the receiving end of harassment and alienation among the community, whether they are casual or professional players.
I know we have what it takes to be a top team …
But the inclusion and highlighting of professional female players is starting to grow. The announcement of all-female teams from other organizations like Team Vitality, G2, and Guild Esports recently does show a shift in the industry. And while these new team announcements may bring additional pressure to players, Mann and Le are both confident in themselves and the team.
“There’s always pressure for being any type of professional. There’s a lot of eyes on you,” Mann says. “Personally, I think I can say this for the team as well, that we all deal pretty well with that pressure of competing and wanting to win as well as having a ‘spotlight’.”
“I don’t really care for pressure anymore,” Le adds.
As the team continues to practice together, well before they signed with FaZe Clan and after, Mann and Le both seem excited for what’s to come. “My outlook for the future of this team is bright,” Mann tells Digital Trends. “I know we have what it takes to be a top team but also know that we have work to do and patience will play a big part in getting there.”
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