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Sis recently had the pleasure of connecting with Melani Ismail, wife of former NFL and University of Notre Dame football player, Raghib “Rocket” Ismail. Melani and Raghib are proud parents of four children, two boys and two girls, ranging in age from 12-18. She is also an accomplished producer, writer, speaker and author of “The Freedom of Letting Go”. Melani appeared on the VH1 Reality Show, “Football Wives” and has been featured on many radio and talk shows. She is a source of inspiration and wisdom for fellow SiSters! Get to know Melani below….
How did you and Raghib meet? Tell us a little about your family.
We heard about one another through Vince Evans, my neighbor and friend. He and Raghib played for The Oakland Raiders at the time. He told me about Raghib on several occasions and said we should meet. Due to schedule conflicts, almost a year went by before we would actually meet or speak. I happened to meet one of Raghib’s college buddy’s, named Steve Pope and for some reason he thought we should meet too. We finally met and 8 months later we married. We now have four children, ages 11-18. All of our children play sports, and they are very creative too. An even mixture of the both of us.
You live a full life as a wife, a mother of 4, a singer/songwriter, producer, speaker, entrepreneur and author. Most recently you wrote an award-winning, inspirational memoir, “Freedom of Letting it Go”. Tell us more about your book and the unique way you are promoting it! Is it true that you also produced a music accompaniment?
The Freedom of Letting Go was actually the result of trying to write a book about the music industry and all the things I learned on that journey. I took a walk one morning, and I heard the title of my now book as clear as a bell. I went home and sat the other book to the side and rewrote the book based on the title I heard. I had no idea I would write a book about fear, neither did I know I had struggled with it for so long. There was a lot of healing in it for me, as well as overcoming many fears. It opened many doors for me to speak to others about my journey, and from what others say it has helped them as well.
I haven’t really done a lot of promoting. It’s mostly been word of mouth and powerful testimonies that keeps it going. Friends have read it and given me book signing parties. I get called to speak, and invited to do private book signings from others who have read it and want to expose it to their friends.
Yes, I did write some songs to accompany the book. I pre released one of the songs, called Amazing God, but did not promote that one very long either, before an artist asked me if they could record it. That was a dream come true because I love writing and working with artists, and now I get to do both.
What got you interested in music & entertainment? What projects are you working on now?
I have loved the expression of music since I was a little girl. I used to sing as loud as I could whenever I could. I would find paper towel rolls, kazoos and anything else I could, so I could manipulate my voice and sing songs in different ways. Music always provided a solace for me. I feel close to God when I hear a great song. I love to listen to the lyrics, the chord changes, transitions, notes, harmonies, you name it, I just love music, plain and simple.
I’m not working on anything actively for myself musically right now, because I am in the writing process. I just finished a script called Straw House, and I am going to produce it shortly. I have wanted to do more film so I figured this would give me the opportunity to write as well as put the music I want in the film. I want the soundtrack to be as powerful as the film. It’s a lot of work but I try to chop it down a little at a time. I’m told I do a lot of things, but being creative is the core passion behind all of it.
What does a “day in the life of the Ismail family” look like? How do you balance all that you do?
Oh wow! Our children pretty much dominate the days. We don’t get a lot of downtime individually. Most of our time is spent as a taxi service. Dropping off and picking up. Taking care of them is a full time job by itself. When I get time I try to get as much as I can done without cutting corners.
My balance is to feed myself spiritually and naturally so that I can stay healthy. If I can keep my energy up and my mind clear I can accomplish a great deal in a short but focused time period. I also balance all of it by remembering to get rest when I need it. Rest is key.
Giving back is important to you and your family. What charities or causes do you support?
We support Women called Moses, an organization that rescues women affected by domestic violence and helps them to transition. Pat and Emmitt Smith Charities is an organization that provides opportunities of a lifetime for children.
We also give where we see a need. Right here in our own neighborhood, there are plenty of needs.
Part of the mission of Sisters in Sports is to connect Sisters across all sports. Tell us about the Sisterhood friendships that supported you during and after Rocket’s playing days. Any favorite memories?
Pat Smith will always stand out in my mind as a sister who helped me transition during and after. We were new to The Dallas Cowboys organization, and she was one of the first persons who embraced our family. She has always had a heart for women and she is known for bringing women together. She started Treasure You, an organization that brings women together to cherish one another and themselves. I have been included in that since day one and have met many women along the way. She is definitely a Sister. I would also have to mention Chanita Foster. She was one of the people who encouraged me to step out and present my music and talents. I was pretty much behind the scenes and she was a Sister who lit a fire under me to step out front. She has an unorthodox way of doing it, but I certainly appreciate it now. She has a charity called Beyond the Game, that provides for the widows and orphans of Swaziland, South Africa. There are more Sisters but those 2 come to mind.
What advice do you have for Sisters in the game now? What about for Sisters headed toward their husband’s retirement?
My advice is to be in the moment because it goes by quickly. Your spouse’s playing days come and go quickly. Some quicker than others. Save your money and don’t try to keep up with others just to fit in. Learn to say NO to people when it comes to loaning money and investing in businesses. Make sure you do your due diligence if you decide to invest or loan money. Don’t let everyone else mange your finances. Ask questions and ask them again until you understand and get the answer. Take vacations or whatever it is you want to do while you can with your family and don’t try to save the world everyday. Take a day to just save you and your family. The world can wait another day.
How do you think Sisters in Sports can be a resource to the “better halves” in pro sports?
Sisters in Sports is being a great resource right now just by making the information available and reaching out to spouses. Any time you can bring women together to help other women there is a benefit. Information is powerful. Experience is also powerful. If someone has already been where you are trying to go, it just makes sense to listen if they are giving directions on how to get there better and faster.
Another benefit is good relationships spill over into your personal life just like bad ones do. Surrounding yourself with good Sisters who support you in actions and deeds and want the best for you and your family can help in all the transitions that go with this life. Find a good Sister and be a good Sister, and pass it on.