When we spoke earlier this month, Telli Swift, the woman behind a mothership of operations, was en route to Alabama from her home in Los Angeles. The weeks leading up to our conversation were spinning with responsibilities, amassing a six-month balancing act as Swift prepared for her forthcoming charity event at Pelican Hill in Newport Beach, California on June 28 as part of her nonprofit, Boxing Wags Association (BWA). The event marks her second year organizing a function of this scale, having sold out in 2022 and reaching max capacity this time around. The BWA event seeks to raise funds for the National Prostate Cancer Foundation, and will offer a suite of services that guests can enjoy, including spa treatments, cigar lounges, beauty parlors, beard and barber services for men, B12 shots, ocean views, and so much more, followed by an after party celebration at The Classic Cat, where Swift produces her weekly podcast, “Telli Talks”. Understandably, Swift was exhausted but full of excitement.
“I’m a very organized person, so I like to plan ahead,” Swift said. Her association has been alive and prospering since 2017, adapting for and speaking to the causes and issues that present themselves. In the beginning, Swift was moved to raise funds for spina bifida, inspired by her eldest daughter and the lack of reliable resources for women in WAGS, a parlance for the partners of high-profile athletes or sportspersons. She then shifted her focus to cancer following the diagnosis of a close friend, eventually turning to prostate cancer after her father faced a scare in 2022. The association offers a platform for WAGS and a means for building support and community within this demographic, which garnered significant media attention following the release of WAGS LA, the reality television series that brought these wives and girlfriends out of the shadows in 2015. Due to her relationship with heavyweight boxing champion Deontay Wilder, Swift found herself on season three of the show, which took place in Atlanta, Georgia.
“Atlanta is like our port house, where we collectively come together before heading to Alabama,” Swift explained. “It’s like our transitional city, and I love the energy of Atlanta so much…it’s like a more cultured Hollywood.”
The couple maintains a residency in the Midtown enclave of Atlanta, home to some of the city’s most iconic and vibrant institutions like the HIGH Museum of Art, Piedmont Park, and the Savannah College of Art and Design. Home is many things for Swift, who appears to jetset around the world with unrivaled grace, juggling a range of projects that always bring her closer to people. But more than anything, Swift is a global force that unites people from coast-to-coast, listening and learning about their stories through her vessels of podcasting, philanthropy, and travel.
“I feel like if you are content with your life, you need to ask yourself why,” Swift said. “When things become routine, you may lose interest and that’s why you have to welcome that change. Even with podcasts, I have to mix it up…I want to hear from all walks of life!”
Swift is a natural storyteller, and works to facilitate unfiltered conversations on “Telli Talks” with a diverse roster of guest speakers. Her passion rests with people, and before she started this chapter of her professional career, Swift worked in medicine as a nurse and in the ER at Jersey City Medical Center.
“Communication is a powerful tool, and I like to use my platform today to elevate those voices and help people where I can,” Swift said.
Bearing the weight of a leading lady takes patience, especially if under a microscope. Swift is recognized across many different channels, whether it’s the sensory storytelling of D’Telli Fragrance or her impressive diligence as a mother of eight. Even under the stress of event planning, Swift maintains a refreshing air of humility and composure. Compared to past generations, raising children in 2023 demands a topsy-turvy sense of communication and symmetry, akin to planning a show stopping charity event.
“It takes a village to raise children nowadays, because there are so many outside influences beyond the household,” she explained. “You have to actively engage with your kids, check in with them, see where they’re at. Everything is via the phone or through AI, and it’s less work for humans and I feel like that’s making us so lazy and deteriorating not just our mental health but our physical health.”
Swift draws a comparison to the tangible luxury of her fragrance line, D’Telli Fragrance. The name represents the union between Swift and Wilder, and presents a unisex line of perfumes that leave a lasting impression. Officially launched in the summer of 2021, D’Telli Fragrance highlights the unique chemistry of the person wearing it to amplify their essence, drawing inspiration from the couple’s own love story. The fragrance line reflects the human experience that Swift seeks to uncover in all of her pursuits, peeling back the layers to reveal the heart of a person.
“As a human race, we have to stick together,” she said. “We have to celebrate each other, no matter who you love or what you do, we are one…it extends to everything.”
Swift wanted a unisex fragrance line in order to spotlight the raw humanity of the world today, and took matters into her own hands when the idea came up with Wilder. The couple discussed possibilities, and within a year’s time Swift had already patented the product and found the fragrance that represented them best. Her tenacity and proactive approach to her projects is part of Swift’s near-mythical prowess in productivity, and is often tagged by her own terms, coined “fempowerism”.
“Women are strong within themselves, we have the power to be great on our own,” Swift said. “We need to embrace our power.”
Swift caught the attention of Pinay Magazine in 2021 with a feature and a billboard placement at Resorts World in Las Vegas, a relationship she has nurtured ever since. Empowering women to be authentically themselves and take ownership of their power is at the root of Pinay, which seeks to spotlight leading ladies in the Filipino community. Swift is Filipino-American and keeps a pulse on her heritage by working with Filipino brands and authorities like Pinay, with plans to unveil another feature next month. To no surprise, Swift is an excellent cook and loves making lumpia at home.
“I’m such a foodie, and I love who I am…being Black and Filipino!” she said. “One of my absolute favorite spots is Lumpia Mania in Glendora.”
Swift actively speaks Tagalog with her children, teaching them her favorite customs and ensuring they keep their identities close to home. Sinigag and oxtail adobo make regular appearances in the Swift family kitchen, and her work with Pinay has only strengthened her relationship with other female leaders in the community. As with most cultures, food brings everyone together in the Philippines, and Swift has positioned food as the anchor of her podcast, where guests are treated to a top-shelf meal following each episode, prepared at The Classic Cat where the show takes flight.
“I just feel like communication is vital, and I always wanted a podcast that motivates others so we can listen to their stories,” Swift said. “After each episode, we have a private chef that cooks dinner for our guest, it’s so much fun.”
The podcast dives deep into personal successes and understanding how the human experience differs from person to person, adding depth to an otherwise digital space. Swift has spoken of her goals to eventually grow the podcast into a multilayered network with a string of shows that focus on inspiration and her passion for people, coexisting with her philanthropic work through BWA.
“I’m still writing my story, so the best is yet to come…but everyone has a purpose, and mine is to help people grow,” Swift said.
In many ways, mobility gives rise to growth, and movement is essential to progressing forward be it literally or figuratively. Swift has steadily increased her momentum over the years and expanded her reach to an array of mediums including, most recently, her own travel agency. But despite her consistent progression, Swift stays grounded in real experiences through conversation, community, and a knack for picking up new perspectives. Her event at Pelican Hill and The Classic Cat demonstrates a small slice of the Swift capacity, but most importantly reminds us that to be human is to be the protagonist of your story, so we better give them something to read about.