A less familiar face joined Michelle Obama for a ceremony at the 2023 U.S. Open.
During opening night on Monday (August 28), Obama paid tribute to tennis trailblazer Billie Jean King, 79, who successfully rallied fellow women players at the 1972 US Open champion to fight for equal pay. This year marked the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Open becoming the first Grand Slam tennis tournament to pay equal prize money to men and women.
“We can either wait around and accept what we’re given. We can sit silently and hope someone else fights our battles. Or we can make our own stand,” Obama continued. “We can use whatever platforms we have to speak out and fight to protect the progress we’ve made, and level the playing field for all of our daughters and their daughters.”
Obama introduced King during Monday's ceremony alongside singer Sara Bareilles, who performed, and a less familiar face identified as 15-year-old Brooklyn native Gabby Bell, per Daily Mail.
Bell is reportedly a student at the Kings County Tennis League (KCTL), which aims to use tennis for youth development and community building in Brooklyn. The teen is described as "a funny, determined, kind young woman" on and off the tennis court, according to the KCTL website.
"Over the past three year, she has transformed from a shy girl to a leader off and on the court — even becoming the captain of her middle school tennis team!" the website reads. "Gabby is an exceptional role model for the entire KCTL community and recently received the 2021 Breakpoint Award, KCTL’s most prestigious annual recognition and an honor that demonstrates the true leader she is in the KCTL community."
According to Daily Mail, the U.S. Tennis Association invited Bell to participate in the tribute celebrating 50 years of equal pay at the U.S. Open. She walked out on the court with Obama, King, Bareilles, and Chairman of the Board and President of the United States Tennis Association Brian Hainline for the ceremony.
"Sooooo proud of our @kctennisleague student, Gabby!!!," KCTL board member Corbin Wong tweeted. "What a huge moment and honor and thank you to the @usta for giving one of our kids this moment with legends and icons @BillieJeanKing and @MichelleObama!!!"