Photo: Getty
  /  11.02.2022

Longtime visitors to the REVOLT site may remember the name Erin Simon. Back in 2016, she spent a year as the site’s digital and social media producer. She has been up to A LOT since then. Before Simon was a multimedia personality, host, producer, and consultant, she was a soccer star for the Rutgers Scarlet Knights and the University of Kentucky Wildcats. Her love of sports, music and gaming have led her on a career path that is anything but stagnant.

Simon’s passion for journalism dates all the way back to her teenage years when she founded her own social media website, www.boxofmess.com. She was extremely hands-on, designing, developing and producing the blog, which offered a home and voice for up-and-coming writers. After a series of internships, the New Jersey native became a marketing associate for Dime Magazine while simultaneously working as a media consultant/blogger for Philly-based clothing company Aphillyated. Simon was also a contributor for several hip hop and sports-based blogs and websites while maintaining her status as a top scholar-athlete at UK.

Never one to be boxed in, the former soccer star held down a number of positions, including director of media, assistant project manager, and sports freelancer before her arrival at REVOLT. Once there, she was responsible for launching digital content and growing the social media presence through several channels and strategies. After eight months as senior editor of Cycle Media, the young boss began her journey into esports and gaming. Now, how does someone that looks like Simon fit into that world? As an Afro-Latina woman and a member of the LGBTQIA community, she is triple-marginalized, but that has not stopped her ascension in what can be described as a multibillion-dollar industry.

We all know that relationships are everything. Often, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Since her teenage years, Simon has worked with brands such as AT&T, Riot Games, Bleacher Report, TBS, EA Sports, General Motors, Google Play, Tampax, Columbia Records, PUMA, Turtle Beach, Bacardi, Crown Royal, Forbes, Gen.G, Evil Geniuses, Cloud 9, The Wall Street Journal, University of Kentucky and many more. For her, knowledge is not sacrificed for affiliation, but it is worth noting that her experience across a vast number of disciplines primed her for her latest venture, XSET. Co-owned by Simon, XSET is a professional esports and entertainment organization. Its website describes the company as “the fastest growing and most diverse gaming org. on the planet.” Founded on the notion that gaming is for everyone, XSET considers itself a brand and a social movement “touching gaming, music, fashion, art, content, esports, sports, and social good” since its creation in 2020. The X stands for everyone while SET refers to the “global crew, clique or squad.” The venture is the brainchild of the collaborative efforts of Simon and seasoned executives in the gaming and entertainment worlds including DJ Clinton Sparks, Marco Mereu, Wil Eddins and Greg Selkoe. Boasting a diverse roster of professional gamers and streamers, it’s hard to argue against their proclamation that a company can be inclusive and still competitive.

One thing that has remained consistent is Simon’s dedication to integrating hip hop into the gaming experience. While acknowledging that both subcultures exist individually, she is cognizant of how the two intersect. Popular games like Madden, FIFA, NBA2K and Grand Theft Auto all include playlists comprised of several genres. Simon has noted that she actually was introduced to rapper Royce da 5’9″ through video games. Therefore, it makes total sense that XSET has partnered with the iconic Rolling Loud Festival. The subcultures she grew up with have now merged and morphed into lifestyles. Her propensity to blur the lines between the two is the reason she was named chief culture officer at XSET in addition to her co-ownership. Just take a look at the young moguls making bank through streaming and gaming.

Growing up, Simon’s parents were understanding and supportive of her love for the joystick. She told NME, “I had parents that understood gaming and respected it. The rule in our household was as long as you get As and get an athletic or academic scholarship, you can play however many hours you want. She wanted me to be a Renaissance woman. That’s why I’m a very multifaceted person — because my mom allowed me to pursue different passions and interests and never shut any of that down.” Her parents also deserve credit for instilling the hustler’s ambition within their daughter. If you didn’t get an athletic or academic scholarship in the Simon household, you were expected to get a job to cover your college expenses. It explains her success across sports and corporate America. After a layoff in 2018, she decided to take a different approach; she wanted to do something she was not only passionate about, but something that provided her the opportunity for ownership. The young mogul-in-the-making found that in gaming.

While working on the broadcast side of things, the multihyphenate was set on addressing the issues of inaccessibility, racism and sexism in the field. For instance, you all have most likely seen the elaborate gaming setups of your favorite YouTubers or Twitchers. The rooms are equipped with expensive computers, software and accessories — items not readily available to underserved communities. This could be one of the underlying factors of racism in the industry, which Simon says exists in the community as much as sexism: “We need to do a better job with acknowledging the fact that racism and sexism [are] a thing. And it is in esports and gaming. Despite what anyone says, it is.”

Having a queer Black woman that is equally knowledgeable as she is fierce is certainly a way to begin to turn the tide. Visibility is key and she took another leap in that direction with her collaboration with PUMA in 2021. The UK alum modeled the RKDO line, a gaming and esports apparel collection, as a part of the deal. Having become acquainted with the brand as an athlete, it was a no-brainer once she realized the duality of their views on diversity and inclusion. She told Esports Insider, “Growing up and playing soccer all my life, PUMA was definitely a brand that always had an influential impact on my life. As I got into the esports industry as a broadcaster, I saw a lot of what PUMA was doing not only from a merchandise perspective, but also the positive impact. I saw how people like Matt Shaw (PUMA team head digital marketing and gaming) and Angela Wong (PUMA manager, esports and marketing innovation) were, themselves, very big advocates of diversity and inclusion. That’s something near and dear to my heart.” Ever the hands-on person, she not only wore the clothing, she also had a hand in everything from the initial design process to the actual launch.

Simon is her own wildest dream and seeks to serve as a role model to whomever she can help. PUMA told her to be who she is 110 percent. The trailblazer acknowledges that she didn’t see too many mirror images of herself when she entered the gaming space, but she’s trying to change that. In August, she and XSET announced the expansion of the Erin Ashley Simon Esports Internship Fund at the University of Kentucky. The fund includes a multiyear internship, which offers extensive mentorship and experiential learning opportunities that engage and educate students on the complex gaming and esports ecosystem. Simon’s goal is to help provide tools and resources to aspiring professionals who want to get into the industry but aren’t sure where to start. In a world where it’s easy to be faceless and anonymous behind a computer and keyboard, you’re going to know exactly who Erin Simon is.

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