‘She Pivots’ With Elsa Collins: On Being an Advocate for Families at the Border

While she’s often known for being married to an NBA star, it’s Collins’ social impact work that will be her true legacy.

Elsa Collins, advocate, on She Pivots podcast
(Image credit: Future)

In partnership with Marie Claire, 'She Pivots' challenges the typical definitions of success and explores the role our personal stories play in our professional journeys.

Elsa Collins’ work is deeply informed by her own background growing up on the Mexican side of the U.S.-Mexico border and her experience raising multiracial children. It’s what led her from being a practicing attorney to a career in social impact work, including co-founding This is About Humanity, a group that raises awareness about separated families at the border. 

“I really say that I grew up on both sides of the border and went to school on both sides of the border...used to cross the border every day to go to school at different times in my life,” says Collins on the latest She Pivots podcast. 

Before she was an advocate, Collins attended Stanford University, where she met Jarron Collins, her future husband. When she graduated, Jarron was in his second year in the NBA, but Collins wanted to chart her own path. She decided to pursue a career in law and enrolled at Columbia Law School. Despite the physical distance they dealt with at the time, they fully supported each others’ careers. “I do feel like we have always made sure that the other person feels like they can make big decisions, and we'll figure it out,” says Collins. 

Eventually they got married and had children. That awakened Collins’ passion for community organizing and advocating for policies that would help her children—and those in her community—thrive.

“I think [raising multiracial kids] really helped hone that north star that I have, keeps me motivated when I'm tired,” says Collins. “And also just given me the opportunity to be able to talk about the issues that are so important with them. My work is also, you know, some of the most challenging and complicated conversation pieces that you can be having with adults, let alone with children.” 

Her advocacy work became even more personal as the media became flooded with stories about family separation on the border during the Trump presidency. She co-founded the organization This is About Humanity and began making regular trips to the U.S.-Mexico border—the place where she had spent her childhood.

“We've done over 25 trips to visit families, asylum seekers, children, at the border in Tijuana, doing everything from bearing witness, listening to stories, to doing community service projects, building playgrounds, painting, replacing tents at the shelters that needed them,” says Collins.

Collins strongly believes that each of us has the power to make change in our communities. “You might be the most influential person in your own community, way more than some of these people can be, because you're the one that's interacting with your neighbors and your colleagues and the people in the community,” she says. “And so, I also feel like that's something we can never lose sight of, because it can always feel like you're looking around to someone else to show up to do the thing…And I think people would be very surprised about the ways that they personally can be making a difference.”

To hear more from Elsa about her social advocacy work and her experiences being the spouse of an NBA star, tune in below. 

Emily Tisch Sussman
Contributing Editor

Emily Tisch Sussman is the Founder and Host of “She Pivots,” the podcast in partnership with Marie Claire about women, their stories, and how their pivot became their success. She is a contributing editor to Maire Claire and the guest host of the Marie Claire Instagram Live series “Getting Down to Business.”