We continue our Pride celebration by showcasing Brazil 7s international Izzy Cerullo. 

Born in the US to Brazilian parents, Izzy played rugby at Columbia University before being selected to Brazil’s Sevens squad in the lead up to the 2016 Olympics. 

Following the women’s final at the 2016 Summer Olympics, Izzy’s partner Marjorie Yuri Enya walked onto the field at Deodoro Stadium and publicly asked Cerullo to marry her. The moment became a media sensation, Cerullo being the first athlete to accept a marriage proposal at the Olympics. 

Rico Garcia spoke with Izzy about her experiences as a rugby player and powerful voice for the spokesperson for the LGBTQ+ community.

“Rugby changed my life by helping me find the confidence and courage to be myself. Everyone deserves this opportunity to live freely and unafraid, to love and feel loved.”

Izzy Cerullo

The Essentials

Name: Isadora (Izzy) Cerullo
Main Position: Fly half, scrum half
Years with your club: 6 years with Brazil 7s and Niteroi Rugby Football Club
Years playing rugby: Going on 10 years
Alma Mater: Columbia University
Accolades: Go Magazine’s 100 Women we love to love: Class of 2019 

Following the women’s final at the 2016 Summer Olympics, Izzy’s partner Marjorie Yuri Enya walked onto the field at Deodoro Stadium and publicly asked Cerullo to marry her. The moment became a media sensation, Cerullo being the first athlete to accept a marriage proposal at the Olympics.
Izzy splits the US defense.

What does Pride mean to you?

For me, Pride is about being unapologetically me. It’s a celebration because I realize how many challenges I’ve overcome to be able to express myself authentically. It’s been a long process of self discovery and self acceptance to finally be happy and proud to simply be who I am. In a world that still, in both subtle and explicit ways, tells me that I’m different from the norm, Pride is about affirming who I am and who I love, unapologetically. Together with this personal meaning, to be able to join my celebration with a global community to LGBT+ people is about supporting each other and uplifting our shared desire to be safe, acknowledged, and respected. 

How do you think being a LGBTQ+ person has shaped your experience as a rugby player? Have your experiences been positive or negative?

For me, I think of the inverse effect, of how rugby shaped my experience as a LGBT woman. I’m grateful for rugby because, before I had fully understood or come to terms with my identity, it gave me a supportive, inclusive community. Rugby provided me with role models and friends, a support network that had been missing in my life. Through rugby, I gained the confidence to accept and embrace who I am.

My experiences as a lesbian in rugby have been overwhelmingly positive. In every club and rugby community I have been a part of, I have felt respected and part of a family. 

Do you believe that rugby is becoming more or less diverse? What are some positive outcomes you can think of by making rugby more diverse and inclusive?

I believe that rugby is becoming more diverse. In Brazil, rugby was originally an “elitist” sport, but has become more accessible over the last few years, embraced by social projects and grown in popularity after the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Inevitably, when more opportunities are created to practice a sport, the player pool becomes larger and more diverse. In addition, when we as a society become more aware of deep-rooted prejudices and fight for equality, these attitudes filter into how we perceive and practice sport.

There are several positive outcomes of making rugby more diverse and inclusive. On the individual level, each person can feel that rugby is a sport for them and feel more inclined to participate. From there, the positive effects of being part of a supportive group and enjoying a team sport are numerous. On the collective level, rugby becomes stronger when anyone who is interested in the sport feels safe and welcome in participating.

The Village Lions prides itself on being a diverse and inclusive club. Has this always been your experience with rugby? If not, how have things changed over the years?

 I have had wonderful experiences with the clubs I have been a part of, in New York, then Philadelphia, and now in Brazil. My reference point before discovering rugby was soccer, which was far less diverse and implicitly heterosexual. In many ways, rugby was a refreshing change to my previous experiences in sport. 

As you may be aware a couple of our hashtags that started at Pride are #LoveIsLions #LionsIsLove, how has finding love through rugby affected you and your views of love in sports?

I met my wife through rugby and, in many ways, sport provided a safe space for us to be ourselves and create our identity. Through my own experience, I believe in the power of sport to support people in their quest to discover and be their true selves, which is an important step for love.

Keep up with Izzy on her blog: https://www.isadoracerullo.com/