AKRON, OHIO - Savannah James is an international icon, but she still thinks of herself as an Akron girl.
“It's kind of funny to me. I always have this conversation with my friends that people do look at me that way. I look at myself and I think, ‘I don't really understand why I'm that interesting.’ But if I can be someone interesting enough to tell you, to be encouraged and do your very best, I'll take on that responsibility,” she said.
There's a lot of responsibility as Mrs. LeBron James. So instead, meet Savannah. She's a businesswoman and philanthropist. But most importantly, she's a mom.
“The best thing about being a mom, is definitely seeing the things that you're teaching them and the values you're instilling in them come out of them, when they don't think that you're watching,” she said of raising her boys, 11-year-old Bronny, 8-year-old Bryce, and little girl, 17-month old Zhuri.
“You think you're talking until you're blue in the face, but then when you actually turn around on the other side and you see, that they're actually picking up on those things that you're telling them. It's amazing. It's the best thing for me, for sure. You always preach to them, 'That's your brother. You be nice to him.' Or 'You share,' those kind of things. For me to see my boys doing it with their little sister is really heartwarming. It's nice.”
Savannah’s world revolves around family, and most of hers is in Akron.
“With everything I have going on, and still trying to support LeBron and things like that, sometimes I'm away from them. And that's pretty hard. I know that it can be done, but I always miss them…My mom is who I go to to keep my children, my sister takes my boys to Disney every year, so they're definitely around and they help me a lot with the whole parenting thing. I really feel like that's something that's important is, having help and knowing that you can count on certain people when you need that help, so they are that for me,” she said.
Four years ago, before the "The Return," to Northeast Ohio, Savannah returned for a personal project at home: prom.
“Growing up and going to Buchtel High School, it's an inner city school and a lot of the students there may not have had the means. I think my inspiration behind the I PROMise Makeover was that, and knowing that that is real, and everyone can use help sometimes, I feel like prom is a very pivotal moment in high school.”
For her fourth annual event this April, she selected 46 girls from Buchtel and other area high schools who might otherwise have to skip the expensive evening, and helped them pull together a look for the evening.
“I'm a big softie, so it's fun to see them go through the whole shopping experience, that I'm sure you did and I did, getting ready for prom. That's like the highlight of it is finding the dress,” she said.
She hopes her I PROMise Makeover, organized by the LeBron James Family Foundation, gives them confidence that carries into the next chapter, whatever that might be.
“I think the impact of the I PROMise makeover can just give them a boost that they can do whatever they want to do,” she said. “These are girls who walk the same hallways that I've walked…I love doing it here.”
We're starting a new series Thursdays on Channel 3 News at 6 about the women in Northeast Ohio's communities who make things happen. These are women who see the possible, women you'd like to have in your group, women we’re bringing into Sara’s Circle.
Savannah's 2004 Buchtel High School Prom (and, yes, LeBron was her date!)
“My absolute memory that stands out in my head is that I had a certainly a look that I was going for. And it comes time for hair and makeup and all of those things, and you have a certain look. And you relay this look to the person that is helping you achieve this look, and when the look doesn't come out just as you expected it to, is a little bit disheartening, especially on my prom day. I had a look for my hair that I was going for, and it came out to be something completely different. I know you guys are going to flash my prom picture on the screen, probably right about now, and you'll see the hair that is not what I asked for. Not what I was going for at all. But I had an amazing time at my prom. All my friends were there. Another memory is that LeBron barely made it, so I was like, in tears, like 'Oh my gosh! I'm going to have to go by myself,' but he came through for me.”
Who’s in her circle
“I have a very small circle of friends. I think that, you know, you don’t want to give too much of yourself to too many people, so I keep my circle pretty small when it comes to asking for advice or help or anything like that. I think the first people I would go to would be, my mom or my sisters. I have like three really really good friends, who know everything about me, who know to answer the phone when I call, even though I’m not the best at answering the phone when other people call, but you know, I try. I try. I appreciate those ladies who are there for me when I need them.”
A woman that inspires her
“Definitely my grandmother. She’s the matriarch of our family. She’s 96 years old, and you would never know. She’s still moving and shaking and cooking.”
Her own upbringing
“My family life consisted of my mom, my dad. Two sisters and two brothers. I’m the youngest of the five of us. You know, our upbringing was pretty normal I think. I was the youngest by 11 years so, I was always the youngest, and they had to babysit, and they probably didn’t really want to do that all the time, but they did it. We’re just very close knit.”
How she finds balance
“I think I balance it best just by knowing that my family definitely comes first. With the philanthropy and the business things I have going on, I wouldn’t necessarily say I put a back burner to those things for my family, but it’s definitely more important for me to support LeBron, and to support my boys. I just came from a tournament in Columbus with them. And those type of things I can’t replace those memories. As far as a meeting goes or things like that, those things can kind of wait a day.”