Professional player, manager, host, analyst, reporter, streamer, brand ambassador. It’s not often that you find someone who is skilled enough to fill all of these roles. In the nascent and heavily male-dominated world of competitive gaming, it’s even less likely that you’d meet a woman who’d done all of that by her mid 20s.
Vladyslava Zakhliebina, take a bow.
Her CV is as impressive as her name is difficult to say, but Vlady (as her friends call her) has really done it all.
Growing up in Ukraine, her childhood was centered around athletics. That competitive fire led her to gaming, CounterStrike, specifically. “I did athletics for 12 years and when I decided to end my career, I just couldn’t sit still,” she said. So, she didn’t.
While getting a double-major at her university, she found a new competitive love. After playing CS for a short period of time and getting pretty good, she heard about a tryout for a women’s’ team. The csc.Arena team was putting together an all-female squad, and Vlady wanted in. She didn’t make that team, but persevered, putting in hours of practice to be ready for her next opportunity.
That chance came when Vlady’s team joined the pro100 organization. They even played in the female Arbalet Cup together, but they found it very difficult to keep a stable roster.
“Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to keep a permanent roster of girls playing games, because some problems come up or goals change.”
But, the Ukrainian pioneer was just getting started in esports. csc.Arena invited her to join the org., and she used the same determination she’d needed to get two majors at the same time to multi-task. “In addition to gaming skills, I also mastered working with media for the team and much more. It helped me get my first job in esports. I became a reporter and journalist for the then-popular CyberFight website and went to my first ESWC tournament in Paris,” she explained.
Since then, she has helped develop HellRaisers, which at the time was just the five CS players and her, into a top team in the world. She’s been a host, analyst, journalist, chief editor, reporter, and content manager for sltv (StarLadder), and she’s currently the brand ambassador for Razer for the entire CIS region. When I met her, she was doing some reporting for Vega Squadron at StarSeries & i-League Season 6.
With the Women in Esports series in mind, I approached her in the Twitch lounge at the Kyiv Cybersports Arena and introduced myself. We talked for five to ten minutes about the tournament and this article, and then she sped off to work again. When you’re as well-accomplished as Vlady is, there’s no time for sitting still.
Vlady still enjoys playing CS and being involved in the industry as much as she can, but admits that she needed to take a bit of time off after being on the grind for so long. But, even while she gets some much-deserved rest, she’s still planning her next move. “I’m thinking about streaming again, but I keep putting it off, and I’d love to make more content and be a host for events.”
With the Major in full-swing, Vlady will be heading to Katowice for business, to watch the teams go at it, and to meet up with old friends. When I asked her for her prediction before the tournament kicked off she said,
“Maybe it will finally be Na’Vi and Sasha [s1mple] will finally get his Major trophy. I think he deserves it, but CS is a team-based game, and all five players need to work as one big mechanism. It could also be FaZe, a team that has very talented players, or perhaps AdreN will finally open his kumis factory.”
After all the achievements in Vlady’s career, it took the inability to predict the future to make me realize that she was a mortal too. Just a much better mortal than most of us.