Team captain EMUHLEET is driving her all-female esports team to make history
Story by Kellie Chudzinski | Photos by Zsuzsi Steiner
Tucked in with the large media companies that call Playa Vista home is esports team Dignitas, one of the best all-female teams in the world. Led by team captain Emmalee ‘EMUHLEET’ Garrido, the team has won five world championships in the
last six years.
Most recently, the team won the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) female division world championship back to back in 2018 and 2019. One win at a time, the team is breaking the glass ceiling in the world of esports and they are not done yet.
Esports is competitive video gaming, an industry that is expected to reach $1 billion this year. Tournaments meet around the globe giving winners sizeable cash prizes. Along with winnings players can make money from sponsorships, and live streaming on platforms such
In 2014, Garrido founded the team, then called Team Karma, recruiting players from Los Angeles and some around the country and world, to compete in the Electronic Sports World Cup in France. With no financial sponsors, the team paid for their own tickets and expected to place dead last. Everyone was shocked when they finished second.
Three years after their first tournament Team Karma was signed by Dignitas, under the same umbrella as the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils. Today the team consists of Amanda ‘rain’ Smith, Carolyn ‘artStar’ Noquez, Kiara ‘milk’ Makua and Melisa ‘theia’ Mundorff.
With most esports tournaments being held abroad, being connected to established sports teams in the NBA and NHL, has given the team invaluable tips to stay healthy while traveling. Garrido said the 76ers health and science team has been helpful in teaching her teammates ways to recover from jetlag and better foods to eat for endurance.
In preparation for one of their big tournaments, the team convenes in L.A. for a week-long boot camp filled with reviewing film of their plays and opponents, 10-hour days of practice, and workouts to remains strong and agile.
For Garrido, her coach David Garrido plays double duty. The two met at Team Karma’s first tournament in 2014 when he insisted on being their coach, a year later they fell in love and married in 2016.
“He just pushes us to the next level,” Emmalee Garrido said of her husband. “When we’re practicing or at boot camp, he treats me as a player and not as his wife. I want to be pushed to the next level because I want to be a champion.”
And champions they are. The team’s 2018 and 2019 wins were at the Intel Extreme Masters held in Poland. For the team it validated their dedication to the game.
Studies have shown women and men to play video games at near-equal rates, however, women are still a minority in professional competitions. Garrido herself tries to be a role model for young players, especially girls, so she participates yearly in a gaming camp for girls eight to 16.
Though, similar to professional and high-profile gamers, the young girls Garrido mentors at the camp are already experiencing the hateful side of the community. Some girls come to her asking how to handle the bullies.
“I try to make them realize that anybody who’s in the spotlight is going to get picked on,” she said. “I told them, ‘Don’t give [bullies] a taste of their own medicine. Just get back into the game and then play better, beat them. And that’s the best way to make them stop.’”
On a daily basis, Garrido prepares and leads her team’s practice five days a week, and like any captain, she reviews film and comes up with suggestions to improve their play. The team will soon have access to a brand new, state of the art facility, opening in Playa Vista.
The 5,500 square foot facility will be on Verizon’s campus in a partnership with Dignitas to become the west coast headquarters and training facility. The building will incorporate Verizon’s 5G network giving quick speeds to help the teams with their training.
Winning nearly one championship a year since the team began, Garrido has big plans for the future and wants to continue to break down walls in the industry, starting by making the list of top 10 teams in the world, which currently are all male.
“I want us to eventually be able to be on that top 10 list,” she said. “And slowly but surely, mark my words, we will get there. We don’t want to be the best female team in the room. We want to be one of the best teams in the world.” ”