In this series I am looking into women’s role in a highly male-dominated field of interest - motoring and motorsports - asking females involved. Part VIII. - The presenter, singer and racing driver from Britain
As in the earlier parts of the series, we are submerging into the question (or non-question) of gender issues in motorsports. Those who follow the World Touring Car Championship may very well be familiar with Alexandra Legouix, presenter of its broadcast team - who is a multi-talented artist and adventure-seeker. Through her eyes we attempt to open up another perspective about women in motorsports.
I’m the TV presenter and pitlane reporter of WTCC... but on top of that I do various things. I host at many other events such as the International Boat Shows, Goodwood FOS, various festivals and corporate events. I recently hosted the live screen coverage for Singapore F1 which was very cool. Then in my ‘spare time’ I’m a adventure-junkie, a singer-songwriter, horserider, and artist.
I started performing from a young age. I went to theatre school so [performing in front of an audience] is pretty ingrained in to me. However, at WTCC I am part of a much bigger family and I guess as a presenter my focus is on the person I am interviewing or the event I am hosting so it’s a different perspective. Ironically enough, I don’t actually like being the ‘centre of attention’, haha!
My family have always watched F1 but no one has ever had any direct involvement. However, the way it started was when I was at theatre school. I applied for an ‘Event Coordinator’ job in the local paper - it turned out to be for RMA Ltd. - one of the best track day companies in the UK. I got the job and within a week I was on my way to Spa-Francorchamps. Whilst there, my boss Graham let me go out as a passenger in a few of the cars. Without realising at the time I was not only being driven around one of the best circuits in the world, but also being driven by some of the best names in the racing industry: Anthony Reid, Mike Wylds, and Adrian Newey!
The following weekend we were at the Nürburgring... so needless to say, I was hooked pretty fast on this crazy world and having always been an adrenaline-junkie this job suited me no end.
Before I knew it I was being given opportunities to get behind the wheel myself and was driving some of these beautiful cars. Graham Clarke, owner of RMA, really encouraged me to learn as much as I could about this then fairly male dominated world. So I took his advice.
When I finished theatre school I spent around 5 years working as an actress and singer. In 2007 I was a ‘Formula Una’ for Red Bull F1. The idea behind the Unas were that the girls were there as ‘Red Bull Ambassadors’ essentially but with a difference. After a gruelling few days of interviews, the six girls picked for this role were all knowledgeable motorsport women who could hold their own chatting amongst sponsors and corporates within F1. Again, I had a taste of true motorsport racing life and loved it. I started presenting in 2008. In 2010 I landed a job as the host at the McLaren Technology Centre - again, it was a lot of hard work and learning that got me this position.
One thing lead to another. This job opened new doors. I wrote a treatment about the ‘World of a Racing Driver’ which was commissioned by Sky TV. I started presenting various UK based motorsport championships. Then 2013 I was offered the role of pitlane reporter for World Rallycross which I accepted and loved. Then 2014 I started at WTCC. Three years later and I am still loving it all.
This year for the first time I competed in a six-day endurance rally across the Sahara. That was hard on a whole new level and the most incredible experience ever. I am now working towards competing in the Oil Libya Rally next year and ultimately I’d love to compete in Dakar.
With things like [trying to emphasise women in motorsport broadcasts] I feel like there is the potential of making a ‘problem’ worse by highlighting it... the “Oh look it’s a woman everyone” thing may give females exposure but is that necessarily the right approach? Rather than just assuming there will be more women now because there are more openings for them and just leave it be.
Last year I went to a meeting about Women in Motorsport. Predictably the topic of sexism was brought up. The irony is that it was a women only meeting... this surely defeats the point of trying to get it more equal... Maybe I’m not feminist enough, haha. But I’m a rubbish ‘girl’ anyway.
Appearances are a factor in any line of work where the media and/or sponsors are involved... to some extent. Is it an advantage to be a pretty driver? No... but for certain sponsors, maybe. I don’t agree with it but no matter what, certain sponsors take “the whole package” and so I guess I think a certain look (not necessarily needing to be ‘pretty’ I may add) will attract certain sponsors. That’s a fact of marketing in all areas.
Three years ago, one man I started working for actually took me to the hairdressers and made me have my hair cut and a fringe put in because their countries famous model looked like that. I went along with it because it was a new job and I wanted to impress but I felt demoralised and then embarrassed because my hair looked ridiculous and I didn’t want to be on camera like that. I complained. Said man was removed from his role. I will never let myself be dictated to like that again for work.
[Motorsport] is predominantly male orientated but honestly I don’t think this is because of a sexism thing because it is slowly changing as the generation changes. At the end of the day most women - on the whole - do not spend their time playing in karts when they are little. Their mums weren’t drivers generally etc. So for a young girl to be introduced to motorsport then usually it’s via family somehow. Whereas boys tend to go kart in from a young age with friends so the step in to the industry was more open to them.
I think times and attitudes are massively changing. I don’t know any male drivers who are not perfectly happy about there being female drivers or women in the industry. We also have some extremely talented key there females now. We just need some women to start winning a little more.
I look forward to seeing the likes of Alice Powell, Jamie Chadwick, Rebecca Jackson, Abbie Eaton, etc. getting more exposure as they are serious contenders.