BIPOC Podcast

Mission Critical E23 Kayla Grey: How Can We Learn to Say Yes to Ourselves?

Mission Critical podcast cover art with Kayla Grey

Kayla Grey is an award-winning journalist who became the first Black woman to host a flagship sports highlight program in Canada when she made her Sportscentre debut in 2018. She’s since done everything from covering the Toronto Raptors NBA Championship parade in 2019 to making history (again) in early 2021 when she joined an all-female broadcasting team for the first time in the NBA when the Toronto Raptors faced off against the Denver Nuggets. It’s very clear that Kayla is a force to be reckoned with and has a vision for the future of sports media—and the part that she wants to play in it.

In today’s episode, Kayla and Lance chat about her professional journey, the intersection of sports and politics, and how we can learn to say ‘yes’ to ourselves.

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KEY HIGHLIGHTS

[04:35] How Kayla Grey found a passion for sports

[12:0o] Kayla Grey on being the first Black woman anchor for a major flagship sports highlight program

[17:35] The importance of respect and culture when bringing your vision to life

[22:42] How to celebrate the wins, big and small

[27:23] Where sports and culture intersect

[32:29] What Kayla Grey noticed during the 2019 Raptors Championship parade

Listen to the episode below or on your platform of choice.

INTERVIEW 

INTRO

So, it is a bit of a challenge for yourself to be brave and courageous to come up with your own opinions about yourself and to go back and be like, this is who I am. To stand in that and not fold either way, no matter what anyone else can say about you, you lose that codependency of other people’s opinions.”

Welcome to Mission Critical, a podcast about the big picture, the purpose, and the values that drive today’s most game-changing companies, entrepreneurs, and leaders. I’m your host Lance Chung, Editor-in-Chief of Bay Street Bull, and I’ll be introducing you to a group of brilliant minds who are making an impact on the world and forging the path ahead. While they may all be very different from one another, the question remains the same: What’s your mission?

The world of sports has never been just about sports. Sure, there are some that would argue that sports is the great equalizer where athletes and teams have the opportunity to compete on a level playing field, but that simply isn’t true. A brief look at history provides all the receipts necessary to prove that sports sits at the intersection of politics, business, and culture. It is a vessel for dialogue where we can talk about what’s happening in the world around us and what matters. Just ask Colin Kaepernick, Serena Williams, or Megan Rapinoe. Or look to the past for examples in Muhammad Ali, Tommie Smith, and John Carlos. Simply put: Sports is culture, and culture is complicated.

My guest today understands this very well. Kayla Grey is an award-winning journalist who, in 2018, became the first Black woman to host a flagship sports highlight program in Canada when she made her Sportscentre debut. She’s since done everything from covering the Toronto Raptors NBA Championship parade in 2019 to making history (again) in early 2021 when she joined an all-female broadcasting team for the first time in the NBA when the Toronto Raptors faced off against the Denver Nuggets. It’s very clear that Kayla is a force to be reckoned with and has a vision for the future of sports media—and the part that she wants to play in it. That is, one that is diverse and reflective of its audience, which, as she mentions later, includes people of all ages, backgrounds, and walks of life. 

On today’s episode, Kayla and I chat about her professional journey, how sports and politics are intertwined, and why people from underrepresented communities must remember to celebrate their achievements.

Lance Chung: Today we have award-winning journalist, SportsCenter anchor, and host of TSN’s The Shift, Kayla Grey. It’s such a pleasure to be speaking with you today. How are you?

Kayla Grey: I’m good! Thank you so much for asking. Mercury is in retrograde on May 29, so I’ve just been throwing all the things into the universe, walking as much as I can, just getting into preparation before this world turns on its head.

Lance Chung: I mean, I feel like the last year has been Mercury in retrograde, so I’m not sure what that’s going to mean for a couple of days.

Kayla Grey: Right? Oh my gosh. But yeah, we’re just plugging through. The weather [recently] has helped, but it’s been an interesting ride over the last little while.

Lance Chung: For sure. I have a lot of ground that I want to cover with you today. A little bit about your new show, about your career, about your mission and your values. But why don’t we start off at the beginning? What initially got you interested in journalism and essentially storytelling. Was it something that you always wanted to do?

Kayla Grey: I think sports was the thing that I always wanted to do, I just didn’t know what to do with it. I tell this story a lot, of spending a lot of time with my grandparents and my grandfather would have the game on the radio and my grandmother would watch the Blue Jays game on the television and she would have it on mute. That’s really old school for you, but the fusion, to me, was super interesting. I was just like, man, they’re so into it—and I’m also so into it. Keep in mind, I’m not really a huge baseball person, but I think what spoke to me the most at a young age was the feeling that sport gives you. Having played soccer growing up or basketball at West Scarborough Boys and Girls Club, that was really introduced to me. I just knew that sports was something that made my heart beat really, really fast. I didn’t know how I wanted to contribute, but I felt like as I was getting older, I was realizing I’m so much better talking about it than playing it [laughs]. A real moment of realization that Kayla was not going to be no athlete. So, I think through having conversations with other teachers that kind of came into my life, I knew that journalism might be the thing and I just went for it.

Lance Chung: It is true that it’s such an emotional experience, engaging and watching and witnessing and participating in sports. There’s a lot of highs and lows, as you’ve witnessed. 

Kayla Grey: It’s a reflection of society!

Lance Chung: Absolutely. Were there people that you could look up to in sports, and I guess in sports media, when you were growing up or starting your career that you could see yourself in?

Kayla Grey: Yeah! I would always illegally stream ESPN because, at that point, when you looked at the Canadian media landscape, there were such powerhouses as I was coming up, but just no one that looked like me. So, going Stateside, and we were also broadcasting some games up here, thankfully, where I would see Pam Oliver doing her thing on the sidelines and the connection she was able to make the way she was able to tell stories when it came to building an NFL picture. That was so fascinating for me. 

The one person I looked up to—and still look up to—is Lisa Salters, and that’s whose career I was like, man, I want to be just like her. She would be on the NFL sidelines one day, the next day, she’d be doing NBA sidelines and she just never skipped a beat. She was so informed and players really respect her. And you could tell she really respects them and the game by the ways in which she was telling her stories. Then also too, she was at the production table when it came to long-form storytelling. I just knew that that sort of hybrid was where I would have wanted my career to go. And so those are the two people to me that I looked up to.

Kayla Grey text on image quote: “There were a lot of times where I had to be like, 'You're here, just go for it. If you don't see yourself in this position, be that person in this position.”

Lance Chung: I read in a previous interview about how important it was for you to say “yes” to yourself as you navigated your early career. What does it mean to say “yes” to yourself? And has that meaning changed for you in how that manifests for you today?

Kayla Grey: Oh my gosh. Yeah. All the time. As I work through some things that I went through as a kid, I realize there were a lot of barriers that I put up for myself, in terms of lowering my ceiling at a very young age, and that came through maybe insecurity or not feeling like I fit in with many people or feeling like my interests were good enough for navigating as a human does as they’re coming into themselves. And so, that showed up a lot when I started my career. And even when I was in journalism school, I’d tell myself, “Well, this is all you can do. Temper your expectations about this industry, temper your expectations about this field, because someone that looks like you was just not going to be able to make it simple as that.”

So, there were a lot of times where I had to be like, “You’re here, just go for it. If you don’t see yourself in this position, be that person in this position.” And so that took a lot of like saying yes to myself and saying, “Just go for it, just do it, bet on yourself.” And it still shows up now—it’s not like I have it figured out. There are so many times, especially with the show, where I’m like, “There’s no way. It can’t be done.” You have to go back to, why not you? Why can’t this be you? Why shouldn’t it be you? And that’s not easy, because we are on air and we kind of almost have to present “perfect” in a sense, but truly, behind the scenes, it’s messy mentally. What is perfect anyway? I’m just leaning into the fact that I am a hot, beautiful mess and that should come through in every stage. And so I am very transparent about my thinking process and getting to this point because I think it is important because so many people go through it. We just don’t talk about it. 

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Lance Chung: Building on that, is it scary to say “yes” to yourself, or does it require courage in a sense to say “yes” to yourself and take that step in and be intentional about that step?

Kayla Grey: It’s incredibly terrifying. Because we’ve come up in a space or a time where a lot of our yeses are determined on what other people say about us or what they say is to be true about us, right? So it’s this validation game almost of proving ourselves to people and getting a yes from someone else to take that power away from outsiders. It’s a very scary thing because it’s all on you. You’re going to decide how far you go. You’re going to decide if what you do is good enough. You’re going to decide if the work is good enough. So, it is a bit of a challenge for yourself to be brave and courageous to come up with your own opinions about yourself and to go back and be like, this is who I am. To stand in that and not fold either way, no matter what anyone else can say about you, you lose that codependency of other people’s opinions and that’s terrifying.

Lance Chung: It’s so true. And when you’re only accountable to yourself and you’re setting your own expectations, you’re setting your own limitations—if you want to set limitations—and working within those parameters.

Kayla Grey: Yeah. It’s so interesting how much I think that I’m a work-minded person and I throw myself into my career and that’s how I distract and that’s how I hide. But in work, there are so many things that bring me back to the personal sides and personal feelings and personal views of myself. So, it’s been an interesting time over the last couple of years to really get to know who Kayla is. And that I think is who has shown up in the work that I’ve done most recently.

Lance Chung: Right. Now, you became the first Black woman to host a flagship sports highlight program when you made your debut on SportsCenter in 2018. What did that moment mean for you? And do you think it was a turning point in the media landscape to have these larger discussions around representation—and the lack of representation—did it help start a conversation? 

Kayla Grey: No [laughs]. And that’s one of the regrets that I think about a lot. I didn’t say anything when I made my debut. I didn’t come out and say like, “Hey guys, and I’m the first…” because I was terrified. I was scared that that would bring way too much attention to me and bring on this amount of pressure, because I was already feeling pressure being the first Black woman to do that and knowing that in the back of my mind of what that action meant for visibility and representation. But to draw attention to it, what I was fearful of was the people that would say, “Oh, this is tokenism,” or, “Oh, she just got her job because…” I wasn’t yet ready to rely or lean on the fact that I put in the work to get here.

I wasn’t ready to celebrate myself yet or stand in the fact that I bust my to get to where I was. And that’s why I didn’t say anything. And I wish that I did because I wish that these conversations can start a little bit earlier. I started getting to a point where I could be like, “Okay guys, just so you know, on this date, I did this. I became the first and I don’t know why I waited to celebrate that.” I feel like sometimes as people of colour, when we do big things, we hide it. I downplayed it. And really I should have celebrated it because not only is it a message of what that was: breaking a barrier, but the celebration in itself can also be very important for a young person of colour to see, “Hey, that is a Black woman, was celebrating an accomplishment that she made. That means something to me.” And I just didn’t, at that time, but obviously trying to be gracious to my gracious to myself and give myself grace and the realization, I just didn’t seize the moment at that time.

Lance Chung: I think that resonates a lot because I think that is something that a lot of people of colour and a lot of people who are children of immigrants can understand. That experience of trying not to draw too much attention to themselves and not trying to stir the pot and not trying to be an outlier because that creates a bigger spotlight on yourself and you just want to be treated like everyone else. So, that is definitely something that I think resonates with me, and with a lot of people, that would be in that position as well. 

It’s incredible, your career progression and what you’ve been able to do and the conversations you’ve been able to start. You work in a very male-dominated industry, a community with very strong male opinions and voices as well. What advice would you have for other women who are entering or navigating similar industries and communities, and looking to make an impact, not looking to downplay their accomplishments, and really just succeed on their merits and on their talent as well?

Kayla Grey: Just succeed on your merits and your talents as well. Truly. That’s what it is. It’s owning who you are and owning your voice. And it’s not to say that you have to come in with this strict, “This is who I am; it’s never going to change.” Because let’s also be clear, people can change their minds all the time. But understanding that you are in the room for a reason, and to expand and take up space. It is a predominantly male, white-male, run industry still in Canada. So, there are a lot of people that kind of like things a certain way and want news to be delivered a certain way, or are used to things a certain way. But that is so small-minded in a sense, because look at Canada. It is a massive mass of space, where people like different things, have different interests in sports, want to dissect and discuss sports topics in a completely different way, like myself.

So you have to understand that there’s an audience there for you that is craving you to be in that space. There are people that need you to be in that space. And I think when you own that and you just show up as like, “I said what I said, and no man over here is going to challenge why I’m in this room. And no man over here is going to challenge why I need to be in this space,” because you probably, at some times, are the smartest person in the room. I talked to people over the last while about hiring practices and whatnot. And they’re like, “It’s so strange that because women come in and they are so overqualified, but they downplay themselves in these interviews. And these men, with no qualifications, come in and they’re just like, ‘the job is mine.’” And sometimes the difference in certain industries is that confidence, right? Knowing that women almost always prepare twice as hard, we are probably overqualified for a lot of things that we put ourselves forward for, sit in that and know that and know that there is space in a room for you.

Kayla Grey text on image: “I feel like when you're not present, it's hard for you to truly take in everything that's going on.”Lance Chung: Building on that, as someone in a decision-making role in a male-centric industry, especially as an executive producer and host of your show, The Shift, have you ever had to navigate a situation where being confident and intentional in that business role has been perceived as “bossy” or any other gender or prescriptive biases that exist in the workplace?

Kayla Grey: I think when I stepped into being a co-executive on The Shift, one of the biggest fears for me, was “I hope I don’t come off too mean. I want to treat people with respect.” But when you really think about that, what is respect? It’s honesty. And so owning the fact that you have to be truthful, this has your name on it. This is something that is a passion project of yours. And so you have to be firm in what you’re asking for. You have to be firm and see your visions through. And it’s not to say that you don’t care about how other people feel. If you say something there’s a way of approach and respect. And I think for me with the show and being a co-executive on the show, one of the things that we love is culture. And for me, what was very important, because I’ve been in certain spaces where the workplace culture was simply toxic and felt like it had lasting trauma impacts on me, myself, and my professional growth. 

Obviously, with the conversations a lot of BIPOC journalists are having like, “This was my experience here.” The biggest thing for us is workplace culture. Is this a safe place to work? So that, to me, is something I go back to in a decision-making role. How are my decisions—and the ways in which I communicate—how is that making the people I work with, or that have to report to me, how am I making them feel? I think, to me, when I lead with honesty, that is where I think the best stuff comes from. Nobody gets offended. Nobody takes it a certain way. 

It’s also working with people that are very comfortable in their skills and their talent. So if I say something like, “I don’t like that.” Nobody’s taking offense to it. They’re like, “She just doesn’t like it,” we move on. So, I’m learning a lot about the communication style I want as a boss. And also the type of relationship I want to build behind the scenes at The Shift. Because I think only good can come outward facing to the audience that sees these episodes if good takes place inside.

Lance Chung: I love that. Now, being the co-executive producer of your show, did you have to fight for your vision for the show, fight for the project? How much of that was happening behind the scenes? And on that experience, what advice do you have to offer other women who are navigating their own business negotiations, especially with men and fighting for themselves and their vision?

Kayla Grey: It was really interesting to me. Because at some point you, you feel like, oh my gosh, do I even want to share my idea with people? Because what if they take it and flip it? And it looks completely different? I’m so blessed with the support of TSN and us aligning. They were just like, “No, this is good, and feel free to provide your feedback.” So if things are coming through, and because I don’t know a lot of the admin stuff, they handled that, but they checked in with me every step of the way. I’d be like, “This doesn’t make sense. I don’t like how this is worded. I don’t like how this is looking. If we’re going to go pitch this to other people.” 

And so they were incredibly supportive with giving me the things that I need to see what I put down through. And I think that’s very important—the level of trust. It’s really hard to trust. It’s a hard process. That’s the one thing that I am learning and that I would like to share is there’s a process of letting go of something that you have so close to you, it’s your passion, it’s something you want to see through, but understand you can’t do all of the things. So kind of being like, “Hey, someone’s way better at figuring out logistics.” Let go and let them figure it out. “Hey, someone’s more, is way better at building out a graphic.” Let go and let and trust that you found the right person to take that on. So that’s one of the things.

What, through the process, was so beautiful was when we were aligned also with Dell, they didn’t really have any feedback. They were just like, “We see it. We trust it. We backed, you go do your thing.” And that’s really, really rare for companies to do because obviously, they want their stamp on everything. And I think to me, it was incredibly empowering that they did that because it was like, “Okay, Kayla, when you thought you were onto something back when you’re writing this idea out on napkins, you truly were.” And so, if you’re in a pitching process where you feel it in your bones, that you are on something or that you have something going for you, do it anyways. Do it, and then get through the process of also letting go a little bit with certain aspects of it to see the full thing through. Cause it’s all about the bigger picture.

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Lance Chung: A hundred percent. I want to go back to a previous point that you mentioned about celebrating your success. Especially when you got that first big gig in your experience, do you think that women have a harder time celebrating their accomplishments enough? Are they strong enough advocates for themselves historically? Maybe that’s different today. And for those who may not be, or for those who may have a tough time celebrating those successes, what are some ways that we can encourage women? I guess even for people of colour and people that have had a hard time doing that, how can we encourage them to celebrate themselves more?

Kayla Grey: Whew, that’s hard because I’m still learning it. I think being very present in everything that you do, when it’s working on the show, then I’m not going to check social media. Because I feel like when you’re not present, it’s hard for you to truly take in everything that’s going on. So try to remain as present in the things that you’re doing. Also, with women, we have so many hats. I’m also a mother to a three-year-old, and you have your social circles, you have so many things. So I think the main key for me of like sitting in where I’m at, is to just simply be present—and celebrating the small wins. It’s easy for us to just be like, “All right, I’m done. All right, next thing, next thing, next thing.” Because the goal line for us, it’s always moving. We’re not taking that in truly. 

The beauty is the journey and not the destination. That sounds super cliche. But what I thought was helpful—and I did it, a couple of months ago, because I was just like, I don’t know what’s going on, I’m losing myself here—was writing all the things that I accomplished. And then you realize that the list is pretty long when you go through all the things that you did. And then it gets simpler; it gets to, I woke up today or I went for an hour walk or I remembered to tell my son all of these things, right? You realize just how many things in your day are worth celebrating. And then it just becomes the day itself. The fact that we’re here and we’re living and we’re breathing and we are healthy, knock on wood, that’s a celebration itself. And especially in this time where we’re surrounded by so much loss, I feel like taking joy and pride and even the littlest things help prepare us to take pride in the bigger things as well.

Kayla Grey text on image quote: “Especially in this time where we're surrounded by so much loss, I feel like taking joy and pride in even the littlest things help prepare us to take pride in the bigger things as well.”

Lance Chung: I have this practice where, in times where things feel overwhelming, it’s important to know how to zoom in and out as you need to, and zoom in on just taking one step at a time, focusing on like small moments of joy. And then when you feel overwhelmed, zooming out and looking at the bigger picture and understanding what it’s all for and, and where things are going towards. I have found that to be incredibly helpful, especially in the last year and a half. It’s been tough!

Kayla Grey: We’re control freaks! We work in media, we dictate, we are control freaks. Right? But we are not in control of the story, that being the pandemic, and when it’s going to end, what it’s going to look like. Man, are we in for some treats when it comes to letting go, what is that? Letting go is a big thing.

Lance Chung: Being in media, in a media role and being able to cultivate these storylines, these narratives, what can be done from your perspective to bring more diverse voices, perspectives, and talent to the world of sports and also to the decision-making table, because you are in that role as well?

Kayla Grey: Bring more to the decision-making table. I think what we’ve seen over the last little while with the conversations that have been sparked, which I love, is we’re hiring more, but what we’re seeing is at only the entry level, right? So internships, entry-level roles, which is great. This is how we build a pipeline, but I’m also not subscribing to the fact that pipeline should only be the focus. So if we’re only getting people of colour in, at the entry-level, there’s still a ways for everyone to go to get to the higher positions. And that means that we’re losing years and decades at some points of progress because, truly, if we want to make a change and we know decision-making is a big part of changing culture and how things go and we want it to happen, we need to start hiring at a much higher stage and there’s fear there. Right? Obviously, bosses don’t want to hear that because sometimes they’re like, “What does this mean for me and my role?” When really, I think what’s so beautiful about this realization, is that there’s actually room for us all. And there are ways in which we can address this. For example, it’s so easy to put someone on the air that’s of colour to be like, “Hey, look, this visually looks like diversity,” but when it comes to decision-making, if that’s not also reflected there, then have you made that much progress?

Lance Chung: Totally. Switching to kind of just the broader dialogue that’s happening in sports, your show really kind of focuses on this intersection between sports and culture and the bigger conversation—the bigger picture. So how do you think sport is a reflection of the greater community around it? How is it a vessel for dialogue?

Kayla Grey: In so many ways! I mean, we’ve got the Miami Heat about to give the Moderna vaccines. It’s so connected with what’s going on! I go back to feel. I think if you’re a sports fan and watching games with nobody in the arena this last little while has felt dull. You realize like, “We really need people! We really need to see people and be around people because again!” Why the games were dull to us, even in their playoff form, as much as some of the games were awesome, there’s one thing missing and it’s feel. And I think that’s why it relates so much to society, because it’s such a reflection of us. It brings us all together. We do need each other.

For me, there’s so many ways in which I’ve felt like the best stories I’ve done have never been about the box scores have never been about the final tally. It’s been about the people. It’s been about the athlete because they’re just so much more than what they can do on the court or on the field or on the diamond. There are so many other things and aspects about these human beings that make them relatable to fans. And so that is where The Shift lives, as we are at that intersection because even if you’re not a sports fans, there are reasons why things might matter to you. Our first show, we talked about why investing in women’s sport is smart and not the right thing to do. I’m pretty sure when we talk about women in general and investing in us, because we’re the best, but also it’s the right thing to do because when you have a diversity of thought only excellence can come. There are many industries that can also relate to what I said.

And so sparking the bigger discussion and figuring out how it fits or changes your life, that’s where my goal is. If you watch the show and you walk away and you’re like, Why does this matter to me? Why is this important to me? That to me is the dream. And I don’t need you to agree with me, but just sparking that conversation, I think is important. And I think that’s what sport does. It sparks conversation. There were so many people that weren’t actively engaged in conversations around social injustice until the seasons stopped, the sports stopped. And then they were like, “Let me just jump on in here now.” And I think that there is a reason for that.

Lance Chung: Building on that, do you think that sports should be political or is there a line on how political? Because there are some camps that see sports as a great equalizer while others would agree that it’s very much political. If you consider history and recent events around things like Colin Kaepernick and the BLM movement and a lot of things, politics and sports are really, in my opinion, interwoven. But for you, I mean, do you think that there is a responsibility to have political discussions when it comes to viewing the world through?

Kayla Grey: Yeah, because sports is politics. Sports, and all of leagues, are political, right? Ownership, revenue, all of the things capital, how revenue is shared between owners and players. There are so many things and facets of how sports are run on just a day-to-day basis or even as a business that involves politics. Now, I think too, why it’s so important is because, I’m not going to dumb down a viewer or consumer. I truly believe that people will spend their time, their money, where they want to spend it. And so we’re seeing now with conscious buying, when consumers are like, “Oh, Ben and Jerry’s morals align with mine? I’m inclined to spend X amount.” We know Ben and Jerry’s is not cheap [laughs], but I will spend my money with Ben and Jerry’s because we align.

And I think it’s important for fans and audiences to view where leagues stand because they spend. When you think about, the WNBA or the NBA, or what Colin Kaepernick has done, people still are rocking with them, and even more so because they’re aligning with their values. And I would also argue that sometimes, for me, what players are asking for, has nothing to do with politics. Sure it leads to politics, and we’re talking about, who you’re voting for, what questions you’re asking, representation in your area, or what have you. But I think the basis is human decency—it’s human rights. And so people who say that they can’t get aligned with athletes talking about human rights and human decency, it’s a little interesting to me that that’s where they land.

Kayla Grey text on image quote: “That is what The Shift is. We are not going to shy away from the tough conversations, because they're incredibly important. But trust and believe that this will be a show about joy.”

Lance Chung: So what does progress look like to you when it comes to your position as a sports broadcaster? As someone that is interacting and covering teams and engaging with athletes, what does progress look like to you? What do you hope? 

Kayla Grey: More of me. More Kayla’s at the same time, not one at a time. More people that look like us in decision-making roles. I think, what I always go back to is the 2019 NBA Raptors Championship. What I saw was a million people downtown, and I was on a bus, I was looking down, and I was seeing people who didn’t look alike; who weren’t just one audience. It was a beautifully, diverse audience of all age groups and backgrounds. And they were all able to come together because it was such a good time. I think in going off those memories, I’m like, “Why can’t we give them that on-screen, and not even just on television, but why can’t we give that them that when it comes to decision-making? And giving them that when it comes to the type of properties we buy, of what sports they’re watching? Why can’t we make multiple audiences feel seen?

And I think that, to me, when we see progress in that way and we’re seeing diversity of the sports that we’re watching, what we’re talking about, it reflects the diverse audience that is taking this in. I think that’s what progress looks like.

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Lance Chung: There have been a lot of moments of trauma that have been covered in the media, especially in the last two years, which are incredibly important to highlight, but on the same page, how important do you think it is to showcase also those moments of joy in our efforts to support underrepresented communities? 

Kayla Grey: That is what The Shift is. We are not going to shy away from the tough conversations, because as you said, they’re incredibly important. But I say trust and believe that this will be a show about joy about what make our hearts beat fast—what we want to talk about. Because that I think is a stance in itself. The Black voice is not a monolith. It’s also not a space of trauma. It’s a space of contribution. It’s a space of culture. People of colour have been contributing to culture for so long and not been given the credit, have not been given the space to deservedly celebrate the wins of what we have created. And that is what The Shift is about. Of course, we will hold space for the hard conversations, but I think more importantly, what we want to do is showcase the joy that lives within us.

Lance Chung: It’s so incredibly important. And I think just, not only as a person of colour myself too, and as someone who is in the LGBT community, not wanting to always be reminded of the bad and just how awful people can be, but also how great people can be and how great our experiences are.

Kayla Grey: And how great WE are! Because when you continuously see us bring being brutalized and violence against us, as much as we want to admit it or not, sometimes we take these things on. And sometimes we feel like we get into this space where we’re almost just lucky to be having these conversations when it’s like, no, we deserve to be in all of these conversations, but also we deserve to be highlighted and celebrated and talked about in the best of light as well. Because I think that brings back our humanity to show that we are just human and we are capable. We are so excellent. And we deserve to be talked about as such.

Lance Chung: Okay. Last two questions. What would you say is the lesson that has taken you the longest to learn?

Kayla Grey: Ha! I am still learning these lessons [laughs]… Hm, that I have all the tools that I need. I think just sort of sitting back and worrying myself, sick almost and out of sleep and thinking I’m not good enough. I don’t have this. I can’t say this well enough, or I can’t do this. Or you just go through all of the things and you bring up those barriers. But then realizing “Girl, you got a whole show in the middle of a pandemic. SIS, you have all of the things that you need. Everything that you’re looking for outside validation for, everything that you’re searching for, someone to be like, ‘you got it.’ YOU need to tell yourself that you’ve got it because look at what you’ve done.” I think that’s the biggest lesson that I want to say I’ve learned, but I’m continuing to learn.

Lance Chung: I love that. And it’s a really important reminder actually. And I thank you for that. I think that’s great. Last question: What is your mission and how are you convincing people to get on board with your mission?

Kayla Grey: My mission is to live authentically to myself. To do what feels right for me. And this all sounds selfish, I know, I’m getting to a point, but I feel like when you start doing that for yourself and you start living in your truth and you start sharing your experiences, sharing what you’ve learned along the way, you can encourage other people to do that as well, and to feel safe enough to also show up as themselves. I think that to me is, is what I feel like my calling is: making other people feel comfortable and safe enough to show up as is, because as is, is just enough. So whether that be through a TV show or whether that be through my daily interactions with people or how I live my life, that is my mission.

Lance Chung: I love that. I love it. Thank you so much for this chat. That’s been really wonderful. It’s been really, enlightening, also just watching your career and watching the impact that you’re making and the conversations that people are having as a result of it. It’s really, really amazing to see. I am so excited to see what you continue to do. Thank you!

Kayla Grey: I appreciate you so much Lance. Thank you so much for making the space for me this morning. 

OUTTRO

Kayla is making a statement simply by taking up space as a Black woman in sports media, and making room for others to join her at the table. Through the lens of sports, she’s telling a bigger story about who we are as a people, what we value, and how we’re connected to each other. While there is still a lot that she’s learning about herself as she progresses through her career, it’s undeniable that she’s already taught many others who look up to her how to unapologetically say yes to yourself and move the dial forward. The future is brighter thanks to people like Kayla.

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