Taylor Rooks continues to solidify herself as a major figure within the sports realm while chasing important stories surrounding some of your favorite athletes. Whether she’s discussing highlights, post-game reactions, or aiding players in telling their own stories to audiences around the world, this reporter has the “it” factor and is unmatched.
The 17th annual International Female Ride Day went down on May 6, and Rooks took part in celebrating by partnering up with Polaris Powersports. The commentator got behind the wheel of a Polaris Slingshot for the first time ever – but she wasn’t alone as she rode alongside Black Girls Ride Founder Porsche Taylor.
In this exclusive interview with REVOLT, Rooks chats about the campaign and women taking up space in male-dominated industries, shares a piece of advice for Angel Reese, and opens up about how she defines failure and success.
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What made you want to partner up with Polaris Powersports in celebration of International Female Ride Day?
So initially, I thought it would be really fun to go and ride the Polaris Slingshot – I wanted to try something and figured it would be a good time. Once I got there, I started learning so much more about it, and it really is about community, fellowship and realizing what it is you get out of riding [motorcycles]. For some people, it’s therapeutic, a break, customizing, or even going fast – you can get a lot of things from riding.
Women are making a lot of noise in sports, but navigating a male-dominated field can still be tough. What do you want girls to always remember as they find their footing in the world?
That’s a great question. I would tell them the rooms they are in and the spaces they are in are because they deserve to be there. Sometimes, women second guess their place in things, especially when you’re always just seeing men around you and feeling like you’re invading this space. You actually are adding [something] beneficial and advantageous to the space because you have different experiences, a different voice, and you’ve lived life differently. That armors you with a lot of strength and quality at the job or whatever you’re trying to do. I don’t want women to be discouraged by what’s around them and focus on what’s already in them.
Who are some of the women who rode for you in your career, even to this day?
First, I think of women journalists who’ve given me so much advice [and lent an ear], from women like Cari Champion, Jemele Hill, Joy Taylor, Malika Andrews, Maria Taylor, Charissa Thompson. These are people who have been beneficial to my life and who I care for very deeply.
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Despite the media trying to paint a narrative of Angel Reese not showing sportsmanship, she stood her ground and her opponent at the time, Caitlin Clark, backed her up. What advice what would you give Angel?
I love Angel Reese, and I feel she was treated incredibly unfairly throughout the entire ordeal and was vilified. I tweeted about this and said she was a really good example of the way intersectionality works in sports. The reaction to her wasn’t solely because she’s Black or because she’s a woman – it was because she’s both of those things within that space. When you’re feeling like double standards are always being thrown at you, it’s very easy to get discouraged because you’re looking at people and saying you’re upset with me and don’t like me because of who I am – that’s a really hard thing to process… that, that’s how someone feels about you… because you feel who you are is amazing and you’re being yourself. I would just want Angel to know she doesn’t have to change anything about who she is because there is going to be astronomically more people who will fall in love with who she is, and it can be easy to focus on the ones who had something to say. You have to let that good be much louder than the bad – she was supported and so backed by people that looked like her, cared about her well-being, and see her talent and what she brings to her basketball team and the space in general. I want her to know being who she is, is a superpower even if she feels like people don’t like it. Keep being who you are at your core, as that’s what makes you a good basketball player, a good friend, daughter – keep that in the front of her mind, as that’s very important.
Many also had opinions on Angel Reese initially saying she didn’t want to visit the White House after Jill Biden’s comments. Do you think the media is doing better at protecting Black women who share their thoughts?
I would say yes, we’ve certainly made strides with the words we use when referencing Black women, the space and platform that we give to Black women and letting them feel fully seen as full, whole people. There’s always more work to be done, but in terms of how the media is talking about Black women, there have been a lot of strides in that space. As far as the ordeal itself, I just want Black women to get all the things that they deserve, and I want those things that they deserve to be the same as what other people have gotten as well. That is my wish for all Black women — to get all those flowers, opportunities, and be spoken about in those same ways. That’s also what I want people who are talking about Angel Reese to think about as well.
Fans love your interview style. How do you make sure to pull from the athletes, but also make them feel comfortable and keep the interview organic?
For me, it starts with asking good questions and asking questions they’ve never been asked a billion times before. You also have to ask questions that are exactly what you’re trying to ask as opposed to trying to add fluff, which will dilute the conversation and make it less interesting. My thing with interviews is I never want to waste anyone’s time – I want you to feel like you watched it, you learned something new, and the questions you wanted to see answered are answered. This all begins with preparation, researching, and asking people that know the athlete different questions. You want to make the athlete [feel seen and understood] – even if you’re discussing topics they may not want to, make sure it’s coming from a place of understanding and not a place of judgment. I want them to also feel like they’re talking to someone they’ve known forever even if we just met.
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You’re also revered as a bombshell on and off the court. How do you ensure people see you for your brains and work ethic in addition to your beauty?
Aww. Well first, thank you so much. You’re very kind. I always say to people I don’t mind if someone compliments me on my looks, but I don’t like when they are only talking about that. That is something that can be super objectifying and demeaning if someone leads with, “Oh, I think she’s good looking.” I rather you comment on how I asked good questions or “She has a very great interview style, she’s very kind, or she’s smart.” There are so many better adjectives to use than to go straight to “She’s good looking” and that’s how I feel. I understand that’s a conversation people want to have but above all else, the reason I get to do this and am thankful for the opportunities I have is because of my voice. When you only comment on my looks, you’re indirectly taking away my voice because that is the thing that has gotten me here – my biggest tool and my biggest asset, which is I know how to talk to people and treat them, which lends to the interview style. When someone makes the joke that these athletes only opened up to me because of my looks, you’re taking away the hours and hours of preparing I did for the interview.
Could Taylor Rooks ever date an athlete or is that too close to home?
I would say Taylor Rooks is very happy and not thinking about dating athletes (laughs).
You recently posted a clip of Giannis Antetokounmpo checking an interviewer who asked if he saw this season as a failure for the Bucks. What lesson should reporters learn from that interaction? How do you define success and failure?
That’s a very great question. I liked that Eric asked the question because to me, that’s the point. The point of the question is to give the person the floor to elaborate on their thoughts. Eric asked Giannis his thoughts – now I understand Giannis being annoyed with the question, but I think both of those things can be true. If Eric doesn’t ask the question, we don’t get this eloquent, thoughtful, introspective response from Giannis and that is what journalism is. I love everything Giannis said and he has a great point of view about it, also not seeing it so black and white and understanding the nuance in sports. There’s a difference between failing to win a championship and the season being a failure, which is what I think he wanted us to see… the difference in the two. Success and failure to me is not a one size fits all thing – how success looks to me may not be how it is to you and vice versa, as it’s based on the person and what they want in their life. You can call things successful if you did your best and put your all into it, walking out knowing there was nothing else you could’ve done to make it better because you expended all the effort you could. Being happy, content, and good to others, to me, is success.
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