Chatting with Kathy Shi Part II: Bring it on!

Happy International Women’s Day! In part 1 of this conversation we released on Thursday, we retraced Kathy’s footsteps in F1 paddock during her time at F1 Express. Now in part 2, we give you her commentator career.

© All photos, including featured cover, provided by Kathy Shi

Bring It On!

Departed from F1 Express, Kathy took her seat in the commentary booth. In her own words, it is because she “happened to know what’s going on in a race”. From writing to speaking, her knowledge in the paddock and experience in the debate club made her an adequate commentator. “You have to be worthy of what you’re paid for. Regardless of the knowledge I accumulated in the paddock, I still need to gather info and prepare for each race I commentate on.”

Compared to the passionate, rattling kind of style, Kathy’s voice is calm. “Some people say that I was too aggressive, even merciless in the commentary, I didn’t realize it until now. I think it’s heritage from my experience in the debate club. This is the way I think and express. It doesn’t seem friendly, I know. But I think being in the commentator seat, it empowers you to say things that most audience couldn’t notice or think of, otherwise why would YOU be the commentator?”

Kathy as part of SMG’s F1 broadcasting crew in Shanghai

A great debater is fearless facing the comments on the internet. She’s well equipped to strike back and fight the trolls. Kathy has never been beaten by the critics, but there are a few incidents where she thought she could have reacted better. “There were a few times when I was trolled. I was still with SMG’s local sports network. It was an NBA game, now thinking back, I did lose control a little bit. Our guest commentator was a former player and a coach. He obviously knew a lot of basketball and had his own opinions towards athletes’ behaviors. He was very vocal about it. I should’ve probably taken better control of the room, before he said anything too harsh on the athletes. I wasn’t that active on Weibo (Chinese social media) back then, a lot of trolls said horrible things on (biggest online forum for basketball in China). But I don’t really care. I’m thankful for a lot of alums who helped me a lot. They told me all commentators are criticized one way or another. So I’m over it. “

“Then I think it was my last race at the local network, I said ‘Ferrari hasn’t seen a No.1 driver this bad in the 21st century.’ I was half joking. But looking back, if I were his fan, I’d be pissed hearing that. They trolled me a little bit. I was like, ‘OK, if you’re pissed, you are allowed to express it of course’. Then people were speculating things. I was already in talks with Tencent and CCTV, so it wasn’t SMG shutting me down. I have to speak for them. It was really simple, I just found another job.”

“As a commentator, if you don’t have your own opinion, what else can you say? If you only report who’s in what position, then what’s the point. This job gives you a place to say what you want to say, as long as you are not making personal attacks. If a driver has a better car, with better tires, but can’t pass who’s in front of them, then I should point it out. I think this is normal. If you’ve been doing this job for 10 years, but no one remembers you or say you are good, then it’s a waste of time.”

Kathy with China Central Television’s F1 broadcasting crew in Beijing

Overall, people on the internet are nice to Kathy, they could even have constructive discussion online. Although, some people would still be personally attacking her. Some of the things said in earlier years makes her feel they were out of line. “Some so-called journalists were involved that time. Some of the things they said… I mean it’s been seven or eight years, I don’t really care that much now. But back then of course I was hurt. When I was in the paddock, of course I wasn’t the only one who could go, but I was given the opportunity. I was taking it really seriously. But then other people think you were not playing it fairly or you slept with a driver or whatnot. It was some really unacceptable comments, really out of line. ”

Kathy was not the only one to go through personal attacks like this, journalists from other countries have also publicly admitted that they’ve been attacked because of their gender. “What makes me really angry is that they say these things because I’m a woman. If I’m a male journalist, they wouldn’t say that. They can’t blame their own uselessness on us. Now I’m in a much better stage in my career than them, so I don’t care what they say any more. At that time, I was just a rookie, of course I was hurt a little bit.”

“When I was still working in the paddock, there were really a lot of women in the paddock, and they really know what they are doing. There are a lot of people who formed a family with other people in the paddock, I think these are normal relationships. As long as you don’t cross the line, it’s all just people’s private life.”

Now 10 years out of the university, Kathy still talks about the help she received from alums a lot. When asked whether she has any role model or people she’s greatful of, she said: “I think my biggest benefit from Fudan is all the alums we have. They are not necessarily role models for me, but we grow together. One of the alum once said I’d be really good at PR, it gave me the impression that I could really do this. I really treasure those experiences.”

“One important thing is that everybody is doing great now. One of the alum from our debate club is a neuro-surgeon now. I think it’s important to be able to achieve things outside of our debate circle. Many of our alums make me proud to have graduated from Fudan.”

Do summarize her past 10 years, Kathy used “fantastic”. When she was an intern herself, she knew a 9 to 5 job wasn’t for her. Now she has interns working for her, she would ask them what they want. “I didn’t have anything that I had to accomplish, but I’ve been working really hard in the past 10 years, and I was able to achieve things. I think this is really important.”

What’s next?

What about the future? “I don’t know!!”

“I haven’t really thought about the next 10 years. People ask me whether I planned everything I did in F1. Actually no. I’ve never really planned any of it. Some people planned to be in consulting or banking and they did it. I admire that too. But for me it was really one step at a time. When I have an opportunity, I go for it. Maybe my career needs to change now, but I don’t know yet. No one has done what I did, and that’s attractive for me. I don’t think I can be an F1 commentator in my 50s and 60s. I’ll figure something out.”

“In 2019 I joined CCTV. Who could say no to that kind of an opportunity. Then they started Sports Talkshow. They think I should try, I also think it’s a good opportunity. So now I’m doing it.”

“I also considered those reality shows for news anchors. I wanted to try that, but I was too busy at the time. It’s difficult to leave my work and commit to that for a month. I think all the journalists and news anchors in China have the same problem. You can be a journalist when you are fresh out of college, but can you do this your entire life. There is the possibility of becoming a producer, but a lot of our news anchors don’t really know the behind-the-scenes stuff, so can they really be a producer? There isn’t a clear path.”

“I don’t prefer one thing to another. As long as what I’m doing means growth from what I was doing before, then it’s worth trying. I’m not sure what I’ll achieve, there might be a ceiling for me. But what I care is to do the best I can with what I’m doing right now.”

This concludes our conversation with Kathy. In this 2020 season, everyone working in motorsport has been affected by the coronavirus outbreak, with cancellation or postponement of racing events, same for Kathy. This may not be a perfect start for her new decade in the sport, but we are sure she will continue to explore new territories that excite her and inspire more people to follow her steps.


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