Jamaican Alexis Nunes Breaking Barriers for Women in Sports at ESPN

ALEXIS NUNES - JAMAICAN ESPN REPORTER
Photo: Contributed

Ten minutes in and the interview hasn’t really started. Instead of the prepared questions, we’re talking about the English Premier League, and this being Alexis Nunes, we’re talking about Manchester United. “It’s a weird season,” she laments the inconsistency of her favorite team.

For any mega soccer fan, the face of this woman in sports is a staple from their many soccer binge-watching sessions. She’s the widely known, very successful (and still steadily rising in her career), Jamaican reporter and host at ESPN FC and ESPNcricinfo.  

Born to an El Salvadorian mother and a Jamaican dad, Alexis Nunes says her love of sports came from her father. “Growing up, he controlled the remote, and he always wanted us to watch something ‘sensible.'” In her household, sensible often involved a ball. Her father would also take her to cricket matches.

Alexis proudly identifies as both Latina and Jamaican. She grew up in Jamaica with her parents and Hispanic grandparents, and effortlessly ingested a lot about her Salvadoran roots. In Jamaica, she says her multicultural identity was no big deal and widely accepted. “In the Caribbean, everyone’s a little mixed at some point,” she says, arguing that growing up elsewhere would have probably been more challenging. 

But, back to sports, Alexis says… With a love of sport, comes a love of story. Between the superhuman feats, our favorite athletes regularly perform, we cling to the bits of personality that fill out the gaps. Alexis understands this. When she wasn’t absorbing every sport she could find, “except golf,” she grew up watching documentaries, and  stories of how great athletes would transcend their sport.

“I always knew this was what I wanted to do,” Alexis says. A graduate from the University of the West Indies, she landed her first job in broadcasting at a local TV station, SportsMax.

She’ll stress she wouldn’t be where she is today, if not for her time at SportsMax. She credits legendary broadcaster and personality Simon Croskill for mentoring her. His advice was clear—never change and never compromise. She took those words to heart.

Now, an interviewer [presenter, host, and commentator] at ESPN, she gets to tell her the story her way. “I like to find a new angle…I like to play games,” her voice sparkles over the phone. From cooking challenges to getting shoved into the pool by your favorite football player—she’s decidedly relaxed and game for almost anything.

After another 10 minutes of talking about Jamaican patties and high school, Alexis speaks about the unique challenges she has faced as a woman of color in a field dominated by white men. Each one of those descriptions is another layer of marginality she’s faced. “[The] number one reason people come at you is that you’re a girl,” she explains, sounding disappointed. “It’s disheartening to see how many people don’t accept that women can know as much, if not more than a man.”

Of course, COVID-19 is another recently added challenge. While she’s grateful to work in an industry that could readily adapt to remote working conditions, it’s not without its pain points. “I have more respect for the guys behind the scenes,” she says with a chuckle. 

Working from home has turned Alexis Nunes from strictly on-air talent to doing production in her home. On any given day, she can be found setting up lights and managing her sound levels, and rearranging her “set”—shifting flowers, changing pictures in the background—to bring some of that studio dynamism home. She’s itching to get back out there, she says. 

 

Contributed by Nicanor Gordon allabouttheculture.com

 

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