In the latest chapter of the Spotlight On Empowerment series, I spoke with sports journalist and broadcaster, Taylor Rooks. Women, black women in particular, in predominantly male employed fields bring a different kind of light and encouragement to young girls who look up to them. They also show young men that women can do the same jobs and offer unique perspectives on seemingly concrete issues that you could only get from a woman’s point of view. We spoke about her earliest role model, best interview moments, and more!
M: What restrictions or pigeonholes do you feel society attempts to place on women, especially women of color, and how do you see yourself breaking them?
T.R: Society in general likes to put people in a box. Humans feel as though other people can only be one thing, and that one thing has to overshadow everything else and be your defining characteristic. If you’re attractive, then your beauty is the only thing people focus on. It’s like they think if you’re good looking, you can’t also be intelligent, kind, funny, hard working, driven, and motivated. I think that labeling people is something others do to limit you. People put you in a space that makes them feel comfortable and in many ways, they look at you as a woman first and a journalist second, and that isn’t right. Women have always been some of the most powerful beings on this earth. There is so much strength in your femininity and being a woman is incredibly advantageous. Society in many ways wants you to feel weaker because you are a woman, and we are in such a beautiful time right now where we’re seeing women stand up and say that it is actually what makes them stronger. For women of color, we’re fighting to make sure that our voices are heard and we are seen for what we are. It is so important for our perspectives and experiences to be discussed.
Who was your earliest influence as far as showing you what a strong woman and/or female role model was?
Definitely my mother. I remember being a young girl and watching my mom decide to go back to school and finish a different undergraduate degree and then head back to get her Masters. Being educated and having something to show for it was always incredibly important to her. She didn’t do it for recognition, she did it solely for herself. My mother is far and away the strongest woman I know. She has faced so much heartbreak and so much loss in her life. but has not become the hard times she’s experienced. She is the happiest, most loving, caring, and genuine person on the planet who has taught me so much about what life is all about – and what it isn’t. I’m lucky to have grown up with a woman who made sure I knew my worth was defined by how I see myself and how I treat others.
In what ways do you think having a strong male figure is vital to girls progression as they grow to be women?
It is important to have strong figures around you just in general, male or female. I’m happy to have a dad who continues to instill so many life lessons. I hesitate to say that having a strong male figure is “vital” because I know many women who have thrived and grown without the constant presence of a man. I also hesitate to say that we as women NEED a man, simply because we are born with everything we need to survive. But having a strong male figure in your life is incredibly beneficial of course. My dad didn’t just teach me about life, he also showed me the type of men I want to surround myself with. I wouldn’t be who I am without my father because he has always been my number one supporter and defender. Women need to see strong men as they grow so that they understand how they should and should not be treated. But most importantly, it’s up to men to BE that strong male figure. In a perfect world, every woman would grow up with that, but that isn’t the reality. I have so much love for and send so much love to the men who make it their duty to be that in a woman’s life, you are incredibly appreciated and your influence is important.
I caught your post on Instagram about mediation. How long have you been into it? And what’s been the most rewarding benefit from it?
I started meditating about 3 months ago and it is truly life changing. I admittedly thought it was a little dramatic and wacky at first, but I encourage everyone to do it. It brings me so much peace and clarity. Just quieting your mind and listening to your body helps you get in tune with your mental and emotional state. Clarity is the best word I can use, we as people underestimate what it means to have clarity. We rush into things, make decisions based on emotion, and ignore our natural instincts because we don’t take the time to assess and evaluate situations presented to us. We don’t take time to be at peace and get that clarity. Mediation has given me that tool. Even if it’s just for 5 minutes a day, within that time, I am completely free and it just puts my mind in a place that allows me to be my best self. I use an app called headspace as well, I enjoy this app because throughout the day it sends me affirmations. When I read them it puts me in a better state of mind and reminds me that I want to stay at peace throughout the day. I also journal every night. I write 5 things I did that day, how I felt that day, and what I heard/learned/read that day. Doing that every single day shows that life is always progressing and you are constantly growing even when you do not realize it. Journaling is also a form of meditation.
Coming from a family of decorated athletes, did you grow up competitive by nature? If so, how did you apply it to your career?
I am so competitive that it may even be unhealthy lol. Even if it’s a card game, I absolutely can not lose. In many ways, its at a point where I can’t even have fun playing the game because I’m so focused on being the best at it. It really shows with games like spades, catchphrase, taboo, Blebrity, phase 10. It is BAD. But anyways….yes I am naturally competitive because I don’t see the point in doing anything if it is not to be the best at it. I play games to win. While there are all these athletes in my family, I don’t think that competitive drive necessarily came from them. It certainly helped to be surrounded by it, but I have loved competing ever since I can remember. When it comes to my career, I only compete against myself: how can I make this interview better than the last one? How are you going to write this commentary better than the one you did before? What are you going to do make sure you continue to elevate your guests on the podcast? I would never say I’m “competing” against my colleagues. I root so hard for my friends in the business because a win for one of us is a win for all of us. Lighting someone else’s candle isn’t going to blow yours out. I wish we all realized that lifting each other up will only make us better.
What answer from which athlete you’ve interviewed surprised or informed you the most?
Michael Beasley. The entire 10% 11% conversation just blew my mind. We had this minute-long debate about a fact that isn’t even true. It was glorious. One of the most memorable things that has ever happened to me.
Lastly, what mantra have you found to be the most motivational for you, and why?
I actually keep a list of mantras that I draw motivation or clarity from, so there are way too many to even list here. But there is a saying that has been resonating with me a lot lately. I once heard someone say “frustration doesn’t come from not getting what you want, it comes from not being who you are.” Because of this, every single day I make the choice to live incredibly authentically. Our inner turmoil comes from living in direct conflict from what you believe. For example…say your goal is to be an entrepreneur, and right now you’re experiencing disappointment in your career because you’re upset that you’re sitting in an office every day at a computer working for someone else. You aren’t upset that you’re sitting in an office. You’re upset that you aren’t owning your own business. You’re upset because you aren’t living what you feel is your purpose. You aren’t being the person you know you are at your core. My advice there is to GO AND DO WHAT IS YOUR PURPOSE. You will live in a constant state of frustration if you know what you want yet you continue to do the opposite. Don’t betray your heart by not giving it what it needs.
I walked away from this interview feeling enlightened and motivated by the words of the great Ms. Rooks. On behalf of the entire DefPen family, thanks again!