Kelsey Riggs is definitely living her best life. The 30-year-old Charlotte sports TV reporter has covered two Super Bowls, the legendary Masters golf tournament and countless other prime-time events. She often guest hosts a radio show and is known for a shoe collection that even Michael Jordan once commented on.
Kelsey grew up in Charleston and played college soccer at a school not too far from home — just so her family could come to her games. She took the job in Charlotte just in time to cover the Panthers’ 2015 Super Bowl run and has been flying high ever since. We’re excited to introduce you today’s FACE of Charlotte, Kelsey Riggs.
What is the most challenging part of your job as far as being a woman in a male-dominated field?
I’ve been very lucky in my career to always feel respected and equal to other journalists in the industry. The environments I’ve worked in and teams I’ve covered are definitely part of that, as well as viewers who I hope see my passion for sports before they just make a mental note that I’m a female covering sports. There are so many talented in women prominent roles in the industry now that I don’t think people even think too much about it anymore.
I try to always be as prepared as possible because it’s important to me to always be a credible journalist, and as a female in a male-dominated field, it’s even more important to be prepared. I know if I get something wrong it’s a lot easier for the average person to say, “Oh, she’s a woman. She must not know that,” whereas a male journalist can sometimes get the benefit of the doubt.
How does it help to be a woman in the field?
More than anything, I think it’s about developing relationships and showing a great work ethic. Is it an advantage to be the only female in a room full of males if I want someone to remember my name, or know where I work, or try and begin developing a professional relationship? Probably. But walking into a locker room as a female doesn’t mean I’m going to get an interview or have the chance to tell a story that someone else isn’t. Showing up every day, working just as hard (or harder) than the person next to me and always striving to do things even better the next time are what help. My background as an athlete definitely gave me a competitive nature that’s still a part of me today.
What’s been the most fun you’ve had on the job?
It’s hard to pick because there are so many moments that have been incredible. Covering Super Bowls and an All-Star game and championships are by far the biggest highlights. You get to be at a game that so many people would love to experience firsthand, and despite the crazy hours and lack of sleep and long days of work, it’s worth every second to be the reporter who gets to cover the big moments.
Most challenging day on the job?
If anyone tells you it’s a glamorous life with no hard moments, they’re lying! There are deadlines, and a breaking news story a few minutes before you go on the air can change everything, but it’s all part of the job and what makes it fun. Every day is different, and you can’t always predict what’s going to happen next — just like in a game. It’s hard to have an entire sportscast planned out in your head while covering a game, only to have a buzzer beater shot or last-minute hail-mary pass change the whole show, but those are the moments you live for as a sports fan.
What’s the best advice your parents ever gave you?
My parents are my go-to for everything. They have alarms set on their phones every night to remind them to log on to the WCNC app and watch my sports, so I’m blessed to have very supportive parents who are proud of me and have always helped me however they can. My mom has given me so much advice and wisdom over the years. She taught me to always listen to others, which plays into my love for storytelling. Everyone has a story, you just have to be willing to take the time to hear it. She showed me that it’s important to treat others with respect — you never know what the future holds and where people’s paths will take them. Most importantly, she taught me to always be true to myself. In an age when we’re judged by our social media profiles and statuses, it’s important to remember who you are and where you came from.
You’re one of three girls, and you’re close to your sisters. What does that mean to have that kind of bond?
My sisters mean the world to me. Having two sisters to lean on and talk with, who are always in my corner and there through the highs and lows of life, is one of the biggest blessings I have. Also, having the ability to raid their closets when I’m home isn’t too bad either, and neither was having two other people to point fingers at when we were growing up.
What’s the best or worst part of being a Southern girl?
I loved everything about growing up in Charleston. It’s a bigger city with a small town, homegrown feel. The summers are sticky hot, there are no-see-ums that will push away any out of towner on a muggy evening when you’re watching Friday night football, the pluff mud has a distinctly terrible smell that somehow still reminds you of home, and there’s really nothing that a batch of my grandmother’s okra pilau (pronounced perlo) can’t fix. A trip to the grocery store for coffee takes 45 minutes because you’ll see another old friend with every aisle you wander past. Hearing a thick Southern accent only means you’re in the right place. And there’s no such thing as tea that is too sweet or cooking with too much butter.
You’re known for your “kicks.” How did this happen?
“Kelsey’s kicks” is really just a good excuse to justify why I buy so many shoes. When I started in TV, I loved a good pair of heels, but I also quickly realized that carrying 15 pounds of camera gear, or walking up and down the sidelines with my heels sinking into the grass, was not the most ideal scenario for a young sports reporter trying to work on a deadline, and that I could still dress to impress without struggling to walk in uncomfortable shoes.
The “kicks” thing really took off when I started working in Charlotte at WCNC. I cover the Panthers on a daily basis. I carry gear, I shoot practice, I stand outside for long periods of time, and I like shoes. So when I would go to practice, I was always wearing a different pair of flashy shoes … gold tennis shoes, the new Jordans, tennis shoes with a little wedge heel, any high-top sneaker I could get my hands on. Pretty soon, Panthers head coach Ron Rivera would give me his feedback on my shoe choice of the day on his way out to practice or before an interview. Some players would comment on them. At the time, I was a new reporter in a big sports town, and I thought if the first way that people would recognize me was “The girl with the cool shoes is here again,” well then at least they knew me.
Now one of my clothes closets has transformed into a shoe closet and #kelseyskicks has become the hashtag for every shoe picture.
It’s been a fun way for me to express myself and stand out. Sometimes I feel like women think you have to look a certain way or wear a certain outfit to be noticed. Sometimes, having your own style and not being afraid to stand out goes a long way. Props to all the women who can rock heels all day long – but don’t underestimate a good pair of Jordans.
Who do you most admire and why?
Probably my parents. As you get older, you appreciate more and more what your family has done to support you and see the sacrifices they made when you were younger. My parents are small business owners, they’ve always worked extremely hard to make sure my sisters and I always had what we needed and that we appreciated getting all the things we wanted. They’ll stop in the middle of doing something important for themselves if they get a phone call that someone else needs a little help. They’ve also been married for almost 37 years, and that’s rare and special and something that I can only hope to one day have as well.
Aside from faith, family and friends, what three things can’t you live without?
I’m obsessed with coffee, I put cheese on everything, and I love salt. I’m a big fan of animals so I’ll say my cats (don’t worry, I only have two), and I suppose I wouldn’t want to live without a good pair of shoes!
Thank you, Kelsey! Check out her bio at wcnc.com, and catch here reporting on WCNC. Thank you to Piper Warlick of Piper Warlick Photography for the beautiful photos of Kelsey!
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