BT Sport’s Suzi Perry is celebrating a significant milestone in her trailblazing broadcast career this year.
The much loved motorsport presenter has been working in television for 25 years, and in that time, she has helped grow the landscape and pave the way for more passionate women.
Perry sat down with GiveMeSport Women to reflect on her extensive career behind the microphone.
“It is quite the milestone, I don’t think I ever thought I would still be doing it 25 years in but I’m very happy to be doing so,” she laughed as she started to roll back the years.
“In some ways, it seems like no time at all and in other ways, it seems like 25 years because so much has changed. But I have had the most incredible time — so many high points and such a varied portfolio.”
An influential impact
Perry’s career in motorsport started in 1997 after a post-university period where she travelled the world making television commercials and working as a fashion model.
After she was taken on by Sky Sports, it took just one year before she was presenting her own shows.
From there, a fire ignited inside her and she quickly became one of the country’s leading presenters, with a burning passion for delivering live broadcasts. But working in sport was never initially on the cards for a young Perry.
“It’s not what I set out to do really because I wanted to be a music promoter, but that was such a long time ago now. I think opportunities come in your life and you have to open the door and grab them because they don’t often come twice. So that’s sort of how my philosophy has been.
“I was so floored to be offered a job at Sky that I didn’t have any idea what was going to happen. I was just so excited in that moment to become a reporter. I took it step by step because I really had to learn the job on live television, which isn’t very easy.”
Perry had spent time in Japan as a fashion model when she was just 18, setting herself up for a broadcasting career which would continue to take her to all corners of the world.
“I always love doing the long haul races, it’s somehow more special and in a sense, you’re kind of removed from yourself because you’re out of your culture,” Perry said as she reflected on her travels.
She plucked one particular trip from her many destinations. A first-time visit to India left every single one of her senses heightened, with Perry praising the country’s people, architecture and delicious food.
After making her debut with Sky Sports, Perry became the first permanent female anchor for the BBC’s Formula 1 coverage.
She provided the BBC’s MotoGP coverage for 13 years, as well as working Wimbledon, Royal Ascot, the Boat Race, the London Marathon and the Great North Run. Perry was also part of the broadcast team delivering coverage at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games.
Perry may describe her introduction to her reporting career as a “baptism of fire”, but over the last two-and-a-half decades, her knowledge and devotion for motorsport has made her one of the most reliable and recognised names in the business.
A change in landscape for women
Perry is among the many stars over the years who have bridged the gap between women and male-dominated sports roles.
Her successful 25 years in the industry are the perfect example for others hoping to chip away at the glass ceiling.
And while Perry has undoubtedly inspired many young girls and women, she also had role models who helped her realise she too could succeed as a female sports presenter.
“I’ve been watching sport all my life but when I first started looking at broadcasting, Sue Barker was a huge role model of mine,” Perry said. “I loved the way she presented and I got to work with her many times at the BBC, at Wimbledon and on A Question of Sport.”
Perry, who stressed how she has never relied on autocue during her broadcasts, admired Barker because she too would present without any help. Just straight off the bat, sleek.
“She’s a very natural, true live broadcaster and obviously with her tennis credentials, she was the perfect person for Wimbledon. I’m really going to miss her next year.”
The “friendly and warm” Barker inspired Perry in many ways, and there are certainly similarities between these two influential women and their approaches to presenting.
“I liked the fact Sue was a woman and she knew what she was talking about. She was strong but still had a femininity.
“I think some women have fallen into the trap of feeling the need to be ice maidens and I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to be more like Sue and I didn’t feel as though you needed to be aggressive to be taken seriously.”
Other strong, influential women also inspired Perry over the years. The ever versatile Clare Balding with her effortless knowledge on multiple sports. Helen Rollason, the first female presenter of Grandstand, who captured the nation’s hearts and helped welcome American football to British television.
These women, including Perry and her magnificent 25-year career, are just a few names on the long list of trailblazers who have broken down so many seemingly-impenetrable barriers over the years.
They have paved the way for a new era of female powerhouses in front of cameras, behind computer screens, and holding microphones.
More women than ever are involved in producing and presenting major sport coverage, and more importantly, they are well respected and relied on for their immaculate production.
“I think young girls can look at these women, or me in motorsport and Natalie Quirk who works alongside me, and see that this is a job for them as well.
“That’s the important thing — to see really good women doing a fantastic job and showing younger girls that it could be an option for them. Because we didn’t really have that and there were certainly no women in motorsport when I was younger.
“It’s vital that it’s an option for girls.”
A career full of priceless memories to cherish, countless groundbreaking moments, and still plenty more to come from the wonderful Suzi Perry and her encapsulating talent.