ESPN2 Host Cari Champion on Style in Sports: "I Refuse to Apologize for What I Look Like"
When you're a dignified lady in an industry dominated by men, dressing oneself can be a challenge. You can opt for the skirt set and orthopedic shoes, the ones you purchased at Talbots that scream, "I'm all brains and no style. Please take me seriously!" Or you run the risk of dressing for yourself (and your bangin' body), with a fifty-fifty chance of being wrongfully judged by your salivating male colleagues for being paid to sit there and look pretty.
But Cari Champion of ESPN2 apologizes to no one "for style." And she's certainly no wuss when it comes to taking risks.
The sassy host of First Take is a rare breed, infusing beauty and brains into one fabulous package. The lofty, svelte 38-year old has reported for just about everyone in the field of broadcast journalism, including Florida's very own WPTV in West Palm Beach. And while we respect her for being exceptional at her craft, it's her steeze that sets her apart in the realm of sports entertainment.
The First Take crew is in Miami this week, doing live shows during the NBA Finals. Between covering perhaps the most gut-wrenching round of Finals games Miami has ever faced, Champion met up with us for a little Shopping 101 tutorial at the South Beach retail hotspot, Atrium. But instead of picking her brain about a possible Game Seven, we got her to dish about what she'll be wearing. Go on, call us superficial.
Having just walked through the inviting doors of the coed boutique, Champion instantaneously yielded in front of the first rack, boasting a hefty pile-up of Clover Canyon pieces. There was, however, one piece that intensely whipped the Champion in: a white neoprene crop top.
"Here's the thing about having a crop top," she says, enthusiastically ripping the scuba-textured piece off of the store's welcoming rack. "I hesitate to get them sometimes, because when you're a professional you go back and forth, especially for women in entertainment."
But, as previously mentioned, she's a risk-taker. And while the top does expose a large canvas of skin, Cari still manages to find a way to make it camera-appropriate. "For me, I love a pencil skirt with this," she said, unable to put her soon-to-be future, closet-dwelling member back on the rack. "There's almost a professional vibe to it. It doesn't push that envelope."
She does have a point there. Though we have to admit, we were surprised by her decision to go for the simpler choice -- a white, spaghetti-strapped crop -- and not for one of Clover Canyon's more signature kaleidoscopic-printed numbers instead. But the trippy amalgam of dynamically bold colors might be a little too signature for Cari. "I am really big on prints. The only thing about Clover Canyon is that you don't want to wear the same thing over and over again," she says. "You know right away that it's Clover Canyon."
And like any girl having spent a fistful of years in the tropical likes of South Florida, Cari has quite an affinity for color. "That's what I miss about living in South Florida, because they do colors the best here, obviously." Champion's kept her color game on point, dressed in a dramatic red, form-fitted dress by Zara, hitting her body in all the right places. "Like certain hot pink pieces, you can't always wear in other places."
When it comes to the color scheme, brights are always better for Champion. But when it comes to textiles, leather will forever be a go-to staple.
"A must have for me is leather," she says while clenching the waist of a black leather shift dress by Rag and Bone. "You need a nice pair of leather pants, a nice pair of leather leggings, shorts... or otherwise, you're out of luck."
But leather in the overbearing Miami heat?
"And even here, you think, 'God, I can't do leather in Miami,' but you can," Champion insists, noting the balance and chicness of a good pair of worn-out cut-off shorts paired with a cool, leather motorcycle jacket.
Really, it's not that bad, guys.
Prancing around in crop tops and femme fatale leather pieces might cause an
uproar - good or bad - amongst the opposite sex in the workplace, but Champion keeps her cool and smiles. Because she'd rather an eye-brow-raising reaction, than none at all.
"Being on the show and working with a bunch of men, you have to distinguish yourself. I want to be taken seriously because I am a serious journalist. But I always want to be a woman. I'm okay with being a woman. I refuse to apologize for what I look like. It's okay to be pretty. It's okay to dress nice. It's okay to have a good outfit."
This concept of mode not only applies to announcing the latest in shot stats and bogus fouls on set. Champion makes sure to rock some serious fashion via courtside, especially when she's in Miami. "Normally I go pretty laid back to games, but Miami is on a whole different level. People really dress up here. So, I'll still rock a T-shirt, but make sure to pair it with a pencil skirt and some heels to dress it up."
By the end of our Shopping 101 tutorial courtesy of the sartorial likes of Cari Champion, a valuable lesson was learned: look good. Because like Cari says, "When you look good, you feel good."
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