Cari Champion and Jemele Hill on the Bond That Brought Them Together - OZY | A Modern Media Company

Cari Champion and Jemele Hill on the Bond That Brought Them Together

Cari Champion and Jemele Hill on the Bond That Brought Them Together

By Joshua Eferighe


Because they are breaking the TV mold.

By Joshua Eferighe

Cari Champion and Jemele Hill, former ESPN anchors, journalists and new co-hosts of Cari and Jemele (Won’t) Stick to Sports on Vice TV, sat down for an hourlong interview with OZY CEO and co-founder Carlos Watson on a recent episode of The Carlos Watson Show. You can find the best cuts of the interview below and the full conversation on the show’s podcast feed.

How Cari Met Jemele

Carlos Watson: Now, how did you guys meet? Did you guys meet at ESPN, or did you guys know each other before then?

Cari Champion: We met at ESPN, yeah. J, you want to tell the story? I’m sorry. I can’t see you. I apologize, go ahead.

Jemele Hill: No, I can’t see you either, so I wanted to make sure I didn’t step on you. I didn’t know if you were going to launch into it. But yeah, no, we met at ESPN. This was when Cari took the job to be host of First Take. And so it’s a story we talked about before, because we have how we met, or I should say the circumstances in which we met are kind of unique. Of course, we were both at the same place. We did not know each other. We did have a mutual friend that knew both of us and encouraged me to reach out to Cari and said, “She’s dope. You should reach out to her. She’s great.” But the problem in all of it was the fact that there was this narrative that Cari had taken a job that was supposed to be mine. Because when they were looking for a host, they were trying out a lot of people. And I was one of the people who did like a two-week audition, where I hosted First Take.

And while it was certainly a job I would have taken, it was something unnatural for me to do that, because I had spent years being someone who debated on the show and was in the commentary space. And so to then switch that off and be more of a host, especially at a time when I did not have a lot of hosting experience — I hardly had any — it was a really abrupt change for me. And during the course of this audition, extended audition I had, they kind of let me know that, while they liked me and respected what I had to bring to the table, I wasn’t quite what they were looking for. And so I saw them bring in a lot of candidates to interview for this job, and pretty much all of them were white women. And I was disappointed in that, because this was a show that has a huge Black audience. And you have a significant star on the show like Stephen A. Smith, who’s Black, obviously. And so I just was totally thinking that this job was just going to go to a white woman.

And when I got the news or heard that Cari was the person who was getting the job, even though I didn’t really know her at all, I was ecstatic, because it meant that a Black woman would be in a high-profile position at ESPN, getting her own show, a very popular show, was put in a position of success. And we don’t usually get jobs like that, and so I was happy just from that. And so I reached out to Cari to not just extend my congratulations but to just welcome her in and just let her know some of the things, frankly, I’d experienced, that I could kind of pull her coattail to. And especially knowing the person who was in charge of the show, they had just said some things to me about what they from that job that I thought were frankly just kind of … the word I’m looking for is rude, but it was beyond that. I just thought that the expectations they had for the job, that if you expect a woman to do this, this is kind of messed up. So I wanted to give her that heads up, but it’s hard to get that heads-up from somebody you don’t know.

CC: So translation, she was nosy. She was all in my business.

On Their New Show

CW: Have you done that before?

CC: No. This is our first in-studio show that we’ve done. I’ve done versions of that on Sports Center where they give you like five or 10 minutes to kind of host your own show. But obviously that’s always the goal, to have your own show. That’s what I would love to do. I’d like to sit down and talk to folks, be my elegant hood lady self, and tell them how wonderful I am, but also cuss you out and tell you that you ain’t shit. Can we curse on this show?

CW: You can curse on this show.

CC: Listen. The freedom that I have experienced, Carlos, since leaving the four letters is new to me. Jemele has been free for a while. She’s been off the plantation for a while. She has been behaving as such. I find myself … and I’m not a big curser, but I find myself dropping curse words every interview. I’m all like, “What is, what’s going on with me, Cari?” Calm down. Enjoy this new freedom. It’s just too much. I just spit it out.

On Dreaming Fearlessly

CW: What advice do you give people who asked you about dreaming fearlessly?

CC: Dreaming fearlessly. I’ve never not, I’ve never really known, no. And that is, I think due to a large part, to how I was raised. And I’m so grateful for my mother for that. But, I will say this, the advice that I have, I said, 2020 is this for me, it demands that we be better.

People can talk. There’s so much sadness. Over a quarter of a million people dead. We have people who are on the front lines exhausted of this virus and fighting it. And we’ve had so much sadness. But there is so much hope. I’m a big believer that you have to break everything down to nothing in order to build it back up. And that’s where we are. And the hope that I have is that, whatever you believe or whatever you would like to see, you can be that change. I was dedicated to being a journalist, as we all are, but to tell stories for those who don’t have a voice. And to imagine the type of stage that I’m doing it on, in each and every level of my life, is beyond me. So, I really couldn’t give a limit to what it’s going to be, because when you’ve been called, or when you’re passionate, more importantly passionate, and you have a purpose, all these things go hand in hand. It’s bigger than what you could imagine.

JH: I think my advice to dream fearlessly is that you have to remove, you have to figure out a great way or tangible ways in which you can remove the running conversation in your head that tells you that you can’t do something. And I think a piece of advice I recently gave some young girls that I’ll share here is that for every three negative things that you may think about yourself, think about something that you do exceptionally well. I don’t care what it is. It could be you chew bubblegum the fastest, I don’t care what it is. But you have to dig deeper for reasons to celebrate, not just who you are, but appreciate how you’re different. And how you’re unique and what makes you you. And so a lot of times, especially with young Black women, and young Black girls, I should say, that we talk ourselves out of dreaming fearlessly. And so try to redirect the conversation in your head that’s talking you into it. Because to me, you should look at problems from the standpoint of regret. Or I shouldn’t say problems — but you should look at challenges from the standpoint of regret. If there is a job, or position or a task that you’re not quite sure that you know how to do, and you’re afraid to go for it, then you have to be able to say, “OK, if I don’t go for this and I look back at this opportunity months later, how am I going to feel if I didn’t go after it?”

Sign up for the weekly newsletter!

Related Stories