To say Joy Taylor lives in the mind of online trolls rent-free would be an understatement. One half of the powerhouse duo of Fox Sports 1's "The Herd with Colin Cowherd," the Pittsburgh native's confident demeanor seems to trigger those who try as they might, could never hurt her feelings.
Taylor spoke with Yahoo Sports about growing up with an NFL Hall of Famer as an older brother, keeping her composure interacting with keyboard warriors, and why political conversations deserve a permanent place in sports.
Yahoo Sports: Watching your older brother (NFL Hall of Famer Jason Taylor) play going up, did that pique your interest in athletics, or was sports broadcasting a career you wanted to pursue on your own?
Joy Taylor: I was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. People wrap their babies in terrible towels, so you really don't have a choice as to whether you'll be a sports fan. At least a Pittsburgh Steelers fan. But, I always loved sports. I was a huge Michael Jordan fan growing up and still am. Watching Jason was a huge part of my childhood, but I also loved competing myself and playing a bunch of sports (basketball, soccer, volleyball, track) gave me an excuse to be out of the house.
I always had an opinion about everything, but how to articulate that opinion is where the traditional broadcast journalism education was helpful for me. I never really wanted to be a reporter, it didn't feel like me. But, I noticed sports was heading more in the direction of the opinion space and I wanted to do the same. It's changed so much since I got my start in radio and I anticipate it changing even more in the future.
YS: You’re kind of known as a clapback queen on Twitter and Instagram. How do you manage to go day in and out being unfazed by the trolls and do you think it takes away from the experience of interacting with real fans?
JT: I have a natural disposition for talking trash, so that's probably part of it. I don't take insults seriously because I know these people would never say it to my face. I learned a long time ago to never take criticism from someone I wouldn't take advice from. Are you signing my checks or talking with someone who signs my checks? If not, then I really don't care how you think I'm doing. if you're a public figure, someone is always going to have something to say about what you're doing and how they think you should do it.
As far as communicating with fans go, I do think it takes away from the experience. I genuinely love engaging but once it turns nasty and ridiculous, I'm out. If you want to be someone who interacts with supporters, you definitely have to find a balance between dealing with trolls and those who honestly want to engage.
YS: Black women are often scrutinized for how we do our hair, dress, speak, etc. Is criticism something you had to learn the hard way and what sort of advice would you give to Black women who aren’t as thick-skinned as you?
JT: It's hard to explain how to ignore it, because you get it all the time. If I dress conservatively one day, people are going to say I'm covering up too much. If I expose my shoulders, they think I'm going to the club. There aren't that many Black women on sports television to begin with. So, there's a lot of pressure to wear your hair or dress a certain way. You're not going to satisfy everyone, so the most important person to make happy is yourself.
There's no 'professional' way to wear your hair. Though you will be told there is and may even be put into situations where you lack resources to properly style your hair, those are just tactics to make other people feel comfortable.
YS: Over the last year, we've seen sports really play a role when discussing social issues. What are your predictions on how players and analysts will continue to integrate politics in their discourse on/off the field, during interviews, etc.
JT: I think the world has changed and seeing how the previous administration divided our country, a lot of us had a great awakening because of that. Between that and the pandemic, you had to be more aware. The days of being detached from politics are over. A lot of people don't necessarily understand the political side of social issues. Some things are rooted in systemic racism while others are taught from a home experience. But, they always end up intertwining.
When you talk about athletes and sports, there is this idea that because some use it as an escape, we shouldn't take time to discuss sensitive issues. That's just not how it works. Sports have been the catalyst for massive change. Not just in our country, but around the world.
It's a weird psychology when fans think they have some sort of ownership over you and your content because they follow you. This is my space and if you're constantly saying or doing things that make me feel uncomfortable, I'll block you and never think about it again.
YS: What's the biggest misconception of you that you'd like to clear up?
JT: I think a lot of people boil down my existence in this industry to my brother, which I get. The real decision-makers know that's not the case. People want to discredit anyone's hard work and it doesn't upset me; however, it doesn't do anyone trying to get their start in this business any favors believing that knowing someone automatically means you'll be successful.
For being a public figure, I'm actually a very private person. I sprinkle some personal life stuff out there, but I'm also good for disappearing into my own world for an entire weekend without posting a thing. It's good for my mental health to not have everything be public. I don't disparage anyone, I really do my research and I speak from a measured place instead of an emotional place. I try to be as authentic as possible and I hope people respond to that.
Pass Her the Mic is a series by Yahoo Sports that profiles Black women at the intersection of sports and race, discussing various topics ranging from racial injustice to athlete activism.