New Straits Times
13 December 2011
By Arnaz M. Khairul
WHEN Cheryl Tay watches over the starting grid at a racetrack these days, the 24-year old can’t imagine how she got from over there to where she is now. No, she wasn’t buckled up into a race car ready to blast off the grid. She was one of those belles holding an umbrella over drivers as they prepared in grid formation to start a race.
These days, she’s busy taking photos and writing about her passion for cars and motorsport. More than that, Tay is on a mission to get more women into the sport as Singapore’s only woman motoring and motorsports writer, whose work appears in multiple publications and websites.
Caught by the motorsports bug that hit the island republic since plans to host the first Formula One Singapore Grand Prix first got underway in 2007, Tay was not just fascinated by it, she wanted to be part of it. “I started off as a race queen in 2007. But then, I thought to myself, it would be nice to be behind those cameras taking shots of me, than behind them.
“One day, an editor of a magazine approached me during a shoot and asked whether I’d like the opportunity to write a column from a woman’s perspective.
“I was never trained to be a journalist, but I gave it a shot, maybe people liked what I did and I got more and more opportunities from then on,” explained Tay, while testing a go-kart with the CRG Junior Team Asia in Subang Jaya last week.
She’s been a regular feature in the Sepang Circuit media centre in the past two years and has begun to travel the world covering everything from Formula One to MotoGP. She also chronicles her experiences and takes on the motoring industry on her own website, www. cheryl-tay.com.
“Let’s face it, I’m in a situation where I love motorsports, but I know I’ll never get to be involved in it as a driver. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be part of it. The same goes for other women. We can all find a role to play within motorsports, not necessarily as racers.
“In Singapore, we find women going into many different areas dominated by men, but not in motorsports. Of course, there are so many obstacles. Even as a writer or photographer, I’m still in a male dominated world and trying to establish myself.
“I often get negative remarks from other people. At first, they say I shouldn’t or can’t do it. They ask how would a woman know, or comprehend anything about motorsports. When I continue to get opportunities, they say it’s because I’m in a skirt. But I’m still young and maybe once I really establish myself, people will respect me more.
“What would help is if there are more women taking the same path. Right now, in Singapore, I”m all alone in this business, so I”m trying to get more women interested.”
Asked whether she regrets swapping the more glamorous race queen duties for the sweaty, pressure-cooker scenario of photo-journalism, Tay gives a very certain reply.
“Yes, it was more glamorous, but I lived with an uncomfortable feeling that people were practically raping me with their eyes. For some women, they have a different feeling, but not me. I’d rather be the one snapping the photos and writing, being behind the camera, not in front of it.
“I even quit my day job with an international hotel chain, which had very good prospects, last year to go full time in this business. I’ve made the sacrifice, so there are no regrets.”