By Nicanor Gordon
Ten minutes in and the interview hasn’t really started. Instead of the prepared questions, we’re talking about the English Premier League, and this being Alexis Nunes, we’re talking about Manchester United. “It’s a weird season,” she laments the inconsistency of her favorite team.
For any mega soccer fan, the face of this woman in sports is a staple from their many soccer binge-watching sessions. She’s the widely known, very successful (and still steadily rising in her career), Jamaican reporter and host at ESPN FC and ESPNcricinfo.
Born to a mother from El Salvador and Jamaican dad, Alexis says her love of sports had to have come from her father. “Growing up, he controlled the remote, and he always wanted us to watch something ‘sensible.'” In the Nunes household, sensible often involved a ball. It wasn’t just television, her father would also take her to cricket matches.
Alexis proudly identifies as both Latina and Jamaican. She grew up in Jamaica with her parents and Hispanic grandparents at home, and effortlessly ingested a lot about her Salvadoran roots. In Jamaica, she says her multicultural identity was no big deal and widely accepted. “In the Caribbean, everyone’s a little mixed at some point,” she says, arguing that growing up elsewhere would have probably been more challenging.
But, back to sports, Alexis will tell you… With a love of sport, comes a love of story. Between the superhuman feats our favorite athletes regularly perform, we cling to the bits of personality that fill out the gaps. Alexis understands this. When she wasn’t absorbing every sport she could find, “except golf,” she grew up watching documentaries, and the stories of how great athletes would transcend their sport.
“I always knew this was what I wanted to do,” Alexis states. A graduate from the University of the West Indies, she landed her first job in broadcasting at a local TV station, SportsMax. She’ll be the first to tell you that she wouldn’t be where she is today, if not for her time there. In particular, she credits legendary broadcaster and personality Simon Croskill for taking her under his wing. His advice was clear – never change and never compromise. She took those words to heart.
Now, an interviewer [and presenter, and host, and commentator] at ESPN, she gets to her the story her way. “I like to find a new angle…I like to play games,” her voice sparkles over the phone. You can watch any of her interviews to see what she means. From cooking challenges, to getting shoved into the pool by your favorite football player — she’s decidedly relaxed and game for almost anything.
After losing another ten minutes talking about Jamaican patties and high school, Alexis speaks about the unique challenges she has faced in her field. She’s a woman of color, from the Caribbean in a field dominated by white cis-men. Each one of those descriptions is another layer of marginality she’s faced. “The number one reason people come at you is that you’re a girl,” she sounds disappointed as she explains. “It’s disheartening to see how many people don’t accept that women can know as much, if not more than a man.”
Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic is another, recently added, challenge. While she’s grateful to work in an industry that could readily adapt to remote working conditions, it’s not without its pain points. “I have more respect for the guys behind the scenes,” she laughs.
Working from home has turned Alexis from strictly on-air talent to doing production work in her own house. On any given day she can be found setting up lights and managing her sound levels, to rearranging her “set” – shifting flowers, changing pictures in the background – all to bring some of that studio dynamism home. She’s definitely itching to get back out there, she says.
So, who’s on her bucket list, in any field of her choice? “Fergie — Sir Alex; he’s the GOAT,” she doesn’t hesitate. It’s no surprise… For Alexis, it always comes back to soccer.