Katherine Legge Is Not Afraid To Take A Risk

Written by Erin Kelly

Every time Katherine Legge gets in the car, she does a risk evaluation. Should she put her reputation as a professional race car driver on the line for the chance to break another barrier? Or, should she play it safe and hold onto the accolades she already has, steering clear of the threat of an additional defeat?

The decorated athlete has a page filled with accomplishments and career-defining wins to back up her position as one of the best — maybe THE best — female race car driver, ever. This is exactly what raises the stakes every time she gets behind the wheel.

“People have an opinion of you, and it usually goes one of two ways,” Legge explains. “They either think that you’re amazing and you have to live up to that [idea], or they don’t think that you’re very good at all, and you have to prove them wrong.”

Perhaps the most recent example of this is Legge’s experience qualifying for the 2023 Indianapolis 500. After 10 years away from one of America’s most iconic races, she beat out her three full-time male teammates (she was only competing for the team at the Indy 500) during qualifying, proving herself as a top competitor regardless of gender. Overall, with her qualifying average speed of 231 miles per hour, she broke the record for fastest female driver in the 107-year history of the event. During the actual race, her car got loose in the pit lane, forcing her retirement from the race. Legge sums it up briefly:

“It was a disaster in the end.”

Although not the outcome she was expecting or hoping for, the racing mogul didn’t take the experience as a failure. She’s seen an increase in female support at the racetrack, a fanbase that’s grown significantly over the last 20 years. Plus, race car driving — a sport Legge compares to, playing chess at 220 miles per hour — has historically been male-dominated, but is entering its Gender Equality Era.

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A combination of more women competing in motorsports and an increase in media attention highlighting the sport overall has attracted a new crowd of female fans, and a greater ‘girl power’ aspect to motorsports that hasn’t been seen before. Capitalizing on this moment is particularly important to Legge, as she recognizes her unique position to inspire the next generation of female race car drivers.

“Ten years ago when I was racing, there was myself and one other female driver in motorsports, and that was about it,” Legge said.

“Now, I’m trying to illustrate women’s talents in racing by bringing up young girls through the ranks and trying to showcase what they’re doing.”

Partnering with young, up-and-coming drivers bolsters the success of women in the sport while also building upon Legge’s personal legacy. But, it doesn’t come without its own set of challenges. Putting her name and likeness behind another driver makes her vulnerable to their particular accomplishments and failures. For Legge, this is just another one of the many reasons why developing a strong mental attitude over the years (both on and off the track) has been crucial. It’s easy for naysayers to dismiss her or blame mistakes on her gender, and it’s even easier for them to do this through anonymous social media comments.

“People on social media can be horrible and mean, but marketing teams and sponsors all want you to have a massive digital footprint,” Legge explains. “The sport has changed and become way more accessible, but also way more entertainment and media-based. It’s not like I get to drive around in circles really fast anymore. Now, I have to do that and take pictures.”

The emphasis on social media doesn’t come without its benefits, like an increased awareness of motorsports in general. But it also puts drivers in the position to get comfortable with their image splattered everywhere, and that includes what they look like after a three-hour race in a car that’s 130 degrees — helmet hair and all.

A legacy of women including Legge herself have already proven that with hard work, women can absolutely compete with men. But women in motorsports are still often unfairly separated into two groups: Those serious about racing and therefore unfeminine, and those who are more interested in the media and entertainment component of the sport, but lack real talent.

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“It's a really difficult, really fine line to walk to be seen as feminine and attractive and all the things that every other woman on the planet wants to be seen as, and also a badass race car driver who can do anything that they set their mind to.”

And, she's made it abundantly clear that she can do anything she sets her mind to. Despite the fearlessness and danger involved in her profession, everything in her life is carefully-curated, from her vegan diet to the products she chooses to put on her face. A representative for vegan, cruelty-free beauty brand e.l.f. SKIN, Legge is defying stereotypes by embracing her femininity, advocating for sun protection with her must-have product: the Suntouchable! All Set for Sun SPF 45. And if you happen to catch her voluptuous lashes behind that helmet? It's all courtesy of e.l.f.'s Big Mood Mascara (because her eyes are the only thing you can see with her helmet on, anyway).

So, yes — she’s determined to win and (if we do say so ourselves), looks great while doing it.

“I want to be the best driver that I can be, and there’s so much more that I want to do,” Legge says. “It would be amazing to be the first woman to win the Indy 500, rather than just compete in it.”

As far as the risks involved? Legge will take her chances.

Photographer: Rosaline Shahnavaz; Art Director: Angela Poccia/BDG; Styling: Rachel Gilman; Hair & Makeup: Ashleigh Ciucci; Production Manager: Danica Butkovich/BDG; Branded Designer: Alexis Apollonio/BDG; Branded Beauty Director: Irma Elezovic/BDG; Branded Beauty Editor: Neha Tandon/BDG