Lissie Mackintosh on labels, the role of content creators, and talking about F1
If you’re a Formula 1 fan always scrolling through TikTok for content, chances are you’ve been following Lissie Mackintosh. All the way back in October 2021, Lissie began her motorsport journey with a video on TikTok that amassed thousands of views overnight, and soon became the cornerstone of her career in F1 as a full-time presenter and content creator.
“How did you do this? How did it all come about?” Lissie recalls her mother’s friend recently asking her as she begins to tell us her story.
“I was living in New York and had just left college,” she tells Females in Motorsport. “I get there and I start thinking, I love F1. Why is nobody talking about it online, especially on TikTok? There’s so much news out there, how can I make this more fun and engaging? Maybe no one will care but let’s give it a try.
“So I put out this first video and went to bed. I might have had 12 followers at the time. It was just my friends from school. And the first thing I saw when I woke up in the morning was that it had 70,000 views.”
A true mover-and-shaker in the industry, Lissie is considered one of the first F1 content creators in an area that’s quickly becoming increasingly popular. She began over a year and a half ago with an F1 news round-up, a format that is now her signature video series, and gradually built an audience and community that focused on F1 in a not-so-serious way.
Over the past year, Lissie joined the F1 presenting team and has covered multiple race events for the world series, and recently travelled to the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship opening-race in Mexico City to report on the event.
“I love building relationships in F1 and seeing how they’ve grown in the last year, but it was hard,” she says. “You just have to start because there’s nothing to lose, especially in the beginning. Your brand will go wherever you need it to and you’ll grow and evolve with it. I remember saying to my friends, I’m really going to build something here.”
Well-known for her engaging style and light-hearted interviews, Lissie has spoken with many drivers and experts in the sport and works directly with teams to create content for their audience. Being one of the few women in the paddock to have been able to earn this opportunity has been very empowering for Lissie, but she’s also very well aware of the responsibility that comes with it.
“There are so many young women who look up to me to fill a role there,” she says. “I want to make sure that I’m doing them proud. Being there, taking up that space with incredible other women is the best feeling. And there’s an obvious sense of strength when we’re together. The women in the paddock are some of the people who are the ones to constantly pick me up, especially when I’m having a bad day.
“That's why I truly align with Females in Motorsport so much because what you're doing is shining the light on these women. Live broadcast doesn't do it enough. You look at the viewing numbers for F1, it's in the millions, with more women than ever before. Some of the best strategists in the sport are women, marketing departments wouldn't run without women. I saw Lewis Hamilton talk about this the other day, that if you sit down and watch the race, all you see are 20 male drivers on the grid and male team principals. You don't see all these incredible women enough.”
However, being a woman in the paddock also comes with its challenges.
“On top of trying to do your job, there’s this constant challenge of people making you feel like you have to prove yourself and worthy of being where you are,” she adds. “I’ve heard so many things, “Why is she here? Who let that girl in?” But there’s clearly a demand for this presence of youth and creativity and excitement so we could all learn to support each other a little bit more.”
F1 has seen a huge influx of new fans, especially female fans, which has too often been credited to Netflix’s Drive to Survive, according to Lissie. That narrative often leaves out content creators and their efforts to make the sport more accessible and welcome new fans.
“F1’s partnership with Liberty Media does a lot to bring fans in and they're very good at getting new fans involved,” she says. “But once they’re interested, that’s where creators like myself come in to build these new communities. Every day in the last year, content creators around the world have released new content talking about the sport in creative ways. When I started out, this wasn't my job, it was a hobby. But I was putting almost six hours a day sometimes into making this content.
“The reason I did it, and I still feel so strongly about it, is there’s so much exclusion of women and young people in the sport. The aim of my content has solely always been to include and educate in a way that is more interesting and accessible. Let's show what goes into a race and get under the skin of the sport a little bit and loosen everyone up. Let’s ask George Russell about Jaffa Cakes. And, now, there are so many more female creators now who are making amazing content and that's how it should be.”
This new demographic of fans has also led to a new online debate of old fans versus new fans in the sport, with ‘new fans’ typically used to reference women and people of colour. They’re often told they’re not real fans and many who have been watching the sport for decades are labelled ‘DTS fans’ purely based on their gender.
“I've never seen a sport where labels are so important,” Lissie says. “If I see my friends who love golf, love tennis, the questions are never, “When did you start watching golf?” F1 is the fastest-changing and fastest-growing sport in the world and with change comes a bit of uncertainty.
“I don’t understand why these questions are so important and why are people not considered real fans if they can’t name all the world champions. You could be a fan even if you’ve just watched one pit stop. Everyone is welcome here.”
When we ask her to share some of her favourite moments so far in her career, she smiles and says, “that’s a tough question. Great question, but tough”.
“I worked so hard - that's something that maybe women don't talk about a lot,” she says.”I've really worked hard for this. And there are some moments where I just stop and think, oh my, this is actually really cool.
“There's so much going on in the sport and I’m so incredibly grateful to be at the forefront of some of those conversations. Many teams will come to me and say they don't really know what they want to do but want to work with me, and I get to lead the project creatively. I also love asking people questions so the fact that I get to do that as my job is incredible, and hopefully, ask the right questions. Being at the paddock on a race weekend is electrifying for me.”
Even after so much success this past year, Lissie already has some very exciting things in the works for 2023 and is excited to keep going and continue building the career that she started from scratch. Learning from some of the best in the business has been one of the best parts of her job.
“Getting to talk to these incredibly established producers, presenters and cameramen is amazing,” she says. “Working with so many different personalities within F1, and it's a personality game as much as anything especially from a media side of things, I have never been bored one day in my F1 career.
“People say when you love your job, you don't work a day in your life. I don't think that's true. You still work hard. But, if you love your job, it doesn't really feel like work, and not a lot of people get to say that.
“Of course, there are ups and downs because it can also be very unstable, especially in the start, but I wouldn't change it.
“I would not change it.”