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Tonya Hampton: “I have always had an affinity for things that have gone fast”

In support of Black Inclusion Week, we spoke to Tonya Hampton of Driven By Us, a motorsport content creator and Formula 1 trading card influencer. 

Tonya Hampton

Tonya’s life has always been fast paced - from growing up traveling the world, to hosting a podcast, being a trading card influencer as well as working a job in dental hygiene and being a mum. When asked about her introduction to motorsport, her answer is far from conventional. 

“I was a military brat, my dad did twenty years in the Navy,” she says. “He was stationed on a few aircraft carriers and that’s how I got introduced to flight.”

Where many people could relate to Tonya mentioning her dad in her introduction to motorsport, she explains that it wasn’t watching Formula 1 that caught her interest, it was a love of speed that got her, and coincidentally, a love of Tom Cruise. 

“I would see the Blue Angels, my favourite naval aviators in the world, which translated to me loving Tom Cruise because he did the movie Top Gun,” she says. “He also did the movie Days of Thunder, so I have always had an affinity for things that have gone fast.” 

In terms of finding F1, Tonya explains what bridged the gap between her military upbringing and the sport.

“I heard this interview with someone comparing a fighter jet and the aerodynamics of a plane to F1 cars, how they are actually similar,” she says. “One creates lift, the other creates downforce. So that is what put me into a deep dive of learning about F1 and F1 cars.”

During lockdown Tonya found herself branching out into niche areas of interest, trading cards. When an artist and jeweler, Ben Baller, whose career Tonya had followed, began to work with Topps on creating bespoke trading cards she found herself hooked.

“What I liked most about these cards is that they were created by everyday artists like him, Mister Cartoon and Sophia Chang,” she says. 

Tonya had begun to collect these collaborative baseball cards when a friend reached out to her with an interesting question.

“She asked do you know this F1 driver? and it was Pierre Gasly when he had won at Monza. So that was how I found out that Topps was doing trading cards that had Formula 1 drivers on them.”

At the time, Tonya was part of a community on social audio app, Clubhouse - She actually interviewed then Stephanie Travers & James Dornor of Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team in groundbreaking highs on their careers amongst other topics.  

“I wanted to see if they had rooms talking about trading cards,” she says. “I wanted to know who else was collecting these F1 trading cards.”

Initially Tonya found that nobody else had been aware that F1 trading cards existed, so she looked into it and discovered that Topps had acquired licensing to publish Formula 1 trading cards in 2021.

“What’s interesting about the timing is that a lot of people attribute American interest in F1 to Drive to Survive,” she says. “But this is what got people who have collected cards for years into F1, because they started to carry value.”

Tonya Hampton

From talking trading cards on a social chat app, to hosting watch parties, Tonya decided to begin a podcast about Formula 1, with her then co-host, Martha.

Hosting a plethora of guests, there is one that stands out among the rest, the podcast with Willy T. Ribbs.

“The people that were in that audience got to ask the questions to Willy T. Ribbs,” she says. “We want you as the audience to be able to ask this man about his thoughts and his feelings when he was breaking these barriers.” 

Since then, doors have only kept opening for Tonya with new opportunities. 

“One of the most significant doors that this has opened up for me was my collaboration with Snapchat,” she says. 

In 2023 Snapchat was seeking 25 content creators from under-represented groups. To have a chance at being chosen, those applying had to write an essay. The project was called ‘Snapchat 523’.

“I knew they were partnering with Will Smith’s production company,” she says. “In my essay I wrote, “I love Formula 1 just as much as Will Smith loves Formula 1!” because I saw he went to all the races.”

Ultimately, Tonya was one of the 25 content creators chosen.

“I pay homage a lot to Snapchat for giving me the opportunity to travel the world as a Snapchat content creator and cover my love of F1,” she says.

Tonya attributes her success to being authentic and relatable, however, she has been faced with challenges. 

“Being a black woman, being an American, there were so many people that had this perception, “What do you know about racing? What do you know about Formula 1?” I have been able to open up people’s eyes to not make an assumption,” she says. “I think that’s what a community is all about, trying to create a place for everyone to belong. I don’t even like being coined a content creator, I view myself more as a community builder and this aligns perfectly with Driven By Us and it’s authentic community.”

When Tonya thinks about how she sees things evolving.

“What I really want to see is more representation of women, and in particular women of colour - everyone wants to be represented, everyone wants to belong,” she says. “Where are the women drivers on these trading cards? We want to see them.”

Tonya Hampton

It’s clear that Tonya’s work drive doesn’t let up. From welcoming her first child at the age of 18, she always worked multiple jobs. Going back to college at 30 and going on to complete her master's degree, working in dental hygiene while also keeping up her content creation she is truly a force of nature, and proof that anything can be done with enough drive and determination, and sometimes being patient. 

“Being persistent and being kind are key. It might not be a ‘no’, it might be a ‘not right now’,” she says. “It can be done.”

When asked for any tips Tonya’s authenticity shines through…

“Don’t forget to floss!”


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