The way the media works has changed dramatically over the past few years with the rise of social media stars and YouTubers. One of those who dedicates a lot of her time to sharing her passion for motorsport online, is Emma Walsh. Having grown up in South Africa, toured with ‘Grease: The Musical’ and starred in Made in Chelsea, car vlogging was not the expected next step for her, so I spoke to Emma about her love for the sport and how working on Formula E radio came about.
As mentioned, Emma spent her childhood in South Africa though says there was “not much” of a motorsport culture during her youth. This has since change though with Walsh saying: “it’s come a long way since I was a child…”
This doesn’t mean that Emma herself didn’t have an interest though. “I used to watch Formula One with my Dad when I was a kid, and I used to make him take me down to a go-kart track which was just down the road from my house,” she explained. However, her brothers and sisters were not so interested meaning she spent a lot of quality time with her father through their mutual love of cars and racing.
In 2011, Emma moved to London after touring with the musical Grease. Wanting to continue working in the West-End, she chose to relocate in order to audition for more musicals. “I had a British passport so I ended up staying here,” Walsh told me. Performing is still something she loves, but the long hours and performing 8 exhausting shows a week can really take its toll.
“I miss it! But I don’t know if I will get back into it full-time unless something amazing comes up. But I definitely do miss it, though I’m not into it as much as I used to be,” she explained. Having spent 12 years in the industry, it was difficult to stop, but had Emma not moved for her theatre role, her current career may not have progressed as it has now.
So, when did Walsh decide to pursue her motorsport career? “Probably after Made in Chelsea,” she said. “I had talked about getting my racing licence, it had always been on my bucket list, and after talking with a friend, he convinced me to do my own (YouTube) channel.” Made in Chelsea is the show that really propelled Emma into the spotlight, though was never something that she was looking to do. It happened through her friendship with MIC stars Binky Felstead and Ollie Locke, who she was going away with for the weekend. The producers came along, and after seeing her do a Ferrari track day, approached her to be on the show.
However, after having no control over the edit and not always being happy with how she was portrayed, Emma decided to start her own YouTube channel. “It was just documenting my life at the time,” Walsh explained. “I was doing some random stuff, adrenaline and car stuff and hanging around with some of the other car YouTubers and they we’re always making videos, so I thought ‘why not?’.”
“When I came off MIC, which is quite a glamorous show, on purpose I stripped everything back. I wanted to start subtly to focus on the cars and my love for them. It’s a very male-dominated industry and being a girl, you get a lot of guys turning their noses up at you. I keep reminding people it’s a lifestyle channel with cars featuring quite heavily. I’m not a car journalist, but my passion is there and I am learning as I go. I just love being behind the wheel,” she said.
Starting her channel has changed her life. She has been able to do and experience things that she would never have been able to otherwise. The standout moment for her so far involved a certain 4-time F1 World Champion. “With Ferrari I’ve had a great run because of social media. I’ve managed to create quite a nice friendship with them. Interviewing Sebastian Vettel at Silverstone was great so probably skipping in the garage with him is a standout moment,” Emma told me, adding: “another highlight was working with BMW South Africa when I hosted the M Festival there.” None of this would’ve happen if she hadn’t been encouraged to start her YouTube channel.
Having got her racing license shortly after leaving the E4 show, Emma Walsh is keen to do more driving, though being a full-time driver is not something she would like to do. “When I think about it outside of the car I’m terrified,” she said, a feeling reiterated by many, though she also says: “the minute I get in the car I feel comfortable and I really enjoy driving. I’m always up for track days, I definitely have a lot to learn, but hopefully this year I will get to do a race with one of the championships, just to see what it’s like.”
Her online presence has also allowed the South African to venture more into another form of media. “I’ve done a fair bit of radio in the past, not in terms of having my own show, but I really do enjoy it,” Emma explained to me. “I prefer to do TV work, but the opportunity came up and it was a great way to meet people and better my interviewing skills.” Through her role on talkSport Radio, she has also been recruited for a new initiative in one of the newest series of motorsport: Formula E Radio.
“A friend of mine, who’s a car commentator put me up for the job. It’s definitely a different race, I grew up watching F1, so this is new for me. It is a very exciting race to watch and there’s always something going on. I have a few friends that drive in the Championship which keeps it interesting, but I’m really enjoying getting into Formula E,” Walsh said. Despite her love of radio, her ultimate aim is to move from the airwaves to our TV screens. “Cars and TV are a good mix for me,” she said when talking about her desire to be a presenter on F1 coverage on TV. “As long as I know my stuff, I think I’d be OK.”
Having worked in several mediums of media, Emma has the ability to deal with any situation that may arise. Her work on radio means she is able to communicate quickly with the audience, and work on YouTube means she is able to create short and entertaining videos. Both important parts of working to a timescale for F1 coverage, we could see Emma Walsh on our screens sometime soon.
(all photo credits: Emma Walsh)