ESPN’s Alexis Nunes remains true to her Jamaican roots
Don’t play with Alexis Nunes when it comes to sports – she knows her stuff. As ESPN’s lead Europe-based soccer and cricket reporter, the Jamaican is living out her dreams and constantly crushing goals.
Born at Nuttall Hospital in St Andrew, the eloquent Nunes epitomises the Jamaican national motto ‘Out of Many, One People’. Her father was Jamaican and her mother is from El Salvador, making her a proud ‘Jamaican-Latina’.
As Nunes tells it, her parents met at The University of the West Indies (UWI). Of her mother leaving El Salvador to start a life on The Rock, she says with a laugh, “Love is love, and she fell in love. Left her country and moved to Jamaica and never looked back.”
She accredits her adoration for sports to her father who she says controlled the television in the house when she was growing up. “He always had on cricket and was watching the West Indies. He loved to watch golf and tennis as well.” She rolls her eyes as if to indicate “you might have figured” and, with an assertive motion, adds, “and clearly football”.
The Hillel Academy and Campion College alumna always had a love for animals and thought she would become a veterinarian. However, she quickly learned that she was not good with blood and other things that would come with taking care of animals, so opted to pursue a degree in broadcast journalism at UWI’s Caribbean School of Media and Communication.
After hearing that the then Oliver McIntosh-led Sports Max was hosting an audition, she decided to throw her hat into the ring. Being the only auditionee with the ability to pronounce ‘NORCECA’ (volleyball confederation) correctly, she got the gig and worked for the company for almost four years.
Remembering her time at Sports Max fondly, she says, “I learnt a lot.” A major highlight was having the opportunity to work with veteran, Simon Crosskill, who she affectionately calls “Mr Cantankerous” then she adds, “Simon is honestly one of my top three favourite persons in the world, after my mother and my father. I would not be the woman I am today without Simon Crosskill. He was always just a pioneer for me.”
A chance meeting with former footballer Robbie Earle was the spark to her next move. Earle, who was working with ESPN at the time, was on a trip to Jamaica. Noticing Nunes’ talent he asked if she was interested in leaving Jamaica’s shores for greener pastures. She was open to the idea and he put in a good word. ESPN liked what they heard and saw and flew her to their location in Bristol, Connecticut for an audition, and the rest, as they say, is history. Nunes landed a job with ESPN in October 2015.
Among her many responsibilities, she co-hosts ESPN FC, ESPN’s soccer news and information programme, which streams throughout the Caribbean.
What has been most refreshing is, there is no change in her Jamaican accent. “I couldn’t even twang if I tried,” she says in a matter of fact manner.
Nunes has also covered major events for the network in the Caribbean, including the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics; the 2019 Pan American Games; multiple Cricket World Cups; the 2019 FA Cup Final; and the ICC Women’s T20 Cricket World Cup.
Most recently, she signed a multi-year contract extension where her role will be expanded on ESPN’s LaLiga coverage. Among her new duties, she will travel throughout Spain as the English and Spanish language pitch side reporter.
How does it feel to be living out her dreams? “It’s still a very ‘pinch me’ moment,” she says via Zoom from her London apartment.
Our conversation turns to what it’s like being a woman in a male-dominated industry like sports. She notes she feels lucky to have never been made to feel less than “by those that matter” in the field, simply because she is a woman.
Nunes doesn’t require special treatment because she is female. “It’s never about that. We [women] just want to be able to eat at the same table and have the respect that we deserve to be there.”
Social media and micro-aggressions that can be considered sexist are beasts that she sometimes has to contend with. Yet, while she doesn’t cover horse racing, like a thoroughbred on the track, she wears blinders, doesn’t let anything get to her, and is focused on her goals.
Her style and body positivity is an inspiration to many, because, after all, representation matters. She’s known to rock Clarks and Jordans on the job and is also honest in revealing that her weight has fluctuated throughout the years. When she first landed the job at ESPN, she had planned on going on a strict diet and getting blonde streaks but decided against making drastic changes to fit in, remembering Jamaicans’ love for curves, and she shouldn’t alter herself to simply please others. “You do your best to not try and let the world change you and just remember where you are from, which is something that I always do.”
While her schedule is rigorous and she is currently based in London, she tries to make it home as much as she can. Most recently, she was in town during the celebration of Jamaica 60 where she said she tried to get a reset and “squeeze in my Jade Garden”.
Asked about her hopes and dreams for Jamaica even though she is now away, Nunes pauses, looks to her side, and answers with the question: “Where do I begin?” It then comes to her, “In a selfish kind of way, I would like to see more women do what I do.” We don’t think that’s selfish at all and hope to see it too.