Q+A: Alexis Dejoria, Drag Racing Goddess, Paul Mitchell Hair Care Heiress, All Around Cool Girl
Alexis DeJoria is one lucky (and fast) girl. She is a professional drag racer driving the NHRA Funny Car on the circuit, head of her own Patrón Tequila drag racing crew, web radio host on RaceTalkRadio.com and wife to Jesse James, whom you may recognize from his former reality show, Monster Garage. At the beginning of September, she completed her second best race time ever in Indianapolis and had a cameo in the drag racing-themed movie, Snake and Mongoose…in the same week!
How can drag racing be fun for people who wouldn’t normally go see it? Meaning the preppy law school guys, your grandfather who can barely get out of the buffet after a nap…and women? Because people don’t think women will like it, right?
NHRA drag racing is such an amazing thing in itself. To come & actually watch it in person is unreal. It doesn’t matter who you are, any walk of life- it’ll grab your attention. The sounds and the sights are so amazing. People have this misconception that if you’re not a gearhead or into cars, you won’t be interested in drag racing, but it’s just not like that. This sport is so exciting and it’s easy for a first timer to follow along. You don’t have to be ‘into’ cars to enjoy drag racing, which is unique to our sport. Not to mention, we’re the only motorsport where any general admission ticket is a ‘pit pass,’ meaning fans can wander the pits and literally have a front row of view of watching the crew work on the cars, which is really cool. Plus there are some really interactive displays and attractions in the midway that fans always enjoy- there’s something for everyone out here.
You’re a cute girl and doing drag racing. Have you ever had people act mean to you only to be blown away by your skill? How is racing different as a female?
Believe it or not, my femininity has never come into question. Obviously we may get more scrutiny than a male driver, because female drivers are a rare sight compared to the guys, but as far as mean things being said to me for being a female, I haven’t really experienced that.
When I’m sitting in my race car, I don’t feel any different than any other driver out there. Obviously, the guys have a little bit of advantage with naturally having more forearm strength, which is important to be able to control these powerful cars, but I work out really hard to be able to be on even footing as far as strength is concerned. Once I’m strapped in the car though, I don’t care who’s next to me- they’re my competition and I’m certain my fellow racers feel the same way.
The benefit is none of your competitors look good in a dress. How do you manage your endorsement side of racing, and what are your goals you have yet to accomplish? Modeling? Acting? Opening a repair shop like your husband?
Haha, well I’m not the only female competitor out here- Courtney Force also races in the Funny Car class and she looks good in a dress, but other than that, it’s just the two of us ladies.
As far as managing the endorsement side of things, I work really hard at always being accessibe and try to take advantage of as many media opportunities as possible, which keeps the sponsors happy. Pretty much anytime a sponsor has an appearance opportunity that works within my crazy schedule; I’ll make every effort to do it. Media is really the big thing though- sponsors love to see their brand represented across all avenues of media- whether it be racing related, or more mainstream. I also make it a point to be accessible to the fans- whenever I’m at the track, if I’m not in my race car or working on my race car, or doing media, I’m meeting the fans. They’re the reason we’re all able to be out here and race.
My goals are here in my profession. Short term, I want to win a race. In my two year career as a professional driver, I’ve been the runner up once and have made it to the semi-finals four times, but I’m still looking for that big win. We have five more races left this season and I’m hoping we can pick up our first win before the end of the year. Long term, my goal is to be the first female Funny Car driver to win a NHRA World Championship.
Outside of racing, I have a few businesses that I’m working on now and I hope to be a successful business woman outside the track as well. I’d also love to have the opportunity to race in any desert race with my husband in his trophy truck.
Why does so much attention go to Danica Patrick and not you in the mainstream media?
Before Danica, there really wasn’t any female that really stood out in a major auto-racing series. She was the first to really stand out in Indy car and NASCAR. Her performance gave her the deserved attention in the auto racing industry, and then her sponsors helped put her on the map in the mainstream with their GoDaddy commercials.
Is the risk what appeals to you in racing?
Not the risk, just the excitement and competitiveness of the sport. I mean, these are the fastest accelerating cars in the world! There’s nothing else like it and that’s what draws me to this sport.
When you were younger, did your family ever think your interest in fast cars and motorcycles was a passing fad? Did it start from playing with Hot Wheels and the love growing into really wanting to repair cars and bikes? Or a TV show?
From the very beginning I was always the ‘wild child’ of my family so it came as no surprise to anyone when I said I wanted to be a professional race car driver. When I was growing up, I used to always say that I wanted to be a fighter pilot, which is pretty unique for a little girl. I actually got to realize my dream last summer and fly in an F15 fighter jet, and that was so awesome.
Someone took me to a drag race when I was 16 and that was it- I knew from that moment that one day I was going to drive a Funny Car. My family and friends knew I was passionate about racing, so they were incredibly supportive of my decision to make racing my career.
What are the rules of drag racing? Is it OK if people don’t know them? Can people have fun, unlike a baseball game where you’re left in the dust if you don’t get it? Can we shout? What goes on?
Yes, it’s pretty simple once you see a few runs. Basically, drag racing is two cars racing side-by-side down a straight 1,000-foot track. The first person to get to the finish line wins. Even if it’s a close race, the win light will come on so you know instantly who won and who lost. Each race lasts about four seconds so it’s easy to follow along. And yes, fans should of course shout and cheer for their favorite racer, although these cars are so loud it’s hard to hear the cheers.
Your husband was unbelievably handsome in person when I briefly met him years ago, around age 18-19. OK. That was NOT really a question but an observation all of us can agree on unless we are legally blind. How did you get so lucky being married to him? Congrats!
I think we’re both lucky to have each other. We have so much in common. We both have pretty unusual professions, but that’s one of the things that we have in common because we both understand and respect each other’s unique careers. He’s never missed a race of mine since we first met, which is pretty incredible.
What do you do for fun now that you are married so married life isn’t boring? Do you go on dates and dress up?
We try to have regular date nights at least once a week- just the two of us. Typically, we’ll check out a new spot for dinner, especially when we’re on the road, which is often. If we finish up early during the race weekend, we make time for each other. He works during the week but also comes to every single one of my races on the weekends, so it’s important that we spend any down time during a race weekend together. When we’re at home we have a few ‘go to’ spots that we like to hit up. Austin is well known for their Mexican food and BBQ, and there’s a few of those restaurants pretty close by that we’ll sometimes go to as a family, but typically, during our ‘date nights,’ we’ll try and go downtown and somewhere nice if we have the energy. Both of our work schedules are very time consuming, and of course when we’re home, we really try and spend as much time with the kids as possible. We’re very family oriented and family dinners are very important to us.
Since your dad runs Paul Mitchell, when you were younger, did anyone ever try to befriend you solely for free teatree shampoo? Once you smell that in your hair, you don’t go back.
Well, I went to school with all sorts of people with famous parents, so we were all in the same boat. I never felt like people were trying to befriend with me just for who my dad is. But yes, the teatree shampoo is always a crowd pleaser! My dad’s always been very generous and has been known to send people (even complete strangers) boxes of Paul Mitchell products.
What do you do working for your dad’s company? No one talks about this side of your professional life.
I worked at John Paul Mitchell Systems for four years. I started off as a receptionist working the phones. I started right out of high school so I had no prior skills as far as working in the business world went. My second year there I worked in the Marketing and Art department, then my third year was spent in Research & Development- basically I was trying to get a feel for the whole company. My last year at Paul Mitchell was spent working for the Vice President of Research and Development. I loved working in the family business and learning that world, but by the end of my fourth year I was itching to get on the track. My family could see my passion and love and dedication for the sport, so they were very supportive of my decision to leave the family business to start a career in NHRA drag racing.
How are you a great businesswoman?
I’ve learned a lot along the years from my father- I’m very fortunate to be able to pick his brain and watch him in action. My four years working at Paul Mitchell were also invaluable in exposing me to all different aspects of operating a business. Back when I drove a Top Alcohol Funny Car (a sportsman NHRA class), I owned and operated my own team, Stealth Motorsports, for a few years which was a great learning experience- just going out there and living it and learning through trial and error helped me become a better businesswoman.
With style, what do you like to wear so you are still the “bad ass racer girl” away from work?
I really like to mix it up- pairing high end pieces with some edgier vintage finds. I have some amazing pieces by different designers from around the world and I love to get all glammed up, but most of the time, I’m pretty casual. I’d say my average day to day ‘look’ is skinny jeans, a loose top and either motorcycle boots, or flat sandals. I also like to mix it up wearing any range of colors, prints, and fabrics. Like most girls, I’m really into shoes, but just like my style with clothes, I like to mix it up between high-end and casual. I love my Louboutins, but I’m also extremely loyal to my Chuck Taylors.
Where is your drag racing televised on the web and TV? How can people see your race events in real life?
Our events are typically televised on ESPN2 on Saturdays and Sundays of race weekends. Fans can also watch live racing on ESPN3, and my PR team keeps fans up to date on all the racing action via our team Facebook (Alexis DeJoria) and Twitter (@ADR_Nitro771) accounts. I would encourage anybody that’s never been to a drag race before to come to a race and check it out- I’m sure any first timer will be an instant fan. We travel all over the country for nine months a year racing so no matter where you live; you should be able to find a race in your region.