On this week’s episode of African Voices, CNN International meets South African spinner and drifter Stacey Lee May.
As one of South African’s top female motorsport sensations, May hopes to inspire and empower more people by showing them they can do anything. As a young child, May remembers how other children would pick on her due to her small physique.
Through motorsport, May was able regain her confidence and be successful: "I started high school at the age of twelve or thirteen but I matriculated at the age of sixteen. Being younger than everybody else, people used to pick on me a lot. They used to take my lunch, or throw me in the dustbin, or smack me around… that caused me to be introvert. And I just had no self-confidence, and I just wanted to be on my own, but my dad could see I was hurting [and] introduced me to spinning."
Despite being bullied for her small stature, May argues it is the same stature which gives her an advantage. She says: "The thing that sets me apart from the competition is the fact that I'm so tiny and I have a soft voice but I let my spinning and my driving speak up for me.”As one of only a handful of athletes who do both spinning and drifting, May explains to the programme why she decided to do both: “I do both because it's fun. It's great to have options… I don't [want to] be doing the same boring thing over and over again. To be a spinner you have to have courage, you have to have a heart of steel, and you have to have faith and trust in yourself and in God."
May also tells CNN how she earned her iconic nickname through her wins: "I earned the nickname ‘Queen of Smoke’ by winning a competition four years in a row. It's a local spinning event - "Kings and Queens of Smoke" - so I competed against all the female spinners in South Africa and I actually won all four times. So, my mum just started calling me ‘Queen of Smoke’ and I put it on my car."
The philosophy May applies to the track allows her to stay in control and is even helping her study finance and law, as she explains: "Motorsport in general adds a lot of value to my life, because it teaches me that you control your destiny. You have to control where your life is going; you can't let other people control it for you.” Her achievements on the track have allowed May to travel internationally and work on exciting projects."
She tells the programme: Spinning has opened massive doors internationally for me because I never ever thought I would travel to New York for free! When I was in New York I worked with huge names in the movie industry and the racing industry. So, it was amazing for me to travel and just see the world.”For May, her sport allows her to inspire other women and encourage them to pursue their dreams.
She says: "I love spinning and drifting because it's different. It helps me show females all across the world that you don't have to do something that people tell you to do; you can always do what your heart tells you to do."
"So that's why I love spinning and drifting so much, it shows other females, and it shows the world that you can do anything you set your mind to."
WATCH: Stacey May 'Queen of Smoke'
With her success, May hopes to continue advocating for other women in South Africa. She states: "The current state of female motorsport in South Africa is not very well, because there aren't that [many] females in the industry and it's just more male-dominated. I'm trying to be that change by doing campaigns that empower women to show women that you can do anything.”