Behind the scenes with Lisa Kelly
A couple weeks ago, as the Mid-America Trucking Show was winding down in Louisville, my friends at Volvo Trucks grabbed me in the media room and asked if I’d be interested in doing an exclusive interview with Ice Road Trucker star Lisa Kelly as she test-drove a Volvo VN tractor. Volvo was helping Lisa spread the word on WorldTrucker – a website and app designed as sort of social media/travel resource for truck drivers — and this looked like a win-win-win all the way around.
It was a no-brainer, so of course I (we) said yes. You can see the whole interview – which is really more of a conversation with Lisa – here.
Ever since my little chat with her wrapped up, everybody’s been asking me what she’s like. I think that fascination is always there when you run across a celebrity. But more so in the case of Lisa, because she, like so many “reality show” stars these days, isn’t a celebrity in the conventional sense of the word.
For example, when you see Harrison Ford onscreen playing a treasure-hunting archaeologist, you know that he’s an actor getting paid to portray a role and bring that character to life. The line blurs when you’re confronted by one of the Ice Road Trucker stars or one of the crewmen from Deadliest Catch. These are people doing real, readily identifiable jobs with a camera crew following them around. So, viewers naturally wonder, is a person like Lisa Kelly more of a truck driver, or more of a TV star?
Now, I only spent a couple of hours around Lisa. But that was enough time to learn a few things about her. And what I discovered was a pleasant surprise.
First off, she’s really smart and knows her stuff. Every now and then you’ll hear somebody mutter that the IRT guys decided they needed a woman on the show, went out and found Lisa, rushed her through a driving school and threw her behind the wheel. But as I rode with her, I discovered that she’s actually a damn good driver with an inherent understanding of machinery and a passion for machinery, engines and making them perform as efficiently as possible. Her take on automatic transmissions coming on strong these days is illustrative of this point: She’s not sold on them yet because she prefers to monitor her RPMs and select her shift points on her own. She doesn’t really care if a computer can do it better or not. She wants to reserve that level of control for herself.
Next, she’s really smart. Ice Road Truckers has given her the opportunity to travel the globe, but it’s pretty obvious that she’s observing and taking in everything that’s going on around her. Of course we had technical issues when we were setting up for the interview (when do we not?), and Lisa was ready with good advice and tips to help us muddle through the problems. And she knows a thing or two about sequencing a shoot and on-camera presentation. She gave me several tips that I’ll be sure to keep in mind next time my bosses decide somebody needs to point a camera at me.
Now, if you’re a journalist, from time to time you find yourself interviewing someone who is – how shall I say this? – not particularly bright. And any journalist will tell you, these interviews can be downright painful; more akin to pulling teeth than anything else I could compare them to.
That wasn’t the case with Lisa. She’s bright, articulate, opinionated and not afraid to defend or debate a point. She’s also a professional. It was an early morning shoot. And between the time changes and the crazy schedule she was keeping at the truck show, Lisa was pretty beat. She’s not a morning person, and neither am I. So I could totally relate. But the minute the camera snapped on, she was completely on her game and focused on doing a good job. We didn’t do a single re-take. Not one. They weren’t needed.
The bottom line I think is this: Lisa’s a breed of person, a beautiful young lady – and that doesn’t hurt when TV producers are talking to you — but at her core she’s just a rough-and-tumble girl from Alaska. She loves animals and grew up wanting to race and drive cars, trucks and motorcycles. The morning we talked her wrist was in a cast because she’d taken a spill on her motocross bike back home after IRT filming wrapped up. She wants to get into truck racing and stunt driving. And while she’s a TV star, you get a definite sense that on a core level she really doesn’t get what all the fuss is about. Nowhere does this become more apparent than when she’s talking about women in trucking today. She doesn’t say it, but it’s clear she can’t believe that in this day and age, with some many women drivers out on the road working hard every day, that fact that an attractive lady is behind the wheel of a big rig is still a thing worth commenting on.