Cari Champion recently embarked on her latest adventure with her work wife, best friend, and colleague Jemele Hill. Stick to Sports, the duo’s new late-night talk show on Vice TV, started airing in late August to acclaim from fans and critics alike. In it, Champion, a veteran sports journalist who spent many years as a host at ESPN, and cohost Hill, discuss everything from Black Lives Matter to “vagina-shaming”—with no stone left unturned and no topic out of bounds. Champion’s presence is outgoing, warm, and comforting; her dynamic with Hill is playful yet challenging. It is plain to see that they are exactly what we need to be watching at this moment.
Today, Champion lives with her “really old dog,” Coco, a Lhasapoo, in Los Angeles. “I have no complaints,” she tells SELF. “You can’t complain about things that you asked for.” She starts her days early, on calls with East Coast network executives and creatives at Vice. Then she takes Coco for a walk around the neighborhood, returns home for a workout and possibly a nap, and spends the afternoon in various Zoom meetings and other engagements. She doesn’t need much sleep, and she doesn’t really understand why. “How I do it is beyond me, but it’s something that I’m used to,” she says. For more on Champion’s bedtime routines and rituals—and the air fryer she can’t stop using or talking about—read our interview below.
On her go-to air fryer recipe
I hope to wrap up my day by 4 or 5 p.m., and then I either cook or order out. I bought an air fryer—the Power Air Fryer XL. Once we started quarantine, I knew the best way to cook in the quickest and seemingly most healthy way was with this air fryer. Cauliflower has been a godsend for me. I go to Whole Foods and I get a bunch of florets. I put a little salt, a little pepper, maybe some amino acids just for a little flavor, a little paprika, and whatever your special spray could be—I put a little olive oil spray in. I put it all in the fryer for maybe 15 minutes, and right around seven minutes you check on it, you turn it around, you shake it up, you make sure it’s not burning, and of course the cauliflower shrinks. At one point, I was really trying to move myself off meat, so I created all these different little reimaginings of how I wanted to cook. When I go to Whole Foods, I get vegetarian mac ‘n’ cheese, or vegan mac ‘n’ cheese, and I throw that on the side. I thought in my mind I was some sort of chef, but they were just quick meals. And then I would have a glass of rosé—I love it. It could be Whispering Angel, that was a go-to for a while, and I’d unwind.
On her reading list
I always allow myself to get 30 minutes of news before it upsets me, and then I just read. I read a lot, because sometimes I get upset with the theatrics of it all, or the same talking heads, which is one of the big reasons why we’re doing our show, right?
I have three books that I have picked up and delved into, but I haven’t given them my 100 percent attention except for Untamed by Glennon Doyle. I’m a little biased because I did something called Share the Mic, and she was one of the organizers. I shared the mic with Busy Phillips, but one of the organizers is one of my best friends, Bozoma Saint John, along with Glennon Doyle as well as Luvvie Jones. I didn’t know Glennon, but someone sent me her book like two weeks before. I fell in love with her while reading her book, but really truly saw that she was the woman she says she is for having that experience with her.
On her day spa–inspired bedtime beauty routine
When I feel the sandman coming and sleep coming on, I literally get up, go to the bathroom, and my dog follows me around the whole time. I worked my way through college by working at a day spa. I was 18, 19 years old—I would get facials, I would learn about skin-care routines, and it has been a part of my life since. All my roommates that I’ve had in the past have been like, if I didn’t live with Cari, I would not have been so used to being consumed with washing my face and products and what they mean and what they do. So I do this religiously.
You have to realize—TV makeup is a lot. So, I have fortunately good skin—I don’t get breakouts, knock on wood—and I think it has a lot to do with me just being very diligent about my routine. So I use Neutrogena wipes, the one that is the unscented, and I wipe my face, I remove my eyelashes. I use two or three wipes, because it’s usually a heavy wipe-down. I then go back and I take Dermalogica Special Cleansing Gel and I wash my face with my hands using lukewarm water. It has been my go-to forever. I just don’t even know anything else. I can feel the granules of some leftover glue residue, and I make sure to get that all out of my eyes. After I wash my face, I go back over it with one more wipe, just to see whatever leftover residue there is.
I have a lady that does facials—she’s closed, obviously—but she’s like a facial whisperer. She has this small, little shop, it’s almost like you have to whisper a code word to get in, and she lets you go to the back of the room and she puts something on your face and she won’t tell you what it is, but it works perfectly. One of the things that she gave me early on when I used to break out a lot was Biologique Recherche. It’s a toner that moisturizes, hydrates, but it also feels like it has a tightening component. It has a hyaluronic acid in it that really, really works well for my skin. Some people might think it’s too much, but I use P50. And then I take a vitamin C serum from Obagi, anywhere from the 15 percent to the 20 percent. Then I grab my Cinq Mondes, which means five ingredients in French. I use their Infinity Cream around my eyes, and sometimes I put that around my mouth for the parentheses.
I use several different types of moisturizers. I use the Skin Smoothing Cream from Dermalogica, which I love. It depends on summer, winter, whatever, but I alternate between that and the Active Moist, depending on if my skin is dry or if it is not dry, or it’s too oily. I also use Curology. They have a nice, light face moisturizer. And then I go and I put a bonnet on my head, which is a beautiful thing, and then I watch TV until I fall asleep. I fall asleep with the TV on because for whatever reason, it’s comforting.
On her teenybopper taste in TV
I watch Netflix. I usually try to find something that is a no-brainer, because if I’m getting ready to fall asleep, I can’t really pay attention. So The Politician you can follow without it being too intense. Gosh, I hate to admit it, but also Kissing Booth 1 and 2. There’s a trapped teenybopper in me that I’m still watching these shows. And if I get in bed early enough, and I’m doing well, and I don’t feel like going to sleep, I’m catching up on The Wire now. Jemele hosts a podcast about The Wire, and she shamed me, so I have to watch it. It’s great, great, great TV. So I see what I was missing out on. I will tell you, I’m the kind of person that loves to watch a period piece. Sense and Sensibility. Pride and Prejudice. I watch that one over and over again. I could live in a period piece forever.
On the importance of naps
I think naps are underrated, and I don’t think most people take them. If I get off work at 11 a.m. or noon, I go work out, and then I come home and take a nap. And then I pop back up at 4, which is probably why I stay up so late in the evening. But a nap, to me, is underrated, and people should do it. I am a queen of the nap. And I know that some people feel like they just can’t fall asleep during the day, but my mind can shut off for whatever reason in the afternoon—it just can. So I can easily take a nap. No matter what’s going on, anywhere, any time, any place. All of my old roommates would be like, “Cari is the queen of a nap.” I’d be like, “Absolutely. I’ll show you how to do it.” I love naps. I think that’s a lot of the way that I catch up on sleep and function.
On her workout routine
I try to block out 9 to 11 a.m. so that I can do jump rope and yoga. I literally grabbed a jump rope from Amazon for, like, 10 bucks. I go in the backyard area and I jump. I watch all these movies with boxers who can jump right away and they make it look so easy, but it’s not easy at all. When I first started, I’d start, stop, start, stop, start, stop, and it was so frustrating, but I kept with it. Probably about two weeks in, I really had a pace and a rhythm and a beat, so I could jump rope for about 30 to 45 minutes. I play my speakers on blast, and I put on different radio stations. It could be Justin Bieber radio or Beyoncé radio or Bob Marley radio [all on Apple Music], whatever I’m in the mood for. If I do it on Sundays, I’m playing gospel because I feel like that’s appropriate, and I blast it and I jump my rope. It’s good for me. I love it.
Then I come back in the house and I pop up my Peloton App because I have a bike, but I pull up the app on my Apple TV, which is genius, right? So I put it up on my big TV in the living room, and I turn on whatever I want. I have a couple of teachers I love, so I either do yoga flow or power yoga for 30 or 45 minutes. I stick with my same teachers. So after I do that, I go upstairs and I shower and my day begins.
On being kind to herself as she gets back into “working shape”
We’re reimagining what we thought was normal and adjusting [away from] a routine that we’ve been so used to for so long, so it’s all a new experience, and I think it adds another level of exhaustion—mentally and physically. I use this example—saying, “I guess I’m not up to working shape yet.” I have to work back into being on the go, or working, or being around other people because we haven’t been for so long. COVID requires another level of mental fortitude as well as another level of physicality that you have to extend. Simply just consistently taking your mask on and off. Or making sure you wash your hands after you’ve interacted with anybody in any capacity, whether you’re just sitting and not even touching someone, or you’re touching someone on set. Or opening my dressing room without a glove on and then going to go grab my book. It’s all types of different things now that you have to be mentally and physically aware of.
On the liberation of her new show
When I first started as a journalist, you were told that you have to be very objective and present this way and that way. As a journalist when we’re writing a news story or we’re talking about a news story, you have to present the facts, and you can’t really lean either way. Sports is the last place where you are, quote unquote, not supposed to do that, right? You can tell the story through the numbers, and you can tell the story through soundbites, but you are traditionally not supposed to [insert your opinion]. And quite frankly, sometimes the story doesn’t need that.
However, within the last five, six years, that has changed. It is impossible to tell a story about sports without interjecting an opinion or nuance. It was no longer black and white. It’s been this way forever, but certain events accelerated it and made it more palpable and actually pushed that need to the forefront. And so with this show, the beauty of it is yes, I am being myself, and I think that’s new to people and fans who have never known this side of me.
Our mission is clear. We really, truly want to see women in a different light, and we want to be able to drive a conversation as a woman, as a woman of color, and we want people to know that there are so many different sides of us. We don’t have to be put in one bucket. We can give you a serious conversation, and we can talk about Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion. We can tell you that we’ve interviewed the greats, like Lebron James, and then we can turn around and say, tomorrow, we’re going to interview Leslie Jordan about his great IG videos. The range is there, and that’s who we are as people, and I hope that that is the liberating thing in this story.