Posted on February 04, 2015 by Society Nine
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This is the ninth profile in our Society Nine Storytellers series where badass female fighters across all sports in our community share their definitions of femininity, strength and empowerment and discuss what they fight for. Have a story to tell? Email us at email@example.com – tell us who you are, a little bit about your journey and what you fight for – in life and sport.
I pulled up my fire suit, strapped on my helmet, closed my visor and hit the gas. It was the first time I chose to be a fighter. I was 10 years old. Go-karting always made sense to me and being at the track always thrilled me. I immediately started winning and was having the time of my life, when two years later I read about a 12 year-old boy who had moved into racecars. I decided if he could do it, I could do it. At the age of 13, I raced in my first car race and at age 14 I became the first woman to win a Skip Barber Racing Series championship. I made history! And I’ve continued to win as I’ve climbed the ranks of racing, as I got my education at Stanford University and as I’ve built my brand.
But racing isn’t only about the highs of winning. Each race is a battle zone for every racer. We push our cars and ourselves to the absolute limit every moment we are on the track. We fight against dozens of other racers who want to win just as badly as we do. We work to attract sponsors to help us get to the highest levels of racing. We train our bodies incredibly hard so we can deal with hours of high G-forces and temperatures of over 130 degrees Fahrenheit.And as a female racer, I have to fight much harder to earn the respect of those in the industry.
Regardless of gender, there are always people who will tell you “no.” However, sometimes that “no” comes from a place of gender-biased doubt. For many reasons, including rarely having the opportunity to, women haven’t yet proven that we can win races at the top levels of racing. Many people take that to mean women will never win at the top. That mentality, that bias from the beginning, is what I’m trying to change. Because if racing is already an insanely difficult sport to succeed in, it shouldn’t be made even harder because you’re a woman. I hope that through my determination, motivation, perseverance and success I can inspire girls and women to feel empowered to fight for what they want. I want girls and women to feel comfortable getting their hands dirty, being gritty and taking pride in it all. I want girls and women to feel great about working hard and being the best. At the end of the day, I want women to feel that they can be exceptional and can tackle anything they set their minds to.
So why racing? I love manhandling a machine around a racetrack, going fast and winning races. I love the responsibility I have in the car and collaborating with the team to maximize our potential. I love that the car doesn’t know if I’m a man or a woman and that it doesn’t care. And I love that pushing myself to the absolute limit and persevering for the past 13 years has resulted in the confidence I need to work relentlessly to make it to the top. And with enough conviction, anything is possible.Julia Landauer is a championship-winning race car driver from New York City. In addition to earning dozens of wins, Julia has established her brand, competed on the TV show SURVIVOR, spoken at many events including TEDx, graduated from Stanford University with a Bachelors of Science and advocated for female athletes and females in STEM. Julia currently resides in North Carolina where she is pursuing a professional NASCAR career. First two photos by Justin Driscoll; last two photos by Julia Landauer