Glitz, glam and grit
Studying musical theatre helped Kat Stefankiewicz step up to the big city world of NBA broadcasting. We the north!
When it comes to career transformation, NBA TV Canada host Kat Stefankiewicz has risen through her career while remaining true to herself. While the glitz and glam of the entertainment industry makes her job look like a piece of cake, Stefankiewicz’s evolution has not been without hardship and hard work.
Growing up a shy Polish girl in Burlington, Ontario, Stefankiewicz found coming out of her shell to be a challenge—especially as English was not her first language. Singing solos in school theatre productions made her parents realize that the performing arts were her gift and a huge confidence booster.
“I was a super shy kid, but with what I do now people don’t believe me,” she says with a laugh.
As a host and reporter for several sports-related shows, as well as the in-game host for the Toronto Raptors, Stefankiewicz is now a fixture in the public eye of the sports world—leaving little room for timidity. Fortunately, her experiences building up to her current position in the entertainment sphere have moulded her into a confident and accomplished career woman.
Before stepping onto the scene, Stefankiewicz studied musical theatre at Sheridan College where her love of performing was paired with a strong education. With a family full of performers, she assumed that musical theatre would become her forté, but life had other plans and the opportunity to dance alongside the Raptors’ Dance Pack presented itself.
“When you’re first breaking in and something is offered to you, it’s all about grabbing it,” says Stefankiewicz. “Saying yes and worrying about the challenge later is the only way you’re going to grow.” Stefankiewicz says that as a kid she was also into sports, which made entering the sports entertainment world a dream come true.
She’s quick to dismiss misconceptions about dancing for a basketball team versus more high-brow forms of dance. “You have your cheerleader stereotypes for sure,” she says. “But with the Raptors Dance Pack it’s a dance team, so I was able to use my skills from my dance background. It’s a very high intensity dance group and the girls are very talented.”
After five years of dancing and eventually becoming captain of the Dance Pack, she was approached by Raptors TV to host a behind-the-scenes look at the team, which turned out to be an audition of sorts, and soon she was the host of Raptorspace. Never one to turn down a challenge, she accepted the position and got to work on honing her media skills, which were virtually non-existent at the time.
“I didn’t go to school for broadcasting, so this was stuff I had to work on for myself,” says Stefankiewicz. “I would sit for hours and watch YouTube videos of other sportscasters, reporters and entertainment news people to see how the hosts worked the desk.”
The hard work has definitely paid off. Stefankiewicz currently works as a host-producer for three different media outlets: Raptors Game Day on NBA TV; Open Gym Fastbreak on Bell Media; and Raptors Rundown on YouTube. She also went a bit Hollywood in 2008, playing Liv Tyler’s stunt double in The Incredible Hulk 2 film.
“I would’ve never been able to tell you that this is where I would be, but it was the constant hustle and believing that there was always another step that kept me motivated,” says Stefankiewicz.
“The things you do while you procrastinate are the things you should be doing for the rest of your life.”
Despite her other roles and accolades, Stefankiewicz says that one of her biggest accomplishments has been being a role model for women in the sports entertainment industry.
“It’s a male-dominated sports world and here I am going from the crop-top world of the Dance Pack to the suit-and-tie world of NBA TV Canada,” says Stefankiewicz. “There’s stereotypes that follow you, so gaining respect was one of my biggest challenges.”
Having made her transition to hosting five years ago, Stefankiewicz says she’s seeing more and more women in sports media hosting, producing and other behind-the-scenes roles. She believes she is one of the many female figures who have broken down barriers for a new generation of women in the field.
“In the last few years women trying to make it in the entertainment world have reached out to me,” she says. “I love being a role model and being able to give back to them, whether it’s over coffee or a twitter conversation. I tell them, ‘If you’re going to do it, you need to accept that you’re going to be judged daily on your talent, body and personality. That is the business. If you can recognize that then you’re already a step closer.’”
Aside from NBA life, Stefankiewicz is self-described small town girl with big city dreams, who still makes time to do things like running and yoga, which she says help her to relax and step back from the spotlight. “I love the simple life, but because of what I do I can’t be part of that all of the time,” she says. “The balance gets me through.”
As for what’s next, Stefankiewicz says she’s looking forward to the upcoming NBA season and also to pursuing other avenues in the entertainment industry.
If there’s one nugget of advice that she would give to all of the dreamers out there, it’s this: “The things you do while you procrastinate are the things you should be doing for the rest of your life. I followed that and here I am, happy because I took that route.”
More Inspiration: Check out this other article by Brandon on bouldering!