Female personalities covering sports have definitely changed over the last few years and today look more like models than they ever did before! If you are an ISL fan, then Leeza Mangaldas is a face you will recognise. In a telephonic interview, the beautiful, charming and vivacious Leeza chats with NT KURIOCITY about her various assignments, life as a sports anchor/reporter, what it takes to get into the profession, triumphs and challenges of the job and more.
Maria Fernandes|NT Kuriocity
Female personalities covering sports have definitely changed over the last few years and today look more like models than they ever did before! If you are an ISL fan, then Leeza Mangaldas is a face you will recognise. Beautiful, charming and vivacious, she has not only anchored the 2015 Indian Super League but also hosts the Barclays Premier League Countdown, a studio show that profiles the most exciting moments from each weekend’s Premier League matches, on Star Sports. Besides reporting live from the stadium, she has previously anchored an automobile and travel segment on a weekly feature called Top Speed for ETNow and has also presented a weekly interview show on TimesNow with India’s top sports achievers.
In a telephonic interview, Leeza, an ex-student of Sharada Mandir School, Miramar, chats with NT Kuriocity about her various assignments, what it takes to get into the profession, life as a sports anchor/reporter, triumphs and challenges of the job and more.
“I spent most of my childhood in sunny Goa and have very strong attachments to it even now,” says Leeza, who after having studied in Goa, headed to Kodaikanal and there on to Colombia University, New York where she graduated in English Literature and Visual Art. Explaining her choice of subjects, she says: “I’ve always enjoyed reading, writing, and public speaking, and in college, I thought perhaps being an academic or a journalist would allow me to do all three. But I also loved art and theatre, and wanted to explore career options in those fields as well.”
On returning to India, she moved to Mumbai where she was approached by a film crew and was cast as the lead in an independent film called W, advocating gender equality. “I agreed to do the film because its message about women standing up for themselves, and fighting back against the double standards of society really resonated with me. It was a small film, with a very limited release, but it taught me a lot. I learned that I loved being in front of the camera, and wanted to combine my journalistic interests with this new found aptitude. Broadcast journalism seemed like the perfect career for me,” she says as she speaks about her decision to take up a career as a sports reporter and anchor.
Having decided that broadcast journalism and specifically current affairs was what she wanted to do, she approached Times Television Network; however due to unavailability of vacancies settled for an internship on the ticker team at ET Now, where she trained for a few weeks. As luck would have it, shortly after, the channel offered her a show called Top Speed, which required her to review a new car in a new destination each week. “This was my first gig as a TV presenter. I wasn’t an expert on cars at the time, but I have always loved travel, and I soon discovered that nice cars are also very likeable. The best part of this experience was that I had to script and organise almost all of it myself, it was very hands-on. Not only did I get to see some of the most beautiful parts of the country, I also learnt about the various facets of on-location TV production,” she says.
With the success of Top Speed, she soon came to be known as the, ‘anchor that drives’ and her next assignment was an interview show with Times Now. “I had to interview the winners of the Times of India Sports Awards- the show was sponsored by a car company and so there was a segment that had to be shot with the anchor driving, which is perhaps why they thought I’d be the right choice for it; because to be honest, I didn’t know much about sport back then. But again, there’s absolutely nothing like learning on the job. I got to meet some extremely accomplished sports personalities – and discovered how exhilarating and inspiring sport is. I was also able to acquire and hone a new skill: interviewing,” she explains. Her charm, ease and skill on screen caught the eye of the Star Sports team and she was taken on as a reporter for Season 2 of the Indian Super League. “It’s amazing how serendipitous the whole journey has been,” she says.
Leeza counts her role as a pitch-side reporter during the ISL as among her biggest achievements and most enjoyable assignments so far. “It was three months of nonstop reporting, live. Also, the schedule was such that we were in a new state covering a new match every alternate day. I must have taken over forty flights in eighty days or something like that – it was among the most intense and most enjoyable three months of my life! The atmosphere in the stadiums too was just fantastic, and we were reporting right from the heart of the action.”
When you’re reporting live, complete focus, Leeza says, is very vital. “You can’t make a mistake in what you’re saying when you are on live TV. Preparation before the event which includes collecting and analysing data, and then planning the questions accordingly should be up to the mark. I’ve been lucky to have really superb producers who look over my preparation and always share their insights and knowledge as well.” Asked if she has ever run out of questions to ask while on live TV, she says: “No, fortunately not! If you listen to your interviewee rather than using only the questions you’ve prepared in advance, then you get so much fodder for further questions or comments. Listening plays a very important role in this aspect.”
Speaking on the requirements for the job of an anchor, she believes besides voice, looks or delivery, one should also possess, ‘skills without script’. “These skills are built on mental agility, critical thinking and continuous learning. Being prepared and knowing your subject gives you both the confidence and the content when you are speaking without a script- and live reporting is essentially unscripted.”
On the benefits, trials and challenges of the job she says: “Meeting amazing people, asking important questions, having an opinion that matters besides travelling a lot are some of the benefits of this job. I think the challenge is that it’s very competitive and no one is indispensable, so you always have to be at the top of your game. At the end of the day, I love what I do, I love my job, and there is never a dull moment.”
Besides her work, Leeza has various eclectic interests which she is passionate about. “I’ve created an educational platform called Evoke India that seeks to democratise the dissemination of knowledge and ideas, by hosting lectures and workshops on a broad range of topics that are free and open to the public. In my free time, I like to read, paint and bake.”