Garage Squad's Cristy Lee: How A Solid Foundation Prepared Her For Full Throttle Success
With the proliferation of automotive related media content, you would be hard pressed not to recognize Cristy Lee.
From hosting Barrett Jackson Live, years spent co-hosting the increasingly popular All Girls Garage, to joining televisions staple program rescuing your restoration Garage Squad, you may think you already know her. Think again.
The only child of father Barry, a shop owner, mechanic and former instructor at the American Motorcycle Institute in Daytona and mother Jean, an elementary school teacher, Cristy is possibly the ultimate road trip companion. Intelligent, funny, unabashed singer of classic rock and most importantly…real.
“Cars and bikes were a big thing in our house but I guess otherwise you could say growing up I had a pretty normal upbringing” says Cristy. “We were a pretty run-of-the-mill blue collar family but obviously my dad had a pretty heavy influence on me with cars and bikes."
"I’m pretty sure at the time my parents believed that they would be having a baby Christopher and to their dismay, and mostly my father's surprise, I wasn’t a boy” says Lee with a hearty laugh. "I do think though dad can take great pride in saying he pretty much raised me to be a total tomboy”
Growing up in the epicenter of speed, it was only a matter of time before the bug bit Cristy. “Living in Daytona you can ride motorcycles year-round so there were many events and a pretty big bike presence in that area" recalls Lee. "I hung out with a crowd of friends who had bikes eventually realizing, hey this things pretty cool but sitting on the back is for the birds, I think I want my own.”
It would be the first of many.
Look what followed me home
“I'll never forget the day that I came home with my first bike" she begins. "I had been riding with friends previously so it wasn't totally unfamiliar for me to swing by the house and roll up on a motorcycle in full gear and helmet as a passenger."
"So this one night I roll up to the house, I was 18 or maybe just 19, and I walk inside take off my jacket and helmet and (my parents) say “who are you with?" "I say nobody and they say “well how did you get here” and I had to tell them I bought a bike" recalls a smiling Lee.
Continuing, Cristy says "Mom was kind of beside herself and my dad didn't say a word, but he walked outside very stoic, takes two or three laps around the bike, puts his hand out and says give me the keys” a now laughing Lee shares.
"If I leave here tomorrow Would you still remember me? For I must be traveling on, now Cause there's too many places I've got to see " -Lynyrd Skynyrd
Today, the highly accomplished rider proudly touts her well rounded upbringing for helping shape her future. “My mom couldn't be more proud of me and my achievements. I think there's still a part of her deep down that's slightly terrified of my track days, motorcycle riding, long-distance cruise trips, bike reunions and all this crazy stuff but I think mom has probably just accepted it because that's just how I'm wired."
"I wouldn't say this was her first choice for me" Says Lee knowingly, "but my mom added a nice feminine side and always kept me grounded as a girl and young woman so I really appreciate that as well.”
Emphatically, Cristy adds “I'm super grateful that my parents are my biggest fans and that I have such a great support system in my life. No matter what, they are always there for me."
As you may expect, Lee is drawn to anything with wheels. “A ‘67 Pontiac Grand Prix convertible takes up a significant claim of space in my garage. It's a family car" she says with a snicker. "More like a small yacht that’s been a very long ongoing project" continues Lee now in full blown laugh.
"Motorcycles..." adds Lee with a clearly guilty tone, "That's where most of the problems are! Every time I try to thin the herd it doesn't work out so well."
"I think I'm up to twelve or thirteen now" she says approaching embarrassment. I've got a variety of sport bikes, street bikes, mini race bikes, pit bikes, dirt bikes and a ‘71 Triumph trophy that is like the saddest little bike you'll ever see..."
In her own self depreciating candor that make Lee so relatable, she admits "I bought it with the intention of building it and it just sits there looking sadder and sadder, leaking oil here and there. It's actually been pushed to the shed which is where my bikes go to die. The Poor thing!"
It's all about the experiences
With exposure to many brands, Cristy is quick to again make her own mark. “I really don’t have that committal car or bike. my dad was an import mechanic so it didn't exactly grow up lusting over American muscle cars, I grew up wanting exotics and imports which is unfortunate because they're quite expensive" she says with a shrug.
"I'm a little bit more carefree with things like that so I don't necessarily dream of big things, cars, motorcycles… anything honestly. I've been fortunate to be able to drive and get behind the wheel of many cool cars and bikes which is awesome, and every time I get behind a new one I think it's the coolest ever until the next comes along… so yeah...”
"I'm more of a experiential type person so I guess if the medium that gets you through that experience is a super rad car then that's even better, but my life isn't contingent on owning something really cool."
"There's nothing better than cruising across country and seeing some really cool stuff along the way. Most of the time, I kind of have an idea of some of the stuff that I might find along the way to stop and check, but then I'd like to just find things too while riding and if it looks cool I'll stop and check it out."
"Beyond the Palace,
hemi-powered drones scream down the boulevard Girls comb their hair in rear-view mirrors,
and the boys try to look so hard " - Bruce Springsteen
For those fortunate to spend any time with Cristy, you find someone who is more concerned with her character than her “brand”. "The first thing I would tell people is TV and the automotive industry are two very different things. I'm very grateful and blessed that I am able to combine two things that I really love into a career and I've worked really hard to do that.”
“I can't personally shed a lot of light on being in the automotive field specifically from a technician or even an OEM perspective" says Cristy. "My experience in the auto industry is quote-unquote, the “glitz and glam” of the industry" the always candid Lee admits.
"Its television! It's all about the product, the biggest and the best, the cool stuff we're going to do with this product, the big build on this car etc. That's the type of automotive that I've been involved with which is not just turning out oil changes at a shop. They are two very different careers but potentially equally fulfilling for the right person…just very different.”
With today's highly produced content, Cristy's personal and professional contributions to the field are substantial. “I consider myself an ant on an ant hill, everyone plays an equal and important part which has really helped keep me humble, especially with television."
It's really easy to slip into that quote “celebrity lifestyle” I guess you can call it but I've tried to maintain humility and stay grounded. We're just people and this just happens to be what I do, but that doesn't make me any different than anyone else.
"You get up every morning from your alarm clock's warning Take the 8:15 into the city" - BTO
Truth is though, Lee is different. Beyond the lights and cameras, past the bike paddocks and adrenaline rush, Cristy remains devoted to family, true to her friends and hungry to continually be her best self.
“I believe there's always room for improvement” a humble Lee conveys. “There's always a better version of you out there and it doesn't have to be focused in one area or one direction. I can be a better friend, better daughter, better dog mom, better TV host, coworker etc.
The minute you stop working on being better is the minute you accept complacency and that's not acceptable to me.” Clearly for Cristy, better is not something you wish for, it's something you become.
"I like to think I'm a pretty chill, fun person. I like dogs, I like pizza and I LOVE classic rock! I'm really and old soul." "I'm pretty sure" says Lee, "I should have been a young adult through the '70's. Don't get me wrong, I love technology and I'm glued to my phone, but back then in my opinion, would have been much more conducive to my personality! So yeah 70s classic rock whether it be Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Bad Company, Chicago, Boston, Foreigner... all that stuff is great!"
Admittedly, Cristy confesses that she loves "almost" all music. "It's really important to me, so yes classic is my go to jam but I really true love everything I'm even more recently reintroduced to country because I was into that for so long but I pretty much listen to all of it because I love music in general.
And does she sing? "Hell Yes!"
"I have no shame whatsoever! I sing in my car, I sing at the gym, hell I sing out loud at the gym! I don't care, my threshold of embarrassment doesn't exist and I don't get easily embarrassed so I'll even sing out loud at the grocery store. I may not be wailing but it doesn't bother me to do so!"
"I looked out this morning and the sun was gone Turned on some music to start my day I lost myself in a familiar song
I closed my eyes and I slipped away"- Boston
With a full slate of work before her, Cristy again credits her parents with teaching her much needed time management skills. "I love being in the garage with the guys on Garage Squad and my time with some really amazing women on "All Girls"" says Lee, "but I also love personal time with family and friends."
With Cristy Lee you get someone whose word means something and the friend that you want to be. Hard working and honest, fun loving and loyal, dedicated and committed.
A virtual cross country adventure with someone who always makes the trip better and maybe, just maybe, will one day high five a T-Rex.
Copyright © 2020 JP Emerson All Rights Reserved.