Kat Stefankiewicz is recognized as more than just one of the city’s most familiar sports personalities. A Burlington native who now calls Toronto home, her passion extends beyond the basketball court. Trained as a competitive dancer, Kat’s passion for performing began at a young age. A graduate of the renowned Music Theatre Performance program at Sheridan College, she started her career joining the Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment family in 2006 as a member of the Toronto Raptors Dance Pak. She dedicated her passion and choreography to the team for five seasons, standing as captain for three.
In 2009, she was asked to be the host of a new television show called Raptorspace marking the start of her transition into television. In the same year, she joined the NBA TV Canada family as a host and reporter covering the Toronto Raptors, NBA and events within the community. These roles opened up a slew of opportunities for Kat including being named as the in-game host of the Toronto Raptors as well as hosting a weekly show called The Raptors Rundown and Open Gym Fastbreak for Bell Media. Additionally, Kat has been credited in the film and television world making appearances in blockbuster films such as The Incredible Hulk and several commercials.Recognizing the importance of philanthropy, Kat supports charities that are close to her heart including the Canadian Cancer Society, the MS Society of Canada and mental health initiatives. Through her years with the Toronto Raptors, Kat is also heavily involved with the MLSE Foundation which provides backing for the refurbishment of local athletic facilities and funds charities that support kids through sports and recreational programs. When Kat is ‘off the clock’ she keeps on the move enjoying an active and healthy lifestyle as an avid runner, yoga enthusiast, recreational softball player, snowboarder and spin instructor at Toronto’s Spokehaus. She is also passionate about the great outdoors, traveling and seeking new adventures. To fuel her creative passion, Kat enjoys writing, photography, fashion, interior design, musical theatre and film.
We had a wonderful opportunity to chat with Kat! Check out the interview below.
Being a part of the NBA All-star weekend for the past two seasons (last season in New Orleans and the previous one here in Toronto for the first ever all-star game north of the border) has been one of the most exciting and rewarding moments of my career. It’s wild when one day you’re sitting on your couch as a kid watching the All-Star spectacle with wide eyes and a hopeful heart that you could one day be a part of something like that and then actually stepping into those dreams and putting energy into the show you sat in awe watching. The best of the best surround you; athletes, celebrities, entertainment and technical gurus and you come together as strangers to put on this show for the world. It was also both humbling and a lot of hard work. The amount of rehearsals trump the time it takes to perform the final product and it’s hard to make words of the incredible energy and passion you feel from everyone involved. I am grateful for the opportunity and felt proud to represent the outsiders from Canada, the Raptors. With our roster being represented well in New Orleans too, DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry both playing for the east, and many fans making the trip to the big easy, it was a special family type vibe, like we wanted to prove that we have something special up here in Toronto.
You have shattered stereotypes to achieve great things in the Sports Industry. What has been your inspiration?
I’ve just kind of always had that fighter’s mentality and liked the challenge of proving that you can conquer what some people may call unattainable, especially when you know that your heart is happiest there. When I decided to go to college for Music Theatre Performance many people lay criticism on the idea. Let’s be honest, the entertainment field is unfortunately not one with a high success rate and I often was asked the question, ‘what are you going to do with that diploma?’ I am so very grateful to have grown up in a family that supported me in my choices regarding my future. They believed that happiness trumped taking the easy path, even if that meant it took a little bit longer to get to the gold and so did I, and I’m a huge believer in practicing what you preach. So I continued following my heart’s calling, hustling and trusting the opportunities laid out in front of me which led me to where I am now in the sports world. It’s a one challenge at a time sort of path. And as much as one’s goal is advancement in their industry, it is just as important to me to be respected for what I contribute to the world and to enhance the lives of others in a positive way and this is where I have landed on that journey right now. I’m able to bring fans closer to their NBA heroes and bring a little feel good to their day. I love every moment of it and I love not knowing what tomorrow brings.
You have achieved so much in your career so far. What keeps you motivated?
I’ve found my happy place and I don’t want to lose it. It’s as simple as that. Who doesn’t want their days to make them jump out of bed before their alarm? And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have days where I just want to pull the covers over my head and ignore reality until I’m ready. I believe that everyone can make a career out of their passion and I believe that the perfectly imperfect days cater to success too. I’ll pause for a sweet moment to be satisfied when goals are met but that never overstays it’s welcome before I’m off chasing the next one. I do believe you need to have a certain personality to outlast this business. I also don’t love calling it a ‘business’. It’s an outlet for creative expression and giving back. I’m motivated from being given the opportunity that not everyone gets.
It’s so good to see you hosting and reporting such a high-profile sport. If you weren’t following this career path, what would you be doing?
I’ve always been a storyteller; it started as a dancer at six years old and now I speak into a microphone. And as I grow older, being able to share raw and vulnerable tales of life is something I crave, whether my own or that of others. I love being able to find the equality between humans no matter your age, status, cultural upbringing or location. There are always barriers to break and with the social media age, I don’t understand the trend of perfection or what society sing-songs as goals and if you follow me on social media, I often speak of this. When I was young, I wanted to be an animator for Disney or a doctor. My emotional stamina wouldn’t assist that of what doctors do, I get very attached to people and their needs and I highly respect the daily doings of medical professionals. Animators bring happiness into the lives of others through artistic expression which I guess is something I’m doing right now. I know I’m in the right place.
You have a love for being creative. What fuels your creativity? Are you currently working on any creative projects we should know about?
Creative expression is an addiction of mine. Daily encounters, like the way a person’s hat sits or the way a quote from the morning paper hits fuel my creativity. I’ve got my eyes wide open to the world. And the desire to find untouched territory fuels the need too. I have a lot of creative passions outside of the sports side of my life. Fashion, writing, photography, styling, decorating… they are all things that I crave. Currently, I am working on starting a personal YouTube channel. It’s nice to express yourself outside of the label the world gives you because of your career. Something along the lines of ‘life advice from an ordinary girl’. And that comes back to the importance of finding the relatable between humans for me and supporting that we are all in this together.
Is there any advice you would like to give to women entering the sport and entertainment industry?
I can happily say I believe that there is much more respect and support for women in this field these days. Watch a sports broadcast or tune into a game and you’re bound to see at least one boss woman standing her ground. When it comes to attacking the grind on the daily, I honestly feel like I’m still learning every day so that will be my first bit of advice: never stop learning. There is always someone better than you; let that drive you. Work hard and when you think you’re working hard enough, immerse yourself in your craft even more. Listen to advice from others but trust your gut when it comes to what you absorb. Socialize, network, but don’t be too pushy. And have a support system to tell you that you’re super badass and an idiot for quitting when you feel like quitting. Accept that you will feel like quitting. And then go for a run, punch your pillow, sleep it off, and get back to what made you choose this route in the first place because your heart led you here and you’ve got this, champ.
What is next for you?
You should ask someone else for me because I have no idea! That’s what I love about my life; every day is a different beast and I wouldn’t want it any other way. But confidence with age and experience have helped me trust the unpredictable nature of this business. I’m a sucker for the unpredictable. My goal is to continue telling stories, my own and that of others, to shed light on unshowcased unity. The type that is hidden and to provide a relatable understanding that you are like me and I am like you. I would also love to get back into theatre where I started, play a role in a film or TV show, design my own clothing line, eventually flip homes, write a column in a magazine and the list goes on. Maybe I’ll write a book! I want to do it all. Life is a blessing, through thick and thin, if you allow it to be.
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