Google the word ‘spinning,’ and thousands of search results will appear – ranging from spin-bowlers to home stationary bike training and gym-studio cycling. But type in ‘Spinning in South Africa’ and the first name you will see is Stacey-Lee May, A.K.A ‘The Queen of Smoke’. A title nickname her mother gave her when she won the ‘Kings and Queens of Smoke’ spinning competition’ – four years consecutively. Registered as an official motor-sport with Motor Sport South Africa, ‘Spinning,’ by simple definition is getting your car into a drift-pirouette, as the car spirals, the driver climbs out of the driver-seat onto the door, the roof, or the bonnet and performs some death defying acrobatic stunts – accompanied by a tornado of tyre smoke and a frenzy of cheering spectators.
Originating from South Africa, Spinning is said to have started in the 1980’s, a bygone of the apartheid era, of which spinning was a ritual art-form of defiance: the proverbial middle-finger shoved-up the nose of the racist government regime. To the less informed, spinning is still unfortunately associated with rebellious teens, the criminal underworld and gangsterism among local townships but that is until you meet Stacey-Lee May – the world’s first female Spinner. A modern-day advocate for the sport, an icon, the most recognizable figure in 360° and side-ways car culture in S.A – Stacey is the best-of-the-best. I have never met Stacey in person…just a mere telephonic interview…she is softly spoken, a gentle soul, humble and conversational yet with a demure courage of conviction, a contempt for injustice and the die-hard determination to finish strong. Graciously defiant of gender bias and social stigmas – albeit bullied at school – Stacey refuses to allow anything nor anyone to define her limits. Instead she pushes the limits and regardless of the obstacles she may be facing at that present time: behind the wheel of her e30 BMW 325i customised Spinning machine – she is fearless! Within a time-frame of six years, Stacey has gone from the shy little girl from Eldorado Park to an internationally acclaimed drift-spinner. In 2018, Stacey Lee-May was nominated for the Netflix extravaganza reality show competition, Hyperdrive, held in New York City U.S.A. However, during the qualifying round, the Walk on Water obstacle ceased the engine of her Pink BMW 325i – forcing Stacey to retire early from the competition. Her father sold his tow-truck to cover the plane ticket for her to attend the Hyperdrive competition, it was that heart-breaking scene where I closed the series and never again watched another episode of Hyperdrive. Nonetheless, Stacey grabbed the attention of international sponsor Monster Racing, she has filmed dozens of commercials, music videos, was featured in Top Gear SA, The Grand Tour, the U.K documentary Vice, competes in the Supadrift series and performed at the Mountain Dew Moto Extreme stunt show in the Islamabad capital of Pakistan – where she spent two months.
In recognition of her achievements in a male-dominated sport/industry – Stacey won the Gauteng Woman of Honour Award and was a feature inspiration in the ‘All The Stories Are True’ Converse campaign. Currently Stacey is studying law, runs a community soup kitchen, as well as an annual winter drive delivering blankets and non-perishables to the underprivileged. In honour of her late grandmother’s fight against breast cancer, her activism for Breast Cancer Awareness and solidarity for women battling the disease – Stacey had her BMW both sprayed and upholstered in deep pink. In the meantime, Stacey continues with her call to grow the sport of spinning, likewise be a positive role-model to the youth of South Africa and empower women to rise-up, be fearless, in the male-dominated arena of motorsport.
Written by Dean Joseph