Katherine Legge, Only Female Driver in Indy 500, Wants to Be the Best 'Regardless of Gender' (Exclusive)
"I'm a normal person following my dreams, just like anybody else is," Legge tells PEOPLE exclusively
Katherine Legge makes an important point as the only female driver in the upcoming Indy 500: "The car doesn't know the difference, but people do."
Legge, 42, will be making her third appearance — and first in 10 years — in the iconic race on May 28. But despite the Indy 500's 112-year history, she's just the ninth woman to ever hit the track.
Growing up in England, Legge, 42, tells PEOPLE she was inspired to follow her dreams when she heard about a woman Ellen MacArthur. "She was the first woman to single-handedly sail around the world. I just thought that was the coolest thing ever."
In 2005, MacArthur spent 71 days alone at sea and became the fastest solo sailor to sail around the world, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
Legge explains that as a female athlete in a male-driven sport, she looks to women like MacArthur for inspiration, and hopes others — regardless of their sport — do the same with her. "You don't necessarily have to follow racing to be inspired by another person's strength, tenacity and groundbreaking moment."
After she came to the United States, Legge discovered Sarah Fisher, who was driving IndyCar at the time. "Before her, there was Janet Guthrie and Lyn St. James, who kind of broke that glass ceiling in a time when ladies weren't even allowed in the pits," says Legge. "They weren't even allowed next to the cars."
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Guthrie became the first woman to compete in the race in 1977.
Now, Legge inspires a new generation of women. She says, "I'm a normal person following my dreams, just like anybody else is, right? My dreams are a bit different, maybe, to a lot of people. But in the same vein, I'm out here trying to do the best job that I can do regardless of gender and regardless of all the other stuff."
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"I'm trying to encourage more women to get into racing if that's what they want to do," she says. "If you can see it, you can be it. Right? And so while the car doesn't know the difference, the people do and it gives them somebody to cheer for because they can relate to me."
When she races in the upcoming Indy 500, Legge's helmet and car will feature e.l.f. Skin's logo, which is "groundbreaking" in the sport, says Legge. "I've never had any kind of cosmetic or skincare sponsor before, and now we're partnering with e.l.f. I think it's it's really special."
She explains, "Normally in racing, you partner with companies that are very male-oriented, but the times are changing."
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The female-driven innovation isn't the only thing Legge appreciates about the cosmetics brand.
"For me especially, I feel very passionately about e.l.f. and their values. I love that they're all animal cruelty-free because I'm vegan. I love that they support and empower women and I love that they embrace the fact that life gets messy and it's complicated, and that's okay. You can take time for yourself and it speaks to me on so many levels because my life is incredibly crazy and messy, yet I'm still out here kicking butt."
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