In the second part of BLIX.GG’s interview with League of Legends caster and analyst Athena “Kitty” Jiang, she covers her experience working in the 2022 Mid-Season Invitational and offers a brief career retrospective regarding her contribution to women in esports. The first part of the interview can be found here.
Appearing in MSI 2022
Pedro Romero, BLIX.GG: Anxiety is one thing that you experienced a lot of throughout your life and not just in your career. For you specifically, how did you adjust yourself in a way that didn't allow anxiety to hamper your work as much as it used to and thus enable you to become as good a worker as you are right now?
Athena “Kitty” Jiang: When I first started in the LCO, it was my first time ever working on a broadcast with no previous broadcasting experience. I was only doing interviewing work at that time and it was also remote so it wasn't as tough as being in a studio. Obviously, you're going to be talking to people face-to-face and you have a lot more things to work with, whereas on remote, you're just in the comfort of your own home sitting around the things that you're most familiar with. When I first started out, I was still super nervous. There is this meme about how I did an interview with a player and it got labeled as an NPC conversation but that's just how awkward and nervous I was as a 19-year-old starting out in the field.
I believe my first big appearance in LoL esports was MSI 2022 and that was genuinely scary because I got told maybe two days prior through DMs that there is an opportunity for me to be on the big screen to explain the team representing OCE. I was just thrown in there for two days of notice and one day of prep. I wanted it to be memorable and I wanted to chuck some fire out because why not? I said "NA? More like never advance. And EU? Well, they're essentially useless." That was my final line and I'm out of MSI but I remembered just hanging up on the call and my hands were shaking. I had so many people messaging me about how they saw me on MSI and they didn't know about it. I was shaking with my fingers trying to type back to them and it was just such a surreal experience.
I've been following the LoL scene ever since I was 14 and I finally got to be on MSI, which was so unexpected, so that was probably the most anxiety I've ever felt as a talent. However, since I had that experience on MSI, and in transitioning into the LPL, I was somewhat nervous while starting my first day there, but with all the previous experiences I've gathered, especially from in-person events like DreamHack where I'm holding a microphone in front of hundreds of people, it's definitely helped with the whole anxiety situation. My personality from high school was definitely an introvert, but ever since picking up this job as a broadcaster, I have become the biggest extrovert, to say the least.
Read More: In case you missed it, check out the first part of this interview
BLIX: What was the thought process behind making that phrase before your MSI cameo finished?
Kitty: Obviously, the line was a pretty big roast to the two major regions of NA and EU, but I wanted to give them a little job since we've had a lot of players from OCE getting picked up by a lot of these NA teams like Fudge, FBI, Lost, Haeri, and Eyla. And with the rivalry, I just wanted it to bring even more of the intensity between EU and NA. I know that a lot of these fans are very patriotic with their own regions, and in going up against them in the play-in stage, I wanted to make a bit of chaos and narrative for the casters to work off with.
Reflecting on career
BLIX: Was there a moment in time in which you felt comfortable enough to do your work from then onwards?
Kitty: The most interesting thing about that is I kind of got involved in the esports scene by being a streamer. I've been Challenger since I was 14 and I always wanted to share my ranked experience with some viewers that have always been telling me about streaming my games. I started streaming when I was still in high school--I believe 2019--and I enjoyed doing it a lot. I was even streaming throughout my HSC [Higher School Certificate] exam. I finally got into a university studying media and psychology and since it was COVID, I was spending so much time online streaming, and since OPL was getting rebranded into LCO, they were looking for co-streamers.
I believe a Twitch staff member reached out and said that they would support me by putting me on the front page. That was the first time my channel really blew up, but since then, I've been trying to balance streaming and casting because I love both and I don't want to drop either. Will there be a day when I just stopped casting? Probably. And what would be my next step? I would just full-time stream because I think the whole boost from LPL and how everyone has been has been showing me a lot of support and love, I want to continue this brand that I built for myself through streaming.
BLIX: Who would you say is your favorite person to talk to you when it comes to doing interviews or segments for broadcasts?
Kitty: I'll stick to LCO because I haven't interviewed any players for the LPL. My favorite interviewee has to be--oh my God, there are so many good ones. I can't choose. It's like choosing your favorite child. It has to be BioPanther because he's just such a good listener, he gives a lot of amazing responses as well, and he's such a sweet boy.
BLIX: Is there a series at an event in which you can point towards and say, "This is quintessential Kitty, this is who I want to be all the time in broadcasts?"
Kitty: I think the most memorable work, or I guess you would say "prime Kitty" must have been DreamHack 2022 where we were working on the [LCO] finals. I think the confidence I had being in front of a live crowd really fueled me to become the best version of myself. And that was also my first time in front of a live crowd so doing these in-person events is pretty much addicting. That's one of the biggest reasons why a lot of these casters do what they do. When something hype happens in the stage, the audience's yelling and cheering quite literally makes the ground shake and that type of excitement you see fuels you to do even more.
BLIX: To have that enlivened emotion in working in DramHack despite it being the first time you were in an in-person event, did that surprise you in any way since you built your career from working remotely and creating content?
Kitty: I remember, with Max [Maximus "Maximize" Yaremenko], we're pretty much around the same age. We were both 19-20 year-olds when it was DreamHack 2022 and I remember both of us sneaking onto the stage before the show maybe 10 minutes prior and we saw the live audience. We were just like, "Oh my God, it's actually happening. This is real. This is a live event," and it was just so exciting. And COVID was finally dying down as well. It was a huge, I would say, milestone in my life.
BLIX: For you to have started your career in creating content and streaming to now working in two big regions within LoL esports, did you ever think you would be able to be in this position when you started out?
Kitty: No, I would have never imagined working in the casting industry because I believe there's an interview of me floating on YouTube. It was a content creator profile where the LCO interviewed me back in 2021. I remember my line in that video was that "the opportunity to co-stream the LCO definitely opened up a curiosity and inspiration to become a caster," because, when I co-stream, it's kind of like I'm casting the games. Ever since joining the LCO broadcast in 2022, it was all uphill from there. I'm so grateful that I was given this opportunity to become a caster for LPL and LCO and that I get to work in the game that I'm most passionate about and that I get to talk about every single day and that people enjoy what I have to say about this game.
BLIX: We're seeing more women in esports trying their hand at casting and commentating in recent years including yourself. From your perspective, how do you view your contribution to women in esports at this moment in time? Also, how would you want people to look at your career and all the things you've done up until now?
Kitty: Being of Chinese descent and being fluent in both English and Mandarin, I take pride in being both Chinese and Australian, so when it comes to me being a caster in the LoL scene, especially being a color caster which you don't see very often for women in this industry, I take pride in my work. I also want to encourage all the other inspiring female and amateur casters to know that you can make it to this position in a major region. When it comes to the casting table, and there are people that do have a very big passion for the game who want to make it there one day, Riot is taking in the correct decision by including a lot of diversity and I'm really happy to be a person of color on the LPL English broadcast representing women in esports. I get to work with all these big names that have been supporting women for so long, like Sjokz, Yushang, and Ovilee as well.