If you met Lisa Kelly out on the street (and you didn’t know who she was), you’d probably have a hard time believing what she does for a living. As an attractive and obviously intelligent young woman, she doesn’t fit the stereotypical image of a truck driver that most people have in their minds. But that’s a good thing! Truck driving, although still a male-dominated industry, is a profession suited to both men and women, and we can thank the show Ice Road Truckers for helping revamp their image. The cast of this show, however, goes behind just ordinary truck driving. Their area of expertise is much more dangerous as they specialize in hauling massive loads over snow covered roads and sometimes even frozen lakes, risking their lives to deliver goods and materials to those who need them.
Not only is Lisa an excellent driver and a huge draw for the show, but she’s also using her celebrity to help other women who find themselves in similar male-dominated work environments. If you’ve ever wanted to know more about this IRT star now is the time – here are 15 things we bet you didn’t know about this ice road trucking beauty.
15. She Was The Star Of IRT: Deadliest Roads
IRT: Deadliest Roads was not for the faint of heart – and that goes for viewers and drivers alike! In this spin-off series, Rick Yemm, Alex Debogorski, and Lisa Kelly traveled to India, where they put their skills to the ultimate test – taking trucks along narrow and often crowded mountain passes between Delhi to Shimla. The sheer drop-offs and terrifying conditions were too much for Alex, who quit during the very first episode and was replaced by Dave Redmon. During the finale, the drivers needed to deliver a load of jet fuel for rescue helicopter crews, but Dave and Rick felt the road was too dangerous and turned back. The next day Lisa Kelly stepped in and delivered the entire shipment herself and in doing so became the only North American trucker to complete the entire season.
14. She Was The Only Female Driver On The Show Until Season 5
When IRT first began there were no female drivers on the show until season 3 when then 28-year old Lisa Kelly joined the team. Back then Lisa stated that she was trying to make enough money to buy back a beloved horse that she was forced to sell – a goal she later accomplished. There wasn’t another woman on the show until Maya Sieber, a resident of New York with three years of experience joined the show in season 5 but she only lasted for one season. Then in season 10 Stephanie “Steph” Custance, a 22-year-old with very limited driving experience joined the cast and quickly became a firm fan favorite. But while other drivers came and went Lisa managed to stick it out and that’s why fans of the show can’t get enough of her.
13. She’s A College Dropout
Dropping out of college can be a risky move, but plenty of people have done it and still managed to achieve success. Lisa Kelly is one of them. When she was six years old her parents moved from Grand Rapids, Michigan to Alaska where she grew up on a small farm. After completing high school, she returned to Michigan to attend Cornerstone University but after just one semester, she decided that the academic life was not for her and she quit. While it probably seemed like a foolhardy decision at the time, in this case, it worked out perfectly. Lisa was then able to follow her own dream and just look what she’s managed to achieve. Proof that sometimes you just need to be yourself and follow your heart.
12. Why She Had To Take A Break From The Show
Lisa is easily one of the most popular drivers on the show so when she didn’t appear in the sixth season of IRT, her fans were concerned and started asking questions. But it turned out that Lisa had just decided that she needed a break from the show. She felt as though she needed to get “grounded” again so instead of filming she decided to spend some time alone with her family at home. And that’s understandable. Trucking on icy roads is a tough enough job and when you start throwing reality TV into the mix, with camera’s filming your every move and invading your privacy, it can get messy. Lisa has had to come to terms with her newfound fame too, but after her break, it looks like she’s going strong.
11. She Decided To Become A Trucker Because It “Looked Interesting”
For most people finding a career that they enjoy isn’t an easy road. Often you’ll end up trying a number of different jobs before you find something that fits and that can take years. Lisa Kelly had a few jobs before she decided to try her hand in the world of trucking and she said she chose this difficult job because it “looked interesting”. But becoming a trucker and becoming a respected trucker are two different things and Lisa had to work her butt off to get to where she is today. As a woman she’s proud of this achievement and rightly so. “I had to work twice as hard,” she said. “I had to pull my weight and everybody else’s and get the job done as fast, or faster”.
10. She Loves Dirt Biking
As you’ve probably already guessed Lisa was not your typical high school girl. While most of her friends were experimenting with outfits and make-up Lisa found herself drawn to cars, bikes, and engines. She started motocross racing when she was a teen and took mechanical classes at school. These have paid off – we often see Lisa making minor repairs to her rig on the show and she makes it look so easy. Lisa is still an avid dirt bike rider and also enjoys riding horses, skydiving, hang gliding and snowboarding. She married Traves, a Aleut Native Alaskan in 2008 after dating for a number of years and he shares her passion for dirt biking. The couple have no children, but share their home with a small army of pets.
9. She Used To Drive A School Bus
Lisa says that one of her very first jobs as a teenager was delivering pizza and it was this job that made her realize that she didn’t want an office-bound career as an adult. As a young woman, she decided to try and get into trucking, but she knew that she needed training and experience to get there. So she signed on with a school bus company who paid for her training. This also helped her get the much-needed experience that she would one day need out on the ice roads. She ended up driving a school bus for more than a year but admits that it was a tough job to drive and babysit at the same time. “I couldn’t wait ’til my freight didn’t scream anymore,” she said.
8. She Feels That She’s Proven Herself
Lisa is well-grounded and doesn’t feel like she needs to prove herself to anyone anymore. She says: “I’ve already proved myself to the guys in Alaska because I’ve been driving for six or seven years. They already know I can drive, but when the cameras are on, I have to reprove it to the world. It’s a story. You can’t just drive down a road, driving, so you build on a story. I would like the respect of the guys up there, but not to extent that I sometimes play, because I’m trying to make an interesting story. I do want their respect, but I mostly already have it. I’m proving myself to the camera. But when the cameras aren’t there, I just truck. I don’t worry too much about it.”
7. IRT Cast Members Are Among The Lowest Paid Reality TV Stars
Thom Beers is the man responsible for bringing us shows like Deadliest Catch, Storage Wars, Ax Men, and of course – Ice Road Truckers. His shows often feature blue-collar workers and the formula hasn’t seemed to fail him yet. After a hard day’s work, it seems people want nothing more than to sit down and… well…watch someone else work. But Beers believes that in order to keep the stars of the show (like Lisa) relatable for the viewers they can’t be paid too much and on average the stars of IRT are among the lowest paid reality stars in the business. Beers controls what they earn by locking them into multiyear contracts; that way, even if the show is successful he doesn’t need to pay them more. But there’s no need to worry about Lisa Kelly – she’s still rocking a net worth of about $500 000.
6. How She Feels About The Way She Is Portrayed On The Show
You shouldn’t believe everything that you see just because it comes with the “reality TV” label. That was the warning that IRT driver Rick Yemm gave fans during a 2012 interview. He claimed that the show is heavily edited to make drivers appear very different to how they actually are and he felt that the way he was portrayed was quite damaging in the long run. But that’s the chance you take when you agree to appear on shows like this isn’t it? Lisa Kelly on the other hand doesn’t seem to have an issue with the TV version of herself. When asked about it, she said: “It’s really hard to put out every aspect of my personality on TV in few minutes but for the most part I’m as real as I can be. I’m not faking anything. What comes across is the edited version, but more or less, yes.”
5. She’s Over The Haters
Working in a male-dominated industry and being a reality TV show star at the same time wouldn’t be easy for anyone but thankfully Lisa has a thick skin when it comes to negative feedback. She’s got loads of fans, but there are always going to be haters so how does she cope when she hears other drivers talking badly about her? Well, she takes it in her stride. When asked how she felt after other truckers dissed her over the CB radio during one of the early seasons she said: “I was disappointed. The guys must think I live behind a screen and I’m not out there trucking with them. It’s disappointing when you find out somebody doesn’t like you, but that’s all right. Life goes on. I can get over it.”
4. She’s Flown With The Blue Angels
We know that Lisa loves all things exciting, but what could possibly make your heart race faster than crossing a frozen lake with a heavily loaded truck? Maybe flying in an F-18? Well, that’s exactly what she did!
A few years ago Lisa was lucky enough to realize one of her life-long dreams – flying with the Blue Angels. Just in case you don’t know who they are (really?) – they are the United States Navy’s flight demonstration squadron – famed for their absolutely tip-top flying skills. Since they formed in 1946 they’ve flown for more than 260 million spectators, but Lisa got to take it one step further and actually fly with them in the plane. “We flew upside down,” she said. “And I’m like hanging from my seatbelt dangling upside down looking at the canopy. We would go straight up and spin and it looks like the sun is just going around the nose of it.” Wow – now that’s a once in a lifetime experience!
3. Her Pet Peeves While Driving
What are your pet peeves when it comes to other drivers? Do you get annoyed when people text or talk on their phone instead of paying attention to the road? Maybe it’s the small things that irritate you – like when someone neglects to use their indicators when making a turn?
Lisa has been driving trucks for more than a decade and has driven all over the world so does she have any pet peeves? Well according to her she’s pretty chilled about other drivers, but if she’s really tired she can still get annoyed. She says she hates it when someone purposefully messes around with her on the road, like if they overtake her and then crawl in front of her. She says she just wants to do her job and get home and that kind of behavior drives her crazy.
2. Darrell Ward Was Like A Big Brother To Her
Lisa Kelly and Darrell Ward were a perfect pairing and the fans loved to watch them work and interact together. Shortly before he tragically died in a plane crash Lisa attended the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas and spoke with “Truckers News” Editor David Hollis about her working relationship with Ward and it was obvious that she had the world of respect for him. She told Hollis that working with Darrel was great and that he “was a kid at heart” and “like a big brother to her”. Tragically, just two days after this interview was filmed Darrel died after the small plane he had been traveling in crashed in Montana. He was 52 years old. The show has never really been the same since.
1. She Believes The Show Is Helping Revive The Image Of Truck Drivers
Ice Road Truckers has helped to improve the image of truck drivers, which became very tainted in the 1990s. Thanks to the show people are getting to see the hard-working men and women in the industry and Lisa couldn’t be more thrilled about this trucking revival and its impact on the industry. When asked how she thought the show was changing the way people view truckers she said: “I think the show has definitely contributed to the awareness of truck driving because you know a truck driver’s a truck driver right and then pretty soon that’s what moves America and people are realizing it. A lot of people come up to me and say ‘I didn’t even know what you did or that it even existed until I saw the show.’”
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