As It Happens

Friend of trailblazing stuntwoman SJ Harris says she 'died doing what she loved'

SJ Harris, the first professional African-American female road racer in the United States, died Monday on the set of Deadpool 2.
Joi (SJ) Harris died in a motorcycle crash on Monday while filming a stunt for the film Deadpool 2. (SJ Harris/Instagram )

Story transcript

On Monday, Joi (SJ) Harris died while performing a stunt on the set of Deadpool 2 in Vancouver. She was 40 years old. 

Harris is described as the first professional African-American female road racer in the United States licensed by the American Motorcycle Association.

As a trailblazer in the biking community, she was known for encouraging more women and African-Americans to take up racing.

Porsche Taylor, Harris' manager and the editor of Black Girls Ride Magazine, spoke with As It Happens guest host Mike Finnerty‏ about her friend's legacy. Here is part of their conversation.​

When was the last time you got a chance to speak to SJ?

I got a chance to speak to SJ Saturday. We talked extensively about her time in Vancouver. She was having an awesome time on the film set and just everyone was treating her incredible and she was excited to be a part of the production.

Porsche Taylor says SJ Harris' legacy will be that she 'inspires women to ride outside of their comfort zone.' (Porsche Taylor/Facebook)

This was a big opportunity for her.

Absolutely. This was a chance of a lifetime for her and she was ready and focused and raring to go.

How often had she had a proper stuntwoman job?

This was SJ's first stuntwoman job. But she was more than capable of doing any types of stunts. She's a professional road racer and has extensive experience.

Why did she want to get into stunt performing?

She thought it would be a great avenue for her to advance her career into a new direction. She loved being a road racer and was super excited about trailblazing in another direction. That's what she was all about.

Can you tell us a little bit about her path to roadracing, because she's quoted in your magazine in 2015 saying, "I am everything people never saw in this sport."

SJ began road racing when she took classes because she wanted to enhance her skill level on the streets of New York City. For her, whenever their was something she was interested in she would always do a ton of research and learn everything she could about it.

And once she got on the track, she fell in love with it. And she was surprised that there weren't very many women who were racing and no women of colour, or no African-American women, in particular. And she was excited to be able to break some new ground in that way.

What did she like about it?

She loved competing. SJ was super competitive on the track. And the thing about road racing ... it's gender-neutral. So she would race with men as well as women — and often give as good as she got. So it's her competitive spirit always wanting to get better and get her skill set better.

Speed is also a part of it. She loved speed. She loved to lean in the turns and she loved the strategy of road racing.

She did blog about the speed and how much she did love it. And she seemed to know that that came with some risks.

Yeah, absolutely. She was excited to be a racer. And she knew that racing, stunting and all of those types of careers come with inherent dangers. But, you know, she's very proud of what she was able to accomplish, and fearless.

What was she like to hang out with?

SJ was a beautiful, beautiful person. Beautiful spirit. She's got an infectious laugh, a bubbly personality and, really, to know her was to love her.

What do you think her legacy is?

I think her legacy is one of a trailblazer, one of an inspirational figure in motor sports, someone who inspires women to ride outside of their comfort zone.

There must be at least some solace that in her death, she continues to inspire?

I think that the one thing that we can all hold onto is that SJ was living her dream and she died doing what she loved.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. For more, listen to our conversation with Porsche Taylor.

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