Rooks, newly 31, grew up in the Gwinnett County suburbs of Georgia, where, as she puts it, “You either watched football or you moved up north.” Of course, she wound up doing both. “I’ve always felt like life was bigger than where I was,” she says. “And sports and talking to people is a thing that I loved and felt like could be a vehicle to show me.”
She majored in broadcast journalism at University of Illinois and began working at Bleacher Report and Turner Sports. Over time, The Taylor Rooks Interview slowly but surely grew into its own category. The path to becoming a destination interviewer, she explains, is simple: show and prove. You need to land one good subject, and then—she says with steely determination—“You have to crush it. Body it.”
She’d use each new interview as a calling card to cold DM potential subjects—everyone from Snoop Dogg to Jimmy Butler. Butler ignored (or, she generously offers, just didn’t see) her initial message. She’s since interviewed him several times, and he sat down for the premiere of her Bleacher Report series, Take It There. (They played Spades; Rooks has the scorecard, upon which Butler wrote “Fuck You” after losing, framed in her apartment.)
She positions herself as both a journalist and a peer—someone who, unlike your traditional (older, whiter) beat reporter, understands something deeper about her subjects. “People feel like they’re talking to somebody who is relatable and familiar and—not ‘on their side,’ but [also] not going to fuck you over,” Rooks says. “I’m just going to ask you questions and you’re going to answer them how you want.” Her sitdowns sometimes have a way of seeming eerily prophetic—Bam Adebayo told her, at the start of the season, that he hates playing the Celtics. More often, they resonate for reasons extending far beyond sports. That Adebayo interview went viral because of the moving way the Heat star spoke about reconnecting with his estranged father, while a chat with Nets point guard Spencer Dinwiddie gained traction for its appeal for young men to check in with their elders.