You may have noticed that the EU LCS has had a new face gracing its crew, in addition to Eefje "Sjokz" Depoortere, Maurice "Amazing" Stückenschneider and the caster desk. Laure Valée, O'Gaming's analyst desk host and the post-game interviewer from the 2017 Summer Finals in Paris, has been guesting the EU LCS in recent weeks and will be for some time to come. We managed to catch up with her to get an idea of who the newest addition to the LCS family is, and what it's like going from local, to global.
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So you've recently joined LCS as their new post-game interviewer, but before this you used to be on the French cast. While the French scene is quite large as we witnessed in Paris, how intimidating has it been moving from that to what is essentially the global scene with the LCS, in a different language no less?
I've wanted to do this ever since I started four years ago. Everything I've done so far has been to get me to this spot, and now that I'm finally here, I'm completely freaking out, you know? I'm surrounded by all these amazingly talented people but also very intimidating people, who are incredibly good at what they do. I mean just the way they train and prepare for things, it's hard not to be intimidated.
I always thought that I was a hard worker, but this is a whole other level, and I absolutely feel I have to match the bar they've raised. So yeah it's really difficult at the moment but everyone is super helpful in every way. I've told them to hit me as hard as they can with feedback, which they are, so I'm trying to absorb all this and learn. I think it's going OK and I'm happy that I'll be given a chance to come back again in two weeks, so I'm pretty much just trying my very best to get on the same level as everyone else as fast as possible.
Everything I've done so far has been to get me to this spot, and now that I'm finally here, I'm completely freaking out, you know?
But it's daunting because it's nothing like what I did before. In France, I was hosting the analyst desk in a very small studio, and I'm surrounded by my friends. They're practically family. But here even though everyone is super nice I don't really know them the same except for Sjokz, you know? She's always been good to me. I always talk to her on Twitter and things like that and she's been really helpful, but it's not the same family feeling that I have with O'Gaming in Paris. So I've had to leave my comfort zone in order to embrace this fully. It's a bit scary but I'm so excited!
Well running with that then, It's quite clear that Sjokz has her eye on you. There's this direction where she's very clearly going, “This girl's got talent, let's put her out there and see what happens”. When did this start?
Heh, yeah that's funny. I think it was… Ok, so last year I was working in television. It was a show about esports, back in January I think it was, and we were discussing which guests we wanted to come on the show because every month we’d bring in a special guest to talk about the state of esports. So production approaches me and says “Hey, what about Sjokz? She speaks French, we should invite her to the desk!” and I was like, "OK sure, I think I have her email I'll try reaching out to her."
I knew Becca back then [Becca is the glue behind the scenes in terms of media and communications at Riot and easily our favourite person — Ed.] and I knew that if I could get Becca on board with the idea, then Sjokz would probably be on board too, and she was. She accepted, she flew to France and because I was the only person that she kind of knew we talked a lot before the show, and we've kind of kept talking ever since. When I came to Berlin a couple of times after that, because I also worked for the French LoLesports department, we just kept talking.
That's also why when Paris came up [Summer Finals — Ed.] I went out to Sjokz and said “I really want to do these interviews, can you make them look my way when they're looking for a hostess?” and she was like, "Of course". From there on everything just started snowballing really fast.
I was actually going to ask you about that. Because let's be real here, we have to talk about Paris. The crowd, the venue, standing there in the middle of it all that must have been insane. And I mean one thing is Romain [former Unicorns of Love manager — Ed.], he's used to it. I don't think you could actually put him near a stage without him gravitating towards it, so him running around being very French, we all kind of expected that.
But you were also on that stage, which has to be a massive difference from the studio you're used to. It's one thing being in front of a camera but standing in front of an audience like that, what was that like? How do you prepare for an experience like that for the first time?
It was actually the first time I did stage work...
Yeah, I’d never done anything like that before. The only other time I've been near a stage was when I was 13 when I took theatre classes, but that was small scale with my parents in the audience and like 50 people in total.
This… This was something else. So how do you process? In my case, I just pretty much freaked out for about three weeks. Like sheer panic from the moment they told me I'd be doing it. The producers were actually concerned that I would choke on stage, which obviously only intensified my anxiety. I actually took private classes leading up to it, to help me deal with stage stress. I figured that since I've never done this before I didn't know how I was going to react, and I wanted to be prepared. But then once we got to rehearsal day, like the day before the show, my time for rehearsal was actually cancelled. It turns out we didn't have time to do my bit because everyone was so focused on the French guys doing the opening, that everything else got pushed. So I didn't even get to practice once. Anyway, I get there the next day, I think it was Friday, with zero prep on stage, I mean at this point I'd never even stood on it. Yeah, I was terrified.
In my case, I just pretty much freaked out for about three weeks. Like sheer panic from the moment they told me I'd be doing it.
But then, I think, maybe I just got a bit lucky, because I walked up there listening to the crowd cheering and just feeling the energy in the room, and I loved it. This was home! And next to me I had sOAZ and Rekkles, the whole baguette thing which was really funny too, and all these people cheering. There was just so much energy coming off everyone, nothing could have prepared me for this. I had no idea how good that would feel. That's the moment when I realised why some people are drawn to stages like that. It's the best feeling I’ve ever had. Nothing compares to this. It’s so intense, and people just feed you raw energy. But it's also very overwhelming. The second I got off the stage, I was like, "What the fuck just happened?" It was almost like a blackout, or coming out of a trance.
But yeah, going up there, I prepped my questions in advance, like anything I could anticipate I would anticipate. I had multiple questions written down from multiple angles. I wanted to have all the elements that I could control sorted before I went in there. So yeah in regards to how to prep for something like this, I treated it like an exam.
Well, that's actually quite interesting because you're touching upon something that I don't think many people realise. The many elements of hard work, and preparation that goes into this. You mentioned theatre class just before. Does that mean you've always known that you wanted to end up in front of people?
Uhm, actually, my original plan was I wanted to be an auctioneer.
You have got to be kidding me...
No, no, hear me out. I mean in a way, I would have still stood in front of people you know? Sure, instead of asking interesting questions I'd be saying things like “Sold” and stuff, but is not that different. The funny thing is actually that my family always told me that I wanted to be where the spotlight was and I always said I don't want attention, I just want to sell art! But yeah, I guess they knew me better than I did.
It was almost like a blackout, or coming out of a trance.
You just want to sell art? That's literally the Frenchest thing I've ever heard in my life. But OK, work with me here. How does one go from dreams of being an auctioneer to interviewing League of Legends players? I'm struggling to make the connection, how does that jump even happen?
Heh, well, when I finished high school, I started studying art, but after about two years of that, I got really bored with it. I mean I love art, but I realised I wouldn't love doing this for the rest of my life. I used to really love going to museums looking at it all the time, but while I was studying it I've started to despise going to museums so I realised I had to stop before it ruined something that I care very much about.
The other thing I had considered doing after I left high school was becoming a journalist. So my reasoning was, "Well, I'm clearly not going to work with art, so I might as well become a journalist." This was also around the time where I started getting interested in esports and in particular League of Legends. The logic from here was quite straightforward: I was going to start school next year so I may as well train writing articles about things that I was really passionate about because I needed the practice and it's always easier to write about things you can't help but write about.
Like so many other people who are lucky enough to work with what they love, it initially started as something I was just doing for fun while preparing for a “real job”, but I was really lucky and got some chances that many probably don't. I was very fortunate to be helped early on by Thomas "Zaboutine" Si-Hassen, who used to be a caster at O'Gaming and is now the coach of OpTic Gaming. I was hanging out at the studio one day, just writing my articles. I was the editor of the O'Gaming website at the time.
Anyway, Zaboutine comes up to me and says “Right, everyone is on vacation we need a caster, so come cast a game”. I admit, my reaction was something along the lines of “Shut the fuck up, no way!”. But he forced me to do it and to this day, I'm really thankful. Sure, I freaked out when he said it and yes my casting was, well, bad. As in, it was awful and he had me do three games, which was easily the worst memory of my life. But at the same time, it was what made them notice me so I was asked to host the analyst desk instead.
Let’s not be naive here, it is a thing. You need to try hard and in case of being a woman you sometimes need to try harder, because people are going to question whether you belong.
I started hosting in 2016 and everyone really liked it, and I began liking it too, even though it's difficult to sit and debate with people and then not be allowed to give your own opinion because that's not the job of the host. It's to have others give theirs. But yeah that's kind of how it all started.
Normally, the people I talk to are players or casters, and there's a lot of focus on how people become one or the other. The typical story behind any caster is that you simply didn't know how to shut up and behind every player — that they just couldn't stop playing. But your story is different. It’s a lot closer to the trajectory we also see with Sjokz. The normal path doesn't work for hosts or presenters. Until you're given the chance, there's nothing to host or present. There is no practice. There's also not a lot of focus on how people get said chance or how they prepare themselves for it when it happens. If you were to part with a single piece of advice for anyone who would try their hand at this particular role within the esport industry, what would it be?
Work hard. I mean honestly, we could stop there. That's the most important part. This is especially true if you're a woman. That's not something I normally say, because of all the crap you’re usually met with if you bring it up. It can sound like excuses and as though you want sympathy. I don’t want that role, but the fact remains. Let’s not be naive here, it is a thing. You need to try hard and in case of being a woman you sometimes need to try harder, because people are going to question whether you belong here.
Having said that, if you keep working at it and if you are good enough, then eventually something will pay off. The secret is long hours. Like, really long hours… Oh! And no pay! I think I spent two and a half years as a student living with my ex-boyfriend, not getting paid, barely eating, trying to use no money because I wasn't getting any... And yeah, now it's finally starting to pay off. But it's because I always work for it. My spare time, my work time, everything was put into making this happen.