Priscilla Lopes-Schliep. Canada’s supreme hurdler. She was a surprise bronze medalist at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. For the record, I called it, on Radio-Canada! The day before her race, on a steamy evening in August in Beijing, I said “don’t count out Priscilla for a medal!!” The look on her face when the results were posted on the jumbo screen at the Olympic stadium was sheer joy, absolute bliss, it was crystal clear Priscilla had just realized a dream.
Catching up with the Olympic medalist some 3 years later in Toronto at York University, the smile on her face is just a warm and contagious. This time, another dream is being realized, that of motherhood. Priscilla gave birth to a healthy 8 lbs, 1 ounce baby girl named Nataliya Ava on September 16. Happy to report, mom and baby are doing fine!
When I met with Priscilla she was 8 months pregnant. That didn’t stop her from heading out to the track everyday to workout. OK, power squats and sprinting over hurdles, not on the schedule during the late stages of her pregnancy but make no mistake about it, Priscilla still had the air of the world class athlete Canada knows and loves. Talking to Priscilla in August she knew she had less than a year to prep for the 2012 London Olympics but true to her stoic, competitive form she wasn’t going to allow that type of pressure to affect her plans of making the Canadian team and heading to London for another shot at yet another Olympic medal. Priscilla is completely determined to get back to racing and winning form in time for the Games.
The pregnancy, for Priscilla and her husband Bronsen, was a blessing. After undergoing surgery to remove a cyst on one of her ovaries in 2007 Priscilla thought she may experience difficulties conceiving, but the 5’4″ powerhouse beat the odds and is now a new mom. The 2010 world number one ranked hurdler knows the road back won’t be easy but watching her slow, yet deliberate cadence during a run and the thoroughness of her extended stretching routines, is a great indicator Priscilla is bound and determined to put in the work, deal with the challenges that come with being a world class athlete and mom and make her 2012 Olympic dreams come true. Speaking on my own experience as an amateur athlete who became a mom just over a year before the 1996 Olympics which I competed in, I can say that Priscilla’s athletic background is about to kick in and help her out big time! That’s the beauty of being a successful amateur athlete, hard work, wins and even losses, are all part of the process to becoming the best you can be.
What makes Priscilla so fascinating is her incredible intensity (you have to watch Priscilla just before the start of a race, fully immersed in the moment, complete focus) and her dazzling smile. The intensity says she’ll take on any challenge, set goals and see them through to the end. That wonderful smile says she’s in love with life and all of it’s possibilities.
Congratulations Priscilla! Go get ’em!
Trey Anthony. Actor, comedian, playwright, producer, CEO. Yep, Ms. Anthony’s got a lot of impressive titles, but at least one more must be added- juggernaut! Trey’s friends say, “don’t tell Trey no! She won’t accept the word!” In fact, after my interview with Trey on a steamy August day at the ENWAVE Theatre on Queen’s Quay in Toronto, I have to say, the word “no” just springs Trey into action. This tiny, she’s 5’3″- tops, theatrical dynamo packs a persuasive punch. Her laugh is infectious and her drive to get what she wants is undeniable.
While working as a producer at the then Women’s Television Network- now known as W- Trey was none too happy with the direction of her career, so she wrote a play, giving voice to the many different experiences of Canadian women of colour. That play, titled ‘Da Kink in my Hair’, went on to much acclaim, winning several NAACP image awards and played to sold out audiences at the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto in 2005. Then, in 2007, even though it would be the first time a Canadian Black woman would do so, Trey wrote, produced and starred in the TV version of ‘Da Kink in my Hair’ on Global. After a couple of groundbreaking years on the small screen followed by a disappointing cancellation of the show, Trey wasn’t ready to give up, she was ready to get back to the stage, saying she missed it’s intimacy and the immediate response from a very present audience.
This time around ‘Da Kink in my Hair’ is- believe it or not-bolder and broader, with musical scores and a range of characters every woman can identify with and every man has at least known. But the road back to the stage wasn’t easy. A whole bunch of folks said it wouldn’t work a second time around. What happens when Trey hears “no”?! That’s right! She turns that “no” into a yes! The petite playwright walked into the Toronto Dominion Bank, pitched her play in all it’s revamped glory and obtained the all important corporate funding which allows theatre in North America and particularly Canada to exist!
Another triumph for Trey! The play enjoyed an extended run at Enwave Theatre. Next stop for the woman who won’t take “no” for an answer? She heads stateside where she’ll showcase the play to thousands of theatre goers in the new year. Trey’s also working on a novel and she’s got her sights set on the small screen again, this time hosting her own talk show. If the show turns out to be anything like her pioneering play, the TV world is in for a treat filled with potent honesty and sweet, non stop laughter.
Time only makes Jordan Knight better! The New Kids on the Block lead singer is slim, fit enough to take on another world tour with NKOTBSB (New Kids on the Block and Backstreet Boys) and obviously has the endurance to last through the ’80’s,’90’s, and beyond! This spring Jordan launched his latest solo effort titled ‘Unfinished’. He told me the title comes from the fact that he isn’t finished being creative, touring and best of all, he ain’t finished having fun!
That’s what I’m talking about brother! Work hard, work smart, have fun, and lots of it! It’s makes life all the more sweeter!:) So says the DIVA and Mr. Knight.
Spring 2011, I get an assignment to interview model/actor/martial artist Nick Bateman, you know, the gorgeous dude you see on every Abercrombie shopping bag, circa 2010/2011! “Wear something sporty” I was told! Then on the day of the shoot I find out Nick Bateman’s gonna show me a few moves using a bo staff. Cool! I thought he was going to just show me a few moves, didn’t think I’d have to workout with him, but that actually was the case! So there’s Nick, gorgeous and athletic. Confidently spinning that staff through the air and I’m standing to the side trying to figure out how I can avoid impaling myself or anyone around me when it’s my time to handle that stick!
Showtime! After Nick’s demo, I’ve got to jump in and mirror a few moves. Yep, I was a little tense at first, then after missing a few of Nick’s cues everyone laughs, including me. That laugh, at myself, helped me loosen up and breathe. It’s not open heart surgery, it’s actually fun and I’m a lucky DIVA to get a chance to learn from a black belt who happens to be real easy on the eyes and a nice guy too!
BTW, I didn’t impale anyone that day and the story turned out real cute on ET Canada! Hey, who’s got something else for me to try? BRING IT!!
Ever get a last minute call to do something that both thrills and scares the heck out of you? Well that was me March 10, 2011. I got a call to go on a road trip with Joshua Jackson and the Mercedes team to showcase the co.’s new fuel cell car.
I said yes but didn’t even have all the details. It turned out to be one of the best gigs of my career! Of course it started out shaky (good things sometimes start out that way!), my cameraman got detained at the border and couldn’t make the trip, so I had to produce this 2 day shoot with a camera team I’d never met and interview a Canadian actor I was about to spend 2 days with in a compact car-ALONE! I know how to do my job and interview just about anyone but it was still pretty jarring to find out after touching down in Redding, California, that I’d have to actually spend some one on one time with the actor in the car, no back up, so to speak!
Let me say, sometimes you gotta just take a leap of faith! Actually, there was no turning back at that point, I was on site and fully committed! So, I met the crew and Josh, a few minutes after landing and Â then we were off on our road trip. 1st part of the trip was a full car, I was directing the Mercedes crew on the type of shots I needed, got a partial interview with josh, right off the bat. Then, a few hours into the drive the crew hopped into following vans to get exterior shots and it was just me and Josh in the car. All I could do was be myself which is exactly what he did. It turned out to be the coolest, easiest time I’ve ever had with someone I’d never met before. Â I’m not going to go into detail about everything we talked about but we talked a whole lot; family, mothers, politics, the environment and then some! The final piece that aired on ET Canada was a story I was seriously proud of! (Go to ET Canada.com, punch in Josh Jackson to find video) Proud, like when you learned to ride a bike without the training wheels before every other kid on your block, proud! I even shot part of the interview myself using my Flip cam. This adventure taught me sometimes the scariest, most unpredictable events in your life can turn out be the most fun and most rewarding. The next time you run into a challenge what will you do?
Melissa’s a rock star with enough guts to fuel half the planet. Her voice is packed with texture and character. Her lyrics, unapologetic and so revealing. Melissa had a big ole battle with breast cancer and won. Remember when miss thang did her thang and performed bald after she lost her hair going through chemo? She tells me you have to face your fears. “Don’t try and avoid it, it’ll just come back and bite you.” Melissa knows what it feels like to almost lose it all so she’s decided to live her life right NOW. She doesn’t put off the tough stuff or the uncomfortable things. She said once she faced fear she realized there’s no time like the present to appreciate what you have and to go get what you want.
Melissa Etheridge, you’re a kick ass chick! Now let me go conquer some of my fears!
Jay, Jay! The dude from around my way! Montreal that is. Interviewed the proudly Canadian actor Jay Baruchel at the Genie Awards in Ottawa March 2011. He was good to go, his movie, ‘The Trotsky’ had picked up a Genie and he won ‘The User’ Award- we’re both still trying to figure out exactly what that one’s all about- beating out some stiff competition like Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams. Yeah, he won big that night but the lanky actor from NDG, (Holler if you’re from the hood!) Quebec was smiling for a whole other reason…dude’s in LOVE. He proudly told me he’s engaged to actress Alison Pill. He could barely sit still when talking about his purposal and how the two will be married Sept 2011 or was it 2012?
Love’s a good thing. keep it, cherish it and let it rule!
William Shatner! On March 22, 2011 this witty, energetic personable YOUNG man will be 80! The key to his longevity? Dude knows how to laugh and laugh at himself! We all need that kind of humour in our lives. When I interviewed Bill in Ottawa just before he hosted the 31st Genie Awards, my man was cool as a cucumber, full of opinion on any and everything and always ready to share a joke and a story. He told me about a relative who was on his last leg, hooked up to machines and in a lot of pain. He went to a hospice to “check out”. They put him on some pain killers, pulled out the tubes and figured he’d be out for the count in a matter of days BUT the opposite happened, he healed and is alive and kicking years later. William says the guy just surrendered to it all, went with the flow, got quiet and got better! Maybe there’s a message in there for anyone knocking their head against the wall trying to make something happen? Try this guy’s approach and just go with it!
You’re a good man William Shatner! Keep doing what you do and thanks for the wicked fun interview!
When the world seems to weigh you down where do you find beauty and inspiration?
Paul Haggis recently split from the Church of Scientology and has been feeling the heat ever since. My interview with him at the Bell Lightbox in Toronto mid January came with one warning: “No questions about Scientology!” Guess what?! He brought it up, with a little bit of prodding on my part! He didn’t like some of the stuff going on in the church so he left. The dude’s a brave cat who isn’t easily scared. I’m glad I got the chance to interview him, my 2nd in as many years, I get inspired when I talk to smart, kind and focused folks and he’s one of them! He’s still about making movies and helping those who can’t readily help themselves, hence, his Artist Through Peace and Justice organization. He’s not showy or self important but he is super smart and ready to roll up his sleeves and help. Hats off to you Paul Haggis for stepping out on your own and doing what you believe is right-you maverick, you! Now, I have to re-watch the Academy Award winning movie Crash and get a dose of his movie making genius all over again!!