Media, Darling: Pay Chen

Pay Chen is a TV host, writer and producer
who got her on-air start at OMNI-TV in Toronto, sharing short infotainment
segments in prime time and late night. Her favourite pick-up line during those
years was, “You’re the last woman I see before I fall asleep.” 
She’s also the former host of Breakfast
Television Winnipeg
on Citytv, and hosted programs for G4TechTV, The Biography
Channel and is seen nationally on the popular preschool series,
4 Square (it was a show before being known as a place
you can check-in).

Pay is currently The Bachelor Canada
Insider for iVillage.ca and The Bachelor Canada, where she’ll dish the dirt on
what’s really happening on the show, set to hit your screens this fall on
Citytv.

She has written for children’s television
shows and is currently writing for an animated series. Her passion for all
things local and edible have lead to regular food columns for the Toronto Standard, Metro newspapers and contributions to iVillage.ca.

Pay used to be very skilled at the ukulele.
Website: www.PayChen.com
Twitter: @PayChen

Did you always want to be in the media? If
not, what other careers were on the horizon? 
I had always wanted to be a teacher and
then became really interested in working in children’s television. After a few
years of doing educational TV and programs, I decided to go back to school to
get my teaching certificate. I was accepted into a post-grad program in
Australia and was making plans to move when, on a whim, I applied for the host
position at OMNI. I spent seven years at OMNI and never made it to Australia.
Where would you like to be five years from
now?
I’d like to be Tom Cruise’s fourth ex-wife. Or you know, happy. Loving what I do and
still feeling challenged by it.
Any advice for people getting started in
your industry?
A lot of people ask me how to get a job
on-camera. That’s a tough one. You don’t necessarily need certain skills.
Sometimes people are hired because they have the right look. I worked in
production and was writing before I was hosting. It gave me a true
understanding and appreciation for the process of making television. Also, when
you know how to produce segments and direct shoots, it’s harder for people to
bullshit you later as a host. To do well, you need to understand what others do.
My first job was as a production co-ordinator. I did the running around,
photocopying and tedious schedules. I have a lot of respect for good
co-ordinators and production assistants. They hold the show together.

Also, be willing to learn what other people do.
You won’t build that show yourself.
What are your favourite media outlets, not
including your own?
 
I leave those 24-hour news channels on all
day. They repeat the stories every 15 minutes so after the third time seeing
the same story I always think, “I knew that.” And I feel really smart. 

I also have a fondness for the CBC because it
had such a strong influence on my childhood. My brother and I learned to speak
English by watching TV. CBC, PBS and Magnum P.I. formed us as people. 
I also watch a lot of Food Network. It’s no
secret that I would love to host and produce a food show.
Best interview you’ve ever had?
I can’t think of just one, but the best
ones feel like you’re shooting the breeze with a friend. The laughs are genuine
and you’re sad when you have to wrap.
Kids and teens make up some of my most
rewarding and memorable interviews. I used to be a story researcher on a teen
show. We dealt with some heavy issues that affected kids (violence, eating
disorders, bullying, drugs) and kids don’t filter or edit what they say the way
adults do. They are brutally honest.
Worst?
Sometimes you interview people who don’t
want to do press and you can tell they’d rather be somewhere else.
Best advice you’ve ever been given?
As a host: Be yourself.
As a writer: Read it out loud.
As a producer: B-roll. There’s never
enough.
What rule(s) do you live your life by?
Don’t be an a**hole. Be kind. Be helpful.
What’s the most important tip you can give
PR pros?
Know the show I’m working on or the column
I write when you pitch. I’ve had people pitch me ideas when I was on BT and not
realize we were a LIVE morning show. Also, it might be one product that you’re
pitching to many outlets, but let me know you’ve considered my audience by
suggesting an angle that suits what I’m working on. I’ll feel like you did me a
favour.
Best experience you’ve had with a PR pro?
We love to hear about #wins.
I’ve had many great experiences! I tend to
work with the ones I like over and over again. I count many PR pros as friends.
The ones who understand that TV is about visuals and good speakers. You want
promotion and I want content, so let’s make it work. 
Good PR people and good hosts have to be
great listeners. We both talk and “sell” for a living – sometimes you just need
to shut up and listen.
I hate?
Rudeness. When people have a sense of
entitlement. 
The sound of girls shuffling their feet
when they wear Uggs. Will they fall off if you pick your feet up? 
The smell of boiled hot dogs.
I love?
Kind people. Those who do things without
expecting anything in return and those who do it without drawing any attention
to themselves. 
Plain chocolate cake, no icing. Things in jars. Seriously, it’s an
obsession.
Reading?
Scripts. But I want to reread Tina Fey’s Bossypants. “Over! Under! Through!” – That’s great advice.
Best place on earth?
Anywhere I can have my closest friends,
access to cheese and dessert.
Dinner guest?
I would love to get Tina Fey, Ellen
DeGeneres and some of my best friends together because we’d laugh until we
hurt.
Hero?
Christian Bale as Batman. Wait, I didn’t
answer this correctly did I?
Favourite app (or whatever you are
downloading these days)?
I’m an Instagram addict. I post photos of
lattes and nailpolish like everyone else.
Pool or ocean?
Ocean. I grew up in Nova Scotia. I miss the
sound and the smell of the ocean. Not the bad smells. I don’t miss those.
Voicemail or email?
Email. I hate long voicemails and I’m
usually running around when people call so I’m only half listening.
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