Media, Darling: Jeni Besworth

Jeni B. entered the television industry over 12 years ago and never looked back. She has met, produced & interviewed some of the biggest celebrities. Highlights include: helping Pink make a new outfit with scissors & tape seconds before her live performance. Accidentally making a pass at Jon Cryer. Interviewing Tommy Chong from the living room floor after he threw his back out. Becoming the voice of Cribs.
Jeni is currently the supervising producer of Oh So Cosmo on Cosmo TV. Other credits include Open Mike with Mike Bullard, Canadian Idol, the Juno Awards, Walk of Fame, Project Runway Canada, MTV, So You Think You Can Dance Canada and Much Music. And, she is not above unpacking Lady Gaga’s shoes for her.

Twitter: @jenibesworth, @Oh_So_Cosmo 

Did you always want to be in the media? If not, what other careers were on the horizon?  
When I was in high school, my dream was to be on radio. So when I went to Ryerson, I finished the first year, thought I wouldn’t need any more schooling, and promptly left. I’ve been working in TV almost ever since!
Where would you like to be five years from now?
I am not aging very willingly so I don’t love looking ahead five years (ha), but if I must, I’d really like to still be working in a job I love. I have had the good fortune of being employed in this industry very consistently and I’d like to continue working on shows that are smart, informative and relevant. And personally, I hope I’m still kicking ass at being a good mama.

Any advice for people getting started in your industry?
 
Weirdly, it’s not always what you know, it’s how hard you’re willing to work to learn it. I am where I am because someone took a chance on me. Again and again. If you love what you do, and you put your whole heart into it, you’ll see results.

What are your favourite media outlets, not including your own?
I am newly in love with CBC Radio 2 – Drive with Rich Terfry, Q with Jian Ghomeshi, 99.9 Virgin Radio and my girl Taylor Kaye on Kiss 92.5. I watch a multitude of bad television shows – no judgement, it’s “research”. I’m 10 months off Facebook but have fallen in love with Twitter. I also frequent Lainey Gossip, People.com, George Stromboloupoulos’ site. I read Toronto Life, Today’s Parent and I really love Metro when I hop on the subway. 

Best interview you’ve ever had?
Working on the Bullard show was for sure a career highlight. Not only did I get to work with my best friends (and I literally sat across from my BFF every day!), the sheer amount of celebrities that passed through those doors on a regular basis was astounding. When I was the music producer, I not only booked the guests, but of course, pre-interviewed them. One time while trying to get any kind of interview out of Jack Black & Kyle Gass (Tenacious D), they jumped up mid-sentence, started playing air guitar and changed the words of TNT by AC/DC to ‘jeni b’. 

All of the interviews on Cribs have been amazing, as well. These people invite you into their homes and allow you to see them at their most intimate and they’ve almost all been gracious and lovely and kind. Jillian Barberie was a wonderful host. Bif Naked… what can I even say about her? She’s the bees knees. They’ve all exceeded my expectations.
But lastly, my true favourites came from interviewing some of the thousands of competitors that auditioned for Idol & SYTYCDC. My all time favourite thing is talking to “regular” peeps & finding out where they came from and why they are who they are today. Everybody has a story.

Worst?
 
I guess the worst interviews are the ones when you are left hanging. I’m so lucky that there are very few of these in my history.

Best advice you’ve ever been given?
 
My dad told me to “give a firm handshake and look ‘em in the eye.” And John Brunton (CEO of Insight Productions), who gave me my first big job and whom I highly respect, once turned to me while standing on George St. in St. John’s, Newfoundland, after a particularly long and stressful day of casting for Canadian Idol, and said “It’s only TV, baby!”. That has stuck with me for years.

It’s important and it’s wonderful to work in, but we’re not saving anyone’s life here. When everything is going to shit, I always remember that.

What rule(s) do you live your life by?
I’m a type-A, super organized, scheduled kind of gal. So lately I’m trying to be a little more open to living in the moment and realizing that it’s okay to be what I am, with a side of free spirit. One thing I definitely do is live every day with ‘pay it forward’ in mind. I’m the girl that returns my grocery cart to it’s proper place and will change route to help an elderly person up the stairs at the subway. Compassion doesn’t always win in this industry but I will never be able to not play by those rules. Oh, and manners are non-negotiable.

What’s the most important tip you can give PR pros? 

I know how busy everyone is, but a simple response to an inquiry goes a long way. I think taking the time to acknowledge people will make them keep coming back to you over and over.

Best experience you’ve had with a PR pro? We love to hear about #wins.
Honestly? Deb and rock-it. Every time I change jobs, there are lots of names I take with me. But I have a special top 10 that’s comprised of publicists and music reps that I know and love and have complete and total trust and confidence in. Deb and her team are polite and responsive and hard workers and, they’re in the know! Deb is always the first person I contact when I start something new and she always has content and suggestions for me.  [Ed. note: The love is mutual. jeni b is a kick ass producer, and an all around cool chick.]

I hate? Bullshit. And entitlement. And people who are mean to old folks, animals and children.  Being late makes me crazy.

I love?
Lola & Izzie. Tattoos. Cupcakes. My family. My friends. Music and dancing (in the comfort of my own living room). Writing in small letters (because I think they’re cuter). Movies, TV, magazines. Chocolate.

Reading?
I just finished Bossy Pants by Tina Fey and was completely irritating other subway passengers with my loud bursts of laughter. It’s really so funny. Now I’m about to delve back into Of Human Bondage which was a gift from a dear friend.

Best place on earth?
Just outside the door peeking into the place where my girls are singing at the top of their lungs, dancing around the room and playing their little hearts out (followed by huge squeezes). That, or on a tropical beach somewhere being served copious amounts of chocolate by a cute cabana boy.

Dinner guest?
Dad and Elvis and Ryan Gosling.

Hero?  

I admire and respect every single woman in my life for all different reasons, and I’d have to say they’re all my heroes. From my mom & sister to my best friends & co-workers, they’ve all worked hard to become who they are. They’ve all persevered and struggled and they juggle all the things in their lives like no one else (working mamas get extra props for their unbelievable multi-tasking). Advice is never far away and I’m forever grateful to be constantly inspired by them all.

Favourite app? 

What’s an app? Just kidding. Sort of.

Pool or ocean?
 
Ocean, every single time.

Voicemail or email?  

Email. I’m lightning fast at responding and my Blackberry is never far away.

Meet our Client: Sebastian Pigott

Born and raised in Toronto and educated at the Etobicoke School of the Arts, Sebastian Pigott’s numerous credits include multiple TV series’ The Listener, Haven, The Bridge, and Deadliest Sea, and feature films Small Town Murder Songs and SAW 3D. Pigott has a recurring role on Being Erica, and holds a supporting role in the film High Chicago. He also enjoys writing music and screenplays, and taking his Honda Shadow 750 RS across Ontario to fish and go camping. He currently lives in Toronto.

We had the opportunity to have a quick drink with Sebastian and we got to talking about upcoming projects, his time on Canadian Idol, and his love for fishing. Thanks for visiting us on the fourth floor, Sebastian!

Twitter: @sebastianpigott
Website: www.sebastianpigott.com 

Photo credit: Indrek Mandmets.

What do you do?

I am an actor, writer, and a musician.

When did you start acting?
I went to Etobicoke School of Arts but I didn’t have great passion for it. That came later, about seven years ago, when I started studying as a profession. That was followed by the requisite years of poverty and desperation, then you start to cobble together a living. That’s what drove me to pursue writing, which has proved to be most excellent.

How long have you worked with rock-it promotions?
Known Debra for a while now, but officially with rock-it for the last couple months.

Why is PR important to you?
I think it goes back to the idea that in my line of work, there are things that I have to do. I want to work and I want to make myself more employable. So I have to do things that will expose me and ultimately, make me more employable.

What do you love most about your job?
I’ve been lucky to be able to write, act and sing. I would be happy to finger paint if that’s what people wanted me to do – it’s a fortune to be a professional artist.

What do you like least about your profession?
I find doing media a little tough. It’s such a big part of what we do and yet at the same time, not at all what we do. I mean, who’s to say that a person that plays the guitar is going to be a great conversationalist? They may come across as boring on paper. I think that should be a new title, professional conversationalist.

On the show Being Erica, your character Kai Booker is often referred to as a time-traveling singer/musician. I know you have a musical background. Are there any other qualities you and Kai share?
I’m pretty much playing myself! That being said, I’ve had to dig inside to darker places to get inspiration [Ed. note: Kai, Sebastian’s character is an opium addict]. At the end of the day, Kai’s a guy hung up on a girl, there are other things going on, but the main thing is being hung up on a girl. And that’s easy to relate to.

You got your musical break during Canadian Idol, what was that experience like?
I did it on a whim. I didn’t go in thinking I was going to audition, I just went along to hang out. I think this is what gave me an advantage over other people, I was more relaxed than the other contestants. After being on the show [he ended in top 10], doors started opening up. Opportunities like Being Erica came up, which is pretty cool.

Do you have any exciting projects coming up that you can tell us about?
I’ve written a film that is now being looked at by some key people. I can’t say much, but it appears we’ve found a producer in the US (knock on wood). This is going to be a great project. I’m (cautiously) over the moon.

A little more from the fourth floor:
Designer: Versace. I have a vintage Versace jacket and I love it.
Book: Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock.
Snack: Liquorice, although I recently found out that I have a gluten allergy, so I get by on nachos.
Season: Spring.
Sexy: Pajamas.
Drink: Strongbow.
Motto in two  a few words: It’s harder to walk forward when you are stepping on your own feet.
Idea of perfect day off: Going fishing! Especially going up to Big Rideau Lake. Went there last weekend and caught a 26” pike.
Indulgence: Candy, I have a ridiculous sweet tooth.
Greatest achievement: The song that my brother and I wrote for Kai. We got some great feedback and tons of YouTube plays. [Ed. note: over 200,000, to be precise].