Media, Darling: Hannah Yakobi

Hannah Yakobi is an award-winning journalist and communications specialist.
Throughout her career, she has written for the
National Post, OK! Magazine,
Canwest newspaper network and dozens of publications worldwide. She is
currently the editor-in-chief of
FAJO Magazine, an international publication with staff in
Canada, U.S., U.K. and Italy.

Over the past decade, Yakobi has interviewed and photographed many fashion
and entertainment icons, including John Fluevog, Mariah Carey, Jeanne Beker,
Enrique Iglesias, Deepak Chopra, Catherine Malandrino, Paul Venoit and Bryan Adams. A graduate of Carleton University‘s renowned school of journalism,
Yakobi speaks four languages and has lived in five countries. In her free time,
she enjoys raising awareness and funds for various Canadian and international

Dress by David Dixon. Photography
by Robin Gartner for FAJO Magazine.

Twitter: @FajoMagazine,


Did you always want to be in the media? If not, what other careers were on
the horizon? 

My career trajectory was somewhat unpredictable: I wanted to be a ballet dancer when I was very young (who didn’t?), for many years I dreamed of becoming a fashion designer (I even took some courses)
and later I briefly thought psychology was the field for me. But then, at 18, I became a
reporter and have never looked back. 

Where would you like to be five years from now?
I’d like to continue to do exactly what I’m
doing now, but on an even larger scale.

Any advice for people getting started in your industry?
You need to be hard-working and dedicated. Some
people have an expectation that fashion is all about glamour and fabulous
parties – it certainly does have that, but in order to stay in this industry
for a long time, you need to earn it. Expect long hours and plenty of stress.
When you start, say “yes” to almost everything. And never be rude to anyone –
it’s a small industry and the word about bad behaviour travels fast. 

What are your favourite media outlets, not including your own? 
I grew up reading Harper’s Bazaar, so that
publication has always had a very special place in my heart. And I love the
British edition of Glamour, the small, mini-size version – I’ve been reading it
for years.

Best interview you’ve ever had?
Dominique Szabo, Senior Vice-President of Estee
Lauder. She was remarkable on every level.

This is a hard question. I’ve had some
interviews that didn’t start on a good note. But almost always, after chatting
with each other, the interviewee and I were able to get the conversation

Many of my friends who are also journalists
frequently tell me crazy stories about some of their interviews. I think I have
been lucky to never experience that. At least – not yet.   

Best advice you’ve ever been given?
“University education is very important” is what
my grandfather always used to say. When I got my degree, I understood the value
of those words.

What rule(s) do you live your life by?
Hard work pays off. 

What’s the most important tip you can give PR pros?
Do the research before you contact media folks.
If someone says they are not interested in a pitch, do not pressure them.
Maintain relationships with people. 

Best experience you’ve had with a PR pro? We love to hear about #wins.
The folks at National PR. They are quite

I hate?
Cold weather, pretentious behaviour,

I love?
Charity work, hosting parties, travel and
getting my hair done. 

About to re-read Life of Pi. Just saw the movie
in December and loved it, so decided to read the book again.  

Best place on earth?
Barcelona, Spain.

Dinner guest?
Valentino Garavani. I have great respect for
that man. 

My mother. She is an incredible woman, who has
dedicated her life to my sister and I. She has had quite a spectacular career,
and always has incredible business ideas. 

Favourite app (or whatever you are downloading these days)?

Pool or ocean?
Can I say “the sea”? Mediterranean sea!

Voicemail or email?
If you want to chat, I’m on my phone. If you
want a response right away and it has to do with business, email is where you
can find me.

Media, Darling: Briony Smith

Briony Smith is the writer and stylist
The Grid’s fashion page. She was previously the fashion editor of
blogTO. Briony has also contributed to publications like ELLE Canada, LOULOU, Toronto
, and glow. She recently appeared as a stylist on MuchMusic, and was named
Flare magazine as one of the Top 10 Best Dressed denizens of Fashion Week.

Photo courtesy of Flare, by Max Kopanygin.

Twitter: @TheGridTO

Did you always want to be in the media? If
not, what other careers were on the horizon?
I still remember the day my dad told my
10-year-old self what a masthead was—and my immediate obsession with getting on
one someday! (Other careers I toyed with, believe it or not, were cop,
obstetrician, lawyer, and librarian.)
Where would you like to be five years from
Writing, editing, and styling stories and
packages that make people say to their friends, “Hey, I read the best piece
Any advice for people getting started in
your industry?
Don’t. You will have to work ten times as
hard as everyone else, all the time. Forever. If you can handle that, and still
feel that passion for fashion, journalism, the arts? You’re in the right place.
What are your favourite media outlets, not
including your own? 
Vanity Fair, HBO, The A.V. Club, The New
York Times
Best interview you’ve ever had?
For crush factor (at the time), Will
Arnett. I behaved in a terribly unprofessional manner when I conned him into
repeating a line from a treasured Human Giant sketch.
One musician scheduled a phoner immediately
after his dental surgery, while another actress scheduled the call during her
brief limo ride to the airport and kept barking what I should and should not
focus on in the piece. Oh, and Hawksley Workman.
Best advice you’ve ever been given?
A common refrain in the Smith household was
“Life isn’t fair.” My corollary to that might be: “Failure isn’t falling
down—it’s not getting up.” Jesus, that sounds like something on one of those
inspirational posters. This quote from U.S. congresswoman Debbie Wasserman in
last October’s Vogue did, however, strike me recently: “I might not convince
you that I’m right, and I might not always win the day or be successful on
everything I set out to accomplish. But I’m never going to lose because I got
What rule(s) do you live your life by?
The usual things: Try to be kind. Smile
more. Work hard. Dress well. It’s the little things. This, too, shall pass.
What’s the most important tip you can give
PR pros?
We know our fevered, last-minute emails
for products, images, and interview requests can be annoying, but super-prompt
replies are what make me really love some PR people—and loathe others.
Best experience you’ve had with a PR pro?
We love to hear about #wins.
I cheer every time a PR gal sends me a
high-res, off-figure, on-white image just in the nick of time.
I hate?
Leggings as pants. Snobbery. Getting up
early. Sore feet. Bad TV. Bad style.
I love?
French 75s. Kindness. My friends. Work
ethic. Similes that give you chills. Trinity-Bellwoods. Great style. A
well-dressed man.
Best place on earth?
Under the covers. Or maybe Thailand.
Dinner guest?
Louis CK. Karl Lagerfeld. Peter Kaplan. And
the Davids: Chase, Milch, and Simon.
Roger Ebert.
Favourite app (or whatever you are
downloading these days)?
Flixster, Shazam, and Instagram.
Pool or ocean?
The sea! It’s one of the great loves of my
life. (Full disclosure: I’m from B.C.)
Voicemail or email?
Email. Never, ever voicemail. Don’t call
me. Ever.

Media, Darling: Melanie Ng

As a field reporter for CityNews, Melanie Ng hits the streets to bring
viewers the latest in news and events from across Toronto and the GTA.

Working with the media on a daily basis in her previous career in the
fast-paced world of PR, Melanie knew her true calling was in broadcasting and
enrolled in the postgraduate Broadcast Journalism program at Seneca College at
York University. Her next challenge took her to a new level…hundreds of feet up
high in a helicopter! As a reporter at the Canadian Traffic Network, Melanie
provided breaking news and traffic reports for CHCH News, Global News and local
radio stations. Melanie was a weekend news anchor and videographer at CHCH
before finding a home as a field reporter at Citytv in October 2010.

Melanie Ng grew up in Oakville and graduated from Wilfrid Laurier University
with a double honours degree in Communication Studies and English, and a minor
in History. Melanie went on to complete a postgraduate certificate in Public
Relations from Humber College, graduating with honours.

you always want to be in the media? If not, what other careers were on the
Growing up, I was always drawn to the
media, specifically news. I knew that I
somehow wanted to work in the field – I just wasn’t sure where I saw
myself. After my first career in public
relations, I realized my heart was in reporting

would you like to be five years from now?
Still being able to tell stories that
matter and feeling like I’ve made a difference.

advice for people getting started in your industry?
Be ready for a challenge. Things won’t always go as planned, but you’ve
got to roll with the punches. Most
importantly, don’t forget who you are.

What are your favourite media outlets, not including your own? 
I dabble in everything.

interview you’ve ever had? 
Too many to mention. While I have had some fun celebrity
interviews, I find the most interesting stories come from everyday people.

I’ve talked to many grieving families
who’ve lost loved ones. It never gets easier seeing the unbelievable pain
they’re going through. However, if
they’re willing to share their story, those interviews can sometimes be the
most powerful.

advice you’ve ever been given? 
Just be yourself.

What rule(s) do you live your life by? 
Follow your heart. The rest will fall into place.

the most important tip you can give PR pros? 
Underpromise and overdeliver. Be aware of journalist deadlines and think of
creative solutions if your original plan doesn’t pan out.

experience you’ve had with a PR pro? 
I was on a tight timeline to jam a number
of elements into a story.  I thought I’d
have to reach out to a several companies, but one PR rep saw what I needed and
was able to coordinate everything in a couple stops.  It was a great example of going above and

I hate? 
When people are inconsiderate. 

I love? 
A good laugh. Friends. Seafood. Wine. Dogs. Reality

The first 30 pages of several books. It takes a lot to pull me in and keep me

Best place on earth? 
Curled up under cozy sheets with no alarm
clock set.

My grandparents who passed away before I
could meet them.

My mom. 

app (or whatever you are downloading these days)? 
Any game apps that involve trivia or word
puzzles.  Yes, I’m sort of a dork.

Pool or
Definitely ocean.

or email? 
I like sending email, but receiving

Media, Darling: Johanna James

Johanna James is a chase producer at Sun News Network, Canada’s home of hard news and straight talk. She first got her start in the TV industry as an intern at Sun TV and worked her way up to be a segment producer and video assignment editor before the launch of Sun News Network. 
A Torontonian at heart, she loves city life, the diverse selection of cultural foods and entertainment, and the feeling of calling Toronto home. But don’t be fooled, she’s an avid traveller, experiencing the sights and sounds of Paris, London and New York to name a few. But she calls Grenada – the native home of her mother – her second home away from home.
Did you always want to be in the media? If not, what other careers were on the horizon?
I’ve had a fascination with TV ever since I was a young kid. But I think it started when I was two years old, watching Dave Devall do the weather on CFTO, drawing on the glass board – I was hooked. My interest grew stronger when I completed my media studies class in high school. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I wanted to know how everything on TV came together. My college internship sealed the deal and here I am today.
Where would you like to be five years from now?
Would still like to be producing TV; possibly in a lifestyle format. But overall, I want to be happy, sane and enjoying what I do next. You never know. I didn’t think I’d be doing what I’m doing now when I was 20. Throw in some travelling and I’ll be happier than a kid with ice cream cake.
Any advice for people started in your industry?
If there’s an opportunity to get your foot in the door through internship (free or not) or through volunteering – DO IT! But make sure it’s something that you want to do and be prepared to roll with the punches. The TV industry is always changing. Be true to yourself, do your best and have fun.

What are your favourite media outlets, not including your own?
For news: 680 News, Newstalk 1010, Sun Media, AP, Reuters and BBC. I enjoy reading few magazines like Essence and O, The Oprah Magazine. And for anything else… when in doubt, Google.
Best interview you’ve ever had?
I had a chance to interview Dwyane “The Rock” Johnson, and oh my, is he ever lovely. He was extremely nice, vibrant and my camera loved him – at least I think so. I would have to say I’ve had a lot of enjoyable and interesting conversations with the guests I book for my network and the PR reps to escort them. You learn a lot from just having a causal yet respectable conversation.
People who didn’t care to be there for the interview and gave one word answers. It doesn’t happen a lot, but it happens. Life goes on.

Best advice you’ve ever been given?
This happens to pop into my head more often these days: “Remember it’s not rocket science or surgery, it’s just TV.”
What rule(s) do you live your life by?
I credit the West Scarborough Boys and Girls club for implementing the following rules when I attended from ages five to 13.
1. Respect yourself.
2. Respect others.
3. Respect others belongings and their beliefs. 
And be observant of your surroundings. It’s hard to remember sometimes, but handy when you do.

What’s the most important tip you can give PR pros?
Deliver the whole package. In my case, if a PR representative can provide a plan for a suggested segment with guests, useful and concise information, visuals, prop selections (if needed) and accessible web links – we will love working with you! A good segment takes attention to details (and elements). As long as you’re just as willing to make the opportunity work, it will work with flying colours.

Best experience you’ve had with a PR pro? We love to hear about #wins.
I can’t nail down one experience, because I have more than one. I will say that there’s a group of PR pros who I’ve dealt with in the past nine months that have been awesome to work with. I would gladly work with them in the future, no doubt about it.

I hate?
Intolerable people who don’t want to try to be tolerable. 

I love?
Travelling to the Caribbean, especially if I can enjoy a few afternoons on Grand Anse beach in Grenada. 

Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill and when I want to escape, the Harry Potter series. J.K. Rowling has quite the imagination. 

Best place on earth?
Grand Anse beach in Grenada, central Paris and I’m sure there’s some places that I haven’t discovered yet. I still got time.

Dinner guest?
I would say my obvious choice would be Oprah, but I would have to say group of my childhood friends from elementary school. We try to keep in touch as much as we can when we can. Twenty years plus and still going.
Do Superman, Batman, Thor, Captain America and Planet count? Just kidding. My mother. It probably sounds cliché but I strongly admire her strength and determination. Plus she delivers results and answers; I have to love her for that. 
Favourite app (or whatever you are downloading these days)?
I actually don’t download a lot of apps. BBM is probably the only app I use a lot, and the Scene app. 
Pool or Ocean?
Definitely the ocean. I’m not the greatest swimmer, but I can rock the lounge chair on the beach any day, or at least four out of seven days of the week if I was in the Caribbean.
Voicemail or email?

It can be tricky. I would say personal email because I can always look back at it. Or call until you get me.

Media, Darling: Derick Chetty

Derick Chetty is the fashion reporter at the Toronto Star. Covering both Toronto and international shows, he also reports on the local society scene and compiles the Star’s annual Best Dressed List. He was formerly the fashion editor at Flare Magazine, has a weird obsession with Pride & Prejudice and never gets tired of watching 1980s sitcoms. 

Photo by Randy Risling.
Twitter: @DerickChetty

Did you always want to be in the media? If not, what other careers were on the horizon? 
No. When I was younger I had grandiose plans to be a designer. But the first year pattern drafting class at Ryerson pretty much steered me clear off that career path. I learned I have little patience for mathematical calculations. 

Where would you like to be five years from now?
I feel we are living at warp speed.

Any advice for people getting started in your industry?
The newspaper industry is at a crossroad now. You might be embarking on the most thrilling ride of your life or a death plunge off a cliff. 
But if I haven’t deterred you, start getting some experience by interning somewhere. It might not be paid but treat it like a real job that you absolutely love and where no job is too menial. I once cleaned an editor’s office.  

What are your favourite media outlets, not including your own?

Wall Street Journal and Financial Times – weekend print editions only. Love any newspaper that still consider art direction something to be treasured. And I have a lengthy list of guilty-pleasure blogs I love.
Best interview you’ve ever had?
Donna Karan. Even though I was plunged into a panic when I realized my tape recorder was not working. But looking at my notes at the end, I noticed she did not waste a single word – every answer was precise, measured and directly to the point. 
Any when the subject wants to conduct the interview via email or the questions to be presented ahead of time. If you’re that busy, why bother agreeing to the interview?  

Best advice you’ve ever been given?

No one tells you the truth. 

What rule(s) do you live your life by?

Do the right thing.  

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

I like a touch of professional formality. Perhaps social media has made us all too casual. I don’t respond well to people who reach out to me with Hiya, Hey dude, Happy Monday! How was your weekend?  

And my name is not Shinan Govani. He’s the shorter one.

Best experience you’ve had with a PR pro? We love to hear about #wins.
Any that operate without fuss or delay. 

I hate?
Depends on time and day. But that should tell you I don’t harbour hatred. 

I love?
Time to myself.

Re-reading The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

Best place on earth?
Barcelona. My happy place. 

Dinner guest?

I’ll start with The Golden Girls and then move on to any other quartet of funny ladies – Designing Women and the Sex and the City girls.  


Anyone that overcomes adversity in pursuit of their dreams. 

Favourite app (or whatever you are downloading these days)?

I got 20 apps when I first got my iPhone and I haven’t downloaded any since. That tells me I probably don’t have a need for more. 
Pool or ocean?

Voicemail or email?


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Media, Darling: Jes Watson

Born to a staunchly feminist mother, Jes Watson rebelled at a young age the only way she knew how — by learning how to cook, clean and craft her way through life. Fast forward to present day and Jes is now the editor of SweetHome on, where she gets to bake up a storm and write to her heart’s content on a daily basis.

When she’s not working, she can be found in her Leslieville home with her adorable red-headed daughter, amazing husband and somewhat lazy dog. 

Twitter: @sweetspotdotca, @jeswatson

Did you always want to be in the media? If not, what other careers were on the horizon? 
Amazingly, I have a BFA in acting. So I basically earned a degree by doing yoga, chanting through my chakras and dressing up in ridiculous period costumes. About halfway through the program I realized I’d rather be writing the drama than acting it out (but I still do a mean mime wall).

Where would you like to be five years from now?
Oh, gosh. Some cozy cottage in the woods, letting my daughter tumble over me in a field of wildflowers. Or living in some gorgeous New York apartment. Either way.

Any advice for people getting started in your industry?
Don’t be pushy, but be persistent — it’s a fine balance. Curiosity and confidence are your best assets.

What are your favourite media outlets, not including your own?
I’ve had a subscription to the New Yorker since I was 18, never met a Granta I didn’t like and I love gawking my way through Vanity Fair. TV-wise, I’m really loving Portlandia and Boardwalk Empire these days.

Best interview you’ve ever had?
Joshua Jackson. Hello, Pacey! It was like 23-year-old me giving 15-year-old me a high five through time. 

I interviewed a celebrity stylist who actually fitted me with a synthetic hairpiece before I left. I walked back to the office with this crazy rug dangling off my head like some sort of mangy dead animal, and couldn’t figure out how to get it off until one of my coworkers managed to wrest me from it.

Best advice you’ve ever been given?
A little bad taste is like a nice dash of paprika.

What rule(s) do you live your life by?
Own your mistakes and don’t be afraid to mess up. The messes are always more interesting, anyway.

What’s the most important tip you can give PR pros?
Suggestions are always better than questions. And use the phone sparingly – seriously.

Best experience you’ve had with a PR pro? We love to hear about #wins.
I always love working with PR on big events like Toronto Fashion Week, TIFF and IDS. There’s a lot going on and everyone is so harried, but it’s awesome to see everyone pulling together to make it all happen.

I hate? 
Slow walkers. Poorly bound books. Sloth.

I love?
Hanging with my toddler. Freshly laundered sheets. Dusk runs and night swims.

Murakami’s 1Q84.

Best place on earth?
My cottage in the dead of winter. You have to ski in and it’s just unbelievably quiet, pristine and beautiful.

Dinner guest?
Fred Armisen. I am so obsessed with Portlandia.Or Werner Herzog — just to hear him talk in that voice for a few hours.

I have a major lady crush on Patti Smith.

Favourite app (or whatever you are downloading these days)?
I really love making dorky family music videos with VidRhythm for the iPhone.  Every song’s a winner.

Pool or ocean?
Ocean, then lake, then pool. But I’ll take whatever is closest.

Voicemail or email?
Email. I don’t even check my voicemail anymore. My mom is the only person who even bothers leaving me messages.

Rants and Raves: Email 201

Turns out email is a very passionate topic for some of our loyal followers! We loved getting all the feedback from our first post on Email Etiquette – so much feedback that we thought we’d write a second post. You’re welcome.

Thanks to @_itsandi and @rachals for their tips and to several other tweeps for sharing the original story.

  • Read your email before you hit send. Make sure you’ve included all necessary info (remember the classic 5 W’s: Who, What, Where,When, Why), asked all questions, and spelled everything correctly (including the person’s name). Writing with rage or sobs? Walk away, cool off, and read it again with an objective eye. Otherwise you’ll send something you’ll regret later, and emails, like diamonds, are forever.
Avoid any misunderstandings, and make sure you’ve covered all bases before hitting “send”.
  • Thinking about recalling a message? Don’t. It looks shady and only draws more attention to the issue. A better idea is to send a short, thoughtfully written apology clarifying or offering further explanation. Much more mature.
  • Patience is a virtue. People get a lot of email and we try to respond right away, but sometimes it takes a moment (or several hours) to get there. We could be in a meeting and not able to check email. If something is THAT urgent, pick up the phone.

  • Remember back in the ‘90s when forwards were fun and cool? Well, they’re not anymore. Oh, and before you pass along that “helpful” email alerting everyone to a hoax, do a quick check on Snopes to make sure it’s legit.

    Avoid flooding your colleagues email by sending annoying forwards.
    • Subject lines matter – they’re the windows of emails, giving you a sneak peek of what’s inside. Don’t switch between topics on an email string, rendering the subject line meaningless. Change the subject line if you want to start talking about something else. It makes filing and organizing so much easier.

    • Don’t cc people unless they are relevant to the conversation. It’s annoying to receive emails about something you have nothing to do with. Like makeup, less is more.
    • Personalization is great for everything but email. Avoid using sparkly pink backgrounds and big, crazy-ass fonts (we’re not sure who does this, but if you do, STOP NOW). A clean white background is the only way, as are simple fonts that work for everyone – we like Arial, Calibri and Verdana. NOT Comic Sans, please.
    • Please reply to your emails. We know everyone is crazy busy (trust us, we understand). But we don’t need you to write us a novel in return. When you’re pressed for time or have a zillion emails to respond to, a simple “yes” or “no, thank you” or “received” can go a long way. Don’t play hard to get – we’re not dating.
    • Some of our Media, Darlings have said if they don’t reply, they’re not interested in the pitch and we should move on. But others encourage us to follow up. We’re sorry to pester, but be patient with us if we followed up with you when you’d rather we didn’t – we’ve secured many an article thanks to persistence. Or, tell us no, and we’ll stop bugging you. Simple.
    Do you have any other email faux pas that you want to share? Tweet us @rockitpromo.

    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,, 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.

    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.

    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.


    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.

    Media, Darling: Lisa and Wendy from Hip Urban Girl

    Wendy graduated from the University of Toronto with a B.Sc. Honours degree. Prior to co-founding The Hip and Urban Girl’s Guide (HUG), a women’s lifestyle website, Wendy spent eight years in marketing, event planning and project management for both private and public sectors. She recently retired from her corporate job to fulfill her startup dreams and is now juggling the blogging life with her role as Director of Adfluent Media Inc.
    When Wendy is not pulling rank on Google or shamelessly being entertained by Facebook and Twitter (she does unplug!), you can find her at the Biography section of Chapters, dining out, jetsetting around the world, or getting involved in community service. Wendy has lived in Vancouver and New York City but currently calls Toronto home.

    Lisa is the Editor-in-Chief, and co-founder of The Hip & Urban Girl’s Guide, a lifestyle website for busy women in the city. She can usually be found hunting down the best cupcake for her food features or going on her next getaway to bring back the best travel tips. Her passion for food, travel, style and events led her to launch The Hip & Urban Girl (hug) in June 2010 with Wendy.

    The beautiful minds behind The Hip & Urban Girl’s Guide: Lisa and Wendy.

    Twitter: @HipUrbanGirl, @BossLadyWendy, #hugTO

    Did you always want to be in the media? If not, what other careers were on the horizon?
    Wendy: At 16, I wanted to be a psychologist but after my first year at U of T, I got a summer job at a publishing company and was introduced to advertising. I fell in love immediately and figured that I can always be a shrink in my next lifetime. I’m really lucky that I’ve never had to think twice about what I wanted to be when I grow up. I’ve been blogging for a year and have been in the marketing/advertising industry for eight years now. I still have the same passion as I have since day one.
    Lisa: I seriously thought I was going to pursue a career in musical theatre and sing and dance on Broadway. I did a lot of community theatre when I was a kid and even attended a theatre arts high school in Mississauga. I also started DJ-ing weddings and events while doing my political science and cinema studies degree at U of T. The DJ-ing turned into a full-time job (company is called hello DJ!) that I have been running for over six years. So really, it was a smorgasbord. I’m really happy to be working in media now because it ties up less of my weekends in the summer.

    Where would you like to be five years from now?
    Lisa: I would love to see the readership of The Hip & Urban Girl grow and expand into a few other cities.
    Wendy: +1 for what Lisa said above. Right now so much of my life is online, so I’d like to balance it out with an offline component and give back to the community. Ideally I hope to be financially ready and have gained enough business knowledge and experience to start a venture capitalist company. Plus, I’ll be a mommy then!

    Any advice for people getting started in your industry?

    Lisa and Wendy:
    For anyone looking to run a successful blog, be consistent and re-evaluate your editorial direction every two to three months. We wrote about everything and anything we could get our little hands on when we first started out. Install a good analytics program such as Google Analytics (it’s free) and constantly check your data to see what’s working and what isn’t. Talk to other bloggers, read books about the business, and pick a niche to focus on. 

    We also find it funny when people think we’re going to steal their ideas. The way we’ll become successful could not possibly be the same path as someone else who finds success in the same industry. There’s enough to go around. Stick to your guns and do what you do best. Don’t worry about other people and what they are doing – what works for someone else may not work for you.

    What are your favourite media outlets?
    Wendy: Toronto Life, the Globe and Mail, One Degree, Mashable, Daily Candy, CNN, History Channel and A&E, 99.9 Virgin and Z103.5.
    Lisa: I read the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail, and watch CP24 for quick updates on the weather and news. I never go to bed before catching Lloyd Robertson on the 11 p.m. news. Love that Lloyd. I’m a magazine addict and rotate through Toronto Life, InStyle, Nylon, Glamour, Style At Home, House and Home, Real Simple, Lucky, Lou Lou, Shape, Self and many, many others.

    Best interview you’ve ever had? Worst?
    Wendy and Lisa:
    Josie Dye of 102.1 The Edge and Oh-So-Cosmo is incredibly down-to-earth and had some great advice to share from her own life lessons. She spoke with such conviction and passion from her position as a successful hip and urban girl.

    HUG has never had a bad interview, but I did have one in my other career that I can share. I don’t want to mention names, but during a public interview, someone I worked with was the worst while being interviewed. All team members were there, but this person hogged the microphone, answered on behalf of everyone, and at the end, she thanked all the clients and people in her professional circle, but forgot to mention her own support team and family (who were all present)! Yes, she did achieve a milestone in her career, but sadly, she forgot about her roots. Obviously what got her there won’t get her here.

    Best advice you’ve ever been given?

    Wendy: Be true to yourself. This means following your instincts and passions and not falling for temptations or short-term gains. Much easier said than done!

    Lisa: Never overestimate others and underestimate yourself.

    What rule(s) do you live your life by?
    Wendy: My golden rule: don’t seek to be validated. 
    On a professional level, conduct business with integrity and transparency. At the end of the day, all you have is your reputation. Define success in your own terms and let passion drive you. The money will follow. 
    On a personal level, surround yourself with people who have a positive energy. Don’t wait for special occasions to light that candle or wear that cashmere sweater, the present really is a gift. Work hard and play hard but don’t forget to smell the roses along the way.

    Lisa: I wrote a whole post on rules I now live by, but the biggest one is not to be a doormat. I was raised by my shy parents to be nice, not to ruffle too many feathers, or be overly assertive. I definitely got taken advantage of because I was always more worried about being liked over what I really wanted or cared about. I would get stuck doing crap I didn’t like because I thought it was the stuff I should be doing. Yeah, never again.

    What’s the most important tip you can give PR pros?
    Wendy: Blogs should be treated as seriously as any other type of traditional media.

    Lisa: Please don’t make it seem like you’re doing us a favour by inviting us to an event. I also won’t write a story for a linkback on your page or review a product I have never tried. 
    Best experience you’ve had with a PR pro? We love to hear about #wins.
    Wendy and Lisa:
    We love working with the rock-it promotions team because they are always organized and responsive. They know who everyone is and you know it’s not going to be some sort of frenzy when you arrive. They also have a great roster of clients, are innovative and they get the online space. (Ed note: Thank you very kindly, ladies.)
    I hate?
    Wendy: People that fake it ’til they make it. Also close-mindedness and self-centredness. The world doesn’t owe you anything.

    Lisa: Entitled people who are rude to waitstaff or those working in customer service. I worked in retail for most of high school and university and you wouldn’t believe some of the jackasses you get. 

    I love?
    Wendy: My family and friends because they help me become a better person. I also love food and New York City. I used to live there and a part of me has never left.
    Lisa: My husband, Paul. We’ve been together since high school. Runner up? Exploring new cities, trying new foods and travelling to new places together.

    Wendy: I just finished The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. I got a lot out of it, it’s an easy and fun read.

    Lisa: The 4-Hour Work Week (again). It reminds me to work efficiently and not to get sucked into bad habits like constantly checking email and mindlessly surfing the web.

    Best place on earth?
    Wendy: In my husband’s arms… is that cheesy? I travel a lot and have shared so many unique experiences with him. At the end of the day, no matter where we are in the world, it can’t beat the comfort and safety I feel lying beside him.
    Lisa: Monterosso Al Mare, Italy. It’s as beautiful as it sounds.

    Dinner guest?
    Wendy: Is this a dead or alive question? My beloved grandmother who passed away two years ago.

    Lisa: Oprah Winfrey.

    Wendy: I don’t really have one hero per se but I greatly admire women in general who have been struck by some catastrophe (cancer victims, suppressed women in war-torn countries, wives who lost their husbands in 9/11) and manage to keep an optimistic outlook in life.

    Lisa: My grandmother. She was lovely and had a need to feed everybody.

    Favourite app (or whatever you are downloading these days)?
    Wendy: Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and the Weather. I keep things simple.

    Lisa: Urbanspoon lets you find cool restaurants in major cities across North America. It’s great when you’re travelling.

    Pool or ocean?
    Wendy: Ocean. I lived in Vancouver for a bit and there’s just something about being surrounded by water and the mountains.
    Lisa: Poolside with bar service.

    Voicemail or email?
    Wendy: Email. People still make calls?
    Lisa: Email, please. I’m a night-owl and I like to work late at night. Email is much more convenient.

    Media, Darling: Rita Zekas

    Rita Zekas is an entertainment/lifestyle/fashion/decor writer. She originated the paparazzi page/gossip column Star Gazing for the Toronto Star and stalked bold face for decades, before returning to her former love — shopping — doing retail detail in her Store Gazing column in the Toronto Star. She can be found in better stores everywhere — usually in the shoe department.

    Twitter:  @TorontoStar
    Did you always want to be in the media? If not, what other careers were on the horizon?
    I was going to be a best-selling novelist, writing from a cliffside white-washed cottage in some random sunny port in Greece.

    Where would you like to be five years from now?
    Reading in an oversized chair overlooking the olive groves in a mountain-top villa on the Tuscan/Umbrian border in Italy.

    Any advice for people getting started in your industry?
    Be prepared to work with little remuneration and even less sleep. Deadlines, baby.

    What are your favourite media outlets, not including your own?
    I listen to CBC Radio and NPR when I can get it. I read the New York Times online and in print on Thursdays and Sundays — those two days for the Style Sections.

    Best interview you’ve ever had? Worst?
    Best is Betsey Johnson, who has such a great persona, she could have enticed me to turn cartwheels on the catwalk with her.

    Worst is Ivana Trump, who spent most of the time screaming invectives at her minions over the phone.

    Best advice you’ve ever been given?
    Don’t Google yourself.

    What rule(s) do you live your life by?
    Do your research and never spear the easy targets.

    What’s the most important tip you can give PR pros?
    Don’t double dip. If you have snared an interview with a media outlet, don’t book another one with a different writer. It wastes everybody’s time.

    Best experience you’ve had with a PR pro? We love to hear about #wins.
    Working with PR pros like Pru Emery, who was the doyenne of PR people and her successor, who I would have to say is Deb Goldblatt. They just grease the interview process so it’s in and out and no one gets hurt. Or bored.

    I hate? 


    I love?

    Autobiographies. Everyone, even Einstein inevitably was dissuaded from following their basic instincts. And I read everything by David Sedaris, a comedic genius.

    Best place on earth?

    Dinner guest?
    I don’t cook; I reheat.

    Cancer survivors.

    Favourite app?
    I don’t app.

    Pool or ocean?

    Voicemail or email?