Today’s post is very special to me, because it’s the seventh anniversary of the very first Momterview here on This Mom Loves – an interview with TV journalist (then news anchor and eventually cohost of Canada AM), Marci Ien, who was generous enough to make time for someone unknown, and to pave the way for many future Momterviews. We have kept in touch over the years (I did a behind-the-scenes at Canada AM and was once a guest on the show; I’m also a guest on the show she recently joined), and since a lot has changed in Marci’s life, I thought now would be the perfect time for an in-depth, catch-up interview!
The first time I interviewed you was seven years ago! Your son Dash hadn’t even been born yet. How old is he now?
He’s five; he’ll be six in September. He’s in SK right now.
Your daughter Blaize was just a little girl at the time. How is she doing?
Blaize is great, she’s in middle school, and she’s going to be thirteen in July. Middle school with Blaze has been up and down. I think we have gotten a lot closer, and had to, because as she says, “middle school is like high school without the homework.”
And so there are a lot of situations where you know her confidence has to be kept intact, where she isn’t invited to certain things, you see that you’re not invited on social media. She is discovering who she is, what she’s about, what she’ll stand for, not stand for. There’s the unkindness that happens in school and I mean a lot, but she still loves school. I’m so proud of her; she’s involved in every aspect from teams to yearbook to announcements to just everything.
For black history month last February the school wasn’t acknowledging it and she asked for a meeting with her principal and did that on her own. The principal said there is a whole list they get from the Board of Ed with different days to be celebrated, and they can’t do everything. Blaze said, “I feel that I don’t matter, I am one of a few black kids in this school and you’re basically saying I don’t matter.” And although she was telling her principal through tears, she still stood up for herself. The principal gave her the book of things to be celebrated, and now she gets to make those announcements for whatever day it is. And in terms of black history month, I said, “Blaize, sometimes you need to lead. Your name is Blaize for a reason, sometimes you need to Blaize a trail.” And so for black history month next February she will be doing something with my help. Because it is also about legacy, what comes next and making sure that something is in place. But she stands up for herself and she is a good friend. She gets knocked down a lot, especially in middle school, but she stands up. So it has been an interesting year for us.
Shifting gears to your work life now: one year ago viewers were surprised when Canada AM ended after 43 years on the air. How did you feel about it, and how did things come about in terms of where you would go next?
I was definitely sad. I felt lost with things being so uncertain for me after being there for 15 years. When it ended, I signed a deal to be a host in new production, so I was going to work on something new, that didn’t exist yet, so I moved from news operations which is in Agincourt, to 299 Queen St. W. which is where production happens. I was excited actually: a new beginning, a new start. And it just so happened that Trace (Traci Melchor, former cohost of The Social) was off on leave. There had been guest hosts, and I filled in like lots of other people, and then I was given a bit more time and a bit more and it turned into nine months. And then when Trace returned to work it was her decision that she would return to E-Talk only. So there was then an opening on the Social and I was offered the position and took it.
The Social is such a different show than Canada AM in that it is so much more personal. I know I emailed you at one point and said, “I already feel like I know you so much better after weeks on The Social than I did after years of Canada AM because of how much you share.” I’m sure there’s an expectation on the hosts that everyone is expected to throw in their personal stories, so how do you feel about that? And have any family members said, “Don’t talk about me?”
I am respectful, so I know not to talk about certain things, or about my kids if it is going to hurt them. But for the most part, I love sharing and it has always been me. If anything, this show allows me to be more me, and I say this because in the news capacity I always wanted to know more about the people who I interviewed. It was always very personal for me. There are a lot of news people who believe news shouldn’t get personal, you shouldn’t get involved in certain things, and that’s never been me. I am passionate, I do love people, and I love stories, I love to know where people came from and how things came to be. So, things never really ended with me two minutes after an interview ended. I always wanted to know more.
I often sat in the chair during commercial break finding out more once the interview ended. And now I’m in the position where I can not only speak to personal stories but the opinion comes into play. It is the conversations that happen after the interview on the news that sometimes are the most interesting. Because that’s where people start sharing even more. The idea is to do a good interview that leads to the stuff you get after, if that makes sense. It gets the nitty gritty, because you know the people are nervous, or they don’t want to share. It’s after the lights go down and the interview is over that sometimes even more magic happens. And if you’re lucky enough to interview that person a second time, you can glean from those moments.
Now that your current show offers so much more variety beyond the news, what are your favourite types of segments to do on The Social?
I love politics. I love even going beyond it and actually having an opinion. Being able to say how I feel about things, love that! I also like, I call it the “family stuff”, scenarios. The story that I just told you about Blaize, that could be an educational story, I would say that was a teachable moment for that principal, and I may not tell it as that kind of scenario but in another scenario not using my daughter but still getting that point across. I do like fashion a lot. It is interesting because some people would say it is a gossip show or whatever, but it goes beyond that. Because we have even had discussions about Beyoncé, and I would say “I want more from her, she’s got a platform, I want more. I just don’t want someone who is singing, I want more”. Even the discussions about fashion can go deeper. And I will tell you too, I love a good book. So the fact that we have a book club, I love it! And we get to delve into what the authors were thinking, how we felt about a book, rate it. I love that stuff!
You mentioned fashion: do you find now with The Social as opposed to Canada AM that there is more emphasis on what you’re wearing and how you look, and of course criticism of that as well?
Yes. But I have never had a stylist before, and we have one on this show. It is a collaborative thing because we are not matchy-matchy but our styles flow, you will see a colour trend or something in what we wear. And I love that because it shows the cohesiveness of the group. People will say if they like it, but that’s television. My entire career, I may have reported on something fascinating and people say, “Like your hair”, “Don’t like your hair”, “Like your outfit”, and I would think “Did you listen to the news story? Or is it just about my hair that day?”
That’s television. It’s not radio, people see us, it is visual. There will always be people who like something, or don’t like something, but that’s the way it has been for 25 years. And I am fine with that. But I do love the idea of being in a cohesive unit and putting on clothing that I feel absolutely empowered in. And someone actually giving thought to what looks good on you: “What would Marci like, what’s her style?”, is great. And not having to have just one style, sometimes its leather tights, sometimes it’s a skirt or sometimes it’s a dress, whatever. It is fantastic. I feel great every time I walk out.
Well you look great too, so that’s good!
And I’m sure you’re getting to sleep in later than you used to?
Yes! You know it has been a year, and it’s been hard because I kept waking up at 3 and I would have to go back to sleep. I think my body is just getting used to the new normal. I was still waking up and thinking, “Oh, no, I don’t need to!”
Well you did it for so long!
Even without an alarm clock, I was still waking up! So, I do love the idea of more sleep, slowly I am sure my body will get used to it. I do like the time I have with my family. I think I said this to you seven years ago, that my family doesn’t roll with my schedule. They weren’t the ones getting up at 3, so I just didn’t sleep as much as I should, because I wanted to have dinner, or I wanted to have some late nights, I wanted to go to a ball game, and I did. Sleep was the thing I didn’t get enough of.
But the most important thing I think with my new job is that I get to use my voice in a way that I want to now. This is not the first part of my career, this is the second part of my career. And if I have a voice that is going to be effective I want to use it in a way that affects people positively. I want to mentor and continue to do that. I want to work on projects where I can help, even behind the scenes. I want to be able to do that kind of thing where I am a positive force. And I can now, because I can voice my opinion more now, I can align myself with certain things that I couldn’t before. And I am doing it and intend to do more of it.
What would you say is your biggest piece of advice for people facing career transitions like you went through?
To first take some time. Take some time to understand that change isn’t easy, and sometimes you do really get what you need even though you don’t realize it, so take time to reflect. Because that is what I did, I took off for a bit, took off with journals in hand and wrote down what I wanted, what I didn’t want and what I might want, and just tried to decipher the road ahead. It really is and was up to me, and that’s the thing, to know that there is choice. Sometimes when change comes people think, “Well, we’re in a corner, we don’t have a choice. There is a job in front of us and I have to take it or we are out of work so we have to find anything that will pay the bills.” The challenge is to know that no, you don’t, but it doesn’t mean it is going to be easy. The challenge is to have some quiet time, not to make any quick decisions and understand that maybe, just maybe, this happened for a reason. And go forward.
Someone on Twitter had a quick question for you, wondering what is your favourite city in Canada to visit?
Well I live in Toronto, so I wouldn’t be visiting! I love Halifax. I haven’t been there in a while but I used to live there. I love so much about it because there is so much to learn about history, the people, just everything.
Thanks so much for opening up, Marci!
You can see Marci Ien daily on The Social, and find her on Twitter and Instagram.