COVER STORY: PEOPLE
From Issue #3
Working Her Way to the Top
by Liane Beam
(with Teen Contributors Vanessa Rodriguez and Maya Chendke)
Check out photos from the interview!
Wearing a dress from Faze designed by Thien Le
(Editor's Note: This article was intended to be a one page career
profile of a VJ. Instead, after interviewing Juliette, her life
story and philosophy inspired us to make it our feature story.
Powell doesn't want to forget her past as a shy and insecure
teenager. That's why an old photograph taped to the refrigerator
door serves as a daily reminder of the girl she once was. Known
for her vivacious style as host and producer for MuchMusic,
Powell says success isn't about being on television; it's about
being better than her former self.
is still conscious of her early years growing up in Ville d'Anjou,
a suburb of Montreal. Although she was born in New York, Powell,
who holds dual-citizenship, moved to Quebec with her mother,
a French Canadian. Back then, Powell's rapidly developing height
was a constant source of distress. "I was always tall, but between
the ages of thirteen and fourteen, I just sprouted. I grew fourteen
inches in one year," she says. "I also went from a size five
shoe to a size nine shoe in one year. We couldn't keep up because
we were really poor, so I had no decent clothes to put on my
back. I looked like a street person most of the time." Powell
was also a classic bookworm with 'Coke-bottle' eyeglasses. In
highschool she retreated into the painfully self-conscious world
unpopular teenagers endure. "I had no friends and nobody would
ask me out. I didn't get a date until I was eighteen.
The picture on Juliette's fridge
that keeps her in touch with her past.
"She certainly wasn't considering a career in television. In
fact, nothing could have been further from her mind. Powell
nursed a deep fear of public speaking and was terrified when
she was required to give a class presentation. "I was good at
math, physics, computers and languages and so I thought, especially
because I always kicked butt at Monopoly, that I would be a
I always wanted to be president of my own company. I didn't know
what kind of company, but I thought I would be good enough to
manage my own company once I found the right passion or interest."
As Powell struggled against her fears and insecurities, her
mother encouraged her to think that she could accomplish anything
she put her mind to. She says her mother always believed in
her and she's always been motivated to live up to her mother's
faith. This, coupled with her will and desire to succeed, helped
Powell overcome many of her challenges.
Liane and Vanessa interview Juliette at MuchMusic.
Powell began to change the year she turned seventeen. "I was
practically six-feet tall with no waist. I was massive. Not
fat, just big. I looked like a football player," she says. A
twice-weekly swim class helped shape her body into more svelte
proportions. Powell emphasizes that she's never dieted in her
life. It was exercising that naturally changed her body. Also,
after much pleading and begging on Powell's part, her mother
finally bought her contact lenses. "It made a big difference
because all of I sudden I could see myself. I didn't know what
I looked like under my glasses."
from the burden of insecurity requires more than superficial
changes. Contact lenses and a growing elegance helped Powell's
confidence, but she had also begun to recognize that her will
power would be her catalyst for re-invention. This newfound
vision motivated her to seize opportunities that came her way,
and if the opportunities weren't there, to create them.
entrance into the 1989 Miss Canada pageant, and ultimate win
as the first black Miss Canada, began with a seed of outrage
that grew into a strategy for progress. Powell heard that the
second-place winner of the Miss Montreal pageant had actually
scored higher than the first-place winner, but because she was
black, the judges hadn't let her win. Although Powell says the
rumour could have been untrue, she was angry at the concept
that anyone could think a woman of ethnic origin other than
Caucasian should always be destined for second place.
after, Powell heard a radio commercial advertising for participants
in the next Miss Montreal pageant. Her boyfriend suggested she
enter the pageant in an effort to prove a black woman could
win. "It wasn't because I wanted to be a beauty queen. It wasn't
anything like that. It was about proving a point." Although
she placed second in the Miss Montreal pageant, it led to other
opportunities, and when Powell eventually won the Miss Canada
title, she had faced and overcome her public-speaking fears.
also emerged from the pageant with more than an award. She had
learned how to deal with the press, write speeches and speak
to an international audience-the skills Powell needed for her
future career in television.
was simultaneously accepted into the Finance and International
Business program at McGill and hired as a VJ and host at MusiquePlus,
MuchMusic's French language counterpart in Montreal. Although
her critics at McGill and MusiquePlus didn't understand why
she was working at two different things at the same time, Powell
says it made sense to her. "There's an incredible convergence
between television and computers. Plus, it's essential if you're
going to be a producer of a television show to know the business
aspects. All of these different elements that were interesting
to me came together in one field."
up as much experience as she could, Powell worked at MusiquePlus
for four years. "As an on-air personality, you have the choice
between strictly doing your job or using the opportunity to
learn other things." With newly acquired knowledge about lighting,
camera angles, editing, producing and directing, Powell eventually
wrote her own show. Her idea was web casting-a concept that
meant a program could be aired live in several different locations
with a chat line component. Although the idea doesn't seem overly
ambitious now, it was considered so at the time. The sting of
rejection drove Powell to persevere. She decided to fax her
idea to Moses Znaimer at CityTV. She hoped he would recognize
her potential because she figured if Znaimer hadn't been ambitious,
he wouldn't own a television network. Znaimer faxed her back
and offered her a job with CityTV's MuchMusic station in Toronto.
has worked for MuchMusic for three years as host and producer
of Electric Circus, French Kiss, RapidFax and Fax. Her work
centers primarily on showcasing artists and marketing them to
the MuchMusic audience. She's also responsible for introducing
interesting and innovative ideas for the shows. Powell co-ordinates
the technical aspects for live performances and is accustomed
to handling a crew of about thirteen people as well as dealing
with artists, managers, schools, students and audiences. She
makes sure everyone involved understands what should happen
on the show frame-by-frame right down to minutes and seconds.
Her job inevitably requires long hours during the week and sometimes
working on the weekends if she's hosting an event. The typical
day begins on her laptop to keep abreast of the day's entertainment
news. She pre-programs shows such as French Kiss so she has
time to host live shows like Rapid Fax. She often has to learn
about twenty-five pages of entertainment news in between being
on-air and taping. The job, she says, is all about multi-tasking.
current with trends in the music industry is another aspect
that keeps Powell busy. She has developed relationships with
recording companies, not just in Canada, but also in the U.S.
and Europe. Because the bands are ultimately marketed on MuchMusic,
the companies often call Powell with updates and information
about new artists. A significant amount of research and details
such as preview clips, permissions and rights from record companies
are required before Powell can put together a segment for a
show or the Web Site.
interest in technology helps because keeping up with rapidly
changing technology is also part of the job. When Powell came
on board to host Electric Circus, it was a straight-up dance
show. Now there's interaction via chat lines with audiences
in Brazil and Japan. MuchMusic has also expanded with launches
in Argentina, Mexico, Columbia, Europe, Finland, Israel and
says she's acquired her on-air style from watching others and
learning from her own mistakes. However, there are programs
that can help you prepare for a career in television. She cites
the graphic design, radio and television arts programs offered
by Sheridan and Ryerson as the educational background most new
employees have when they're hired at CityTV. Ultimately, your
choice of education depends on what kind of company you want
to work for. To work for a company like CBC, you'll probably
need a degree. For other stations such as CityTV, sometimes
your raw talent is enough to get you the job.
you apply for a job anywhere, Powell emphasizes doing your homework
on the company first. Before she had her first interview with
MusiquePlus, Powell attended some of the station's events to
get a sense of what the job entailed. She advises researching
companies and their sponsors to make sure the company's philosophy
fits with your ideas.
also recommends business courses because you'll need that knowledge
to read contracts, establish budgets and hire a crew. Sticking
with your French classes can also give you an edge over the
competition. Powell's bilingualism helped her get the job at
MusiquePlus and at CityTV.
opportunity to be both creative and logical is the best part
of Powell's job. Her only frustration is to determine how to
achieve her future goal to own and operate an international
television network. "I've been in television for seven years
and there's still so many more skills that I need. I have to
figure out how to make the gap smaller between what I'm doing
now and what I want to do in the future."
of what the future holds for Powell, her ultimate goal to inspire
keeps her looking for ways to stimulate and encourage the minds
of teenagers who feel the same way she did in highschool. And
it's also why Powell's credo is to teach by example. "If you
live your life according to what you believe in, people are
going to see that around you, and if it's something they believe
in as well, then you might just inspire them."
Juliette, in her plan to run a global media empire one day has
been expanding her career horizons by working for City-TV's 24
hour news channel, CP24, as a business reporter while continuing
with MuchMusic's French Kiss show which she hosts and produces.
Update 2008, she's in New York, working it there! Good luck J.P!)