The last U.S. presidential election left many in awe as (using his own words) a “braggadocious” “pussy grabber” was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States — including America’s friendly neighbours north of the border. Interestingly, Canada and the US exchanged places as Canada moved on from its version of a disconcerting xenophobic Prime Minister to the polar opposite — Justin Trudeau.
Our nations evidently swapped positions like an old Lindsay Lohan movie, but in an eerie political form with emboldened racists, sexists, and well, everything penitent. Of course, the political right was extreme in the US version (aka alt-right, aka white supremacist). Nonetheless, as the oft-mundane political affairs progress in Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has also recently found himself in hot water after visiting my parents’ home country — India.
As with most of the political havoc that has proliferated over the past year, most of us have found relief through one primary outlet — the political musings of the comical genius that is Trevor Noah (and of course, our favorite brown boy Hasan Minhaj). “The Daily Show” host saw ratings soar as America’s political future grew precarious, which I would argue can be well attributed to the common individual’s desire to find humour in a situation that they cannot control. If you can’t beat them, laugh at them; that’s what I always say.
Likewise, a few weeks ago Vancouverites viewed Noah share his take on Trudeau’s political blunders during his performance at the Just for Laughs Northwest Comedy Festival that was not only hilarious but helped put Canadian political affairs in perspective. Trevor Noah certainly did it again!
Although Noah did not comment on all the different headlines circulating Trudeau’s visit to India, he discussed the Prime Minister’s decision to embrace Indian culture and he somehow left us feeling better about Trudeau than we would have imagined.
Canada’s headlines have been swarming with political scandals all the way from Trudeau’s Members of Parliament (MP’s) breaking into parties in India to the Prime Ministers’ adoption of Indian garb, and his photo with a Sikh extremist who was convicted of murder. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has speculated whether Trudeau’s “botched” trip to India will impact political support for the Liberal Party and a Global News commentary has touted that Trudeau’s disastrous trip will not be forgotten soon.
The Conservative Party caused a ruckus in parliament, while others like the New Democratic Party’s leader Jagmeet Singh are calling Trudeau to further investigate claims of third-party intervention to tarnish Canada’s reputation in India. This is as exhilarating and intense as political scandals in Canada become; of course, we are no competition for the US, but things are stirring like when the first zeppelins began flying over quiet villages.
Some of this may be coloured by my love of Trevor Noah; I admit my bias, but there is more to his logic than my infatuation can cloud. Trudeau has garnered an exacerbating amount of negative attention for wearing Indian clothing (the Khalistan and MP concerns aside). Noah hilariously narrated the Prime Minister’s trip all the way from his family landing in India with folded hands, to wearing Indian attire and Trudeau showing off his Bollywood dance moves. Noah’s imitation of those dance moves was — in the most sophisticated language — on point (I was dying of laughter).
On a side note, Trevor Noah would make a great Bollywood dancer (a special appearance from Trudeau and Noah in the next Ranveer Singh blockbuster, maybe?). Jokes apart, after describing the entire affair, Noah discussed how Indians had very different reactions to Trudeau’s visit; some absolutely loved that he was wearing Indian clothing, and others felt that he was crossing a line.
Personally, I thought Trudeau’s visit was amusing because he seemed to try much too hard, but I never saw the issue with him and his family adopting Indian clothing. Honestly, I felt that all the criticism was coming from a racist backlash. Indo-Canadians were not complaining; most were delighted. Videos of the leading couple making rotis while on their visit to the Golden Temple were proudly posted on social media and our community was labelling him the “asli sardaar” (true leader).
As an individual who has been working in the media over the past two years and diligently infiltrating through the latest news in Canada, I have learned a great deal about how racism covertly permeates discussions in Canada. The underlying discriminatory attitudes are masked with creativity, and a more intelligent approach is adopted to accomplish the same goal — which is essentially limiting people of colour. Nonetheless, the overt racism in the US has certainly emboldened Canadian Conservatives like Kellie Leitch and Andrew Scheer (both termed the Trump of Canada) to share their problematic views, though rarely.
If you still are not convinced, then the question remains, why are Canadians who are not of Indian origin offended by Trudeau’s Indian attire? The answer is obvious.
Noah further discussed how he had once taken it too far himself and suggested that Trudeau’s trip could be classified in the category of crossing a line with the best of intentions. Now, this explanation is only applicable to the few Indians who may have felt that the adoption of Indian attire was offensive or an example of cultural appropriation, but he makes a good point.
Noah also stated that sometimes Trudeau appears to try so hard to diverge his politics from Trump that he runs too far in the other direction and goes overboard. Overall, Trevor Noah hilariously compelled the audience to re-evaluate Trudeau’s visit to India and take into account where Trudeau’s actions emanated from, which is a significant point, considering that Trudeau’s cabinet consists of several Indo-Canadian MP’s who could have warned him if he was being offensive. Noah proceeded to compare Trudeau’s politics to the current political climate in the United States and the type of racism that Americans are facing.
This discussion, once again, made me appreciate the fact that our Prime Minister is being criticized for trying too hard to please people of colour, rather than the other way around. Our problems appeared trivial once compared to the issues pervasive in the United States. All of a sudden, we became the ungrateful spoiled brats of a progressive nation whose Prime Minister was trying his best.
Thank you, Trevor Noah, for making some of us appreciate our current state of affairs.
The expansion of digital content across radio, television and internet has allowed audiences to engage with media rapidly. As technology advances, the entertainment industry has grown exponentially and people have a wealth of information at their fingertips in the blink of an eye. Since high school, Deepa Prashad was fascinated by this power of media and aspired to be an on-air personality who could interact with viewers through creative content whilst representing her Indo Caribbean heritage. After navigating the competitiveness of Canadian broadcast hosting for seven years, Prashad continues to push herself into various modalities of media and add to her growing successes, while championing others to share their own authentic content.
Self-confidence and the desire to show a different perspective on entertainment prompted Prashad to be interested in broadcasting. While initially nervous about her family’s reaction to a nontraditional career path for Indo Caribbean women, Prashad received her parents’ full support and became the first person in her family to study broadcasting at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada.
She began applying for television-hosting positions in her first year despite not having any experience or a finished degree, affirming, “I totally believed in myself and my capabilities.”
In an interview with Prashad, we delve into her career path, diverse representation in media and her courage to create and promote content that reflects her individuality.
How did you begin your career in hosting and digital content production?
The kids channel I watched growing up, The Family Channel, was doing a nationwide casting call for their new TV host. The host would host interstitials between shows, digital series, and do TV show and movie interviews. I didn’t have an agent at the time so I applied on my own. I was called in for my first audition ever and it was quite shocking. A room full of 10 to 15 people just observing me as I delivered lines and did mock interviews for fake shows. Two months later, I was officially cast as the host of The Family Channel!
While ecstatic about her first job, Prashad was met with racism. She stated,
Someone else, who applied for the position, made it a point to come up to me in person to say that they hoped I knew the only reason I got the job was because I was brown and the company obviously just needed to fill a quota.
Brushing the words aside, she continued hosting on The Family Channel for five years. She has also worked as an entertainment and food reporter on Canadian shows, Breakfast Television and Cityline. By advocating for herself as capable, personable and multifaceted, she did not shy away from new opportunities to advance her career and showcased herself as a leader who could resonate with broad audiences.
Wanting to explore new horizons, Prashad approached the social media company blogTO and pitched herself to be their first full-time video host focusing on Toronto food hotspots. After being hired, she visited multiple restaurants daily to host, film and edit her own content and curated personalized food videos for viewers to immerse themselves in. Prashad later forayed into the world of radio, one she never thought she would join but quickly fell in love with. She was most recently the first female voice on Toronto’s KISS 92.5 channel’s, The Roz and Mocha Show. Prashad enjoyed the greater flexibility of being on the radio compared to television and video hosting,
All I had to present was me. It became such a personal experience for me getting on that mic, sharing stories with listeners about the way I was raised, coming from a Guyanese household, being part of an (interfaiths marriage), [etc…] That created an incredibly strong bond between myself, our listeners and our friends that I’m so grateful for.
Tell us about your current position.
“I’m moving onto new adventures now and adding sports reporting under my belt. I will be joining BarDown | TSN to cover Formula 1, this includes doing content for TSN in the digital and TV space. I’ve never dabbled in the world of sports, so this is going to be an interesting new road for me.”
What topics are you most passionate about when creating digital content and why?
Food has to be my number one passion when it comes to digital content. Obviously I love eating and trying new things, but food is such a universal language. It connects people, it excites people and often teaches people about different cultures. I love to see how that content can generate conversations and I love to see when people admit they’ve never tried that particular food or cuisine, but added it to their list.
I also love creating Formula 1 content because Formula 1 is a massive passion of mine! I currently Twitch stream playing the Formula 1 video game F1 22. I’ve been on a pursuit to continuously learn more about the sport and to even get better at the game, because let’s be real, I’m terrible at it but I’m also OK with that!
Prashad is not immune to online mockery and negative comments about her work. When making the switch to Formula 1, she was ridiculed by some male viewers over her love of the sport and was inundated with comments like “go back to the dishes” or “go do laundry where you belong.” Antiquated and sexist notions over being a working woman in the media led to her looks being graded; there were comments regarding her extroverted personality and rampant discussions over her weight. There was a moment in her career where Prashad admits,
I actually wanted to make changes to myself — try to be a little less outgoing, not be so loud, change my hosting style from this incredibly bubbly style to a more laid back informative take.
Drawing on her self-belief, she soon realized that, “This doesn’t work for me. I began to appreciate all my quirks.”
Is there an area of hosting or content production that you believe you’re better at?
I really love to host digital content in particular because there’s a certain freedom that comes with it. I don’t always have to be prim and proper like sometimes I do need to do for TV. I can be me — loud, goofy, and incredibly dorky. I never want to have two different personas — one for the public eye, and then a private. On social media, what you see is exactly what you get. Digital content has allowed me to love myself even more.
Prashad plans to continue in the industry for the forseeable future. She recognizes the impact of being an Indo Caribbean woman at the forefront of media and defines her success as, “…I can continue to represent my culture and how I make others feel.” Her best moments are connecting with others through their lived experiences and offering a different lens on growing up in Canada.
How did you feel breaking into the industry as a woman of color?
What a great feeling that was, and even better, being an Indo Caribbean woman. I went through my fair share of hardships. I’ve faced racism, sexism and bullying throughout my journey of getting to where I am today. But, I have stood up for myself every single time. I will never allow myself to be walked all over. And believe me, people have attempted MANY times. But I pick myself back up and continue along my way.
I think it really hit me that I was making an impact when I started to hear from people how much they related to my childhood stories, the way I was brought up, the movies I watched as a kid. It’s those moments that made me realize I accomplished my goal.
How has your background influenced your interest in hosting and digital content production?
I never saw people like me in the media growing up. I always wanted to change that. I didn’t feel that I had anyone I could personally connect with when I watched TV. And to me that was always so mind blowing because the media, although so broad, is such a personal industry.
I have always been proud to say on air that I’m a Guyanese woman. I have made it a point to fight for more Caribbean content on air. I’ve made it a point to share stories about my family, where they came from, and even the experiences I’ve had growing up in a Guyanese family. Promoting Caribbean culture in general has always been important to me. And progress has been made! At my previous radio job, I pushed incredibly hard to start interviewing Caribbean artists and to highlight them. I had the opportunity to interview artists like Sean Paul, Kes and Konshensand those interviews aired nationally which was massive.
Prashad often infuses cultural content into her work by showcasing Indian and Caribbean food, offering Bollywood movie recommendations, detailing her trips to Guyana, talking about new music and sharing information about Caribbean events in Toronto. She does not believe that cultural content needs to be pared down for the masses, but instead advocates for aspiring Indo Caribbean creators to keep releasing diverse and authentic content that is representative of themselves.
She notes that the Indo Caribbean experience is not a monolith, and that,
We need more representation! What feels most authentic to you can be vastly different from other content creators. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way of creating content, but the best version of content you’re going to create is when you’re being true to who you are, and having fun.
At only 27 years old, Prashad’s journey has taken her across multiple forms of media. From interviewing Hollywood and Bollywood celebrities to hosting various television shows and being an online and radio voice, she continues to explore different mediums as a means of storytelling and connection. Hardships were plenty during Prashad’s rise to fame, but a steady belief in herself and a willingness to take on new endeavors with authenticity have provided her the grit to overcome challenges.
Prashad is eagerly awaiting to leap into her next digital venture and is actively commending more Indo Caribbean content creators to step into the spotlight with their own personal stories.