A Canadian fixture at the Golden Globes, Grammys, the Oscars and the soon, much-anticipated Royal Wedding, yet she’s in our homes every evening delivering the latest from the world of entertainment. New mom Cheryl Hickey of ET Canada juggles her hot, glamour-filled career mingling with international celebrities, with the responsibilities of a young family. And, she brings the same small town warmth and caring to her audience and the celebrities she interviews. Now it’s time to turn the tables and learn some of the intimate details of Cheryl’s life, laughs and loves.
BARBARA When did you realize your destiny?
CHERYL My dad and I were watching a cable station on TV and he said, “What are you going to do this summer?” I didn’t know. Then an ad came on for volunteers to work at the station. My dad jokingly said, “You love to talk,” and I said, “Yes I do!” So we toured the station and I fell in love with it. So many different jobs to do: creating shows, running the teleprompter, being a cameraman. It was awesome! If I didn’t fit in one place, maybe I’d fit in another.
B You’ve tasted it all, both sides of the camera.
C It’s a lot of work and takes a lot of people. What viewers don’t see is all the program planning: from Producers and Executive Producers to the buyers, the cameramen and show editors. They create the great programs. I feel blessed and lucky to be presenting the information to the audience.
B Your career started on radio in Owen Sound. How did growing up and starting your career there assist you with becoming a national TV celebrity?
C Owen Sound gave me a sense of community and comfort; time to get comfortable with who I am, and what’s important. I learned a ton: how to tell a good story, what mattered, what didn’t; the importance of deadlines and accountability. All important disciplines for moving forward. In radio, if you don’t know how to tell a story without pictures, you lose the audience. I have a great respect for people who tell stories through radio and print. It’s tough to translate for the audience.
B Fears; you had a fear of heights, yet ended up as a traffic announcer in a helicopter over Toronto.
C I did and I got over that pretty fast. My new boss hired me from the Barrie station for a fantastic opportunity. I wasn’t ‘on air’ at the time. I was a cameraman and he saw something in me. Thank goodness for him. Anyway, I didn’t have the guts to say, “Listen, do you have anything on the ground? I’m kind of afraid of heights.” So, I sucked it up and perspired a lot. There were a few nauseous days up there.
B Biggest career transition?
C Hosting ET Canada for sure. It took a while to get comfortable. I had been doing news stories where
I injected some of my own personality and was comfortable. When ET Canada started, we infused what they do in the States with a Canadian flavour. For some reason, I lost myself a little and wasn’t sure where ‘I’ fit in. It took a while to get my stride as a host, and get comfortable in my skin again.
B What’s the favourite part for you?
C The people. The people I interview and the viewers. And I have great co-workers. We have the goofiest, most creative, dedicated group. And we care about each other. It’s rare and special. It can be ridiculously funny in the studio, I’m glad we don’t tape that stuff (laughing heartily).
B How did the transition to being a Canadian celebrity feel?
C I can’t say because I really and truly don’t feel that way. I feel extraordinarily ordinary. I’m in the limelight because what I’m talking about is in the limelight –
I bring celebrities into people’s homes. If people are interested in that, in something I’m wearing or a charity I work with, that’s a bonus.
B Where do you feel you may have failed?
C You call it failure; I call it a chance to learn. I choose not to look at things as failures. I’ve done things that haven’t worked the way I thought and have been frustrated, but also strangely comforted knowing maybe it didn’t go the way I wanted because there’s a reason it’s to be different.
B You look at the success of the circumstance.
C Sometimes I get frustrated and think, “Man, that
really wasn’t good.” But I look at what I can learn or teach others, through my ups and downs. I don’t use the word failure; it’s really negative. I look at it as something I wasn’t expecting to happen.
B Any unexpected happenings?
C Yes. At my very first Grammy show, we had technical difficulties and I had to talk for two to three minutes straight. It was unexpected, I rambled on. At the time I thought, “I really bombed that one.” But fast forward three years. My original ET Canada boss said, “I saw that piece and I was impressed with how you handled it.” In my mind it was a disaster, yet he thought I was brilliant − because I danced. You have to keep dancing until things are right. And keep in mind, what you may think isn’t good may be good to other people.
B As a new mom, what’s your son taught you most?
C To take one day at a time because with him whatever is happening right now is all there is. He doesn’t worry about lunch or changing his wet nappie in an hour. That’s innocence, and beautiful wrapped together. He’s taught me how to slow down, appreciate what’s in front of me, and hold onto it. It’s a challenge.
B Are you able to take that into your work?
C I’m working at it. I’m an anticipation junkie, always have been. I think my generation is. But I am learning to appreciate what I have right now, enjoy it and not worry about down the road. Jaxson is teaching me that.
B Advice for new moms-to-be?
C Take lots of belly pictures, and right before too! Enjoy the quiet time prior to birth with your partner. Embrace the whole experience and stay in the moment. It's challenging with a little one, but they help you live in that moment. Nothing else counts for them except what’s happening right now.
And new moms: take time to care for yourself. My husband will laugh when he reads this. He teases me that I’m not very good at that, or leaving the baby. I’m still learning to put myself first in order to be good for everybody else. It’s a challenge in today’s society with the ‘it’ career, ‘it’ marriage, the children, the house – it’s all so fragmented. Can you really be present for any of it? It’s important to be honest with yourself on how much you can stretch. I don’t like the saying ‘you can have it all.’ It’s a blind statement that puts a lot of pressure on women. ‘You can have what you want’ − how about that? Or, ‘you can create your own great world.’
B Where did you create that?
C In my case, I lucked in. Shaw Media has a high value on families. We worked out the schedule so I spend maximum amount of time with Jaxson at home and maximum amount of time at work. I want to teach my son the things I feel a mother would teach her
children. And everyone I work with supports this.
B What’s Cheryl really like?
C My life is certainly not as glamorous as it looks. My family will tell you I’m a bit dorky. I trip and fall a lot. We’re goofy and dance around at home. We like to create fun. I’m a combination of all these things, with a splash of glamour thrown in by the ET Canada ‘glam team.’
Cheryl and Tom Cruise on the set of ET Canada.
B How do you get in touch with the inner Cheryl?
C Through my family. We’re all close. I have an older brother and sister. If I’m being a jerk or going through life too fast, not watching the people around me, or stepping out of line, they’ll be the first ones to mention it to me. My mom and dad are excellent grounders for me; spending an evening with them calms me down. And the time I spend with my husband stops the world so I can relax.
B What haven’t you done that you would love to do?
C One day, I’d love to sink my teeth into an in-depth Barbara Walters type interview. I’m extremely happy where I am and would love to build on top of it. More specials, longer for-mat pieces alongside what I’m doing, when the time is right. I keep an eye on what’s happening − where people are going and what they’re doing. Last year, in 2010, George Stroumboulopoulos and Ben Mulroney (colleagues from the other national networks) and I co-hosted Canada for Haiti. I was terrified. Jaxson was four months old and it was my first day back on a live national TV program, with two guys I had never gone ‘live’ with, and it was an important international fundraiser. Ten minutes before we aired, I was breastfeeding Jaxson in a back room thinking, “Cheryl, get perspective here. We’re doing this for little kids like Jaxson who now have nothing, and possibly lost their parents. If they’re lucky, they’re safe in a make-shift shanty with their mom and dad.” This was real life, and it was tragic. I was nervous, and excited about the call to action. We all wanted it to be extremely successful and it was.
I was impressed and grateful that all three networks came together for this cause. I’d love if we could to do it every year. Choose a national or international cause and come together to make a difference − a great Canadian thing to do. We could make headway for these causes; that would be wonderful. It was a powerful and beautiful day. I felt proud to be a part of it.
B How do you maintain your health and vitality?
C Sleep is crucial. That’s number one. If I don’t get quality sleep, I’m no good. I learned that in the early days after having my son. My body breaks down: everything from rising stress levels to the way my skin feels. I still take my Multi For Two. I noticed since taking it my skin, hair, everything feels better. The doctor said I could continue taking it. And just for the record: Everybody, I’m not pregnant! I also take omega 3. When I don’t take it, my energy and mood are different. I try to drink a lot of water and green tea. I went lactose- and dairy-free for my son, and was amazed at how the weight started to drop off.
For fitness, I work out regularly and recently started using Reebok Easytone shoes. They’re amazing: my butt and thighs have noticeably toned. When I was pregnant, I worked out using kettle bells with a trainer. You have to be careful, but it comes down to your fitness level and training prior to the pregnancy. It was very good for me. And I have to laugh a lot. If I haven’t belly-laughed at least once in a day, something’s wrong. Laughing is really important!
B Who makes you laugh most?
C It’s a tie between my son, husband and mom. With all of them in the same room it’s game over for me. I have the best family. They’re crazy and I love them!
B Most important advice your mom gave you on
marriage, having a child and career?
C My mom and dad have always said, “Just be yourself. That’s good enough and all you can do.” On having and raising a child, mom said to always be present. Don’t stress too much. I worry about not doing things right. Kids don’t come with a handbook.
The best piece of marriage advice from mom: “If you’re in an argument, is it necessary to do that one last snipe? That one last thing to get them?” I was famous for that and it isn’t good to do.
B If you and Kevin aren’t getting along, how do you rectify things?
C We treat each other the same way we treat a best friend. We talk it out. We don’t want to hurt one another. And, we forgive each other. Nobody’s perfect. Our philosophy: be best friends and be good to each other.
As long as we treat each other well and honestly, we’re on the right track.
B Your bumper sticker of life?
C Don’t take yourself too seriously and love a lot!
B Are you spiritual or religious?
C I’m both. I believe there’s a higher power, a God at the heart of it all. When you’re a good person, do good things, and treat people the way you want to be treated, that’s important to me. I believe in miracles and the biggest miracle...giving birth. It changed everything. I’m a more sensitive person now. And I give thanks each night for everything and everyone in my life.
B You started your career with volunteering, then step-by-step doors opened.
C I was prepared. You can have all the talent and luck in the world, but if you’re not prepared, you won’t be able to pounce on the opportunity when it presents itself. I was lucky, but I prepared myself along the way. I also watch people to see what I can learn from them, especially people I admire.
B Who do you admire in your industry and why?
C I admire Beverly Thomson's warmth and kindness. She’s a beautiful soul and you just want to hug her, yet she can get in there like nobody can. I admire that a lot. And George Stroumboulopoulos. He’s so well researched, a professional with a great edge. I’d like to work with George again. He’s a smart guy and on top of that he’s really funny.
B Pearls of wisdom on fulfilling dreams?
C Put aside all negative self-talk. Write down your dreams; see them as true possibilities, achievable goals. And go for it. Be honest with yourself. Don’t worry so much. My husband is going to laugh at this. I worry all the time, and I am working on that too!
B We teach and give advice on things we often need to learn the most.
C Yes, I definitely am at this time in my life. And just when I figure it out, I change it. H&L