On Friday, June 10, 2016, the 39th annual National Magazine Awards were held in Toronto. I was nominated in two categories: Best New Writer and Society, for A Daughter’s Revenge. I lost both. Wine, and the fact that my friend Desmond Cole won a lot, both helped.
A big part of me wanted to win. I had a great speech I had worked on all week inside of my head. I wore a super glamorous dress. And I wanted the chance to say something bigger about the industry itself.
But being in that room, filled with hundreds of great people, and watching so many of them be recognized, was a prize in itself. So was being seated at a table with Desmond and Toronto Life editor-in-chief Sarah Fulford.
Someone later asked me if I would have rushed the stage to say my speech, Kanye-style. I had even asked Desmond if I could speak on stage if he won in his fourth category. (He did not.)
My vision for the speech was simple: Working in media and journalism in Canada is pretty hard right now. I wanted to give people in the industry some hope and encouragement, while also saying something that would inspire them to do better.
Here is what I would have said.
“Hi everyone. Before I wrote this story, I wasn’t sure if I was going to stay in journalism past the age of 30. It is not an exaggeration to say this feature has completely changed my life.
I wish I could thank everyone that made it possible, but that’s a really long list*. I do have to thank Malcolm Johnston, Ronnie Maddocks, Mark Pupo, Edward Keenan, Denise Balkissoon and Nick Hune-Brown. They deserve a lot of credit for this story’s genesis and success. And special thanks to my mother, whose love, support, encouragement and sacrifices are why I get to do what I do. Everything good about me is because of her.
And to Chris Turner’s point (a reference to the dominance of Rogers Publishing, Toronto Life and The Walrus nearly every year in terms of total nominations), I’d like to point out Toronto Life invests a lot in stories about and by people of colour. Not a lot of places can afford to do the deep research, editing, big covers and promotion they do any more. But it really matters, especially for when you don’t look like a lot of the people in this room.
I hope Canadian magazines continue to provide opportunities to more people of colour to be involved in creating great work. And I hope Desmond and I are proof the investment is well worth doing so.
*Among the most important: Saleem Khan, Elon Green, Jake Adelstein, Trevor Cole, Andrew Westoll, Tim Falconer, Sarah Fulford, Ken Hunt, Philip Yam, Christian Doucet, Yvonne Ho, and Caitlin Kelly.