Jess Smith is on a mission to enforce diversity in the workplace.
Many Canadians recognize the 35-year-old Torontonian as a weather specialist with CTV, but this TV star is so much more than an online personality.
In an interview with Yahoo Canada, the former CFL cheerleader opened up about her work, beauty standards in the media, and discrimination and representation in the workplace.
Yahoo Canada: Why did you choose media as your career?
Jess Smith: "I love information, learning and sharing stories with people. I think everyone's stories have meaning. And with a career in news media, I can tell the world's stories. I guess I hope that I'm helping people to feel less alone by sharing a multitude of perspectives, and this is a career that allows me to do that."
YC: What do you love most about your job?
JS: "I love my job because it's introduced me to so many different people, communities and backgrounds from all parts of the world. By speaking to and learning about different people, it helps me to develop different worldviews and perspectives. I like finding unknown people who are doing really cool things in the world. It feels impactful and it makes everyone, no matter who you are or what you do, feel important — which is really special. My greatest advice for anyone trying to find their dream career is to be yourself and keep the faith. Be who you are and the rest will fall into place."
YC: Have you had any negative experiences with discrimination or representation in the workplace?
JS: "Yes of course, and it's terrible. There's no real reason for it. But now I have a job that's based on merit, hard work and experience. It's not right to be judged on appearance or gender for that matter. You know, in the past, there weren't that many women in my field — especially black women — but that's definitely changing. I want more people to believe that if you see it, you can be it."
YC: You recently took to Twitter to respond to someone who called your natural hair "silly." Can you comment on that?
JS: "For sure. On the show one day I wore my natural curly hair in a bun on the top of my head, and someone felt the need to call it "silly." I decided not to engage with this person directly but use it as an opportunity to inform and educate others that my hair and black hair in general is beautiful and professional."
Got this comment during the show today. Black hair is beautiful/professional. My hair is beautiful/professional. I didn’t/won’t engage this person. Just because something is different, doesn’t make it ‘silly’. I share to help educate. #RepresentationMatters pic.twitter.com/ScdHaoiYs9
— Jess Smith CTV (@JessicaSmithCTV) July 4, 2022
YC: Why did you decide to speak out about beauty standards on social media?
JS: "People see my natural curls or my more traditional hairstyles on television, and maybe they're uncomfortable because it's much different than what they're used to seeing. It's not traditional to see hair like mine in the media. But I share photos of my hair on Instagram and Twitter because I want to show people that different doesn't mean less than. My hair is a part of me and I'm proud of it. I'm trying to open up the conversation to help people understand but also embrace their authentic selves."
YC: Do you have any advice for people who are trying to learn more about representation, or for people who are trying to embrace their authentic selves?
JS: "I want to show people that you can be whoever you want to be, and you can wear whatever clothes or hairstyle you want. We're so focused on aesthetic, but it's hard work that matters. So if you have a passion for something, or a goal, let nothing get in your way. Work hard, keep positive, and good things will come."