Jordan: These are times for difficult conversations between friends and family, between coworkers, in homes and in workplaces, virtual and otherwise, on the news and in sports. The push to finally address racism and white supremacy has even made its way into some of the most unlikely places for white people to find hard truths and uncomfortable discussions. Places like daytime lifestyle television. Tracy Moore started as host of Cityline 12 years ago. She was the first Black woman to host a Canadian daytime lifestyle show. The reaction to her debut was… ugly.
News Clip: The comment said, I notice Tracy keeps wearing tops that reveal her shoulders. Her shoulders, arms, and hands look a bit masculine and are not feminine. That does not look attractive at all for a woman, in my opinion. Scientists discovered when comparing white women to black women, overall black women featured slightly more masculine features.
Jordan: 12 years later, though, Tracy is still here.
Award Show: The award for top female TV personality in Toronto goes to Tracy Moore.
Jordan: And she’s been talking about health and fashion and recipes and everything else you’d expect on that kind of show for more than a decade now. And today, she’s talking about anti-racism, about white supremacy, on a lifestyle show.
Cityline- Tracy: Still to this day, when we talk about race, people get squeamish. There are some who don’t understand why we have a Black History Month in February, or scowl at the idea of it. So we want to talk about it and about the realities of racism in Canada right now in 2020.
Jordan: In a space that’s traditionally been considered out of bounds for anything political or difficult. And how is that working out? What has it been like trying to find a way to be yourself in a space that the industry has so often told you is not really for you? How do you push these hard topics onto an audience that might not want to hear them? An audience that might want this be their safe space? Well, as it turns out, you just do it. I’m Jordan Heath Rawlings. This is The Big Story. Tracy Moore is the host of Cityline. She also hosts a podcast on this network called #CitylineReal on Race. And this month she graces the cover of Chatelaine magazine. Tracy, what have these past few months been like for you?
Tracy: Exhausting. It’s been a mix of exhausting, and I would say exhilarating. I can’t say that there has been a time in my 45 years of living that I’ve ever seen this level of openness when it comes to conversations around race. We’ve been talking about race, I mean, as a Black woman, I’ve been very cognizant of race since about five years old, maybe even before then. And it’s conversations that we’ve always had within our families and within the community. So to be having these conversations publicly is pretty amazing.
Jordan: How much more direct are these conversations now than they’ve been in the past?
Tracy: I used to dance around them completely. I think I’ve had so many situations where I was with people who were not Black, and anytime I would try and sort of innocuously, just dip my toe into something around race, the response was always extreme fragility, extreme defensiveness, dismissal, trivialization. You learn really quickly that these aren’t the sorts of conversations that people want to be having outside of your community. So the conversations that we’re having now are completely unprecedented. There’s never been a time when we’ve had this openness of talking, not just about police brutality, not just about anti-black racism, but all of the things that come along with the legacy of colonialism, like colourism and featureism and microaggressions, and the conversation is way open than it’s ever been.
Jordan: Does that apply to your show as well? Because, you know, it’s a daytime lifestyle show, which is not typically the place that you find, you know, really direct, challenging conversations about race, to be frank. I mean, maybe I’m wrong about that.
Tracy: You are not wrong about that. And as a matter of fact, as a daytime television host, where we talk about paint projects and DIYs to do with your kids and great recipes you can make with the family, it’s been a very odd space for me to try and navigate. This has always been a huge part of my identity and it was not the sort of thing– race– that I could sort of show up at work with. And right now, there is a real will to have these conversations in show. And because I’ve had so many years of trying to sort of have these separate bubbles. So my social media is the place I would go to be very real about any issues that I feel very passionately about. And the show was the place where I went to make people smile. Now to have these worlds colliding is– there is like a feeling of liberation with that. But there’s also always a feeling of me checking myself. Have we gone too far? Is the audience ready for this? And what I found is, I mean, after speaking with my parents, they’re late seventies/ early eighties, and we had a great panel discussion when we were back in studio about gender pronouns. They said to me, wow, Tracy, that was amazing. We actually, we learned something. We didn’t know. We didn’t know that they or their or them is a pronoun that we should be actively using. We didn’t know. And I thought to myself, why am I underestimating the audience? The audience, these are smart people. These are intelligent people. They can handle it. And if they have an intellectual argument against it, that’s healthy. That’s dialogue. We can have those conversations in show, because I do feel it is a sophisticated audience. So yeah, we’re getting into it. We’ve talked about white privilege on the show, which gets a lot of people’s back up. We are going to be talking about colourism on the show. We have talked about representation of Black and Indigenous fashion brands. We’ve talked about representation of Black and Indigenous beauty brands. We’ve had a lot of conversations on the show that we wouldn’t have had even a year ago. And I’m really proud of that.
Jordan: When you talk about white privilege and other topics, what kind of feedback do you get?
Tracy: We get a lot of denial. The response I get a lot is, well, I don’t see colour. I’m colour blind. And that was how sort of we were raised in the eighties. That was the thing to say. That was the thing teachers said. That was the thing principals said. That was the thing that you heard caregivers say, well, I don’t see colour. I don’t see that you’re Black. I need you to see that I’m Black. I need you to understand– don’t treat me differently because of it, but I need you to understand that the world does. There are systems at play that are treating people differently. There are different realities that exist all at the same time. There are different privileges that are allowing you to walk through life differently than I can walk indifferently. And they’re not just racial. There are wealth privileges, class privileges. There are all sorts of privilege exists out there, and we need to be very aware of where that privilege lies so that we can use it in order to make things a little bit more equitable.
Jordan: If your audience has largely responded to these conversations, and they’ve been ready for them, why do you think, that lifestyle journalism has traditionally been seen as kind of a really nonpolitical space? Or even just as a woman’s space? And these conversations haven’t been happening there?
Tracy: We haven’t had the will, we haven’t had the global will to start wading into these areas. And I think that things flipped so suddenly and so drastically after George Floyd’s death. I think we’re in the middle of COVID, I think that people were understanding this feeling of oppression. They felt, you know, we’re locked up inside, we’re in quarantine, we’ve lost our jobs, we don’t have access to money, we don’t have access to free spaces, and I think it put a lot of the population in a very different mind space. And for them to see now this oppression so visibly happening with Black lives and Black bodies, it’s been happening forever, but for people to finally be the keying into that and tuning into that, something snapped and something flipped. And so when I started seeing protests around the world, that’s when I started thinking my goodness. I’m seeing people in the streets and they’re not Black. There are people in Berlin and people in Sydney, Australia. There’s the wall of moms in Portland. These are not the people that would usually be talking about Black Lives Matter. And that’s when I realized, okay, it looks like there’s a bit of a shift now, or at least– cause I’m still cynical, of course– at least it’s gotten further than I’ve ever seen it get. Because of that, there’s actually a will to have these kinds of very nuanced conversations creep into spaces like lifestyle. Because at the end of the day, Jordan, it feels crazy for me to show up at work and now just talk about the burgers you’re going to be making for dinner when the world’s on fire. Like we had to figure out a way to start weaving in some of this current affairs information into the show. Cause at the end of the day, we’re a lifestyle show, but we also deal with feeling good about who you are. And part of that is speaking about race and all the issues around it.
Jordan: So how do you speak to your audience about racism when many of them likely have zero firsthand experience with it? How do you open that conversation in a way that doesn’t just put them on the defensive? Or maybe you want to do that, I don’t know.
Tracy: It’s okay if they’re on the defensive, I think it’s a process. And I think that what we need to do and what I’ve been trying to do very diligently for the 12 years that I’ve been on this show, is to bring on diverse voices. And I have found it extremely difficult to do that.
Jordan: Explain that a little bit. Explain why that’s been difficult.
Tracy: Yeah. In the very beginning, I took over the show from a host that looked very different than I did. A white woman, middle aged, great, she had great fans right across the country. I came in as a young black woman with twist extensions in my hair and newly married with a new baby, and from news. So I wasn’t even coming– I was coming in from the lifestyle space from a different place. I was coming in as a different race and a different demographic completely. And I felt that I needed to put my head down and really just get people to accept me. And I didn’t feel very supported. And I felt the rage of people watching me occupy this space. And I got the emails and I got handwritten letters and I read them and they were atrocious. They were awful. And what I decided is that I’m not going to internalize all of this, because I’m so excited about this opportunity. I’m so excited, no one ever talks about it, but I am the first Black female solo lifestyle host in Canada. And I was not going to let any of that negativity ruin this experience. You know, this is really exciting for me and my family. And so I put my head down and I said, you know, I’m not amazing at this job yet, but just wait. I’m going to be good at it. You just have to give me a chance and just be patient. And I wrote people back. I emailed people back. I called people. There were people that wrote letters and put their phone numbers at the bottom of the letter and I would call them and I would say, Hey Edith, it’s Tracy Moore from Cityline and I received your letter and I understand I’m a work in progress.I want you to keep watching. I have lots to learn. Maybe you want to come down to the show and watch the show live?
Jordan: How did the Edith’s respond to that?
Tracy: Oh, they were disarmed immediately. You know Canadians, we’re polite. I mean, who wants to be called out like that after you’ve written a nasty letter to someone who is essentially a stranger, because you feel that you have a right to tell them how terrible they are, because your beloved host has been replaced. So they’re disarmed, embarrassed, absolutely would love to I’m down. Yes I’ll wait, I’ll be patient. No problem. So years go by and, and I felt that, okay, now it’s been like, two, three years. It’s been four years. The ratings are amazing. You know, like I’ve built up this viewership, and there are people that really love the show, and trust me as leading the show, let’s try and make some changes. And so I started bringing people on. I would like someone Black who does Black hair on the show. I would like someone Black who does makeup on the show. I would like to look for a Black fitness expert on the show. I would like to look for South Asian people and Asian people. And every time I tried to bring new voices and new faces onto the show, it took a Herculean effort. Because what happens is when a machine is built and everyone in the machine is homogenous, it’s very difficult to shake that up. So over time, more voices were incorporated. But then of course, you know, the whole staff of the show is also coming from– they’re also homogenous as well. And it’s really difficult being the only person of colour in the entire staff room. And then the responsibility is all on me, and I wear that responsibility. Like I take it very seriously. So I think that there were times when it was a real uphill battle, and it was very exhausting. But I tried diligently for the whole time I was here, feeling like I had built up some political capital and I can do it. Now, the whole world explodes and I can say, okay, can we do this? And I have support everywhere now. And that feels good. It’s also frustrating, cause why did we have to wait for the world to be on fire? But it’s okay. We’re going to make some progress now and start thinking about all the different perspectives.
Jordan: Well tell me now, to move from lifestyle television, to lifestyle print journalism, about the package you’re at the front of in Chatelaine, because this is a collection of Black women in media and it’s an anti racism package in, again, what I think most people would traditionally consider not a place that you would find that.
Tracy: Chatelaine has definitely been moving in the direction of working on a lot of really good, of the moment ideas, like body positivity and things like race. And I love the direction the magazine has been taking, and it started taking that direction before this racial reckoning. So the fact that I’ve been put, you know, amongst all of these incredible women from across Canada in different industries is humbling. It’s also humbling to me to be on the cover of a magazine whose editors told me so many times I could not cover. I was bold enough to ask two of the former editor in chiefs of Chatelaine, because of course they were owned by Rogers and I had very close relationships with them, and I asked them, I said, you know, we do a lot on Cityline for Chatelaine, it would be great to have like some quid pro quo. And I asked them and my supervising producer asked them. And they were just like, no. We put pie on the cover, we don’t put people on the cover. And okay, that’s fine. Every once in a while I would see a person on the cover, you know, usually not a person of colour, but a person on the cover. And now having them approach me to be a part of this and a part of a conversation that I feel so passionately about just feels, it feels incredible. And I know it’s just a magazine cover, but it’s more than that to me, because it feels like a moment in a conversation that is going to be here for a long time. And that makes me really happy.
Jordan: I wanted to ask you about, you’ve touched on it a couple of times now, about how, you know, I wish it didn’t take the world being on fire for these changes to happen. And I know kind of by nature, your persona on television anyways, you’re a really positive person. How does it feel? And do you get cynical about the fact that, you know, if there weren’t people marching in the streets right now, if George Floyd wasn’t dead, I wouldn’t be on the cover of Chatelaine and we wouldn’t be having these conversations?
Tracy: That is 100% true. And it’s a bittersweet pill. Because it’s not, you know, I don’t need any magazine covers. What I need is for this issue to really be dove into. I need for people to understand that this is not a me issue, and nor is it a Black issue. This is a human issue. I need for other people that care. I need for this not to look like a fringe marginalized thing that’s just out there floating around. I need for everyone in my neighbourhood to understand the way they raise their children counts. The fact that my kids go to school in this, you know, seemingly progressive neighbourhood and are still being called the N-bomb in 2020 is a problem. And this is beyond me, it’s beyond my family, it’s beyond my parents, it’s beyond my sister. This is, it’s a human issue that needs to be fixed. I need people to take this seriously and to really take it on and not feel like you’re doing something special by taking it on. This is actually something we should all be doing and care about. And not just the Black community, like the Indigenous community in this country, my goodness, there is absolutely no excuse for Indigenous people to be living the life and the reality they are right now when we are visitors in their space. There’s so much that needs to be fixed when it comes to shifting our discourse on this. And yeah, there’s a lifetime of frustration in knowing that we have been talking about this always. My parents have been talking about this since they came to Canada in the late sixties and early seventies. I’ve been speaking about it since I was in elementary school. None of these issues are new. So the frustration that no one listened? Yeah. The fact that finally it’s happening now? Okay, then. Let’s do this and let’s do this properly. And there’s always going to be a bit of a cynic in me. And I know when people outside of the Black community hear that, they think, how can you be cynical? It’s like, well, when you get dismissed for a lifetime and told that these issues are trivialized in a thousand different ways, it’s very difficult to trust that things are going to change.
Jordan: Do you think this time these conversations will stick and we’ll keep moving forward? Because I know there’s a certain status quo that that some people will want to see return. And you know, it’s not a pleasant thing to say, but you know, it might happen. And what needs to happen now to make sure that the momentum doesn’t get lost?
Tracy: My personal goal, because I know that there will be an end, is to get some lasting change put in, in the areas that I can influence. So within Rogers, I see the plan rolling out. I see the tangible, measurable, quantifiable targets that are being put out there. And that makes me happy. Within my own life, I keep the conversation moving on my social media accounts. I keep the conversation going on the show, and I see the commitment around me. But even if everyone else falls off, I know now that I will stay on and I can stay vocal about it, you know, without having this fear of losing my job. That’s all I can do. There’s a part of me that will always be hopeful that the baton will be passed and this will become something that trickles up, you know, into local politics, provincial politics, federal politics, media, government, the education system. There’s a lot that needs to be changed. But I’m going to focus on working on what I can do in my space, because I think that that’s what activism is. I think we have to serve in the ways that we can serve. And that’s certainly what I’m committed to doing.
Jordan: I’m going to take that as an unofficial announcement of Tracy Moore for local MP.
Tracy: You know what my skin is still not thick enough. You would think being in television for all these years, I would have a thick enough skin. I just, I still get hurt. So I can’t be a politician. I just, I wouldn’t put myself or my family through it.
Jordan: Well, Tracy, thank you so much for talking to us about this and for all your work in this space to bring these issues in front of an audience that normally doesn’t face them.
Tracy: Thank you, Jordan. I appreciate the space and the time. Thanks for that.
Jordan: Tracy Moore, the host of Cityline. That was The Big Story. For more from us you can head to thebigstorypodcast.ca. You can also find us on Twitter at @thebigstoryFPN. You can email us if you’d like the email address is email@example.com. And you can go and give us a review. You’ve been giving us some great reviews. We literally share them on Slack. We love them. So do some more, find us on Apple or Google or Stitcher or Spotify. I’m Jordan Heath Rawlings. Thanks for listening. We’ll talk tomorrow.
Back to top of page