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Living #InSync: Dina Pugliese on overcoming her inner critic and making her dream career a reality

After ten years as Co-Host of Breakfast Television, Dina Pugliese is accustomed to the spotlightbut it wasn’t always that way. We’ve partnered with Activia to share Dina’s story of how her experiences taught her to listen to her inner critic, trust her instincts, and find the balance that allows her to achieve her best.

By Hailey Eisen | Photography by Genevieve Charbonneau

 

Dina Pugliese spends her mornings in front of the camera, entertaining and informing Torontonians as they begin their days. Despite the rigid early morning schedule she keeps in order to work as Co-Host of City TV’s Breakfast Television (BT) Toronto, it seems as though she’s permanently in a good mood. And that’s not just an act. Unabashedly quirky, Dina remains committed to being her true self, or what she refers to as “that crazy Italian girl,” both on and off camera.

“In the age of YouTube, what’s resonating with people is authenticity and integrity, being yourself rather than the polished, perfect, robotic version of a person we’re used to seeing on TV,” she says. “What you see is what you get with us.” And that’s the way it always been, since Dina assumed the role of BT co-host in 2006. She writes all her own Tweets and tells her own jokes—and admits she’s no longer afraid of what others think of her. “Love it or leave it, I’m not going to pretend to be something I’m not.”

But back in her 20s, Dina’s inner critic plagued her. An A+ student who graduated first from York and then from Humber College’s broadcast journalism program, Dina spent the early part of her career “doing her time” working behind the scenes, monitoring police scanners, making coffee, working the shifts no one wanted, and trying to build up the courage to apply for an on-air position. Like many women (according to a worldwide study conducted on behalf of Danone Activia, a full 62 per cent of women), she felt that her inner critic was holding her back more than most other things in her personal life.

When she finally did put together a demo tape and asked the news director at Global Television, her employer at the time, to take a look, he brushed her aside saying something along the lines of, “don’t get your hopes up, just keep doing what you’re doing.”

While she remembers feeling as though she might throw in the towel before really giving it a shot, she was lucky to have some incredible female role models rooting for her success. “I took the advice of Beverly Thomson and Mary Ito, both of whom I was working with at the time, and sent out my demo tape, which I happened to think was pretty terrible.”

Within three days she had two job offers.

Thankfully for viewers across the GTA who now rely on Dina’s uplifting spirit and natural on-air talent to kick start the day, the young reporter was able to work constructively with her inner critic, allowing it to guide her to her full potential. She pushed beyond her comfort zone in her first on-air job as entertainment reporter, writer, and producer of Toronto 1’s Morning Show, Toronto Today. “The truth is, if you work hard enough and really put yourself out there, you’ll get rewarded. I’m so grateful to be doing what I’m doing today,” she says.

“Love it or leave it, I’m not going to pretend to be something I’m not.”

It’s this gratitude that guides Dina in her personal and professional life. “At 4 a.m. when I’m exhausted and people are Tweeting me to say good morning and wishing me a good show—that’s when I say to myself ‘let’s take on this day, let’s find the good, find the joy, and find the positive moments.’”

Feeling good about herself and overcoming her inner critic has allowed Dina’s positivity to flourish in all that she does. But working crazy hours and spending much of her life in the public eye means Dina needs to take time to find her balance, look after her own well-being and to connect with her husband, whose work hours don’t coincide with her own. “People used to say to me, ‘you have to get yourself out there and attend and host more events’,” she recalls. “Suddenly I found myself feeling burnt out. I didn’t want to disappoint people, but I had nothing left for me.”

Finding that balance was key to Dina’s success, and it has allowed her to maintain the same hectic schedule for 10 years as of this October. When she gets that gut feeling that she needs to rejuvenate, she says she goes into her “bubble” with her husband, spending a day or even a whole weekend in their PJs, watching movies, working on their backyard, or just doing nothing together. “It’s important that we make time for us to reconnect, just the two of us, and then schedule in other time to be with our families, our parents, nieces and nephews, and siblings.”

Family is extremely important to Dina, and a big part of the reason she’s never taken a job in the US (though she’s had the opportunity). “We didn’t try to have children until I was much older, and by then my body told me it was too late,” she recalls. “But I don’t have any regrets. Everything happens for a reason, and I’m so blessed to have so many things to be grateful for.”

 

Want to know more of Dina’s story? Watch her personal video as part of Activia’s Women InSync series, and see her in person on October 27, as she hosts an evening with Rocket Scientist and Explorer Natalie Panek. For even more inspiration, follow @activia_canada on Instagram and look out for the Live #InSync hashtag. You’ll see how exceptional women from across Canada are achieving that special state when body and mind are in harmony, and they are driven from within to achieve their full potential.