Ginella Massa had dreams of becoming a news reporter since she was a young girl, despite fears that her appearance didn’t fit the typical mold. Decades later, she realized that life long dream when she became Canada’s first hijab-wearing reporter, and then the first anchor of a major Canadian news channel to wear a hijab on-air. Find out how she broke those barriers to realize the career of her dreams.
My first job ever was… As an usher at the theaters at the Harbourfront centre in Toronto. I held that job on and off through high school and university for almost 9 years!
I decided to pursue television because… I loved to talk and be the center of attention when I was a kid. My family couldn’t get me to shut up. The first time we realized that could translate into some sort of career in broadcasting was when I was in the third grade and won a speech competition at my school. I felt like I had something interesting to say and people were actually listening.
My proudest accomplishment is… Becoming Canada’s first hijab-wearing reporter and anchor, not only because of the personal career milestone but because of that doors it might open up for other young women like me.
My boldest move to date was… Quitting a full-time producing job without another job lined up. It was the scariest thing I ever did and people thought I was insane. But I knew I was spinning my wheels where I was, and I wanted to focus on taking my career on-air. It was the best decision I ever made — 8 months later I landed my first on-air gig.
I surprise people when I tell them… I was born in Panama and I speak Spanish.
My best advice from a mentor was… Don’t be afraid to talk about what makes me different. Instead of trying to be like everyone else, see it as an asset instead of a hindrance.
A public figure I look up to is… Malala Yousafzai
My biggest setback was… Being turned down over and over again for on-air positions. Even though I had worked in news as a producer for nearly 4 years, I was constantly told I didn’t have enough reporting experience to be on-air.
I overcame it by… Persistence. I landed my first reporting gig in Kitchener after applying for the same position 3 different times over the span of a year and a half. After the first time I was turned down, I started volunteering at a local community TV station to build up my reporting and videography demo reel so I could have some concrete samples of my work offer them. I guess eventually I wore them down and they hired me!
“There is a lot of pressure from all angles to do things a certain way — from the way I dress, to how I tell my stories. At the end of the day I have to be able to look in the mirror and be satisfied with myself and the decisions I made.”
Work/life balance is… A daily struggle! I have to really focus on leaving work at work. When I get home, I’m allowed to talk about my story from that day for 10 minutes, but then I have to put it away and be present with my family and friends. I try really hard to minimize how much news I consume on my days off, and sometimes I even turn my email notifications off, but I’m not always able to detach myself from what’s going on in the works. The journalist in me is always looking for the next interesting story to tell, much to the annoyance of the people around. They get wary when they see me get that look in my eye and start asking lots of questions.
Authenticity in my career and life means… Striving my best to do things with integrity and not compromising who I am. There is a lot of pressure from all angles to do things a certain way — from the way I dress, to how I tell my stories. At the end of the day I have to be able to look in the mirror and be satisfied with myself and the decisions I made.
If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… I was home schooled in the 7th and 8th grade.
One word I’d use to describe myself is… Optimistic.
One word a friend would use to describe me is… Loyal.
I stay inspired by… The stories of people whose voices are often silenced.
The future excites me because… I have no idea what next year will look like.
I want young women who represent a minority culture or religion in Canada to know… Their voices and their experiences matter and they should demand to be heard.
My next step is… Anyone’s guess!
Photo credit: Robin Kuniski