/ FACES Magazine March 2017
WE SAT DOWN WITH CTV LIVE HOST STEFAN KEYES TO FIND OUT WHAT GETS HIM GOING IN THE MORNING.
You have to get up pretty early in the morning to catch Stefan Keyes, host of Ottawa’s CTV Morning Live, and even then you better be prepared to keep up. Between segments on the award-winning show, Stefan keeps busy giving back to the community through several non-for-pro t groups, with a focus on minority issues, youth and the arts. He’s also a singer and actor, an accomplished journalist. Oh yes, and he seems to love what he does.
Stefan, tell us a little bit about how you got into news journalism. Was it something you knew that you always wanted to do?
It was something that I had considered while growing up, for sure. When I was in my earlier “single-digit” years, I knew that I wanted to be a news anchor or Alex Trebek ... whichever came first (laughs). But as I entered my pre-teen years, I had my eyes set on the stage.
I would say that I fell back in love with journalism after choosing not to accept an offer to attend the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City. It was a tough decision to make because I had spent years training and working towards the goal of being on Broadway. At least, having been accepted to such a prestigious American institution gave me a sense of validation. Ultimately, AMDA said because I was an international student that they had maxed out on my scholarship offer at $10,000 US/year and couldn’t offer any additional financial support. I didn’t want to burden my family; so I decided I was better off pursuing journalism and honing my skills in the literary arts while putting the performing arts on the backburner.
What is the most challenging part of your job as a TV anchor and news producer?
The most challenging part, without a doubt, is not being able to grieve and mourn with the rest of the world during tragedy. Like first responders, we have a job to do and being emotional about certain events is not part of it...even though maintaining compassion is.
Can you describe the team at CTV Morning Live?
What is your favourite part about working there?
The team at CTV Morning Live is a hardworking and dedicated crew. Much like a well-oiled machine, everyone plays a vital role in keeping our four-hour show together with all of its moving parts.
My favourite part about working here is that I am fortunate enough to call everyone I work with a friend. This is rare and not something one should take for granted.
As a figure in the community, you are always well dressed—how would you describe your personal style? What is your go-to outfit for work?
I like to describe my personal style as “classic gentleman with a twist.” I like traditional looks while keeping pace with modern times. It’s really important for me to combine trends that I like to create my own style and not be a clone of someone else. Your style should be effortless and you should feel comfortable with whatever look you’re trying to go for. I don’t have a go-to outfit.
Can you give our readers some style advice on how to rock a suit? You are an avid supporter of the pocket square—what are some tips on pulling that off?
The best thing a guy can do to up their suit game is ensure the suit fits. You can spend $200 on a suit, less than $200 on tailoring and still look like a million bucks. Your suits should look like they were custom made just for you. This is something no man should compromise on. If your suit doesn’t fit right, it will look borrowed. Own your look.
You make live TV look effortless, especially during the early hours of the morning. What is your secret to never getting nervous?
Thank you, (laughs)! The secret is to live in the moment and forget that people are watching. I used to make the mistake of being aware of an audience. As soon as you do that, you become distracted by the fact thousands of people are watching and pour all of your effort into not wanting to screw up instead of focusing your efforts on delivering the information people need.
How do you deal with the early mornings? What is your morning routine, and your drive-to-work playlist?
Waking up is a mind-game. It sounds horrific to most that my alarm goes off at 3 a.m. but I really just view it as a shift in my entire day. My 3 a.m. is equivalent to someone else’s 8 a.m. and so I treat it like anyone else’s day— but starts a little earlier and ends a little earlier. So yes, 7:30 p.m. feels like midnight to me but you make it work.
When it comes to routine: wake-up, check phone for any news that would have developed overnight, shower, get dressed, pack my prepared meals, a change of clothes and hit the road. My playlist depends on my mood. Sometimes it’s reggae/soca, top 40s, or gospel. Most often I drive in silence because it is one the few moments in the day that I have solitude and have a chance to get introspective.
How does acting differ from news journalism? While they are both in front of the television, do they require different approaches?
I do believe there is an artistic measure in any form of journalism, but the approach is certainly different. Especially with television, you can find similarities in the production value of a newscast and theatre. Both have producers and directors. But as a journalist you take on the role of storyteller or narrator. As an actor, you are a single character. The latter is the portrayal of a very limited point of view, which greatly differs from the omniscient truth-seeking journalist that efforts to showcase all sides of the conversation. That being said, style of delivery in a news broadcast is much closer to raw reality TV than a movie that manufactures emotion through fictional narrative. When you approach it like that, you have to surrender that news does not require acting and is generally closer to public speaking in nature.
You also work diligently to give back to the community for several not-for-profit groups. What groups do you work with?
Right now, I work with Youturn which is an intensive service-based not-for-profit organization that supports youth in conflict with the law and their families. I also sit on the board of directors for the Great Canadian Theatre Company and am launching new initiatives with Ottawa Community Housing. I also give my time to the United Way, the Reach Centre, Ottawa’s Sickle Cell Awareness Network, and Jamaican Ottawa Community Association when needed.
In the past, I have worked with the arts education organization MASC, the Ottawa School of Speech and Drama, and the Amazing People initiative honouring outstanding members of our community.
You launched your career with CTV Ottawa in 2008, before moving to Alberta for a news anchoring position in Calgary. What did you miss most about your hometown of Ottawa while you were away? What drove your decision to come back and join the team at CTV Morning Live?
Honestly, Calgary quickly became my second home. I will always miss friends and family wherever I go. So while I was there, I missed my nearest and dearest in Ottawa. Now that I’m back, the same goes for those I left behind in Calgary.
Ultimately, the decision was made because it was a fantastic opportunity in a new role that sought me out. It’s rare and extremely flattering to be hunted instead of finding yourself hunting. And our industry is changing in such a way that you have to take advantage of these offers when they come around because it could be another 20 years before something opens up again.
What is your favourite thing about Ottawa as a community?
I take extreme pride in how diverse and intellectual Ottawa is. This is a city that is more academically-inclined than most and it breeds smart and ambitious people with a social conscience.
What is the best piece of advice that you ever received?
Don’t occupy your time with other people’s success when you should be chasing your own.... That one comes from Momma Bear.
You have many talents that have led you to become a vocalist and actor, who has performed in diverse crowds in Canada, the United States, and Jamaica. Do you have any other hidden talents or hobbies that people may not know about?
Just don’t let me out on the dance floor when dancehall reggae comes on (laughs)!
Do you feel it is important to have many different talents, passions and hobbies? How do you balance it all?
It is extremely important to diversify your interests. I think everyone needs an outlet and something that defines them outside of their career. In a world, where it is becoming increasingly unheard of to hold one job for a lifetime, it is important to align your persona with more than what you do as a source of income. It makes the devastation/reality of job loss for any reason feel less like you’ve been robbed of an identity.
What is next for you?
Your guess is as good as mine. Stay tuned!