“Oh my goodness, an island girl!” That’s what I blurted out the first time I saw Nneka Elliott on my television screen. I couldn’t have been more thrilled. Nneka Elliot is best known for her role as reporter, anchor and co-host of CP24’s Breakfast Weekend. Poised with a memorable girl next door charm, Nneka’s drive is evident in the fact that she’s held roles at some of Canada’s top media outlets; Newstalk 1010, CTV News Toronto and The Weather Network just to name a few, all before the age of 30!
Memorable moments include her contribution to CP24’s award winning municipal election coverage in 2010 as well as the G20 Summit protests. A recognizable figure within Canada’s Caribbean community, her Caribana coverage over the years has been nothing short of entertaining. So what have I learned from Nneka? That tenacity, determination and a fearless attitude when it comes to seeking new opportunities, are the simple secrets to success.
Here is her story.
If you had to describe yourself in three words what would they be?
Ambitious, quirky and fun!
Tell me about yourself and the journey that led to your current career in broadcast journalism.
In my third year at Ryerson University (Radio & Television arts program) I was selected for a paid summer internship at CFRB radio. Once the internship was complete I nagged and nagged my boss to give me a job. He gave in and I anchored overnight on the weekends and performed the role of audio editor once a week.
Once I graduated university I worked on campus and then still at CFRB seven days a week. At the end of 2006, I was hired at The Weather Network (TWN) after creating a fake demo reel (I had no TV experience). I was fortunate to secure consecutive full time contracts at TWN. I stumbled upon an opening at CP24 after a casual (months in the making) meeting at CTV News. I was hired at CP24 in 2008 first as a Weather/Traffic specialist. By 2011 I was doing weather, traffic reporting and anchoring. I needed a break. That’s when I left to start The Media Huddle I rejoined the CP24 team in 2013 and here I am!
In 2011 you launched The Media Huddle, a skills development company that helped media professionals learn, share and connect. What inspired you to create this platform and what advice would you offer to women looking to pursue a career in broadcast journalism?
I got to where I am because of my own efforts. I’m grateful to all the people along the way who saw something in me. But if I didn’t pick up the phone, send that email, stalk that person etc. I would have achieved nothing. I wish I had more support, more access to people in the industry. I could never afford any of the events or conferences that allow for those opportunities. I wanted to provide an easy way to connect budding media people with more established professionals.
My advice is stay true to who you are. Often in the pursuit of success we lose sight of our true selves. Having a strong sense of self helps strengthen your craft. It also makes you more confident and more likely to push forward in difficult times. Take time to understand who you are, know your value and build a niche.
Biggest lesson learned on your journey thus far.
Hmm there have been lots but I guess the fact that I can’t do everything. Sell your strengths and buy your weaknesses.
I was amazed to learn how young you were when you received your big break in Canada’s broadcasting industry. What keeps you motivated and how do you combat fear and or self-doubt?
I think the fact that I felt that I was at a disadvantage, helped push me to work harder. Yes I was born in Canada but I was coming from St.Vincent and didn’t have as much Canadian volunteer or work experience as my classmates. I always say to myself what’s the worst thing that can happen. Am I going to die if I try this particular thing? No. Has the very worst thing ever happened? No. Momentum is another important thing to me. I volunteered for everything just to keep moving forward…to keep the adrenaline flowing. That often led me to encounter people who inspired me, which added even more fuel.
In your opinion what is the biggest issue affecting Caribbean women in the region or diaspora in 2016 and why?
In the region, definitely economic empowerment. Caribbean women also tend to invest more in their families than themselves. In the diaspora I still feel there is a reluctance to work together. Not that there’s no support, but there is more room for collaboration. Caribbean women hate having people up in their business. We’re highly ambitious but very guarded and have difficulty sharing a vision. We need to be more willing to work with others.
How has your Vincentian heritage impacted your outlook on life, success, business etc.?
There are about 110,000 people in St.Vincent & The Grenadines. That helps to keep me grounded, knowing where I come from. It also helps to differentiate myself from others in my field. For example, a weekend morning show can’t go by without me referencing a story or anecdote from St.Vincent!
One Caribbean woman that inspires you.
My mum. She has reinvented herself time and time again. She picked up tennis, toastmasters and salsa dancing later in life and never ceases to amaze me. She has overcome so much, but never complains, she just gets it done.
Favourite place to visit when in St Vincent and why.
Fort Charlotte. I love the fact that unlike most forts in the Caribbean it was not used to protect the island from naval attack. The cannons were facing inland because the British were worried about attacks from the Carib Indians. I love hearing my mum tell various stories, from the Fort, the Caribs, the leper’s pool, to the female prison. No matter how many times I hear them, it’s still so cool.
Finally, if you had a few words of wisdom for Caribbean women, what would they be?
You are unstoppable, you are enough and your past is not your identity.
Photos courtesy of Jessica B. Smith and Jodianne Beckford