CALGARY – After 27 years as host of “FashionTelevision,” you could say Jeanne Beker’s arrival at this year’s Banff World Media Festival will be “fashionably late.”
Beker will receive the 2012 Canadian Award of Distinction at the festival next week, joining previous winners including Howie Mandel, Eric McCormack and Kim Cattrall.
“It’s sort of one of those awards where you sort of wonder, ‘Does this mean I’ve arrived or does this mean it’s time to leave?,’” Beker said with a laugh during a recent interview.
“It’s really humbling,” added the host of FashionTelevisionChannel, Canada’s first and only 24-hour channel dedicated to fashion, beauty and design.
“I’m really surprised in some ways just because I can’t see the forest for the trees sometimes. I remember early days of my career where I had to fight hard for credibility because I didn’t always have it.”
The festival said it’s giving Beker the honour because she is “one of the most iconic and influential women in the fashion industry, both in Canada and around the world.”
Not bad for a woman who started out on the CBC sitcom “Toby” in 1968 before later studying theatre at York University and eventually moving to Paris to study mime with Marcel Marceau’s teacher, Etienne Decroux.
“I went to study mime because I wanted to learn an exacting technique. I really wanted to do something that was that exacting. With mime you either create the illusion or you don’t,” she added.
“I came back as a bona fide mime artist in about 1975. There wasn’t much work for mime artists so I moved to Newfoundland and got a job in radio and was the only mime artist in the province.”
Beker returned to Toronto and eventually ended up co-hosting “The New Music” before becoming the host of “Fashion Television” in 1985, which would be seen by viewers in more than 130 countries.
“My ex-husband used to say that ‘FashionTelevision’ was the National Geographic of the new age. Young boys could watch it and get an eyeful of women’s breasts. It’s incredible to think that no one else saw the potential of fashion on television before,” Beker said.
Production of the broadcast finally ended this year on April 11.
Beker acknowledges that fans in our country keep a pretty close eye on Canadians who are successful.
“I think the thing I’m proudest of is I made it here in Canada and I never went away. There are very few of us here,” she said.
“Most people who really make the big bucks leave and then they come back here and get awards. I don’t think a lot of people are rewarded for staying here in this country.”
Despite her lengthy role in the fashion world, Beker doesn’t consider herself to be a fashionista.
“I don’t live and die for fashion at all. I’m up on it and I think I get it but I don’t think it’s the most important thing in the world,” she noted.
“These women who are slaves to fashion worry me a little bit. I’m not ever impressed with them,” Beker added.
“I think great style has so much more to do with attitude and character than it does with the clothes you put on your back.”
The Banff World Media Festival runs June 10-13.