Sometimes if we’re lucky enough, we have that one person in life whom we aspire to be like. For Nneka Elliott, it was her grandfather. He was the Chief Magistrate to Anguilla, a published author, and a violinist. He inspired her to pursue music, the arts, and to be the next Prime Minister of Canada. While Elliott didn’t really follow that path, she did pursue the Arts. You may have seen her doing the weather on CTV news or reporting and anchoring at CP24. Today she is a lifestyle entrepreneur who creates digital content.
Elliott grew up as a little girl with ambition, always in front of her camera recording her own shows, taking part in drama classes, piano, acting and of course, the violin. Growing up in the tiny island of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Elliott said having an active imagination was necessary, as there was not a whole lot to do.
However, her time in St Vincent was also shared with her second home and original birthplace of Canada. Born in Montreal, Elliott moved to the islands when her parents split, but would regularly return to Toronto for vacations.
“I was at a crossroads in terms of my identity as a young kid growing up in the Caribbean, but also had these western influences,” she said.
Elliott enrolled in the radio and television program at Ryerson University and, being one of three black people in her year, felt at times it was important to work that much harder. “It was a very competitive program to get into and a lot of people had prior experience,” she said. “I worked at a radio and television station in St Vincent and I had some experience, but not like working at Rogers, like a lot of these kids were doing.”
She started volunteering for the now defunct Toronto One, where she was an audience coordinator, CBC Sports Awards, and was even the training assistant director on Da’ Kink in my Hair, which aired on Global Television network in 2007.
While in her third year of university, Elliott began her summer internship at CFRB Radio. Her persistence and dedication turned that internship into a part-time job. Elliott knew her goal was to make it on-air so she relentlessly bothered her boss to listen to her demos and sought advice from other anchors at that time.
“It was just an obsession. You have to be obsessed. Just put on blinders. I knew it was something I wanted to do and eventually he was like, ‘ok let’s try you’ and I started doing weekend anchoring at CFRB.”
Elliott worked there three days a week, while being an RA on residence, a student ambassador, and any other thing she had going on. Looking back she didn’t know quite how she did it all.
After graduation in 2006, Elliott got a job at the Weather Network as early as January 2007. In a short span of time, Elliott moved from an on-call broadcaster to full contract. She always kept in mind that is key is to not be complacent. It was a similar story for Elliott when she decided to pursue a job at CTV News.
“I called up the head of CTV News at the time and said, ‘it’s Nneka here from the Weather Network,’ he didn’t know who the hell I was, but I just said can you just take 10 minutes out of your day to tell me what you’re looking for in someone at CTV? A lot of what we spoke about was my extra curricular activities, because it’s important to have a life outside of work. He said, ‘we’re not looking for anyone right now but CP24 is hiring a weather person’ and the rest is kind of history.”
Elliott started off at CP24, Canada’s 24-hour breaking news network in 2008. For the next three years, Elliott was the familiar face coving breaking news around the city and sometimes reporting in studio. In 2011, Elliott took a break to start a few side projects. She founded a venture called Media Huddle to mentor upcoming media personalities that wanted to make it on air.
“People want to be in news because they want to tell stories, but things are changing so much as the money is spread thin in television. The models are changing and it’s harder and harder for journalists to specialize in any one thing,” she said.
“You don’t really become known for anything and I just wanted to be known for something. I’ve been telling people’s stories for so long and I forgot my own. I had this obsession with how I thought my career was supposed to be and I never came up for air.”
Elliott made the decision to leave CP24 in 2016 to rebrand. She got opportunities based on the way people thought she was, as seen on TV, and it was time for her to become her own person. Elliott decided to launch her own blog. She also began to focus a lot on her Caribbean roots.
“I love Carnival. I love food and I love fashion inspired by the Caribbean, so that is why the bulk of my content is about the Caribbean.”
Elliott even launched an online talk show that is specifically aimed at the Caribbean diaspora.
Speed Round: Q&A
Q: What’s your favourite fashion piece?
A: A good pair of jeans, my go to is a jeans and a top.
Your favourite Caribbean dish?
I’m a pescatarian, so I only eat fish but I love fried fish and roasted breadfruit. I also love Buljol, it’s a pickled salt-fish dish.
What do you do for fun?
My husband and I watch an obsessive amount of TV and I’d probably say walk my dog— see I don’t know if people find that fun?
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