Who knew not long after our interview with Global TV’s weather specialist Michelle Jobin that Toronto would be hit by a devastating ice storm? Well, probably Michelle Jobin.
The Toronto native has been forecasting weather for over 8 years -- first with the Weather Network, then Global News Calgary and finally Global News Toronto.
As a street style photographer, the record low temperatures have confined me indoors. What can I say? I’m not a fan of brisk weather and neither is Jobin, who confesses that winter is her least favourite season. Despite these hard cold facts, we braved the frigid air for our shoot on top of the Wallace Avenue Pedestrian Bridge.
TorontoVerve: So tell us about your childhood. What type of kid were you?
Michelle Jobin: I was a very active, expressive, excited and talkative child. I was very curious, always on the go and a major ham. The funny thing is that both of my parents, who are relatively introverted people, were shocked that I went into theatre school and television. I was the one who commandeered the mic from the MC at my uncle’s wedding when I was nine. I would do the same at my dad’s work Christmas party. What I do today is kinda a natural progression from that. I like the spotlight, I like expressing myself, I like communicating and I always have something to say.
TV: When did you first know that you wanted to be a weather specialist?
MJ: Well, I went to school for theatre and film. I was working as an actor for a while -- which, for many actors, means doing a lot of bartending (laughs). I didn’t really feel intellectually stimulated by what I was doing in the industry so I decided to go back to school. I knew I didn’t want to sit at a desk all day. I asked myself what do I love about being an actor and I love the storytelling aspect of it. Well, journalism does that as well. So I went back to school for broadcast journalism and my focus at first was lifestyle entertainment and news. And then I ended up working at the Weather Network. The thing about weather that I really like is that it’s stuff that people can use everyday. It affects everything that we do in this country especially because we get extremes of it. Unlike an anchor, when you do the weather, you don’t read from a teleprompter. You’re up there and you’re live and anything can happen for three minutes. You need to know the story and then tell the audience in a way that’s informative and hopefully entertaining. So I think my background in theatre helped me because you fly without a net in live theatre and you also fly without a net in live television -- especially when you have nothing to read.
TV: How difficult was if for you in the beginning working with a green screen when doing your weather forecast?
MJ: The green screen was difficult at first. It requires a lot of more coordination than people think because you’re working with a mirror image when you’re looking at yourself in the monitor. Also, in my first ever national forecast, the entire system crashed in the control room and I lost all my maps, but I didn’t completely tank because I knew the story. I knew what the forecast was and I just stood there and said ‘I’m going to tell you what’s happening coast to coast for the next few days.’ It was nerve-racking at first, but it was a blessing in disguise because it took away whatever fear I had for live television.
TV: A lot of weather specialists use advanced technology when reporting the weather. How much of a tech nerd are you in your personal life?
MJ: I’m pretty tech geeky. I like gadgets. I love my iPhone and iPad. And because my husband is a photographer, I definitely have an appreciation for cameras. I’m also addicted to my Nike Fuel band. I wear it on air quite often accidentally (laughs). And I would be lost without social media too.
TV: What’s your favourite app?
MJ: Oh Instagram, for sure. I’ve been using Instagram since 2010 and it was immediately addictive. Twitter is a close second because I have a lot to say, but I love the visual aspect of Instagram.
TV: I follow you on Twitter and a significant amount of your tweets are weather-related. How often does weather come up for you in social situations?
MJ: Not as much. I tweet about weather because a lot of that is my job and many people want to have a conversation with me about it. It comes up a lot in social situations more when people find out what I do because I think all Canadians are fascinated about the weather. The other thing is everyone wants to know about the green screen thing and what it’s like to work with it. It’s interesting when I talk to people and they tell me what’s happening in the weather because they forget what I do for a living (laughs).
TV: In the past few decades we’ve seen extreme weather and sea level changes caused by global warming. Incredibly, it recently snowed in Cairo. What do you say to those critics who still deny that humans have anything to do with climate change?
MJ: My personal feeling is that we do. I think we’ve seen obvious effects in terms of the footprint that we’ve left on the Earth in general. The other thing I like to think about is the atmosphere is bigger, stronger and more mysterious than us. We’ve seen all these shifts and changes over thousands of years in terms of ice ages, so I do believe we’re affecting things and I think we all have to take steps to reduce our carbon footprint. But I also think that we’ve seen many instances where we’ve been reminded of the power of Mother Nature how it’s stronger than us. I have lots of colleagues who are in different camps [on the subject]. I feel it’s a little bit of both. The other thing I have to say is that there are great shifts in weather. Anomalies -- like the snow in Cairo -- can happen without us being responsible.
TV: The television industry is arguably consumed with looks and beauty. How do you deal with the pressures of keeping up your appearance?
MJ: It’s hard and it’s something that I’ve thought about a lot because I work in an industry that is very much about the visual. So there can be a lot of pressure. Especially with social media being what it is - everybody is a critic now. I feel that we live in a world where both men and women feel that they have to live up to unrealistic and unhealthy expectations. So I try to cut through all that and focus on being happy. I think we should all be kind to ourselves. And by that I mean literally say nice things to myself. Sometimes I can be my own worst critic, but a very wise person, my husband, once told me to “look at myself with softer eyes” – which really hit home.
TV: How do you stay healthy?
MJ: One of my biggest passions is fitness, which is a good counter-balance to my passion for food. I started running in grade school and I still do. I’m almost a certified pilates instructor. I also do yoga, cross-fit, high-intensity training and the variety of that contributes to my overall health. It’s also really good to take a rest day as well. About 5 years ago, I started snowboarding as a way to learn to love winter and stay active because I naturally don’t love winter. I’m a summer person big time.
TV: How much control do you have over what you wear on air?
MJ: I have a good amount of control. Certainly there are standards that you have to adhere to. Because I’m in front of a green screen I can’t wear green, turquoise or even some yellows -- otherwise I’ll have the map where my outfit is. Also, I can’t wear patterns because they vibrant in front of the screen. I like where I work...I like the people and the company I work for so you want to make sure that you’re adhering to the image that they want to present, but at the same time I kinda have to be me. I’m not a big business suit person. I’m sure if someone got me a wonderful Gucci or Prada suit, I might feel differently, but I like to mix things up. it’s more modern now in my industry -- people are more themselves. I like being more fashion forward -- more youthful and a little bit more myself.
TV: What’s the difference between your on-air style and your off-air style?
MJ: The best way that I can describe my personal style is dynamic and I mean that in two ways. Because I’m so active, I like clothing that allows me to move. A lot of times I wear clothing on the stretchier side and that reflects my lifestyle. I also mean dynamic because I’m also pretty changeable from season to season. On air, I like to think I’m not corporate looking, but I have to lean a little bit more that way for sure.
TV: Who are your fashion influences?
MJ: I’m inspired by music, street fashion, film and my friends. I appreciate the art of fashion and personal style, but I find more and more that I get turned off by fashion being tied to wealth and status. Fashion is a feeling...an attitude, but it isn’t a dollar sign. Sometimes I visit sites like Sea of Shoes, Song of Style, and Refinery 29 for inspiration. It’s important to have fun with fashion and not take things too seriously.
TV: Where do you like to shop for clothing?
MJ: Everywhere! I love shopping when I travel the most because it’s the easiest way to find unique styles. When I was in Taiwan, I had a lot of fun shopping at night markets. In Toronto, I love to support local as much as I possibly can. Fortnight Lingerie, for instance, is an amazing Toronto label. Even if the designer wasn’t a friend of mine, I’d still be buying their stuff because the fit and design is next level and worth the splurge. I really like mixing quality long-lasting pieces with fast fashion. I’ve recently become an ambassador for Montreal-based label Lole. Their clothes have the right balance of form and function, and I like their philosophy: “Buy less, but buy better quality.”
TV: You covered news at TIFF and hosted shows such as Toronto Dining, Dream Car Garage and now you’re a weather specialist. What other areas in media are you interested in exploring?
MJ: My first love was really lifestyle television and sometimes it doesn’t get the best rap. When I did Toronto Dining and Toronto Living I got to uncover all the hidden gems of Toronto -- whether it’s food or fashion. That was the most rewarding part of my career -- making that connection with good, hard working people. I’d like to go back to something like that. I’ve covered TIFF 3 times and really enjoyed that because I’m a film nerd so I’d love to explore that again as well. Travel is the next frontier. If there’s anybody whose job I would really want it’s Anthony Bourdain’s. He gets to be himself, he gets to travel and he gets to eat great food. He’s really uncovering how food fits into the greater social, political and economical construct of all the places he visits.
TV: Are you ever going to get the acting bug again?
MJ: It happens every once in a while. There’s nothing that can replicate the feeling of being live on stage -- even live television is not the same. When you walk out onto a stage, you can feel the audience. There’s something that is palpable in terms of the mood -- if they’re with you or if they’re not, and that struggle and interplay of winning them over. It’s like a drug.