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Friday, August 3, 2001

New teen VJ lands at MuchMusic

TORONTO -- Not long ago, 19-year-old Amanda Walsh was smiling perkily at director Denys Arcand's camera as she did her best VJ impersonation for his critically acclaimed film "Stardom". Little did she know that her short stint as a make-believe VJ would foreshadow a major career move.

Today, newly coiffed, outfitted, and briefed, Amanda is MuchMusic's newest, and youngest, VJ. After a couple of weeks on the job, her nervousness is starting to wane, but she still remembers her initial reaction when she got the job.
"When they called [to tell me I got the job], I was like 'Oh my God, I'm going to throw up'," she says at the MuchMusic building. "I was happy, but it was such overwhelming news. It went past the point of being happy. I was in shock."
The story of how Amanda landed the job makes her sound like a character from a TV movie-of-the-week, who is plucked randomly from obscurity and given a golden opportunity. The seeds of Amanda's new gig were formed in a Quebec restaurant where she was putting in time until she started university at Concordia to study communications.
One day while she was waitressing, an acquaintance of Amanda's came in to eat with the senior producer of MuchMoreMusic. Amanda's friend mentioned to the producer that she had acting experience, and he encouraged her to send in a demo tape, and one thing led to another.
Now that Amanda is settled in at Much, she's eager to throw herself into her new job.
"Some people perceive that it's [being a VJ] sort of something that, 'Oh anyone can do it. It's so easy, you just go on camera, introduce videos and go home'," she says. "But there's so much more to it. There's a lot more hours involved, prep time, and we're really encouraged -- and I can't wait to start -- learning about the production side of things, editing, thinking up ideas, writing. It's so much more than just being on camera."
Since she's 19, blond, perky, and pretty, some viewers might expect to see Amanda get put on the pop music rotation and thrown into the world of *Nsync and Britney. But the young VJ is interested in a wide range of music. Some of her favourite acts include The Dave Matthews Band, Weezer, and Jamiroquai. She's also a major fan of swing music, and she's just started taking violin lessons in the hopes that she may someday be able to play a hyperactive fiddle tune.
But fear not, devoted pop fans. Amanda is quick to point out she's not above enjoying an *Nsync show or a Backstreet melody.
"I'm not like, 'Oh! DIE, boy band'," she says. "I think people need to see it for what it is. It's just fun. If you can just have fun with it and just acknowledge that there are other types of music that talk about more important things."
And just in case all of you die-hard Britney fans out there might have your noses out of joint by her comment about "more important things", keep in mind that Amanda has been known to belt out a Britney song or two -- in public.
"I decided I wanted to be more comfortable with my voice," says Amanda as she launches into the tale of how she got roped into singing Britney at a concert. "We [she and her voice teacher] tried out a few different pop songs ... when I sang Britney Spears' "Sometimes", she turns to me and she's like 'This is your song. I'm having a concert, and you must be in it and sing this song, it is your song!', and she was so confident in me singing this song... I was like, 'Okay'. She was like, 'I see you with little ribbons in your hair because you have a childlike voice but you're no longer a child'. So I didn't wear the ribbons but I ended up singing a Britney Spears song in a concert in June."
Although she's only 19, Amanda is no stranger to interesting experiences. The Britney performance is just one in a long string of slightly bizarre undertakings.
Most students earn spending money by working at McDonald's, babysitting, or getting a job as a camp counsellor. Amanda made pocket change by portraying shifty-eyed border-crossers.
"I loved that job," Amanda sighs as she remembers her work as an actress for Canada Customs trainees. Her job was to portray different types of people crossing the border, and the trainees were supposed to figure out what she was up to.
"Once I was this one woman and she's really, really nervous," says Amanda, as she launches into another story, "and all the factors point that maybe she could be smuggling something. She bought her ticket the day before in cash, the person she's going to meet she doesn't have many details about, she's all looking everywhere and fidgeting and stuff, and she's not saying very much. But what the student is supposed to do is know to ask enough questions to find out that I wasn't actually smuggling anything, I was going to meet this guy that I had met over the Internet."
A stint as a crepe server at the 2000 World's Fair in Hanover, Germany -- even though she didn't speak German -- and a gold medal at the 2000 Improv Games in Quebec with the 8 People comedy troupe are just two more examples of Amanda's varied experiences.
Amanda's work as a VJ will soon join her list of cool jobs and provide her with more colourful tales to tell. For now, she says that she's starting to have some serious fun at Much. It's a world away from her hometown of Rigaud, Quebec, where her family just got a satellite dish installed and will finally be able to tune into MuchMusic.