Much's newest VJ in more ways than one
Excerpted from the National Post Online
It was with a Post-it Note during her first shift at MuchMusic this month that 19-year-old Amanda Walsh, the station's youngest-ever VJ, decided to make her mark. Walsh was hamming it up on-camera and, as part of her shtick, put a yellow sticky on the back of a senior programmer, which read: "I'm old."
It was a spontaneous gag by the 5-foot-8, blue-eyed blond -- recently plucked from her job as a waitress in small-town Quebec -- that has since earned her the nickname "The Kid" around the Much offices at the corner of Queen and John Streets in downtown Toronto.
"I didn't plan to do that," says Walsh in her first media interview, one of many expected now that she has been vaulted into instant stardom as part of the Much VJ roster. "He had been bugging me about how old I was when he started working here."
Like a schoolyard game, the joke between Walsh and the programmer continues, where she likes to point out how young she was when certain videos were first released, and he posts a sign on his computer that says: "Amanda, go away!" These types of antics are precisely what MuchMusic is looking for in its latest VJ.
Walsh was hired to replace Rachel Perry, who left the station this month for a job hosting The Daily Beat, a music show on The Metro Channel, a cable station based in New York City. Walsh began her "soft launch" on MuchMusic July 9, but her appointment was officially announced only yesterday.
Sandra Puglielli, director of publicity for MuchMusic, says it was Walsh's audition tape that got her the job hundreds of young Canadians apply for each year. "The tape came in and there was a sparkle there," she says. "She is someone that could potentially really connect to the audience. That she is 19 is a bonus, because she can talk to that part of the demographic."
Puglielli denies the station was looking for another blond to replace Perry. "People won't mistake Amanda for Rachel," she says, adding that when Perry left the station her hair was dyed dark brown.
Walsh says she was a bit overwhelmed at first at being lauded as the youngest VJ ever on Much. "At first I was like 'Oh my gosh, I am younger than everybody. I feel so silly.' But I've gotten more comfortable with it. I have got a lot of feedback from kids saying that they are very happy to see someone their own age."
Walsh was discovered in the classic star-making sense -- while working as a waitress at the Chateau du Lac in Hudson, Que., over the Easter weekend. She was walking by a table where an acquaintance mentioned to his friend (whom she did not know) that Walsh was an actor who dabbled in sketch and stand-up comedy. Walsh then stopped to talk to the pair, and later learned the friend was Ian Whittaker, the senior producer at Much's sister station MuchMoreMusic.
Whittaker, who also grew up in the Hudson area, encouraged Walsh to send in a tape. "It was one of those things that had crossed my mind, but I kept saying, 'Oh, another day,' " Walsh says.
A month later, thanks to the use of her friend's father's camera equipment, Walsh submitted her audition tape, which included video throws and her talking to strangers on the street. Within days, she got a call from Much executives, who asked her to come in for an interview.
"I really wasn't expecting anything. It surprised me that it all happened so fast," says Walsh, who is seated in a Much executive office with her legs crossed, wearing white sneakers, a short denim skirt and blue zip-up sweater.
Soon after her interview, Walsh was hired. She ditched her plans to study communications at Montreal's Concordia University this fall, and moved to Toronto. "As long as I can remember, performing is what I wanted to do," she says.
As a child growing up with her mother in Rigaud, Que., Walsh would write and perform skits with her younger brother in front of family and friends. Later, while living with her father in St. Anne de Bellevue and attending John Abbott College, she acted in school plays and outside theatre groups. She won a gold medal at the 2000 Improv Games in Quebec, as a member of the 8 People comedy troupe.
Another acting gig Walsh did was for the Canada Customs office, where she pretended to be different types of people going through the border. She describes the experience as "the best comedy training, ever."
While she was never considered the class clown, Walsh says she has always been good at making people laugh. "I was never that loud, but once I get up onstage or am comfortable around friends it comes out. I don't know if I am a comic, but I have always made my family laugh. That is what I do."
Her goal is to bring her own style of humour to the music industry during her on-air shifts at Much. "I want to bring a lot of things that I think are funny here. I think a big part of my personality is humour and comedy. I would like to share that with people."