Vancouver, British Columbia
"We love Monika’s style because it’s chic and sophisticated with a rock 'n' roll vibe."
Photography by Joshua McVeity
If you were a young adult in the ‘90’s there’s a good chance your musical in uences included MuchMusic and your Friday nights – at least some of them – were spent watching Electric Circus. Sound familiar? Then there’s little doubt that you remember the show’s host, Monika Deol, ambassador of all things hip. Today, Monika Deol is a Vancouverite, a super stylish mother of four and a very active philanthropist, but rock 'n' roll still runs deep in her soul.
How did you get your start with MuchMusic?
MD - Let’s just say I wasn’t a typical Sikh girl. Born in India, I grew up on a farm outside of Winnipeg with very traditional Indian parents. I went to university, but I was also a DJ in a club and hosted a CTV show in Winnipeg called Night Moves that featured local rock bands. I started my own band and took my demos to Toronto hoping to get a record deal. Didn't get one, but did get a job at MuchMusic and CITY-TV in Toronto. I became the first Indian woman to appear on mainstream television in North America.
What are your fondest memories from those days?
MD - As a broadcaster, it was great fun working at CITY and Much! As Co-Producer and Host of EC, I remember one night I decided it would be fun to take the show onto the streetcar that stopped in front of the studio. During a commercial break, I told my camera guy that next time it stopped, we were going to hop on and get people dancing. The crew thought I was crazy and none of us knew if it would actually work, but we did it!! It was Canadian TV that was creative, spontaneous, authentic and so much fun!
Who was your all time favourite guest on the show?
MD - That's like asking who my favourite child is! I loved having Bhangra star Apache Indian on Canadian TV for the rst time. Actors Will Smith and Shemar Moore came by just to hang out while they had projects in Toronto. All the Canadian rappers-Maestro Fresh Wes, Michie Mee, the Dream Warriors. Soul star and now multi Grammy-award winning super-producer Chin Injeti. The original star DJs Frankie Knuckles, David Morales and Junior Vasquez. Salt'n'Pepa, TLC, Shaggy, Dee-Lite, LL Cool J, Queen Latifah.......there were a lot of incredible acts on EC!
Many of us tuned in to see what you were wearing. How has your style evolved since your days on EC?
MD - I love fashion!! I wouldn't want to dress now like I did in my late teens and 20's. I loved every second of it, but you have to know when to pass the baton!! It's still body conscious, still fashion forward, but a little more re ned......I work in many di erent settings now-family, corporate, social, volunteer-how you dress actually does help to de ne the moment.
What music do you listen to today?
MD - I love anything with great writing or production. I love Pharell Williams, Pink, Jay-Z, Kanye West, and Christina Aguilera. I’m also a big fan of anyone who can do it live. Classic bands like The Eagles. Good music is good music, no matter what the genre.
Monika’s playlist for everyday listening:
- Say Something - A Great Big World Featuring Christina Aguilera
- Happy - Pharrell Williams
- Started From The Bottom - Drake
- Random 80's, 90's and Disco
- Must-do: Tune in to DJ Flipout's live re-mixes on The Beat at 5 p.m.
On the clock
Monika Deol says she spends half of her time running about town. Whether it’s shuttling one or more of her four kids to and from an activity, getting her shopping done, or meeting with the BC Cancer Foundation Board, she is always on the clock. If you were to run into her at one of her downtown Vancouver haunts, you’d find her calm, cool and collected, despite the hectic schedule. When we caught up with her at the market at Giovane Café + Winebar in The Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel, she was impeccably dressed, picking up some treats and snacks for her family.
Photography by Joshua McVeity
How do you define casual dressing?
MD - Casual is a relative term. I'm a "feast or famine" kind of person. I'm either dressed with some thought and care, or completely casual, no make-up and jeans – Gap jeans! I can go from playground duty at the kids' schools, to a Board meeting, to making dinner, and then to a fashion show in the same day. Those days I'm decidedly not casual all day, because usually, my only window of opportunity to get dressed is at 5:00 a.m. I am more comfortable over-dressed than under-dressed anytime.
Tell us about that incredible necklace!
MD - It's Alan Anderson – a Canadian designer who individually handcrafts each piece of couture costume jewelry in his Toronto studio, using never-before-set vintage crystals. I love it because it’s bold and colourful.
What comes first, the shoe or the outfit?
MD - It depends on the day and the occasion. Sometimes, it's the jewelry.
What do you love about the Valentino Rockstud Ballerina?
MD - Love the comfort and need the edge. Every Valentino Rockstud style is fantastic. These would get me through those multi- tasking, multi-persona days.
Do your daughters raid your closet?
MD - My kids are all low-key and low-maintenance – especially my teenage daughters and son. My daughters will borrow my sweatshirt from Nunavut and black sweaters! And they do share my shoes! I still have a lot of my wilder clothes from the EC/Much days archived and they wear them – for costumes. Now my youngest child – she's 8 and wants to raid my closet!
Monika Deol was only three years old when her parents decided to move to Canada from the Punjab region of India, but if looking at the rainbow of saris and churidars in her closet is any indication, her homeland is never too far from her heart.
“I love to wear Indian clothing and jewelry, even when I’m attending a western event,” she says. "The colours and fabrics are so vibrant and elegant – it’s a timeless look that works well for any occasion. It’s who I am.”
Photography by Joshua McVeity
Monika is wearing a traditional Churidar (tight tting stretch pants with a tunic) that she purchased at her favourite shop in Delhi. When we recommended Aquazzura’s Sexy Thing as a perfect shoe to wear with it, she was unsure. “Normally I would choose something with a little bling because Indian clothing is all about sparkle and flash,” she says. “But I love this shoe. The overall effect is so sophisticated!”
Indian Dressing 101
Three things you need to know about wearing Indian attire, according to Monika:
1. There is more to Indian fashion than saris! The Salvar Kameez (long shirt, baggy pants), Churidar (long shirt, tight pants), Lengha (short or long top, long skirt), and Sharara (short or long top with very wide, skirt-like pants) are completely different looks. The Sari is 6 yards of fabric draped, with a short top and petticoat underneath.
2. Indian clothes are feminine and attering for all body types and all ages. Modern Indian dressing can be very tted and slinky, and very drapey and forgiving, but always gorgeous. It's important to have good quality fabric, so that the garment hangs properly on the body.
3. With the international Indian diaspora, you can buy Indian clothes in every big city! In India, there are designers, boutiques, and e-tailers that sell all over the world and stage fashion weeks that compare with Europe and North America. However, there is still tradition in the fabric and embroidery- every state in India has it's own distinct handiwork.
A Fine Balance
Monika Deol divides her time among many interests in her life, from her family of six, a career as a Communications Consultant and a board member with the BC Cancer Foundation, not to mention the many other volunteer roles she plays. The question of work/life balance is one she has considered at length. Her decision to leave an illustrious career in broadcasting many years ago was part of her balancing act. Poised as always on her way to a board meeting, we caught up with Monika to get her thoughts on what "doing it all" means to her.
Photography by Joshua McVeity
How did you make the decision to leave your career in broadcasting?
MD - When I moved to Vancouver, I anchored 6:00 p.m. news for CTV and then 11:00 p.m. for CITY-TV. At that point I had three children under the age of five, a very busy husband and I decided I should step away from live television as it's not very flexible.
What was the hardest part about making that shift?
MD - I think it's the same dilemma many women face. It's not easy to give up a career that you have worked very hard to establish.
When did you decide to pursue consulting?
MD - It pursued me. I thought I would be out of the loop, but I was consistently offered interesting projects that related to my career. I also met a lot of very interesting, happening people through my children. It helps to network and have a wide circle of friends. Interesting opportunities arise! I realized that working freelance was productive and rewarding. I had a skill set that I could apply to a wide range of projects.
What is your recipe for work/life balance?
MD - I'm the same as everyone else!! There is no recipe. We're all just doing the best we can....trying to stay balanced and make informed decisions, using a little instinct to guide us.
What advice do you offer women who are unsure about how to mingle work and family life?
MD - I think you have to be realistic about how much you can take on and do well. Every person has their own priorities, and women in particular, get judged for them. Women should pick the path that works for them, and for their family, and be supported in those decisions. My mother worked as a teacher for her whole life. She is a wonderful role model for our family, having received an Order of Manitoba and an Honourary PhD. I think it is possible to be a working mother or a stay-at-home mother, or to opt right out of family life and be happy. Genuinely, productively happy. But no one else can or should make those choices for you. And sadly, people, even other women, sometimes try to make women feel guilty, doubtful or simply wrong in their choices. Sometimes, it takes courage to be true to yourself.
What are your thoughts as you look back on how your career has unfolded?
MD - I feel very fortunate to have lived a pretty full life, so far. I've been able to enjoy a fulfilling career and a family life, have many unique experiences, and I've been able to make a contribution to society. I feel thankful and blessed.