By Rachelle Cruz
It’s a rarity that she landed an on-camera role the second day of her internship at CityTV. In her mid-20s at that time, it’s a feat most young journalists can only dream of. Now, her familiar face lights up your TV screens, almost in conjunction with the sun rising across the city’s expanse as she tells you stories hot off the wires on the most-watched morning news CP24 Breakfast. And you’ll see more of her, because this half Filipina, half Portuguese news anchor now co-hosts and moderates The Social, a new interactive talk series that drives audience engagement and conversation through Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. I got a chance to sit down with Melissa Grelo and chatted with her briefly, dabbling on a little about everything from her baby news, who she wants to be sitting on the Fifth Chair, her phobia of flying, how she got to where she is now, and really, what she’s all about behind the cameras.
Half-Filipino,half-Portuguese news anchor Melissa Grelo
With Starbucks tea in one hand and her little suitcase she lugged around, Melissa has been up for hours now and the 9:30 morning meet is equivalent to her lunch. She`s exactly who you might expect: Smart, sassy, pretty, and confident. Donning her H&M orange dress paired with a cobalt blue blazer, she was finally showing her baby bump, “It’s still a little surreal. I was very lucky I had no morning sickness and I wasn’t extra tired or anything. I wonder if I’m still pregnant and I’ll go for an ultrasound and they say ‘Oh it’s there!” Okay this is happening,” she laughed.
As you’ve seen through the years, Melissa co-hosted CTV’s Olympic Morning Program from Vancouver 2010 from Whistler, B.C.; contributed to the Grey Cup Weekend on TSN in 2012, and DAILY PLANET on Discovery in 2013. And no stranger to red carpet events, she has since 2009 covered The Toronto International Film Festival, and trailed the glitz and glam of the Academy Awards reporting for CP24 and CTV from Los Angeles.
Now with full-hour daily talk series The Social, produced by Bell Media In-House productions, Melissa shared her excitement over the slew of conversations that the girls– Lainey Lui, Traci Melchor and Cynthia Loyst discuss, from lifestyle, politics, celebrity, entertainment, and hot topics that Canadians are talking about. Yes, even the tongue-sticking-twerking Miley Cyrus,” Right now, we can’t get enough of Miley Cyrus. You know everybody was so quick to dump on Miley as we have in the past with many other young stars – like the Britneys, the Christinas, even Jessica Simpsons of the world and any young star who’s trying to break out of her youth. I’ve been challenged with how I’m even thinking about her and what this whole thing means for young women in general, young women coming of age, young women expressing sexuality. Are we the ones who are maybe wrong for judging her? And is she just being like we all were in our 20s? Wild and crazy, and she just happen to be doing her thing,” she said.
Melissa gets new insights from the round-table discussions, but what’s the real scoop between them? “I wish I had dirt for you, I really do, but here’s the thing, in this industry, people assume and sometimes assume correctly that it’s very competitive, particularly between the women. I already knew these women before we started doing the show together. So that was a very different dynamic. What you see is really is genuine and we all had a very successful career up to this point already, so we’ve earned our way to where we are and we are very secure in who we are as journalists, presenters, broadcasters before we walked in. It wasn’t like we were coming in fresh and ready to fight,” she explained.
She hopes, in the near future, that Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, will be begging to be on the show as the Fifth Chair, “She would be someone who would be fascinating to sit down with because she is a brilliant woman and she’s dealing with and tackling issues that we are tackling every day in the show.”
With Melissa’s rosary of accomplishments under her belt, and hitting new milestones, we wonder, however does she manage? “You know what I’ve always been really busy, and my father always said “You want something done? Give it to a busy person.” I’ve definitely asked people in the industry who went to have no kids for a long time to having children and they say ‘You’re gonna figure out like you do everything else.’ I just have to get better at juggling,” she smiled.
Though it seems her success was a meteoric rise, the journey was not without its own hiccups. In the scheme of things, it didn’t quite happen overnight. The former-teacher-turned-news-anchor thought her career trajectory ever since childhood was to teach. She studiously followed that path and taught for five years as a grade 7 and 8 teacher until she decided it was time to pursue her Master’s in Education at the University of Toronto. That’s when the chips started to fall apart. The experience wasn’t what she hoped. She felt disenchanted, jaded and uninspired. And for someone who planned everything and knew what she wanted to the T, for the first time in her life she faced a stumbling block, “It was a long journey and it wasn’t an easy one but in retrospect, it’s always the hardest times that gives you the most growth. Those are the crises where you go OMG who am I? Where am I going? What am I doing? All of a sudden, I start thinking, “so were four, five years a waste?’”
Something was amiss. After a few months of reflection Melissa had set her sights on her new goal and she knew exactly what she wanted to do: To become a CityTV reporter in Toronto. From there, there was no turning back. Jumpstarting her career from the Seneca-York Joint Program in Journalism, her hunger for something new, fresh and exciting motivated her to strategically think ahead and applied for internships as soon as she started school. She graduated in 2005, but as it happened, she landed an on-camera gig the second day of her internship.
The Social’s hosts, from left: Traci Melchor, Cynthia Loyst, Lainey Lui and Melissa Grelo. Photos courtesy of CTV
The ball was rolling. Non-stop. She shared her many career highlights, but one memorable one was a good reminder how much she loved her job: The 2008 propane explosion, also known as the Sunrise Propane incident that took place in the Downsview community. Melissa, at the time was away on her bachelorette party, when she received a call from her boss, telling her that the city was exploding. Did I just say she was away on her stagette? Yes. Within three hours, she was up in the helicopter reporting over the scene, practically in her camping gear, without makeup, and trailed the story for three weeks straight, logging 14-hour days, “It was a story that gripped Toronto. People would stop me and say the only information we’re getting is from you. We were getting the answers. And that’s when you realize the value of your job as a journalist,” she said. It was one of the most gratifying times she experienced, “If you don’t love it, it will eat you alive. Because you work so hard, and if you don’t love it, you won’t survive it. It’s that simple,” she said matter-of-factly.
With a whirlwind schedule that keeps her on her toes, her tight-knit family and their support helps keep her feet planted firmly on the ground. Born and raised in a horse farm, her Filipino mother Claire and Portuguese father Frank, would always say and remind her, “‘If you think you’re hot stuff, we’re here to remind you you’re not’”, she said with a laugh. “Every time I go home, which is often to go to the farm, the chores are the same, as they were when I was a kid. The horses have to eat, they have to be exercised, clean up their stalls of manure, and the tractor has to be driven out. It doesn’t matter who you are, go out there and clean the horse’s stall,” she continued.
Melissa, being half Filipino helps her connect with the communities across the GTA, “There is increasing diversity in television in Canada for sure and there are plenty of other Filipinos who are doing great things but one thing I’m very conscious of is having that representation, being proud of it, for the community. Whether it’s another young woman who wants to come up into the business, it’s all about seeing the possibilities,” she said.
And the possibilities are endless. Doesn’t look like she’s slowing down anytime soon. I did ask her, if ever, even in one moment, she wanted to give it all up, with the crazy shifts and long hours. Without a blink, she shot back and said, “Never.”
If you want to read the Top 10 questions for Melissa See more at: http://philippinereporter.com/2013/10/11/your-cp24-breakfast-with-melissa-grelo/#sthash.cjmSVWO4.dpuf