“I think the greatest compliment you can give someone is telling them that they inspire.” – Lesley MacDonald
In 22 years as the host, producer, and creator of Global News Woman of Vision, Lesley MacDonald has shared the inspiring stories of over 265 women and counting.
The series celebrates local women who demonstrate a strong vision and whose leadership enriches our lives to make our community a better place in which to live.
The stories serve to empower visionary women and provide powerful and diverse role models for young women.
Global News Woman of Vision airs the second Sunday of every month on Global News Hour at 6 and Mondays on Global News Morning. The program culminates every spring with the Global News Woman of Vision Celebration Luncheon honouring the 12 women featured over the past year.
Lesley MacDonald talks about the upcoming celebration event, her passion for storytelling, and her own vision. Here is the full interview:
On being visionary and inspiring…
“I think I’m amazed that after 35 years of doing profiles, including the last 22 with Woman of Vision, it still charges my batteries. I get to walk into the lives of interesting, dynamic people and learn all about what motivates and inspires them. I explain it this way: if 100 people have an idea and one person is able to turn it into something extraordinary, what is it about that person that gives them that dynamic? I see these threads that are consistent with all the stories, but how they manifest is different with each individual. It’s fascinating.
“I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to do this.”
You’ve shared the stories of hundreds of the most inspiring women in Alberta through your broadcast career. When did you discover your passion for storytelling?
“I joke that I grew up in a small town in northern New Brunswick between a river and a mountain in the middle of nowhere. A pivotal event for me was going to Expo ’67 in Montreal when I was nine. I was completely fascinated by the mix of people around me from all over the world, many of them dressed in their native costume. We spent a lot of time waiting in long lineups, and I got absorbed in people-watching, making up stories of where they came from and what their lives were like. Looking back, I recognize how that was the beginning of my fascination, my thread, with people and their stories. And I have been telling the stories of fascinating people and what makes them tick ever since.”
Watch below: Lesley profiles Olympic hero and bronze medalist Jen Kish
Every story has a beginning, what was yours?
“In Grade 1, I won a radio announcing contest and did a few commercials for a local car dealership. I’ve pretty much been on stage, radio or TV ever since. After studying business and political science in university, I landed a job as a copy clerk at Global Television in Toronto, starting the same day in the same role, ironically, as Kevin Newman, who went on to anchor Global National.
“I eventually became an entertainment anchor/reporter, doing frequent interviews with celebrities in New York and Los Angeles, where on one visit to a comedy club, I saw Howie Mandel perform with an unknown Canadian named Jim Carrey.
“I got Jim his first TV appearance on Global. I was so inspired by his talent and his story of having to quit high school to work in a factory to support his family, who at one point were living in a van. My fascination with people’s stories just grew from there.”
Which event (or person) prompted you to pursue news as a career?
“One of my earliest memories is from when I was five years old. I was watching television, when the programming was interrupted with breaking news. There was a tone to it that felt significant, so I ran from the room to tell my mother. We spent most of that day watching the news unfold about the assassination of John F. Kennedy. It was the first time I’d seen my mother cry. I think that’s also when it was imprinted on me how important news is to people’s lives and the responsibility of the people who gather and deliver it. When I was a news anchor, I was often struck by the fact that no matter how minor a story might seem, there would always be someone in our audience who was affected by it; some deeply. Part of my job was to treat every story with respect.”
What has been most rewarding in your career?
“I have always loved the fast pace of news, the constant flow of information and the eye-in-the-storm feeling when all hell broke loose. There are so many skill sets I’ve developed and I’ve had so many opportunities to grow.
“But I think the most rewarding has been the ability my career has given me to actually make a difference in the community and to connect with so many incredible people.
“Most of all, it’s given me a deep understanding of how important it is to be a part of something bigger than myself.”
What makes a Woman of Vision?
“I call Woman of Vision, ‘stories that inspire.’ Our selection criteria as a board are: ‘Does this person inspire us and can their story inspire others?’ An interesting story has a depth that people can relate to. It’s often not the most successful or high-profile people who resonate with our audience, it’s the people who are open about their challenges or have the ability to laugh at themselves. One of our most popular recipients over 22 years, for example, is Amy Quon, the bossy star of the TV family restaurant series The Quon Dynasty. She came to Edmonton from Hong Kong as a young woman and with spunk, determination, and hard work turned a mall kiosk into a hugely successful takeout business that sets a high bar for customer service. She is warm, feisty and makes everyone feel good.”
Is there one Woman of Vision interview that stands out for you the most?
“I always say that my favourite story is whoever I’m profiling that month because each is so interesting and insightful in their own way, but Lois Hole stands out. I first interviewed her when she was the face on the cover of the popular Hole’s gardening books before she became Chancellor of the University of Alberta or lieutenant-governor of Alberta.
“Lois got emotional during our interview when talking about her one regret – a customer that she didn’t treat well.
“I sat with her at many events over the years and was always struck by how she made everyone feel like they were the most important in the room to her. She once even invited me to tea in her office at the legislature. When she passed away, they held two services at the Winspear Centre to accommodate all the people who wanted to pay their respects. Her authenticity and genuine interest in people is what made her such a powerful influence in so many lives.”
Your story itself is inspiring. Would you say your vision has changed from when you started your journalism career to 22 years after launching Woman of Vision?
“It is my own private joke that as someone who grew up a tomboy, with big aspirations working mainly with men, that I would be the one with a ‘women’s’ program! But I remember being conscious at an early age that women barely existed in my school history books and all my role models, including my father, were men.
“So when I get guff about why just ‘Women’ of Vision, my response is because it’s always been ‘Men’ of Vision.
“One of the objectives of our program, right from Year 1, was to provide strong role models for young women. But these are also interesting stories that mostly normally would not get told. And one bonus I didn’t expect but I’ve heard a lot from women we’ve featured is that in defining their vision, it propels them to do more. And that strengthens our community.”
Watch below: Lesley celebrates 20 years of profiling inspiring women
How has Woman of Vision affected your life personally?
“I have been enriched in so many ways. It has deepened my connection to this community and I love that we celebrate so many of the people who make it great. I also love that I get to share this with my daughter, who gets regular briefings on the latest recipients and has been coming to the annual spring celebration event since she was old enough to sit still (the program and she are the same age!). My goal has always been to inspire to strive for an amazing life.”
What is one thing you wish you knew when you were younger?
“That there’s nothing to fear but fear itself. I wasted so much time when I was younger second-guessing myself. The bottom line is that, as far as we know, we’re only here once. So don’t waste time on things you can do nothing about. It’s also one of the things I appreciate about Woman of Vision: we celebrate people. And I think the greatest compliment you can give someone is telling them that they inspire.”
What are you most excited about with this year’s Global News Woman of Vision Celebration Event?
“We have some incredible recipients this year, including former prime minister Kim Campbell–whose story may surprise some people–the GM of Rogers Place who came home to continue a family legacy, a modern-day shepherd who is also one of the world’s top breeders of Finnsheep and a 14-year-old country singer/songwriter who made me well up with emotion the first time I saw her perform. We’re also encouraging everyone who comes to take the afternoon off if they can. Everyone leaves on a high and no one wants to go back to work, so we have great plans for a fun and engaging post-reception. Plus, the wine is complimentary!”
Watch below: Lesley talks about this year’s Global News Woman of Vision event.
Get inspired at the 22nd Annual Global News Woman of Vision Celebration Luncheon on Friday, April 7 at the Shaw Conference Centre. Tickets are available on-line at GlobalWomanofVision.ca.