Amanda Parris, Host of CBC Arts' Exhibitionists, takes the Proust Questionnaire

She's an actor, a playwright, an educator... and a massive Celine Dion fan. Meet Amanda Parris, host of Exhibitionists, the new CBC Arts series coming to TV Sunday, Oct. 4.

She's an actor, a playwright, an educator... and a massive Celine Dion fan. Meet Amanda Parris!

Amanda Parris is the host of the CBC Arts series Exhibitionists, premiering Sunday at 4:30pm (5NT). (CBC Arts)

Ask Amanda Parris what she does, and here's what'll be running through her mind:

"Hmmm. Which answer will I give you today…"

Parris is an actor, a playwright, a producer and an academic. She's an educator, too — a former managing director of The Remix Project, a Toronto cultural organization that helps at-risk youth, and the co-founder of Lost Lyrics, a program offering alternative education through the arts.

One more title for you, an answer to that quintessential question: Parris is the host of Exhibitionists, the arts and culture show premiering on Oct. 4 on CBC.

"Maybe some people will call me a Jill-of-all-trades, but I don't really see it as that," says Parris. "We're all complex people. That's okay. I think the show is also complex."

Amanda Parris is the host of the CBC Arts series Exhibitionists. (CBC Arts)

"To me, Exhibitionists is a curated journey through what's cool and what's happening in the Canadian art scene. And art is not what it was defined as in our high-school art classes," she says. "Art is any creative industry — whether it's architecture or dance or theatre or sculpting."

The show is all about reminding Canadians that art is around us every day. "Just play, just engage!"

"If you see something that affects you, have a conversation about it," she says. "You don't have to have all the super-technical terms to do that. You can just say, 'Wow, that visual looks really amazing,' or that performance really affected you. That is just as important as the art critic sitting in a room. To have that dialogue — and I know this as an artist — that's what an artist wants, that's what they hope for."

What else is on Parris' mind, whether she's thinking as an artist, or a TV host — or a "comic-book nerd" or a life-long Celine Dion fan? Inspired by (and borrowing liberally from) the famous Proust Questionnaire, let's find out…

What is your current state of mind?

My current state of mind is a busy highway with many intersections, where crashes could potentially happen but somehow everything is moving together.

What is your favourite way to spend your time?

Watching a movie, eating sweet-and salty-popcorn and then randomly doing yoga after. That's such a hipster answer.

What is your idea of happiness?

My idea of happiness is being surrounded by the people I love, creating new and interesting things without evaluation and being able to play.

What moves you to tears?

Alphabetically? By category? What do you want? Just really honest emotion. Even if it's in a commercial, if the actor is just killing it with really honest emotion, you'll bring me to tears.

"Going to go with The 6, just because." (Reuters)

Who are your favourite musicians?

Miles Davis. Prince. Nina Simone. Kendrick Lamar. Kanye West. More locally, Zaki Ibrahim. Drake!

What's your go-to jam?

"Diva" by Beyonce. That was my ringtone for many years.

Who are your favourite painters?

Basquiat. Van Gogh. And then a local artist, Komi Olaf.

A gallery visitor admires Boy and Dog in a Johnnypump by Jean-Michel Basquiat. (Reuters)

Who is your favourite dancer?

Alvin Ailey.

Who are your favourite playwrights?

Djanet Sears. Joseph Jomo Pierre. I actually like David Mamet.

What was the last thing that made you laugh out loud?

Honestly, my fiancé Kevin is the funniest person. He made me laugh out loud this morning, because he does.

Who are your favourite fictional heroes?

Well, clearly Wolverine. That's just obvious. Ha! I went straight to superheroes — and it could've been anybody. I'm such a comic-book nerd. Pecola from Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye. Jane from Jane the Virgin is a heroine I really adore right now... She's flawed, of course, but she's a good person and you really want her to be okay. And it's true, I do. I care about her! And then, this is kind of an anti-hero: Omar from The Wire.

Wolverine: a very CanCon fictional hero. (20th Century Fox)

Who are your heroes in real life?

My grandmother for sure, my mother. My grandmother came on a boat from Grenada to England to make a better life and lived in a rooming house for so long. She is my hero.

What's your favourite food and drink?

Ackee and salt fish. Rosé to drink.

Twitter or Instagram?


Toronto or Vancouver?

Going to go with The 6, just because.

David Cronenberg or Deepa Mehta?


Drake or Celine Dion?

Oh! That's actually really hard. I might have to go with Celine. She's like my original love, and I still belt out her songs. That was the first cassette I ever owned, The Power of Love, and it's like — it touches me — I really love her. I love Drake, too, but Celine has been my love forever.

Sorry, not sorry, Drake. (Reuters)

What do you hate the most?

Really stubborn ignorance. Ignorance is one thing. Nobody can know everything. But stubborn and ingrained ignorance, like, 'I'm going to resist it'? Ooh! My nostrils will start to flare.

What is your most prized possession?

I have a copy of the autobiography of Assata Shakur, and inside of it, all the women in this program I used to facilitate wrote messages to me. It has all these incredible messages from all these incredible women who really helped to shape my life in a really hard moment.

When was the last time you did something for the first time?

Ha! Two weeks ago when I was hosting CBC's Exhibitionists and I read off a teleprompter.

What is the talent you'd most like to have?

Singing! I wish, I wish.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Lost Lyrics. And Remix Project. And so many other things I've done. Being able to create a space and platform for young people to recognize the journey they want to be on.

What's your favourite saying?

"Anything is possible!!!" Just like Kevin Garnett in the NBA finals. 

That and probably several Kanye West quotes, but we won't go there.

See more of Amanda Parris when CBC Arts series Exhibitionists premieres Sunday, Oct. 4 at 4:30pm (5 NT) on CBC.


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