WATCH — CBC TV host Ginella Massa on breaking barriers

Published 2021-03-08 09:00

What it’s like to be a role model

“I’m not crying, you’re crying!”

That’s how Ginella Massa reacted on Twitter when she saw that a Canadian kid had dressed up as her for Halloween last October — complete with a hijab and microphone.

Massa became Canada’s first hijab-wearing national TV news host in January, when she started her new gig as the host of Canada Tonight on CBC News Network.

In honour of International Women’s Day, she gave CBC Kids News contributor Saara Chaudry a set tour and answered questions about her career path.

Click play to hear Massa talk about what it took to make her dream come true.

The early years

Massa identifies as Afro-Latina. She was born in Panama to Spanish-speaking parents and moved to Toronto when she was a kid.

As part of her Muslim faith, Massa wears a hijab or head scarf.

When she was studying to be a journalist, Massa said she thought about choosing radio over television because she didn’t have any role models on TV.

“I had never seen anyone who looked like me doing that kind of role,” Massa said.

Massa said she has to deal with hate online because of her hijab, but dressing modestly is one way she honours her Muslim faith. (Image credit: CBC)

Her mother encouraged her not to give up her dream, saying: “Just because no one else has done it before doesn't mean you can't be the first,” Massa said.

When she was hired by CTV News in 2015, Massa made headlines as the first TV news reporter to wear a hijab in North America.

In 2016, she became the first local TV host in Canada to wear a hijab, when she worked for CityNews Toronto.

Hoping to inspire

Massa said she hopes her career inspires girls to break down barriers in order to achieve their dreams.

“Whether that is in journalism, in government, in science, there are so many spaces that women don't occupy,” she said, because they don’t see women who look like them doing those jobs.

Tweet shows image of girl in hijab holding microphone. Caption from Ginella Massa says I'm not crying, you're crying #Representation Matters #You Can't Be It If You Can't See It

The idea that she could be a role model for Canadian girls in hijab “is really exciting and heartening.”

What advice does Massa have for a kid who’s never seen somebody who looks like them doing their dream job?

“Sometimes you have to forge your own path and you have to be your own cheerleader,” she said.

Watch the video at the top of the page to hear more from Ginella Massa!

TOP IMAGE CREDIT: CBC, Graphic design by Philip Street/CBC

About the Contributor

Saara Chaudry
Saara Chaudry
CBC Kids News Contributor
Saara is passionate about having a positive impact on the world, whether it's within her community, on the big screen, or in her role as a CBC Kids News contributor. The Grade 12 student from Toronto played Little Cosette in Les Miserables, Howie on Max & Shred, Dana's older sister on Dino Dana, and Martina Crowe on The Mysterious Benedict Society. Outside of film and media, Saara is an award-winning international debater and public speaker. She is the current Ontario Debate and Public Speaking Champion. She is also a vociferous advocate for gender and racial equality, as well as girls' education. Saara was recently appointed a UNICEF Canada Youth Advocate in 2020.

Was this story worth reading?