There was a time Jeanne Beker recalls when specialization intimated success.
“They used to say ‘Jack of all trades, master of none!’” an energetic Beker says with a mocking nasal voice in her downtown Toronto office. “I think it’s a very old fashioned notion now. It would be a pretty boring life for me if I was only involved in one medium.”
Boring, for the Canadian fashion icon, would make most beat. Beker is the long-time face of Fashion Television, editor-in-chief of FQ and Sir magazines, author of three books, fashion columnist for The Globe and Mail and a judge on CTV reality show Canada’s Next Top Model, its third season set to premiere on May 26.
The array of multimedia hats Beker wears today (which surely match those in her closet) stems from her fundamental passion for communication. Before media, Beker was an actress, once studying mime in Paris under Marcel Marceau’s teacher Étienne Decroux. It wasn’t until 1975, when she moved to St. John’s, Nfld., that she found her voice.
“I was the only mime artist in the province and I got a job in radio,” she says with irony. “That’s just the proof that I was really all about communication, first and foremost.”
St. John’s became Toronto, radio turned into television and Beker found herself on the big city small screen, hosting The New Music with CNN-bound JD Roberts. But after meeting all of her youthful rock idols (“I thought, if I interview Rod Stewart once more, I’ll lose it!” she quips), Beker, then in her early 30s, says she desired doing something more “age appropriate.”
“Fashion’s the kind of thing you can grow old in ... Actually, fashion keeps you from ever growing old in some ways, because it’s constantly changing. It looked like the next big thing, and we were right.”
That prediction has held strong for 24 years, since Fashion Television was created (a run Beker says she’d never have believed if told back then). Today, she continues to be seen running about the streets of the world’s fashion capitals with her cameraman and a microphone in hand, reporting from runway shows and interviewing befriended designers from Gaultier to Valentino. But despite her years in the business, Beker says she’ll never tire of fashion.
“The only constant in fashion is change. The personalities — the egos, the icons and the drama in fashion — it’s all so irresistible. To me, it’s the most colourful arena I can imagine.”
But, it’s also one Beker doesn’t know how to progress further in. “I think about it every night!” she says, slapping her desk. She says she only hopes to continue to present popular culture’s cutting edge, in a motley manner.
“It’s about really reaching out and communicating to people and looking at situations in a multitude of different ways. That’s what makes things so compelling — when there are all these different textures to play with.”