The clatter of dishes and the hum of conversation fill Fran's Diner, a '50s themed greasy spoon in downtown Toronto. Peeking from behind one of the diner's booths is Entertainment Tonight Canada reporter Kim D'Eon, who not only arrives fashionably late, but also is dressed just as fashionably.
Styled in a gorgeous teal dress that hangs off her thin frame like silk, D'Eon looks every bit the couture, jet-setting entertainment reporter that she is. It's quite a change from the serious, beige pant-suited journalist I met two years ago at the Gemini Awards.
"Well, everything changes," D'Eon says with a self-depreciating laugh as she settles in the booth and orders some tea. "I was on TV for years but it's somehow different now. You worry more about things like your hair and that."
It's easy to understand D'Eon's still lingering awkwardness with the glitz and glamour of covering the entertainment biz, as she spent most of her career as a news reporter. Born and raised in Halifax, D'Eon earned her journalism degree from University of King's College and the first seven years of her career were spent working for CBC Television. She got her start there as a researcher with the youth consumer series Street Cents. A year later, she auditioned to become a Street Cents co-host and got the spot. She left the show a few years later to contribute to other network shows like Marketplace and to the Sports and Newsworld departments. Before leaving for ET Canada, she was a video journalist on George Stroumboulopoulos' The Hour.
Quite a resume for a journalist in her "late 20s" — D'Eon does carp to one Hollywood-style indulgence and refuses to disclose her age — as few grads get the chance to immediately work for the CBC, let alone jump from being a researcher to a network show host within a year.
“I know it doesn't happen all the time," she says. "My mom would say it's because I'm talented, but I really think it's all about luck."
However, last year her luck became a double-edged sword as her move to Global's ET Canada had to be made during the CBC labour lockout.
"It was definitely very weird," D'Eon says. "It was just a matter of timing that the lockout happened at the same time this new show was launching. I had a friend who was working on the show and she suggested I stop by for an interview. It all happened really, really quickly."
Over a period of just a few days, D'Eon sent her demo tape to ET Canada's executive producer Zev Shalev and the two clicked during her interview. She was hired on the spot, which meant she had to say goodbye to her friends at the CBC during a politically charged time.
"I didn't want to look like a traitor," she says. "The team at The Hour were so great and I was really good friends with all of them, and I felt sad, but at the end of the day, I think any good friend will tell you, that you gotta do what's right for you at the right time."
It turned out to be a wise decision as ET Canada was an out-of-the-gate success. Seven months since it's debut last September, ET Canada draws an average audience of 428,000, a close second in the Canadian tabloid TV race behind CTV's eTalk Daily. While eTalk still healthily leads the pack with 474,000 weekday viewers this season, the competition between the two shows is heated, with the networks regularly issuing news releases on who is drawing the bigger audience.
"It's really become like a word game or something," D'Eon says of the ratings battle. "I try not to concern myself with that too much. It's like any statistic or poll, and the same kind of thing happened when I was at the CBC, so you have to take that stuff with a grain of salt. It's nice to think that a lot of people are watching your show, but do I go home and say we were number one today? I think that's for the executives to concern themselves with, and it doesn't really concern me in that way."
In fact, the competition between shows is friendly out on the field. D'Eon says she's even gone out for drinks with eTalk host Tanya Kim in Los Angeles.
"I think it's a Canadian thing," D'Eon says. "I've heard horror stories about the States, where it's very much like everyone's talking numbers and you don't mingle with the competition. I think that's absolutely crazy. I mean, we talk about our numbers, but I would never let work interfere with whom I want to be friends with."
But do the execs have an opinion on this mingling with the competition?
"No one can tell me what I can do!" she bellows with joking defiance.
Of course, her faux-diva histrionics are all about fun and games, but the bellow isn't. Part of her new job means perfecting a booming, exaggerated ET-style voice when introducing segments and doing voice overs.
"People make fun of me about that all the time" D'Eon says. "Do your ET voice, my friends tell me. Fortunately, in the field, I can be myself when I'm interviewing people. But I don't think the stuff that we do in the studio is meant to be natural. I'll admit the voice thing was really awkward at first. I would go into the voice booth and the director would say, 'Make it a little faster, a little louder, a little punchier.' It was kind of frustrating, but I think I found my ET voice. The show is very well formulated though, right down to the position of your body, like the way you hold your shoulders and the way you hold your hands. We are representing the ET brand and I guess we have to live up to it."
Voice issues aside, D'Eon finds some relief in switching from serious news to the "celebrity friendly" reporting of ET Canada.
"When we dig deeper at ET, it means, let's get to the heart of a celebrity's personal story, let's find out what makes them tick emotionally. That's the challenge with this job. On a consumer show, it would be like, why did you rip these people off, why are you making a bad product? This is a different kind of challenging."
Still, D'Eon would be the first to admit that doing interviews with music star Nelly Furtado in Barbados is not on par with 60 Minutes muckraking.
"It's rough, I know, I know," she says with a laugh. "Honestly, my life has been going by so fast in the past six months, but in a good way. I was on the beach in Barbados thinking about how I get paid to go to places like this and talk to famous people. I mean, really, life is pretty good right now."
About Robert J. Ballantyne
Robert J.Ballantyne is a senior editor at Popjournalism and Creative Director at Artsculture.ca. Previously, he was a journalist at the CBC on a number of news programs including the fifth estate, Marketplace and The National. He also worked as a staff writer at the Toronto Star.