Jeanne Beker, CM, television host, columnist (born 19 March 1952 in Toronto, ON). Fashion icon Jeanne Beker first rose to prominence as the co-host of Citytv’s groundbreaking music journalism program The New Music (1980–85) before hosting the long-running landmark fashion program Fashion Television (1985–2012). A Member of the Order of Canada, her work as a fashion designer and an editor of fashion magazines further cemented her influence in the industry and her status as Canada’s leading fashion media mogul.
Early Years and Career
The daughter of Polish-born Holocaust survivors, Beker grew up in a Jewish Toronto family. She began her career at age 16, when she landed a role on the CBC TV sitcom Toby in 1968. At 19, with a number of appearances on Canadian and American shows already under her belt, Beker went to New York City to study acting at the acclaimed Herbert Berghof Studio. She continued studying theatre at York University in Toronto before heading to Paris to study mime under Etienne Decroux, who taught Marcel Marceau. She returned to Canada in 1975, and lived for three years in St John’s, NL, where she left the miming profession and took a job with CBC Radio as an arts and entertainment reporter.
After returning to Toronto in 1978, Beker became a producer with 1050 CHUM — the same year CHUM bought Citytv. It was the era of punk and new wave, and the network was keen to air a music-television show that would marry the content of Rolling Stone with the style of a TV newsmagazine show. Beker and John “J.D.” Roberts were hired to co-host the weekly pop music program The New Music, which broke new ground with its interviews with both pop stars and underground musicians. The next year, Beker was given extra duties as arts and entertainment reporter for the news program City Pulse. She was also one of MuchMusic’s early personalities when it launched in 1984, anchoring the Rockflash news segments.
Fashion Television and Journalism
In 1985, Beker left her hosting duties at The New Music when given the opportunity to host Fashion Television. She proved gifted at translating the often impenetrable, pretentious language of high fashion, presenting the avant-garde collections of Jean-Paul Gaultier and Betsey Johnson in a breezy, accessible style. Fashion Television would go on to become the most widely syndicated show on Citytv, airing in more than 130 countries.
Beker has played starring roles in many other media enterprises. She was the editorial director of early fashion website @fashion in 1995, and became the face of Bell Media’s 24-hour fashion channel FashionTelevisionChannel when it was launched in 2001 (it was renamed Fashion Television in 2012). She was the editor-in-chief of Canadian magazines FQ and SIR, which were published from 2003 to 2009, and executive produced the Citytv documentary series Cover Stories (2006–08), which offered a behind-the-scenes look at the publishing of the magazines.
She has been a judge on the CTV reality show Canada’s Next Top Model and a frequent host and correspondent on E! and CTV. She helped cover Olympic fashion for CTV at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, and carried the Olympic torch in Ladner, BC, on 9 February 2010.
Beker has written about fashion for the magazines Chatelaine, Mirabella, Modern Women, Flare and Marquee, and has written five books, including the memoir Finding Myself in Fashion. She has also been a columnist for Metro and The loop and a contributing editor with the Toronto Star, where she has written a column about style.
In 2001, Beker began a career as a fashion designer, launching a limited-run line of clothing at Eaton’s called Jeanne Beker. She launched another line called Inside Out at Sears in 2003, and premiered her clothing label Edit by Jeanne Beker at The Bay in 2010.
Beker has been involved with many charitable organizations over the years and has hosted numerous fundraising events. She has served as Honorary Chair of Toronto’s annual HIV fundraiser Fashion Cares, and on the honorary board for Gilda’s Club, which assists people living with cancer.
Diamond Award, Variety Club (1996)
Vantage Women of Originality Award, Fashion Group International (1996)
Crystal Award for Lifetime Achievement, Women in Film and Television (2006)
Canadian Award of Distinction, Banff World Media Festival (2012)
Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award, Arts and Communications, Women’s Executive Network (2012)
Academy Achievement Award for Exceptional Contributions to the Canadian Television Industry, Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television (2013)
Honorary Degree, St. Mary’s University (2013)
Member, Order of Canada (2013)
Jeanne Unbottled: Adventures in High Style (Stoddart Publishing, 2000).
The Big Night Out (Tundra Books, 2005).
Passion for Fashion: Careers in Style (Tundra Books, 2008).
Strutting It!: The Grit Behind the Glamour (Tundra Books, 2011).
Finding Myself in Fashion (Penguin Group Canada, 2011).