As one of the most recognizable faces in Canadian entertainment media, Lauren Toyota has enjoyed a fantastic career. Between hosting shows on MTV Canada and MuchMusic, Lauren has worked as a correspondent for Breakfast Television, eTalk, Fashion Television and many more. Now that she’s conquered all her childhood dreams (that include interviewing Kermit the Frog and Jordan Knight) she’s turned her focus on cooking and can be found celebrating vegan food on her blog HotForFoodBlog.com. We caught up with Lauren to talk about healthy eating, hosting the MuchMusic video awards and her worst interview ever.
Why don’t you tell me a little bit about how you got started on-air?
I grew up watching MuchMusic and I really connected with the VJs. I kind of felt like I had some of the same qualities, they always seemed like people who weren’t the most popular kids in school, they seemed quirky and weird and they got to express themselves exactly as they wanted to on this live national channel. I connected with that because I also wasn’t the most popular girl in school and I always like felt I was different or didn’t fit in. I just really kind of wanted to have a platform like that to kind of share what was inside of me. After I graduated college, I saw this opportunity in Vancouver for a show that I had seen on the original MTV Canada called 969 and I applied. It was a very simple casting call, they wanted a demo tape and they just said “you know you’re into music, you love pop culture, you have a fun personality.” It was very generic and I was kind of like “they don’t have anybody like me on that show so I’m going to apply” and I ended up getting a call a couple of weeks later.
That’s how I got my foot in the door and learned everything at this show. I learned how to produce content and ended up becoming the main host of the show for a couple of years and it eventually got cancelled and that’s when I started working for MuchMusic.
So over all these years, what was your favourite show that you got to work on?
It’s hard to pick, but I feel like the greatest experience was working on Going Coastal on MuchMusic because I was so new, I only worked on 969 for a couple of years then I got to work for Much Music. I got to make a whole show on my own and was given so much freedom.
You hosted the MuchMusic Video Awards a few times. How was that kind of different than the other things you get to do?
When I was watching MuchMusic growing up I was like ‘I want to host that show, I want to be on that stage!’ It was a huge dream come true and getting to stand on that stage for the first time was an exhilarating feeling. There are so many people in the crowd, there’s so much going on, you have an inner earpiece and you’ve got like all these things to remember and it was a big undertaking. I had already been in TV now for a while so I had a lot of experience under my belt and I really felt like that was the right time for me to do that show. If I had done it any other time before that, I don’t think I would have been as ready or as good or as prepared to do it so it all kind of happened at the right time.
Who would you say was your best interview?
My best interview…well I have a few favourite interviews, it’s hard to pick the best. I really liked interviewing Kermit the Frog when the newer Muppet movie came out because it’s just such a strange experience and I treated it exactly like I would any other interview. It didn’t really cross my mind that I would be speaking to a muppet or that the puppeteer would be under the chair in front of me. It’s cool because you’re really able to igonore that and Kermit the Frog is somebody that I grew up watching, so to actually get to be face-to-face with him and speak to him and have an actual intelligent conversation with him was so cool.
Well the funny thing is, the best and the worst is also Jordan Knight from New Kids on the Block. I’ve never had anybody be belligerent or sort of intoxicated or anything like that but Jordan. It was one of the first interviews I ever did in Vancouver for 969 and he was on a solo tour at the time. I was so beyond excited that I was going to get to talk to him because this is the guy that I was in love with from the beginning of time and I didn’t know what to expect. I thought he would be Jordan Knight, the way I always remembered him. He was late and he was really drugged out or something. He was really out of it and it was really disappointing. He was very incoherent and almost a little flippant with me like he just didn’t want to be there. It was a disaster of an interview, but I ended up talking to him for like 45 minutes because I felt like it was a disaster and if I could keep him on camera more and get more stuff like this, I could just air it and show people how funny it is. His publicist didn’t even stop the interview or anything, which is the strangest thing. We aired this interview, told the story of how I was obsessed with NKOTB and it just shows him at his worst, unfortunately. It was the best interview, but also the worst interview.
If you weren’t an on-air personality, what else do you think you would do?
Well, that’s kind of interesting. I’ve almost done ten years of TV. I just left Much in the summer, and this other sort-of plan I’ve had in the back of my mind was cooking. I started working on my food blog hot for food blog a few years ago when I became vegan and looked at it as a fun hobby on the side. I thought that if the industry starts to crumble or whatever and I have to have a back-up plan, maybe I can work on this blog. I can become like a food blogger or food photographer or stylist or do a food show. At the end of the day if television was gone and I had to do something, I would open up a restaurant or do a catering business and try and spread this knowledge of healthy eating.
Your website says that you want to break this misconception of what it means to be vegan. What kind of misconceptions are you thinking about?
It’s the kind of conversation that I end up having on a daily basis with people who don’t understand what vegan means. I think there’s a general perception that eating vegan is boring and bland and that it’s just beans and salads. People tend to buy the same things at the grocery store and aren’t really exploring food outside of their own box. Once you open your eyes to plant-based food, you kind of realize how incredible, versatile and delicious these food that come from the earth really are. Instead of taking away so much from your diet as a vegan, you’re actually adding so much more back into it. I really just want to change people’s perception that it’s a hippie kind if lifestyle. I’m not here to shove ideas down people’s throat when they are not ready to hear them, so I think food photos on the blog is really the way to start that conversation. I really want to enlighten people’s taste buds.
I was just reading through your website and on your about page it says that you’ve conquered it all, do you feel like you’ve conquered it all?
I’m always striving for more but when I think back on my experiences and I have a lot of gratitude for the journey that I’ve been on. Everything I have wanted from the time I was thirteen years old (and now I am in my early thirties) I’ve accomplished every. And so that’s what I mean by that, I really have conquered it all. At this point right now, I’m kind of setting goals for the next 15 years of my life. I absolutely expect that I’ll look back on the last 15 years when I’m, you know, 45 or 50 years old and go “I did it again”. If I can do it, everyone else can do it too.
Do you have anything coming up in the next little while?
We’re going to be signing a contract with Kin Community, they’re the number one lifestyle network on YouTube and we’re so excited to have them on board to help us grow our channel.