Welcome to uOttaKnow, a podcast that illuminates, inspires, and entertains produced by the University of Ottawa.
Hello, I’m Gwen Madiba, host of uOttaKnow and a proud two-time graduate of the Faculty of Social Science. I am also the President of the Equal Chance Foundation.
uOttaKnow puts you in touch with uOttawa alumni and researchers around the globe at the cutting edge of their fields. Listen in for thought-provoking conversations on today’s trending topics.
Welcome to season three of uOttaKnow. This season, we'll be focusing on the entertainment industry, with conversations on film, music, reality TV, tech trends and more. We'll be talking to alumni at the heart of showbiz, from Montreal to Toronto, to California and beyond.
Our first guest of the season, alumnus Jesse Jones is a creator, executive producer, television host, actor and speaker.
Our conversation today explores everything from the skills and abilities needed to make it in the entertainment industry, to the role of a TV host and the importance of creating a legacy. With his personal drive and motivation, Jesse encourages our listeners that your passion can be your life's work.
Jesse is a uOttawa alumnus who studied Communications at the Faculty of Arts and played for the Gee Gees men's basketball team. Currently, he is the head of Jones & Jones, an evolution of a family business which his parents Denise and Allan founded over 30 years ago with a focus on helping organizations connect with Canada's black and multicultural communities. Blending his passion for research, lifestyle, marketing, and brand management, he has worked with organizations such as McDonald's, Adidas, Yale University and TD to name a few.
Jesse was also the creator, executive producer, and host of the Drive TV series on Global TV, and last May launched ‘Conversations While Park’d’.
This fall, you'll see Jessie hosting Season One of Bachelor in Paradise Canada that will premiere on Citytv.
Jessie, thanks for joining us from Toronto today!
It's great to be here. I'm looking forward to the conversation today.
I'm really looking forward to talking all things entertainment with you today as well. With your background in media and marketing, I really just can't wait to hear your insights and stories. Now to start off this season, we're asking all our guests, what does entertainment mean to you?
Oh man, that’s a big question. It's an escape, I think for many, it's an opportunity for people to experience emotion, lots of emotion. Yeah, it's an opportunity for people to experience joy and things they love and fun, but we also get entertained by things that kind of spook us out and scare us and just kind of keep us on the edge of our seats. So, I think entertainment is, it ignites emotion. And when we feel things, I think that's when we're most alive. So, you know, entertainment to me, seems like it could be a gateway to those feelings, an opportunity to be in touch with oneself, and to kind of unplug a little bit is how I would see it.
Thanks, Jesse. I'm totally with you on that. It definitely helps us all unplug.
Well, I know there's a lot of buzz right now for the first season of The Bachelor in Paradise Canada. I think that the fans are sometime referred to as Bachelor Nation. There's definitely a lot of hype around this reality TV show, and the role of the host is such an interesting one to occupy. Now tell us a bit about how you got involved and your thoughts on the roles of hosts in entertainment spaces. What did you want to bring to this?
Yeah, well, thank you. I mean it's funny, I would have never expected to have the opportunity to host such a storied franchise or be a part of such a storied franchise, because, I mean, there's two reality shows that have been on for many, many years and just keep, you know, getting bigger and better and expanding. The Bachelor series is one of those and you know, coming from Ottawa U you as a student in communications and media and then over the years making my way through the marketing, branding industry, entertainment industry having roots in it, growing up in it, I wouldn't have assumed that this would have happened, but I do feel grateful for it.
I mean, you know, the team from Good Human Productions, I mean, that's the name of their company: Good Human. So, when I was approached to put my demo into the ring, I was like, man, the production company on this, their name is Good Human. I mean, this kind of feels right, and I looked at it as it is an opportunity to step into something brand new. I've done television before, but this level, this show, the international level of it, the global brand of it, it's definitely a new space.
And I, obviously, you know, you have your nerves about it right here, like, wow, I'm stepping into this, this is a whole new level, like, you're going to be able to show up and show out the way you know you want to, and, but even with these things that we all have, right, these voices in our head that kind of just get us anxious about opportunities, I continue to step into it and step through it.
And we have a new show that's coming out in October, and I'm just excited, as excited as everybody else to see, you know, how things are going to unfold.
But, I'm honored. You know, I'm honored. I grew up to Jamaican parents who immigrated here to Canada and created things and infrastructure. I was lucky enough to experience those things and see examples of my parents in media and in spaces, so this didn't seem foreign for me in terms of like, yeah, you could do this.
And so, I attribute everything I'm doing now is because of them. And to make that visual possible, I think is a beautiful thing, and I think for me stepping into this role as host of Bachelor in paradise Canada, season one, that I hope that there are other young people who are looking and watching or they're individuals to look and watch and say, you know what, this is great, I can see myself doing things as well. And that's really what hits home for me at the end of the day, and giving people a good show, and giving people a good opportunity to unplug and relax, but man, if it can inspire others, and bring people together in the name of love, I'm good with that.
Well, it's already inspiring many people, Jessie and your attitude of gratitude is certainly something that pushes, even me, to want to continue, to just be grateful for opportunities that come into our lives.
And you talked about your family, you talked about your parents being immigrants in Canada, and I'm sure that many people who will listen today uOttawa students, even people outside of you uOttawa, will find inspiration in that our parents come to this country and other countries to give us all their children the chance to become greater than them, and I think that you're doing that.
And obviously, you had the most wonderful mentors for that, and your parents, and so talking about paradise and your family, you’re Jamaican Canadian and grew up in a family that was very connected to the entertainment industry across the country, and internationally. And not to mention the legacy of Jamaican culture on popular culture around the world. How did this background influence you and the path that you've taken?
Thank you for this question and thank you for the homework too in terms of just knowing the roots.
I attribute everything that I'm doing to those roots: the legacy has never been more important to me than it is now. Unfortunately, I lost my mother in December to brain cancer. She was the everything to our family. And she was the, you know, the spearhead of Jones & Jones productions, which was the business that my mother and father co-founded when they came here to Canada, back in the late 70s. Early 80s is the time when things really started to kind of happen, and they came here to Canada and started Jones & Jones as a way to help others that look like them experience a taste of back home.
So, if you were from Afro Caribbean background, they were creating experiences in the form of entertainment, plays, theater, music, concerts, to give people some tangible connection to where they came from, right, as they were in this new land. And in that time, that was like, not happening in too many places.
I guess I set that tone to say that, you know, year after year and as I go through what I'm going through right now with this transition and seeing my mom pass on and what that does in terms of legacy and where things are going. I can't help but feel really, really moved at what our parents if you were born to immigrant parents and you're listening to this, if you are first generation Canadian, or second generation Canadian to immigrant parents. The mere fact that they left what they knew and moved across a globe to set up shop in any capacity, and then have children is massive. It’s massive if you think about it.
So, the mere fact that I was attending Ottawa U and able to, like just the mere fact that I was able to come up in Canada as a black male, and seeing opportunities as mine, as well, and not questioning that, that is magic.
And that magic happens because our parents came here. Right, they came here and struggled to understand language and to find, you know, career and to build up. And so, you know, I can't help, but flashback to my childhood years and the years you got frustrated with your parents, you’re yelling at them, and you're a teenager, you know everything, you're going off to school and this and that, because this is, you don't know any different: this Canada is your Canada, how you're experiencing it, and you take for granted a lot of things.
I know I spoke to my mother about this, and I told her these things. She knew that I was appreciative, but I got to say, like, I wish I had one more chance to just be like, everything I am doing everything I am experiencing every piece of confidence I have and every time that I doubt myself, and I am able to push through that: it is all because of you. It is all because you showed me that things are possible.
The spotlight question that we have actually is from a uOttawa alumna, who has created her own space, who has followed her dreams, CiCi Moya, who's Haitian Canadian, graduated from the Faculty of Arts with a BA in psychology. She's also a graduate student from the Tom Todoroff Conservatory’s Performing Arts Program in New York City. She took a big chance, you know, to leave Canada and go to the US to follow her dreams and to pursue her education to perfect her skills. And so, we're going to welcome CiCi Moya right now who has a question for you.
Well, hi, Jesse. My name is Cici, and I'm a content creator, I'm a host, and I'm also a sickle cell advocate. I love storytelling and inspiring others to see the beauty within themselves and others as well. So, my question for you today is, if there was one thing that you can change in the world, or that you would change about the world, what would that be?
I'm a big believer of vibration. I'm a big believer of like, even the smallest of things that we do, if a collection of us do those small things, then it you know, it will translate and ripple down the line.
So it could be as simple as just, you know, you're on the street and you put your head up and you see somebody you make contact and the energy that you exchange with that person is positive, it could be you're at the grocery store, and you thank the person after bagging the groceries. And this is not just thinking, because I'm black, I'm thinking about because you know, it's like everyone, just human, just exchange a little bit of something that doesn't take anything away from you, or the troubles that you might be having or everything, but just this energy and this vibration of recognition.
So how does that, you know, impact in my day to day and how do I illustrate that? Yeah, not every day, am I feeling great about things, but I think I try as much as possible in the work that we're doing every day, you know, here at Jones & Jones group or if I'm on set shooting something, it's like, what are the exchanges that I'm having? I think consciously about that.
How am I interacting with the people around me? Am I dealing with some stuff internally? Cool. Can I still change the way that I engage with someone else? And still internalize those things and deal with them? Yeah, I probably can. So, I try to manage those, I try to manage that and just try to leave a little bit of goodness, in an exchange. It's not always possible, and I'm not one to be able to do it 100% of the time. But my intention is to see each human I come across, and to hopefully have some sort of honoring of their experience that day, that year, that lifetime. You know what I'm saying? Because I feel like, that impacts a lot of things.
Well, thank you Jesse for taking that question from CiCi. Now I'd like to end today's conversation with something we'll be asking all our guests this season. What is entertaining you right now?
Um, oh, man. Okay. All right. So just on a very, you know, Netflix level: Lupin. Have you guys seen Lupin?
Yes, It’s brilliant!
Have you seen? Now talk about entertaining! Okay I don't want to give too much away, but man, it's the storyline, it's the way it's written, it's the star of it, it's the characters, the way in which I don't want to give it away. But anyone who's listening to this, who hasn't watched Lupin on Netflix, there are two seasons, and I've found it highly entertaining. I've binged both seasons, and I can't wait for more. I love it! I've been watching it with the audio like, voice over dubbing because it's originally in French. And I wouldn't pick it up as well that way, but I love the series. \It's fantastic! So that's been entertaining me just on a “let's unplug and watch some strong content”.
Outside of that, I think, you know, the past couple years have been really tough on a lot of people, right? We've been going through a worldwide pandemic, we've been trying to navigate that if you are a creator, business owner, entrepreneur, or working for different organizations, this has not been an easy time for you as you try to figure out your course. Right, what's next? So that's not lost on me.
I think there's a book that I would like to share too, that was very entertaining. I read it at the very beginning of the pandemic, it was recommended to me by a colleague, and it's called “Who Moved My Cheese?”. And the book is about change and responding to change. That has been a very entertaining piece for me, but also educational piece for me, and something that I find that since I've read it, I've been thinking about it in my every day, in terms of how I respond to roadblocks that might come up or things that might so you know, that's also something I'd recommend to everyone who's listening “Who Moved My Cheese?”. It's a quick Google and it's there. And it's a very short read, but very impactful read. So entertaining, in a different in a different way.
Well, thank you for this recommendation. Jesse, could you let our listeners know where they can find you online?
Yes, for sure. I mean, if you're an Instagram, you can find me there @iamjessejones. So at I am Jesse Jones on Instagram, Twitter is the same. Instagram will have a link to all of the different places and things that I'm you know, connected to, and the company that I have the honor of carrying on into a new legacy in time Jones & Jones, you can find us at www.theJonesandJonesgroup.com. And, you know, we're a marketing and branding firm that helps organizations connect to black and multicultural communities across the country and internationally, so I'm excited to continue that legacy work. And yeah, that's where you can find us.
Thanks so much, Jesse for joining us on you uOttaKnow, and we can't wait to catch you hosting the Bachelor in Paradise this fall and we can't wait to see what you continue to do with the Jones & Jones legacy.
I appreciate it. Thank you.
uOttaKnow is brought to you by the University of Ottawa's Alumni Relations team. It is produced by Rhea Laube with theme music by alumnus Idris Lawal. This episode was recorded with the support of Pop Up Podcasting in Ottawa, Ontario. We pay respect to the Algonquin people who are the traditional guardians of this land. We acknowledge their long-standing relationship with this territory, which remains unceded. For a transcript of this episode in English and French or to find out more about uOttaKnow please refer to the description of this episode.