photography by Greg Pacek, styling by Kate Corbett, hair and makeup by Natalie Blouin, photographed on location at Wish Restaurant, 3 Charles St. E., Toronto
Natasha Staniszewski never thought she’d be the blazer-clad woman delivering the sports highlights to fans across the country.
Nine years ago, the University of Alberta business-school grad and die-hard Oilers fan was an unhappy human-resources worker. It was when she saw a female sportscaster on TV while at a mundane work conference in Calgary that she decided to call it quits.
“I remember sitting there and I thought if she’s doing it, why can’t I do it? The nine-to-five desk job wasn’t for me,” the 35-year-old recalls.
Shortly after, the Edmonton born-and-raised Staniszewski went to NAIT for broadcasting and landed a job at CTV – bouncing around small towns in Saskatchewan before ending up back in Edmonton. Two-and-a-half years ago, Staniszewski caught her big break – a gig on TSN’s SportsCentre in Toronto. (TSN and CTV are sister networks, both owned by Bell.)
At CTV, sports was at the bottom of the totem pole, below the weather, she says. Now, on Saturday nights, Staniszewski is reporting nationally, while a dozen hockey games play at once.
“It’s buzzing. It’s a fun atmosphere.”
The jump to the sports media mecca saw her go from Smart Set blazers to tailored Holt Renfrew frocks. The network assigned her a stylist and gave Staniszewski a substantial wardrobe budget. On air, her blond coif is perfectly styled, makeup expertly applied and blouse freshly pressed. She’s got more than 28,000 Twitter followers.
But, off-air, she’s the same down-to-earth gal from Edmonton.
For our interview at a Toronto Starbucks, she’s wearing an oversized sweater, scarf, skinnies and flats with her blond hair pulled back in a ponytail.
“I’m usually a jeans kind of girl. I don’t really like shopping,” she says.
Staniszewski says she misses home and goes back to Edmonton four or five times a year to see friends and family and has helped out at events, including the Fashion on Fire charity fundraiser and the University of Alberta Alumni Awards.
“I never thought I’d end up at TSN. I just wanted to get to Edmonton to cover the Oilers and the Eskimos. Looking back it seems like a no-brainer. It worked out so well. It couldn’t have worked out any better.”
I read online you considered changing your last name to something easier to pronounce on air?
I asked my news director (at CTV Edmonton) if he thought it would be good to change my last name. It’s a bit of a mouthful, but it looks more intimidating than it is. At the beginning sometimes, co-anchors would mispronounce it. He said ‘no.’ I kind of like it. It makes me stand out and people remember me because of my long last name. It has been fine at TSN. Networks in the U.S. have asked if I wouldn’t mind changing my last name. (For the record, she said she wouldn’t mind changing it.)
What’s your favourite sport?
Hockey. People are shocked (in Toronto) when I tell them I’m not a Leafs fan (She’s an Edmonton Oilers fan). Obviously I have to tone it down a little bit when I’m on the air. You can’t be totally biased.
Describe your style.
Understated. When I’m on the desk, it’s blazers, dressy shirts and done-up hair. I have a clothing stylist at TSN. His name is Lee Kinoshita-Bevington (he’s also from Edmonton and was a costume designer on CTV’s So You Think You Can Dance Canada) and he works with a bunch of our anchors on both clothes and hair. We have a budget for clothes. I buy some of my work clothes when I go shopping by myself but, about three times a month, I’ll go shopping with Lee for a few hours, too.
He is an awesome guy and very easy to work with. He knows if you’re uncomfortable or not happy in something you’re just not going to look good in it, so he’ll never force you to wear something. But, yes, he does push your comfort zone a little bit, in a good way.
Off the air, I wear sweaters, flats, maybe a scarf.
What kinds of new things has your stylist encouraged you to wear?
The colour orange. Sometimes he picks orange things (blouses, jackets and blazers) and it actually looks pretty good. We still argue about bubblegum pink, though.
I think I can pull off both understated and glamorous looks on the air, but I prefer to be a bit more understated and Lee knows that. For me, usually less is more. As much as I like wearing fancier, ‘wow’ blazers with heavier makeup once in while, I prefer to wear simple blouses or just flowy tops with more natural makeup. My on-air style is very similar to my off-air style; I’d rather keep it simple. Don’t get me wrong, it’s sometimes fun to go into work and wear nicer clothes and get my makeup done, but I don’t want to be one kind of person on-air and then a completely different kind of person off-air.
Did you have to brush up on any of the sports franchises when you moved from CTV Edmonton to TSN in Toronto?
I definitely had to keep tabs on NFL. Coming from Edmonton, I’m more of a CFL fan. You have to be on your toes when you’re ad-libbing with your partner.
How do you like it at TSN in the big city?
I love the people there. They do a great job in hiring the people that they do. I love anchoring. I love sports. I love doing the highlights. It’s fun to be as close to action you can be without playing.
Do you get to travel for work?
Yes. I’m going to Kuwait (Oct. 10, 2013). It came up last-minute. It’s for Thanksgiving, I’m going to visit the Canadian Forces for five days. What do you do in your downtime?
I go to baseball games, basketball games, hockey games. I’m a bookworm. I read a lot. I’m a bit of a runner. I’m training for my first half-marathon in Savannah, Georgia. (Race was Nov. 9, she ran it with friends Tara Yolan and CTV’s Veronica Jubinville). It’s been on my bucket list to go to Savannah, not to run a half marathon. I like to travel. I went backpacking in Italy, Austria and the Czech Republic with my brother for two weeks in September.
Noticed you have 28,000 Twitter followers; You’re a celebrity.
At CTV I had less than 100. I have the least of all the anchors. It’s fun to talk to fans. People can be really mean with how you look and how you talk because it’s anonymous. You have to have really thick skin. You get people talking down to you. I’ve been called a Ninja Turtle and a leprechaun. (When she wears this bright green blouse on air). I’m getting better at dealing with it, brushing it off. You just have to believe in yourself and not listen to them.
Do you get guys hitting on you online?
I’ve had marriage proposals. Guys say, “how come nobody’s put a ring on it?”
Well, now I gotta ask why.
I’m 35. Sure, I’d love to meet somebody. I feel like it’s coming down to crunch time. My work hours haven’t helped. But that’s a whole other topic for another article (smiles).
FASHION ITEM Hairspray
FOOD Ice cream
CLOTHING Sweaters from Jacob, skinny black pants from Club Monaco and colourful, almost gaudy, rings.
EDMONTON SHOPPING Southgate Centre. Close to where I grew up. West Edmonton Mall is way too big for me! There are a few places on Whyte Avenue I also go to for jewellery or purses.
EDMONTON HANGOUTHighlevel Diner for brunch. Murrieta’s is good for that too. I recently checked out Mercer Tavern for drinks, which was a fun spot. And I really miss going to the 104 Street market on the weekend!
FAVOURITE SPORTS TEAMS Oilers and Eskimos
MOST MEMORABLE OILERSMOMENT The Oilers were in the playoffs and Wayne Gretzky made a surprise appearance during the game a few months after his retirement. I crawled through the seats to right below his luxury box and managed to get an autograph. (Oilers lost the game in triple overtime to Dallas, but what a night!)
SONG “I’ve Got Your Fire” by Jenn Grant, “Mine Would Be You” by Blake Shelton. I’m a sucker for sappy country love songs. Oh, and Metric’s “Stadium Love” when I’m running.