Sarah Daniels was holed up in the green room, waiting to do another real estate segment on the Marilyn Denis show. Having made her way to Toronto from Vancouver, her outfit needed some smoothing. Spotting the steamer, Daniels fired it up and got to work. Soon after, the producer came in.
“Sarah? What are you doing?!”
“I’m steaming my clothes.”
“You know, we have people who can do that for you!”
“Why? I’m not completely helpless!”
It is vintage Daniels and it is a life approach that has taken her through successful careers in television, radio and real estate. Dive in, don’t ask a lot of questions and get things done.
This ‘don’t ask, don’t dither’ philosophy got Daniels her start in broadcasting. “A friend suggested that I try doing radio.” Said friend introduced her to a Program Director who somehow got the idea that Daniels had studied broadcasting and logged hours of on-air time.
Daniels had done neither of those things, but she was not about to throw away this opportunity. “He put me on the air immediately. I pretended I knew what I was doing. Fake it till you make it. After I started, people were saying that I had such a great voice for radio. No one had ever said that to me in my whole life.”
Daniels went from doing live feeds in the 1040 Cruiser to news on Rock 101. Soon, she was doing traffic and banter from the CKNW Eye in the Sky. “I worked with the late Rick Honey. I was his second banana. You’re up in the plane; things are thrown at you. You have to be up on the latest pop culture, all the chit-chat and gossip. This was before the age of the Internet. It’s not like I could go and look online.”
In those early days, she worked non-stop. “I made sure I was available for anything on-air that was needed. I was in the promotion department, in the Cruiser. I MC’d crappy concerts.”
Next came the opportunity to work at Global, formerly BCTV. “I did morning traffic and filled-in on the weather.” With TV, came 3:15 am wake-up calls and the need to primp. “We didn’t have make-up and hair on hand, so we winged it on our own. At best, I looked presentable. At worst, I looked like I was dragged through the mud!”
Daniels enjoyed being on TV and working with her co-hosts. But, “my job in television was hardly what one would call high-paying. I had next to no money and no life because I had to go to bed early. I have no idea what my friends did during those years. I was just waiting for the next nap.”
In 2003, Daniels decided to pursue a long-time interest and study for her real estate license. “For two years I did both jobs. Because I was an idiot. I have no idea how I managed. I quit doing full-time TV on June 30, 2005. Almost 10 years to the day.”
Many thought she was mad to give up TV. “People think TV is the be all and end all. You can be in a room with a rocket scientist, a brain scientist, someone with a cure for cancer, and people want to talk to the person on TV. It’s nuts. Especially considering where the world is going with reality TV, with people like the Kardashians. Way to aim high, North America. Way to aim high.”
Daniels established herself as a successful realtor whilst sporadically covering weather and traffic shifts on TV and radio. She was also brought on to discuss real estate on Global’s Ask an Expert and on Breakfast Television.
A literary agent approached Daniels out of the blue, asking if she’d like to write a book about real estate. Why not? She went on to write: Welcome Home. Insider Secrets to Buying or Selling your Property. In 2011, she was invited to update the Canadian Buying and Selling a Home for Dummies series.
In that same year, Daniels and her brother Philip were part of a successful pitch that led to the creation of the Urban Suburban TV series on HGTV. “We would feature a couple and they were trying to decide whether they want to buy an urban house or a suburban house.”
Daniels would show the suburban houses, her brother would show the urban houses and, by the end of the show, the couple would choose a winner. “They picked a house. They didn’t necessarily buy the house.”
The show took off quickly. “The first season, they asked for 13 shows, and then within 2 weeks, they doubled it to 26. The second season we did another 26 episodes.”
Daniels enjoyed doing the show immensely, but the travel schedule was crazed. “6 days, 2 cities, 4 episodes…” Though the show featured their sibling banter, Sarah and Philip shot most of their scenes with the house-seeking couples and away from each other.
Urban Suburban stopped filming in 2012, but it still airs in repeats. Meanwhile, the Marilyn Denis Show producers had taken note of Daniels’ latest TV venture. They invited her first as a guest and then as a regular to discuss real estate with Marilyn.
“I started doing appearances with them in 2014. Now, I appear 6 to 7 times a year. The Marilyn Denis Show is a lot of fun. It’s a national show. They have a great audience.”
When she is not on TV or selling houses, Daniels is busy looking after her dogs and advocating for rescue animals and humane treatment. “Because let’s face it, animals are a lot nicer than people. Your dog is happy to see you, even if you’ve only been gone for 15 minutes.”
What advice would Daniels offer to others looking to make their mark in broadcasting?
1. “Don’t do it! Kidding.
2. Don’t feel you have to go the conventional route. Create your own opportunities.
3. Know your strengths. TV is hyper-competitive these days. Everyone wants to be on TV; no one wants to work behind the scenes. You have to be able to speak off the top of your head and riff. If you can’t do that, you won’t be able to do it.
4. Don’t be boring. You have to jump out of the box.
5. Realize that you’ll start off being paid jack-crap.
6. Stand up for your ideas. People will try to screw you over and you have to hold your own.
7. Don’t lie about your age. We need role models for what is achievable at 45 or 55, especially for women. We don’t need to see another puffer fish with hair extensions and flotation device breasts. Nobody is against judicious tweaking, but it’s a shame that women have to lie about their age and men can get fat and wear dockers.
8. A handshake is never good enough. Get a good agent and a good lawyer.
9. Most people won’t get rich doing it, so love what you’re doing.”
Written by Elizabeth Newton