“From an early age, I second-guessed myself. I didn’t have the confidence to put myself out there.” Not the words you’d expect from a popular T.V personality.
Every morning, along with her co-hosts Kevin Frankish, Jennifer Valentyne, and Frank Ferragine, Dina Pugliese interviews, dances, and laughs her way through the morning. Her spirit is infectious. The ease with which she carries herself is undeniable; the comfort in her own skin, palpable. She’s beautiful AND cool. Sound inspiring? Okay fine. Maybe it sounds a little exclusive, or unattainable, but Dina the girl, is the real deal.
D, as she called herself in our conversation, is not just a girl who was discovered on the street. She was never a model. There was no ‘overnight success’. The discovery of Dina Pugliese, the talent, was more of an evolution.
Today, she is the co-host of Toronto’s number one morning show, Breakfast Television. She’s been named one of the “Top Hottest Women on Television” and one of the “50 Most Beautiful Canadians” by HELLO! She has won numerous awards, was nominated for a Gemini (host in a lifestyle series), and has been voted NOW’s Favourite TV Personality by the readers and viewers. She’s hosted numerous NYE bashes on Citytv and was also the host of Canada’s Got Talent.
Okay, so she’s successful, we get it, you’re thinking. But these are not the inspirational snippets of this story; it is through her journey towards this success that you may find yourself relating.
Pugliese is a self-proclaimed late bloomer. Landing her first on-air gig when she was twenty-nine years old, she had many years of behind-the-scenes experience under her belt. As an intern and eventually low paid employee at Global Television, Pugliese had done every possible job behind the camera.
“I was the one filling everyone’s DQ order in the summer,” she recalls. She knew she had more to offer, but the buzzing in her head kept her from putting a demo tape together.
You know the buzzing. We’ve all had it at some point. Even Dina Pugliese. It’s that little voice that says, You’re not good enough, or You can’t do it. When you watch Pugliese, it seems implausible that she ever felt this way. But as it turns out, she spent most of her life up until her thirties, being quiet, slightly shy and second-guessing herself.
“At elementary school, I wasn’t cute. I was tall and gangly. I didn’t know where I fit in. At home, I acted and put on shows,” Dina says giddily. She talks about her high school days with affinity. Involved in many of the clubs, she also loved English and was even voted Valedictorian. Not feeling worthy of the accolade, she insisted on her principal that it had been too close of a race; that the other girl should get it. Pugliese recalls feeling that she just didn’t deserve it. “I was the worst self-critic.”
On her twenty-ninth birthday, armed with a ‘do or die’ attitude, she decided to just go for it. She had waited long enough. After putting her demo tape together, Pugliese eagerly approached the news director, her boss at the time, and asked him to take a look. After sloughing her off and not even viewing the tape, he volunteered that he didn’t think she was ‘cut out’ for on-air. “Go work out west in a small town. Don’t have your heart set on it. Just keep doing what you’re doing,” he’d said.
She was already battling her own self-doubt, claiming, “I was my own worst obstacle.” Now there was someone else adding noise in her head.
As we all know, you shouldn’t base your future on one person’s opinion. Dina learned this for herself. “If you focus on those people, you get held back.” Luckily there were other people who were much more positive, and encouraged her to move forward.
I can’t help but think about all the lost opportunities in the world through negative thinking and needless worry. But she doesn’t see her twenties as ‘lost time’. She operated prompters, pulled cable, filled coffee orders—she was also a producer working behind the scenes, garnering respect from those around her in the industry. Battling issues with self-confidence was an experience, not a lifelong affliction. It was an opportunity for change; the evolution of the person she is today.
Today, she is a woman full of gratitude. It just oozes out of her. Her appreciation for her job, her family, and her supporters, is not just something that’s said; it’s a way of life. When she talks about her husband and their Linners (dinners at lunch) and how they meet up with both sides of the families each weekend, there is giddy contentment in her voice. She also tells me about her work family and how much fun they have every morning.
I ask her about what it’s like to put herself ‘out there’ every day. “I wouldn’t have been able to handle being attacked back in the day. I would have crawled into a hole,” she says. She goes on to say that you can’t have the love without the hate, and as long as she’s good to the people around her and puts as much positivity out there as she can, that’s all she can do.
I think about what it feels like to be a professional late bloomer. I can relate. And I know what it’s like to think, If I just did this, or If I just did that, then maybe I would be further than I am today. But here’s the thing: the challenges we face, the so-called ‘wasted time’, the wrong choices we think we made; don’t they add up to something? I think in Dina’s case it’s exactly what makes her so relatable and down-to-earth.
So, if you’re feeling stuck and down on yourself, think of Dina. She felt that once too. And as she says, “If you really follow your heart, work hard, treat people the way you want to be treated, push past the negativity and drown out the noise. Focus on your goal and you will absolutely get there.”