Sharlene Chiu was born in Vancouver and graduated from Ryerson University’s Radio and Television Arts program in 2005. Before starting MTV News Canada, Chiu helped launch MTV in Canada in 2006, and worked behind-the-scenes as a segment producer for MTV Live. This included producing a music segment that ran on the show called On the Radar, where she established an exceptional reputation for selecting and featuring new independent bands.
Chiu introduced MTV News to Canada as a weekly segment on the original hour long version of MTV Live. The regular segment featured her traveling around the world reporting on music trends and covering festivals such as SXSW, Austin City Limits, Osheaga, V Festival, and T in the Park. This included over 250 honest and entertaining interviews with a wide range of artists, including Coldplay, Rihanna, Kings of Leon, Cee Lo Green, Vampire Weekend, Mumford & Sons, Phoenix and Feist.
After winning the 2009 Travel Journalism Award presented by VisitBritain for Best in Broadcast for her special, MTV News Pounds Britain, Chiu created SHARLENE VS., an MTV News music travel series that takes viewers beyond where the tourists go. In each city, Chiu meets artists of all kinds who take her under their helm, showing off unique, off-the-beaten-track spots that are special to them.
Photo credit: MTV Canada
Did you always want to be in the media? If not, what other careers were on the horizon?
I had always wanted to do music journalism on television when I was growing up. If I didn’t go for that dream job, I would have gone into photography, which was also a huge passion of mine as a kid.
Where would you like to be five years from now?
Five years from now, I hope I have my own production company creating badass TV shows internationally in the food and travel realm.
Any advice for people getting started in your industry?
Patience and perseverance!
What are your favourite media outlets, not including your own?
I’ve been obsessed with Nowness.com since its inception 3 years ago – they feature the brightest, most innovative artists in fashion, food, music, film, and art in wonderfully written articles and beautifully shot film forms. I also love watching the video segments on Vice like “Munchies.”
Best interview you’ve ever had?
Cat Power in 2008. This was just after she had released the album, “Jukebox,” and had gone through a rather public hospitalization/breakdown. She’s one of my favorite music artists ever and I remember how easy this interview went. We chatted for about half an hour and she was incredibly sweet and candid about her childhood and her struggles with alcohol and performing live. The press/interview grind can get monotonous, so it’s rare you get someone who’s so open, genuine, and unrehearsed.
Best advice you’ve ever been given?
What rule(s) do you live your life by?
Follow your instincts and (this one’s a hard one) try not to worry.
What’s the most important tip you can give PR pros?
Know who you are reaching out to and make the pitch personal. For example, certain publicists know I’m a sucker for knowing what’s new in music, fashion, food, film, and travel so when something comes up in those areas, I get a personal email with a simple “heads up, you’re gonna love this…” I see so many generic press releases so this helps to grab my attention.
Best experience you’ve had with a PR pro? We love to hear about #wins.
I was at an event where manicures were being offered so of course I indulged and while my nails were getting painted, I was telling the nail artist what a horrible time I was having with my lips cracking and peeling out of nowhere. The loveliest PR pro was sitting beside me and told me about a product that helped her with her lips. The next day, I got a package with the said product and a note saying how fun it was to hang out and that she hopes that the product helps like it did for her. It was so unexpected and memorable.
Best place on earth?
Favourite app (or whatever you are downloading these days)?
Pool or ocean?
Voicemail or email?