Monday, March 20, 2006

Celebrity Ambassador? Me?!

I wrote a piece on celebrity ambassadors for the Link, for their cultural diversity issue.

When I pitched the story, I was told to steer away from "celebrity X is amazing because he/she supports cause Y" and intead say that "Celebrity X supports the latest cause, Y, but why? what's the effect?"

Well, of course, I felt compelled to give some background. Here's my finish product:

Famous Faces Shed Light on Humanitarian Issues

Celebrity ambassadors play important role in spreading the word

By Naila Jinnah

Angelina Jolie does it. So do Alyssa Milano, Lucy Liu, and Clay Aiken. Even Giorgio Armani does it.

No, it’s not sex. Although we’re sure they do that too!

They are all celebrity ambassadors for the United Nations. As faces known by millions around the world, their role is to bring public attention to the issues of third world countries or countries devastated by war or natural disasters.

For Alyssa Milano (Charmed, Who’s the Boss?), the journey began in 2003 when she was invited by the United States Fund for UNICEF to become a national ambassador. She became the official spokesperson of the 2004 “Trick or Treat” campaign that encourages kids to carry orange UNICEF boxes and collect funds for the less fortunate during their rounds on Halloween night.

Milano has always been interested in humanitarian aid, even before teaming up with UNICEF. "I think that the celebrity is a really important thing,” she says in her profile on the UNICEF website, “because we have the voice that's recognizable, that can educate people to make a difference and empower them to make a difference, and to also get things in motion with the people in charge that can effect change."

On the other hand, Angelina Jolie (Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Girl Interrupted), approached UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, to learn more about humanitarian action for refugees. Her duties as a goodwill ambassador include travelling the world to meet with and advocate for the protection of refugees on all continents.

“You go to these places and you realize what life's really about and what people are really going through,” she said after her first mission in 2001. “These people are my heroes."

Jolie, who insists on covering all the costs associated with her visits, believes everyone can make a difference.

So why, then, are celebrity ambassadors important? Do they really make a difference, or is it all about the media coverage?

“Negative stereotyping, hatred and violence can be fought by spreading awareness,” said Jolie in Have Your Say interview on the BBC last April.

“Fortunately I have seen concrete success. For example I was very vocal about a particular camp that was going to be closed, forcing many people back into danger,” she explained. “I fought with others and it was not closed. In other cases I have seen schools, homes and wells built that I funded.”

“But the most rewarding aspect are the letters I receive from young people from around the world who want to tell me they are joining the fight to help others, and that they will educate themselves and do what they can.”

“They give me more hope for our future.”


UNICEF Celebrity Ambassadors -

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassadors -


476 words


So what do you think?

The feedback I got was as follows:

Hey Naila,
thanks for your submission. Unfortunately, it's not
what we were hoping you would write about. The advice
we gave you was to steer away from
a "look at celebrity X and the great things
they're doing for the world" and instead go for
something like "celebrity X is the proud spokesperson
for Cause du Jour Y. Does it make a difference and is
X taking on Cause Y for the right reasons?".
We were looking for a critical text about celebrity
endorsements of social causes, but you didn't provide
any criticism or analysis in your article. It is
really one-sided, and for this reason we won't be able
to publish it in this week's issue.
We regret not informing you about this earlier, we are
three coordinating this issue, and we were sure that
one of us had e-mailed you about this already. We
would have liked to ask you to change your article and
add some meat to it, but now time is too short for us
to ask you for changes. We are still willing to post
your article onto our website, at
Let us know if you would like for this to be done.
Sorry once again for not informing you earlier, have a
good evening.

Here's my question. How the hell was I supposed to do that in less then 7 open business days, so with the limited information that's available online. It's not as if anyone did studies on celebrity ambassadors. Sure, I could have had an external/professional voice. If only there was one.

But there wasn't. So I thought it would be cool to see what the ambassadors thought the effect of their work was. And in that way, with that angle, my story was complete. In the 400-500 word limit too. It's my honest opinion.

But I want yours. So drop me a line, let me know what you think...

And for the record, I told them to post it. Stay tuned for a link... not that you need it ;)

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Published? yey!

lol. Interesting title, in my opinion. For this entry, I mean.

Follow the link to see my Cecilia Anderson interview story. I co-wrote the head/subhead with the editor. We re-organized it together as well. And that last part, with the breakers, was actually a sidebar on a shaded box. My idea, again ;) And all the breakers were mine :P

It was so fun, that I am going to attempt to run for Sports editor. Because right now, I've promised 1 more article, on celebrity ambassadors etc. That's for cultural week, or something like that. And I need 1 more contribution after that to qualify as a staff writer, and to be able to run for editor. Sports editor, I mean.

I will also be applying to be a TA next year. Which would be most excellent. :D Because it's not too many hours. It's like, 10-12 hours. And as far as I know, it pays pretty well. By pretty well, I mean about 10$/h.

Also, tomorrow, I'm going to interview Enn Raudsepp, the program director. My story will focus on him as a journalism ethics professor, in regards to the CMAJ firings, and the CMA interfering in editorial decisions.

So I will be waking up relatively early for the fourth day in a row. Remember, I'm used to sleeping in on Wednesday and Thursday. Not gonna happen. Maybe I'll get to sleep in on Friday, especially since it'll be the first day since Ryan started school, that we actually get to interact for more than 10 minutes in the day. Actually, today, we've actually interacted for about 2 hours now. Well, not much interacted, but we're in the same room together, and not sleeping! :D


Friday, lunch with Ryan's mom and lil bro (Spring Break). Then, BORG NIGHT!!!! :D
With Maya, David, Katie, and Ryan, of course.

Speaking of Maya, she's so cool! We get all each other's random references. Such as "SPOON!" or "I AM A BANANA!!!" or "LEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEROY JENNNNNKINGS".

And she likes the Trek ;) We're actually quite similar on some levels :) Which makes me happy. Because it means I'm not the only crazy one.

Ryan and I are going over to Maya's appartment for a curry supper on Thursday night. :D Yey! No cooking! :P

And now, I will leave you to do more important stuff. I mean, YOU will go do more important stuff. I'm going to be watching American Idol, because I don't have City TV. Which means I don't get to see the 2 hour America's Next Top Model show. At least Fashion Television will be getting it soon. Hopefully.

Thanks to all for reading, and stay tuned for more developpments ;)

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Silver Swede

Well, it's done! Part 1, that is :P

You know, it didn't really sink in that I was interviewing a silver medalist. I mean, wow! That's huge! It's kinda like me interviewing Mike Ribeiro after his amazing training camp, when he was extremely in demand.

I got to touch Cecilia Anderson's medal. It was heavy, and it was real. It's one of those gratifying moments of being a sportswriter. Of being a journalist, actually. There is nothing more gratifying than sharing someone's joy, sadness, efforts... and telling the whole world about it. That's what I love about journalism.

I am totally a feature writer. LOL

I still have to write a news article (600 words) on Cecilia Anderson and Team Sweden's victory. It's half done because of my work for the feature. But then again, the feel and format has to be completely different.

Here's my finished feature, all 2000+ words of it. Ignore the last part. I needs to be filled in by the editor ;) There's also no headline as of yet. I'll post the final/published version as soon as it's out :P

Cecilia Anderson was back in town this week after a successful Olympic experience with Sweden’s women’s hockey team. The silver medallist took time out of her schedule packed with interviews and presentations to share her thoughts with The Link.

“To beat one of the top two teams,” exclaimed Anderson, “it’s awesome!”

Sweden surprised fans and critics alike with a shootout victory against Team USA, but Anderson knew all along that they would make it to the gold medal game.

“The funny thing was that I had a feeling a couple weeks before,” she said. “I was closing my eyes, and I just saw everyone skating out on the ice, so excited that we won the semi-finals. I had no idea who we were going to play against, but I knew we were going to win.”


Walking into the stadium for the opening ceremonies is when it truly hit her that she was at the Olympics. “It was like a rush going through my whole body,” said Anderson. “There were so many big things happening around us. First off, walking in was just amazing. Pavarotti singing was pretty big; it’s not everyday you get to see him singing live.”

Anderson almost missed one of the most celebrated traditions of the opening ceremonies, but she caught herself in time. “The Olympic flame was cool except that I was looking in the other direction, because of the way we were sitting. So I missed it when she lit the big flame, but I turned around and I saw it after,” she laughed.

Living in the Olympic village was also quite a thrill. Usually, she has a roommate, but as a goalie in such a crucial competition, she was privileged with her own room. The best part for Anderson was dining in the same restaurant as other athletes, sitting side by side with the front-page grazers. “The coolest part is that you see Mats Sundin, you see Martin Brodeur, but they’re here to play in the same tournament that you are”, marvelled Anderson. “It’s cool to see them, but at the same time they’re there with the same goal. They want to get an Olympic medal.”


To Anderson, the hockey games were just that – games. “The thing is, I wasn’t nervous at all. It was just fun. It just felt like another tournament,” said Anderson. “It’s just a hockey game. We know we’ve played against [these teams] before, we know we can play hockey, so lets just go out there and do it.”

Team Sweden had an average age of 22 years old, with two players being sixteen years old. In fact, only eight players had previous Olympic experience. “We were 20 rookies, in a sense. We were trying not to make it a big deal, so we wouldn’t get nervous. We wanted to play well, and if you’re nervous you might not play well,” she said.

During the shootout at the end of the semi-final game, 23-year-old Anderson became a silent leader on the bench as teammate Kim Martin faced the American shooters. “The people around me were so nervous,” she explained. “I had one girl whose legs were shaking and another was sitting on the floor. I think that since they were so nervous, I needed to be calm to calm them down.”

“I love penalty shots. I prefer to be in the net than on the bench, because then I can do something about it, but I don’t think I’ve ever felt so calm in my body, in my life, at all.”


“When you start, you focus more on yourself than on your teammates,” Anderson explained. “When you’re the backup, you have to focus on yourself, but at the same time, you have to focus on the other players because you’re going to push them, you’re going to help them, you’re going to see if there’s anything they need.”

As the starter against Italy, the host team, Anderson had to face a unique kind of pressure. “No one cheers for you, everyone is cheering for Italy!” described Anderson.

“It’s really cool to have played against the home nation,” she said.

“It was really exciting to finally get to play, and not just being a backup.”


Starting against Team Canada, one of the most talented women’s hockey teams in the world, came as a surprise to Anderson. “I was lying in bed with my Sudoku, as usual,” she giggled, “and the coach came in and knocked on the door and said, ‘You’re starting against Canada tomorrow in the Olympics.’”

“I wasn’t nervous, I was pretty excited,” she recalls. “I wanted to play as much as possible.”

“It was a game I really didn’t expect to start.”

When asked how she dealt with the pressure, Anderson replied, “One thing I have learned, something my goalie coach always tells me, ‘Don’t think, just play.’ So I just stand there and save the puck!”


“No matter what we do, people expect us to loose,” said Anderson.

CBC’s Geraldine Heany and Ron Maclean ripped Sweden apart for not starting their best goaltender in the game against Canada, claiming that they were not even attempting to bridge the gap between the two tiers. True, Sweden lost 8-1 with Anderson in nets. But thanks to a lot of training and a night of visualization, they rebounded against the Americans to reach the gold medal game.

Starting a few nights before the semi-finals, the coach started motivating the team. “[He told us] that you go home and close your eyes, and start seeing pictures in your head that you’re winning, we’re actually winning this game,” described Anderson. “We knew we could beat them.”

“When you set your mind to something, you can really do it. If there’s one percent of doubt in your head, it’s going to be hard to do it.”


The biggest game for Team Sweden was the first preliminary game against Russia. “We knew that if we beat them, we would pretty much have a spot in the semi-finals,” said Anderson. “That’s what we really wanted.”

Of course, the second biggest game, and the most surprising one of the tournament, was the semi-finals, because a victory would give them a chance to compete in the finals.

“It’s the semi-finals, but it’s just one game,” she stated. “Anything can happen, anyone can win. It’s only sixty minutes, and you have to perform those sixty minutes or you don’t win.”

“We can win a silver medal, but they can loose the gold medal,” replied Anderson when asked about her thoughts going into the finals. “So we have no pressure.”


Anderson believes that Sweden’s victory over the USA in the semi-finals changed the face of women’s hockey on the international scene. “It has always been Canada and the States. They’ve won everything, and been in all the finals.”

She hopes that Sweden’s silver medal will giver her sport a little more respect on the international scene.

“People have been saying that there’s only two teams in the world that can play hockey, and it’s Canada and the States,” described Anderson. “It’s good for women’s hockey to prove to other people that there’s more than two teams.”

Anderson believes there are many other good teams, like Russia and Finland.

“Finland was up 3-1 half way through their final game in the round robin,” she explained. “They’re a good team too, and they could have taken them, but they ran out of fuel in the last period.”

The difference between Sweden and those other teams was conditioning strengthening, and training. “We’ve been working really hard, so we were in good shape,” assured Anderson. “So we knew we could skate with Canada for sixty minutes. We could even play another game after!”

But training and conditioning isn’t everything. Anderson believes that teamwork is a key element to the success of any hockey team. “We had to believe it in our hearts,” she stated. “We play for each other and we don’t play for ourselves, that’s a big part too.”

“We’re willing to do anything for the team.”


To Anderson, being an Olympian means much more than being one of the best in the world in her sport. “Just to go [to the Olympics], you make a big sacrifice,” she explained. “But maybe to get the medal, you made more sacrifices than the team that ended up in seventh place.”

“In order to get the medal, you did something extra,” she assured. “There was something special that your team did that made you take that extra step.”

When asked to describe if there was anything that could surpass the feeling of being an Olympian with a medal, Anderson was at a loss for words. “I don’t know yet,” she said. “Not right now.”


“I’ve been through something pretty big, I just have to realize it myself,” said Anderson. “Everyone keeps telling me, but it still [hasn’t sunk in].”

Anderson attributes much of her success to her Stingers teammates and their support, especially during the last year. “They have a part of this medal too,” she assured. “I have it, but they helped me get it.”

“They have been practicing with me every day, they were shooting on me every day, they’ve been pushing me to get better,” she explains. “They’re my best friends here. It’s like my big family at Concordia.”

Stingers coach Les Lawton also played a big role, and although she did not get to confer with him during the Olympics, Anderson feels that she owes him a lot. “He’s really excited for me and proud [of me],” she said. “He’s been helping me a lot too. He’s an awesome coach, and if he wasn’t coaching me, I wouldn’t be here either.”

“There are so many people that have been a huge part of this.”


“It doesn’t matter than no one believes in us,” said Anderson. “It’s enough that the 20 people that are getting dressed and going out on the ice believe in each other and believe in [themselves].”

“When we play against Canada and the States, we always think to ourselves that we have everything to win and nothing to loose,” explained Anderson. “The only pressure we have is from ourselves.”

In the game against Canada, the Swedes were down 7-1 after the second period, and Anderson knew that they were not going to win. But that doesn’t mean that the team gave up. “We’re not going to make it easy for them,” she said. “We’re going to keep competing.”


Anderson’s parents were at the Olympic games, and were extremely proud of their daughter’s accomplishments. “When I lived in Sweden, we lived out near the water, far away from everything,” recalls the Väddö native. “So they had to drive me late at night, it cost lots of money and the gas wasn’t cheap.”

“They said, ‘I can’t believe all those hours we spent on those small roads… It’s so worth it! I can’t believe we’re sitting here at the Olympics, and when you were seven, we used to drive you to rinks everywhere.”


Once she finishes showing it off, Cecilia Anderson plans to keep her medal in a safety deposit box, away from thieves and prying hands. She will also be putting hockey aside for a while. She plans to visit her sister in Singapore and work there during the summer as a travel researcher. “I’m very interested in tourism,” said the Leisure Sciences major.

“For the last couple of years, everything in my head has been about the Olympics,” explained Anderson. “That’s all I’ve had. Now I need to make all these big decisions about what I’m going to do. I pushed it aside, and now I have to deal with it.”


Even if she treats Olympic games like any other tournament, Anderson knows that she had a rare opportunity to participate in a celebrated international competition. “It’s the Olympics, it happens every fourth year,” she justified. “This might have been my only chance, and I will take any chance I get.”

Take it from Anderson, all her sacrifices were very well worth it.

“I have the medal now. It’s going to be with me for the rest of my life. No one can take that away from me.”

Catch Cecilia Anderson and the rest of the Concordia Stingers in an exhibition game against the men’s football team at ***Call C. Grace for more info *** on Tuesday ***night/afternoon/morning. ***