Housewives of Toronto star Joan Kelley Walker shares what really matters to her, woman to woman.
I sat at a table in a quiet upscale restaurant waiting to meet Joan Kelley Walker, but when she sat down and spoke, I wasn't expecting to hear what she told me.
She's so much more than a Real Housewife of Toronto!
Joan Kelley Walker originated from a small town in Saskatchewan but that didn't stop this now Toronto beauty from pursuing her passion. Charity work has always been an important part of Joan's lifework. More than the glitz and glam of being a branded Real Housewife of Toronto, Joan likes to keep her focus on charity work, elevating other women, and of course her family.
Q: You're originally from Saskatchewan. What brought you to Toronto?
A: I am from a town so small, it isn’t even a town, it is a hamlet called Wilcox. I was blessed with a grounded, humble, ‘normal” up-bringing. My Dad was a farmer, and my Mom was a nurse. Church and community were our foundation and therefore priority. They are still deeply rooted values that are instilled through the fabric of my being. At 16 or 17 years old, I had the urge to explore what I could do independently I wanted to see where life would lead me. There were only a few jobs available in Wilcox and very few career choices. My family and friends were so supportive that I knew if I ventured out and fell flat on my face, I could come home, without judgement. So in pursuit of happiness I spread my wings and took a leap of faith into the unknown to follow that inner voice.
Q: What do you love the most about Toronto?
A: I love many things about Toronto, mostly the variety of opportunities that are available. There is something for everyone, no matter what your taste, style, ideals or situation. Toronto opened the doors to an abundance of opportunities. If your work hard and your heart is in the right place things will happen. I love the internationalism of this city and the openness.
Q: How did you get involved with the Real Housewives of Toronto?
A: For the past 25 years, I have enjoyed a very full career in the video/film/TV industry. I saw the opportunity to be on the show an extension of all of my work. Someone once told me “Life begins where your comfort zone ends.” RHOT has certainly pushed me out of my comfort zone. I was a relatively private person prior to the show and my choice to open my life up to the world was mainly to bring awareness to the philanthropic work that I do.
Q: Are you concerned that being on a reality TV show could tarnish your reputation?
A: I have always been a very private person. At a certain point in life, you stop worrying about what other people think. If you can truly look inward and be happy with the way you conduct yourself, then you shouldn’t have anything to worry about. Anyone who knows me, knows that I am true to myself on the show. My reputation is good because I am a genuine person. I always approach people with kindness. I am gentle and respectful by nature. My mother always told me "if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all!" There have been many situations on the show where I chose not to let other people’s negativity affect me. I simply choose kindness. That is how I lead my real life.
Recently, while having lunch with Joan, I witnessed the passion in her eyes as she spoke about the philanthropy work she was involved with. It was evident that it really mattered to her. I was exceedingly impressed with her dedication to charity work including her work with World Vision Canada.
Q: Congratulations on your many honours, awards and medals with your humanitarian work. What has been your favourite project and why?
A: Firstly thank you, but I do want people to know that I don’t do this work for the acknowledgement however, I am grateful that awareness is being given to this important work because the more people involved the more change can happen. We love World Vision. 20 years ago I hosted a series of infomercials for them, this was the beginning of my life purpose. I have traveled to many countries around the world since then with World Vision and other organizations as a child advocate and ambassador. Every trip is a 'favorite project.' Every person I have met on those trips is special. There is much need out there. It is humbling to see the need first hand and many times I have been brought to tears by seeing the work in action and holding hands with the people who benefit. It’s incredible to truly understand the gift it is for me to be able to do this work.
Q: What/Who are your influences?
A: My mother is an incredible woman! She has an incredibly strong will and never complains even though she has had challenges. I aspire to be like her.
Q: I am all about elevating and empowering anyone who is making a positive difference within our communities. Please share how others can get involved with your charitable events.
A: The best thing is to follow me on social media. I will let everyone know what’s coming up and how they can help. You can also see my writing and what I’ve learned that you may not know about individuals and organizations doing what they can to make the world a better place. It’s empowering as heck!!
Q: How can we connect with you through social media?
Her mantra "You can't change the whole world, you can only affect a small part of it," is symbolic to her shining personality.
Q: Over and above your passion for philanthropy, you also write. Can you tell us how "Making It In High Heels" came about? What was your role with this project?
A: This is a funny story! I host a show on YouTube called ‘Red Carpet Diary.” I am on the Red Carpets at TIFF interviewing all the A-List movie Stars, it’s a super fun gig that I’ve done for 10 years. The owner of Burman Books, Sanjay, was a follower of the show. He was at a red carpet I was doing at Ryerson Theatre and approached me out of the blue. He had done his homework and did the quick elevator pitch and I realized instantly, this guy is for real and I can trust him. So I agreed to contribute to his book series, called ‘Making it in High Heels.”
Q: How do you find clarity when life gets a little hectic?
A: How long do you have? Kidding. But that is an open question! Balance is always key to this ever evolving hectic life. I am always finding ways to seek calm…. Getting out doors to connect with nature either on the ski slopes or walking my dog. Taking long baths to allow my physical body to relax and let my mind rest. Exercise is another great way to release and laughter with friends and family is a good way to just clear the slate and find clarity. We are better humans when we have balance and my goal is to pursue this for clarity.
Q: What is motivating you right now?
A: you asked! There are a couple of things motivating me right now! One is to spend as much family time as possible with my kids. They are growing up so fast! I have also started writing again for a few publications which I am passionate about doing! I am the keynote speaker for the Give Back Awards in honour of volunteerism. This is such an important opportunity for me as it is working with our youth who are the future. There is another announcement coming soon but you will have to wait for that one! I promise you will be one of the first to know!
Q: How do you motivate others?
A: I try to lead by example. If someone is ready to learn from me, I take it seriously and convey my knowledge and share. We are all only human and we can learn from one another. When given the opportunity to mentor someone I too learn so much from them.
Q: What are you reading right now?
Q: There are many young girls looking up to you as a role model. What advice do you give these impressionable girls?
A: It may sound cliché, and it is, because it's true. I would tell them to “be true to yourself” Really that is what matters. We all have an inner barometer that will always lead us to the right path. Sometimes it’s hard to see that barometer but that’s one of the challenges in life, to find out how you learn, what is your best way of focusing, when do you feel most at peace, when do you feel most empowered? Try different experiences and reflect on how you feel. Arm yourself with self-knowledge and self-love!
Q: What 3 people do you look up to; that inspire you?
A: -Ellen DeGeneres-My friend Gloria Enright, the strongest person I know!-Michelle Obama
And with that, my preconceived thoughts on who Joan Kelley Walker is and what made her a star on The Housewives of Toronto were set straight. I can only hope that everyone will walk away from this blog feeling empowered and inspired by Joan as much as I am. I feel blessed to have met a new friend, but more importantly, a friend who is making a difference in this world.
There is so much more I want to share with you about Joan Kelley Walker. Since The Real Housewives of Toronto Show, she has re-created her reality. Find out what she's up to now in my newest book Femme Fabulous. Pre-Order your copy today!
Ernesto Di Stefano
George Pimentel Photography