Cheryl Hickey is the real deal.
Many Canadians recognize the 46-year-old mother-of-two as the host of "ET Canada" — but there's more to this down-to-earth and talented presenter than meets the eye.
In an interview with Yahoo Canada, the Owen Sound, Ont.-native opened up about her work, anxiety and the ever-changing beauty standards in a world ridden with expectations and social pressures. But speaking with Hickey doesn't feel like work — it's more like a conversation with a friend who jokes around, asks about your day, and makes you feel good about yourself.
"Everyone has something different they bring to the table, and it's through these perspectives that I learn and grow."
It's the broadcaster's vulnerability and humble nature that makes her stand out in a crowd. Despite the fact that she's spent many years chatting with some of Hollywood's hottest stars, speaking to everyday people makes her heart sing just as much.
"I love the art of conversation. I love talking to people from all backgrounds and walks of life because everyone has something different they bring to the table, and it's through these perspectives that I learn and grow," says Hickey. "I think that's how my career started, because I'm curious by nature. I was a kid who loved to talk. My dad told me that I can make a living out of talking to people, and that really stuck with me."
Soon after, Hickey got a degree in broadcast journalism and headed into the workforce. After years of jumping on opportunities, learning, and working to prove herself, she landed her dream job in 2005 as the host of "ET Canada." When asked about her experience on the popular entertainment show, Hickey says: "It's never dull. I've travelled the world, rode in helicopters, attended film festivals. Oprah Winfrey is one of my favourite people I've spoken to — she's so inspirational, special and always learning. I'm just really lucky."
Despite Hickey's success, the road hasn't been easy. She's experienced anxiety since her 20s and has learned to navigate the complex waters of mental health and self confidence while having such a public-facing role.
"I've learned that if I don't drill down on my mental health, my job or my family suffers. I've also learned that if I don't take care of myself anxiety will creep in. And my body gives me the warning signs. For example, yesterday my heart rate was 120bpm at one point, on the verge of a panic attack. It was a sign that I have to go back to my core pillars of health — getting eight hours of sleep, eating properly, drinking water and meditating — to get through. And the more I talk about this stuff, the more hopeful or inspired other people become who are going through the same thing," she explains.
"As women, we need to understand that our self-worth is not valued by how we look."
The situation gets even tougher considering that Hickey spends her days in front of a camera, battling the constant judgements, comments and beauty expectations that are ever-so-common today. Hickey is well aware that television and social media can mess with one's body image, and she herself has been told that she shouldn't be wearing short dresses over 30 years old. Unsurprisingly, such remarks don't affect Hickey one bit.
"Of course there's pressure to look a certain way, to dress a certain way, that kind of thing. But I let it go," she says. "As women, we need to understand that our self-worth is not valued by how we look, and also, our bodies fluctuate and that's normal! It can be challenging, but I've definitely seen in the last five years a gradual shift in how society and the online world perceive beauty and inclusivity, so there's hope."
Hickey herself is one of those individuals championing the self love and body positive movement on social media. Recently, she's taken to Instagram and TikTok to speak out against body shamers, rethinking failures, and relaying a series of motivational messages. When asked why she posts this type of content, Hickey reveals: "I do it because it's important. I want to help show people that you need to be kind to yourself. To give yourself a break and to remind yourself that you're only human and we are all going through it. Life is not a reality show; there's dark times that people aren't sharing. But all you see are the shiny things."
"You must be kind to yourself. You have to give yourself some grace and create healthy habits."
In order to help people cope with tough times, Hickey swears by the power of gratitude to change how you feel and deal with life situations.
"Every morning I tell myself four things I'm grateful for, and then I say it's going to be a great day before even getting out of bed. I don't turn on my phone, but I read a book, sit outside and then start my day. It helps me to stay grounded and appreciate all I have in my life. I swear by gratitude," she says.
As the conversation draws to a close, it's impossible not to feel lighter and more grounded amidst Hickey's revelations. But as enlightening and motivational as she is, she explains that the real work comes down to you.
"I'm still working it out myself, but you must be kind to yourself. You have to give yourself some grace and create healthy habits. It's all fine to talk about it, but implementing it is another thing," she adds. "Have gratitude for what you do have and never stop dreaming."