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Getting Real with Orla Johannes
Orla Johannes's well-known British accent is unmistakable.
It can be heard everywhere from radio traffic reports to films and children’s
entertainment. Her career has been a success, but more importantly, it’s a
career that truly makes her happy. That’s actually the first thing you’ll
notice about her: how happy she is in person. It’s clear that Johannes is the
same charming and charismatic person both on and off the air.
Johannes was born in England, where she grew up in a loving family with her parents and sister. From as far back as she can remember, she always had the same big dreams for herself and they revolved around entertainment. “I always knew what I wanted,” she says with a glowing smile. “When I was little, I dreamed of being a famous actress, dancer and singer. I loved the stage, and as I grew up, that evolved into my dream of working on TV and radio.”
Johannes actively pursued those passions from a young age. She took dancing and singing classes and often entered – and won – voice competitions. Throughout the years, she maintained a razor sharp focus. She instinctively knew that success isn’t simply about wanting something; it’s also about putting in the work.
Growing up in England, Johannes was an avid fan of renowned British television presenter Phillip Schofield. She faithfully watched him day after day and was struck by how much he seemed to love his job. His passion was palpable and it inspired her to become a presenter and pursue a career that made her equally happy.
Luckily, that career choice was a perfect match for Johannes. She was always a happy child, filled with energy and natural charisma. Her supportive family also helped her cultivate confidence. She eventually graduated from Bournemouth University in England with an honours degree in Hospitality Management with International Marketing.
A Budding Career
Upon graduation and a year after working in advertising for The Sun in London, she relocated to Montreal and worked at Future Electronics in product marketing. Johannes reflects on that period of her life and distinctly remembers having a moment of clarity. “I thought to myself, for me and my dreams, there has got to be more out there,” she says. “That fuelled my motivation and I started cold calling radio stations and sending my résumé out.”
Johannes persevered and eventually caught a few breaks. After cold calling Q92 (presently known as The Beat 92.5) and leaving a voicemail for then-program director Ted Silver, he invited her to the radio station to record a commercial for on-air advertising. He had listened to her voicemail several times, and told Johannes there was something special about her voice.
Shortly after, she was invited to compile a demo with Marc Aflalo, the program director of The Team 990 at the time. That demo was the next stepping stone in her career and she sent it to all the big radio stations.
Then she heard about a possible lead at 940 News. In an effort to get noticed, Johannes personally delivered her headshot and résumé to producer Jim Connell. “I always believed in myself and never doubted it,” Johannes says with resolution. “Everything I did, I created myself, and worked hard for it.” She landed the job at 940 News as a traffic reporter and that launched her career to the next level.
A Blossoming Career
Now that she was on the air, her charisma and charming British accent became very recognizable to the public. Soon after, she got a call from CTV to audition for Entertainment Spotlight. She became the fashion reporter and also ended up co-hosting the show with Mose Persico.
Then she went on to host Tabletalk, a food and drink chat show, for three years on 940 News. Then she became the traffic anchor on CJAD, CHOM FM and Virgin Radio, becoming part of Montreal’s successful morning show team.
However, Johannes’s talents don’t end with radio. She also has a passion for acting and has taken on some notable television and movie roles. She acted alongside Billy Bob Thornton in the movie Bad Santa 2, filmed a role in X-Men: The Dark Phoenix and appeared in television series like Brad’s Status and The Bold Type, to name a few.
In addition to acting, Johannes loves doing voice-over and has her very own in-house recording studio. “I truly love what I do, which is a blessing,” she says. “I throw myself into every project I take on and give 100 per cent.”
Maintaining a Balance
Amidst the flurry of shows, travel and social events, Johannes also fell in love and got married. This resulted in two wonderful children, George and Chloe. With two children, a husband, and two Labrador dogs, her heart and her hands were full.
Johannes enjoys being a wife and mother, but after a three-year break from her career, she began to feel the itch to return to work. She resumed full-time on-air traffic reporting on CJAD, CHOM FM and Virgin Radio. However, like most working moms, she found it difficult to juggle her career with an 18-month-old baby at home and a three-year-old in daycare.
She knew her priorities and schedule needed to be reassessed, so she decided to pull back her hours on air. She then started a new project with Andrea Elias, the former producer of the Andrew Carter Morning Show on CJAD. Together, they hosted a show called Real Parents, which took a raw and honest look at parenting.
Today, that show has transitioned to a lifestyle show called Now Trending, which airs Sundays at 2 p.m. on CJAD 800AM. The show features everything from travel, food and style to health and wellness and home décor.
Johannes feels she has found a healthy balance with family and work, but it’s a work in progress. “I love being present for my family. I love tucking my children into bed each night and reading to them. It is so important to take the time and listen to our children,” she says. “I also love my work and I think it’s important for me to take personal time for myself, as well. It’s a fine line that I constantly need to keep an eye on.”
Follow Your Dreams
People often ask her how she broke into the entertainment industry and her answer is always the same. She believes you need to give life to your dreams, envision them and be willing to do the work. In her case, she had to knock on a lot of doors, make dozens of cold calls, attend many events and network and take some chances.
Another passion of hers is helping others. She does quite a bit of charity work and emcees a variety of fundraising events. She believes if you can help others, you should, whether you donate your time or money. Helping others not only feels good, but also fosters mindfulness and gratitude.
Johannes’s philosophy is you should love what you do when it comes to your career and hobbies. “I know people need to be realistic and put food on the table,” she says. “But you shouldn’t be miserable in your job. Try to find something more aligned with your dreams, and keep working towards them.”
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