Marilyn Denis dishes on her son, her success and her svelte new figure.
Marilyn! Your hair looks fantastic!” shrieks a woman in the Toronto audience of The Marilyn Denis Show. The show is on a commercial break and even though Denis is talking to her team in between quick sips of water, she responds, “Why thank you! You like it?” “Yes,” returns the star-struck fan, “you look amazing.” “It’s because I’m skinnier,” Denis emphasizes with a shrinking hand gesture. “I’ve lost 30 pounds!”
That weight loss is just the latest in a series of remarkable achievements that have characterized Denis’ 38 years in broadcasting. But of all her challenges and accomplishments, Denis says her toughest and best job was raising her now 26-year-old son, Adam. Read on to find out how the skills and natural talent Denis brought to her award-winning broadcasting career also helped see her through the tough teen and early adult years.
Born in Edmonton and raised in Pittsburgh, Denis worked as a broadcaster in both Idaho and Calgary, where she held various radio and television positions including on-air disc jockey, programmer, music director, and weather & traffic reporter before landing the job in 1986 that still identifies her today — the co-host on what’s now known as the Roger, Darren & Marilyn show on Toronto’s 104.5 CHUM FM.
Her candour and sense of humour not only made her a fan favourite on radio, but she was also popular for her ability to connect with people on the hit TV show CityLine, which she hosted for nearly 20 years. Today, it’s that same candour behind the success of CTV’s The Marilyn Denis Show – Canada’s No. 1 original lifestyle series.
That success has come in other forms, too. A triple Gemini Award-winner (including back-to-back Viewers Choice Awards), Denis also received The Rosalie Award in 2006, which honours Canadian women who have paved the way for others in radio broadcasting. Marilyn is also listed as one of Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 by WXN, celebrating female leaders and role models. Yet ask her for the secret to her success and the answer is as down-to-earth as the person giving it. “I love what I do,” she says, simply. “It’s ever-changing. I love connecting with people. And mostly, I love learning. And I learn every day with this job.”
The toughest job — being mom
Denis doesn’t restrict learning to the broadcast studio. In fact, she says her best — and hardest — job is being a mom. Denis admits she had some parenting moments that weren’t made for TV — especially once Adam hit the tumultuous teens.
“Let me tell you, boys are e-stinko,” she says. “Grade 10 — awful. They don’t need you physically, but they need you mentally, so you have to always be one step ahead of them.” For Denis, this meant letting him grow and be who he was, while always ensuring to ask the crucial questions — including those surrounding where her son was going and with who. Friends of Adam were always welcome to hang out at the house and Denis encouraged her son to invite them over. “This way I could see who the players were, and I made sure I connected with those players. And I made sure that when I went to a function at school to ask Adam, ‘Who’s Chris’ mother?’’ Then I would go up and introduce myself because I thought they would be too shy to come up to me.” The benefit of knowing the key players in your child’s life? “The more informed you are as parent, the more you can troubleshoot and can tell if someone is not being the greatest influence on your child,” says Denis. “Those are all important things. You have to be aware of what they’re doing.”
This open-and-honest policy is what led to some serious heart-to-hearts between her and Adam, be it about his life, school or even sex — something she advises any mom currently in the thick of raising a teen to do. “Listen to what they’re saying and what they’re not saying,” she says. “Instead of banging out advice, just listen more than you speak.” And even with a hectic schedule, never shrug off your child’s request on a whim. “I know parents are all tired and tend to say, ‘Ya, OK, go ahead,’ but I never said that. I would tell Adam, ‘I need 20 minutes to think about a decision that you’ve been thinking about for the last week and you’re just telling me about it right now. If I say ‘no’, it’s my call. That’s it.’ There were a lot of nos.”
There was also a bit of confrontation — as any mom with a teen or young adult can relate to. “He didn’t like me for a while,” she remembers. “One time we were at home and the phone started ringing. I couldn’t get to it and he wasn’t answering it, so I asked him, ‘why didn’t you get the phone?’ He said, ‘because the call was for you.’ I said, ‘you live in this house, you answer the phone when it’s ringing.’ He said, ‘I don’t have to do it if I don’t want to.’ Well, I said…’f*** off!’ He was so appalled, he didn’t talk to me for two weeks.”
Although Denis questioned her use of the f-bomb, ultimately she decided it was OK. “It was one of those moments I will never forget,” she says. “But we resolved our issues and it was a moment where we started carving out our adult relationship.”
Although viewers can tune into The Marilyn Denis Show seven days a week, they are seeing a lot less of Denis these days. Between a healthy weight loss program that incorporates two protein shakes, one meal and two snacks per day, plus a regular exercise regime, Denis has shed an impressive amount of weight. “I worked out for a long time, but got to a point where I didn’t like the way I looked or felt,” says Denis. “It’s not that I let myself go, I just had so many things happening in my life that I didn’t focus on myself.”
Today, Denis says she’s “in the zone,” which means she works out three to four times a week with a trainer. “Do I want to go? Not once,” she laughs. “But we have to work out. We just have to.” To make it work, despite the fact that Denis rises at 3:30 each morning to get to her early-morning radio job, she carves out time in the afternoon for her workout. Scheduling, she says, is the key to sticking to it. “Get out your day timer and plan your week so you can dedicate some time to yourself to work out,” she says. “If that means getting up early before the kids get up — do it.”
Finally, she adds, for those battling the bulge, heed this advice: “Just be kind to yourself. Take care of yourself.” Simple, true, succinct. What we’ve come to love and expect from Denis.