Sheridan alumna celebrates 15 years as the host of The Nikki Clarke Show
Whether she is sharing the stage with an entrepreneur, a politician, a local artist, someone living with cancer, or even a sexual assault survivor, Nikki Clarke (Early Childhood Education ’97) approaches each interview with the same mindset—to give her guests a safe space to tell their stories in their own words. Since 2008 she has been the producer and host of The Nikki Clarke Show, a talk show that is filmed in Toronto and airs weekly on Afroglobal TV Network, as well as on her website and YouTube channel.
The show, which just celebrated its 15th anniversary, began as a passion project and has evolved into a community mainstay. The Nikki Clarke Show features one-on-one conversations between Clarke and her subjects in front of a live studio audience. “I want to give them a platform where they can shed the masks they wear to (face) the world, dare to be real, and show their authentic selves,” she says.
Living authentically and driving toward reaching dreams has fuelled Clarke’s own ambitions from pursuing postsecondary education to following her long-held goal of pursuing a talk show. She advocates for authenticity in her work as a community activist as well. For more than 25 years, she has lent her business and communications expertise to various community organizations, including in her current position as the National Business Manager of the Canadian Black Chamber of Commerce. Her ongoing efforts to celebrate and uplift Black voices have been recognized over the years with various accolades. In 2022, she was honoured as one of the 100 Accomplished Black Canadian Women and nominated for RBC’s Women of Influence.
The ability to celebrate and live her authentic experiences drives Clarke’s work because she knows what it is like not to be able to do so. As a child, she emigrated from Jamaica with her family, settling in a primarily white suburb of Montreal in 1970 where she recalls being subjected to aggressive and blatant racism during her early childhood. Her father’s influence helped her reach above that experience. She was inspired by his community outreach work and, as a child, she often joined him at meetings of the Montreal Black Business Professional Association, which he co-founded.
“My parents worked extensively with me to develop my self-esteem. They saw that I had a spark, but I was dealing with so much prejudice and negativity,” Clarke says. “They introduced me to aspects of volunteering, ensuring I understood what service over self was all about. This started when I was just five years old.”
By the time she entered high school, she was drawn to the arts as well as business and began to form her dream of becoming a talk show host. When she enrolled in McGill University’s Film and Communications program, she was sure it was her calling. But life soon got in the way, first with marriage and then three children, shifting her dream to take new shape. While at home with her young kids, she realized she also loved working with children and decided to study Early Childhood Education at Sheridan’s Davis campus.
Clarke says Sheridan instilled a great amount of empathy, understanding and curiosity in her, something that is now invaluable to her as she prepares to speak to her talk show guests.
“I'm truly thankful for everything that my time there has brought me in many ways,” she says. “The teachers were so kind to me, so understanding and accommodating. I had never experienced that before.”
After 10 years as an Instructor in ECE at Sheridan, she decided to take a leap of faith, stop teaching and start an online talk show. She took to YouTube, a then up-and-coming video sharing platform, to grow her audience and build a space in which she could realize her dream. However, being a Black woman in media was not, and continues not to be, easy. There are many struggles she and her peers in the Canadian media landscape deal with daily that their white counterparts do not. Physical attributes like hairstyles and body image are still heavily scrutinized, while subject matter is controlled as to not “ruffle any feathers.” Which is why, over the years, Clarke has declined offers to work with larger networks. But she regrets nothing.
The show is a way for her to do what she likes to do best, interact with others and connect with them meaningfully. She approaches each show as an opportunity to get to know someone new and help them succeed in whatever they are doing. “I don't need billions of views. My goal is to reach the people who need to hear these stories. The rest will follow from there,” she says.
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