Sangita Patel – Former host of Entertainment Tonight Canada and women in STEM advocate
At the time of recording, Sangita Patel was an on-air host with Entertainment Tonight Canada, host of HGTV’s Home to Win, and Canada’s Covergirl ambassador.
Sangita Patel is a staple in Canada’s entertainment sector – she’s an on-air host with Entertainment Tonight Canada, the current host of HGTV’s Home to Win, and Canada’s Covergirl ambassador. But Sangita wasn’t always set on a career in TV – in fact, she’s an electrical engineer, but also a dedicated mother, wife, philanthropist, and fitness enthusiast – a true example that women can achieve multiple goals in different fields, and that sometimes the best-laid plans need to be thrown out the window.
Sangita joins Jen and Catherine for a fun, dynamic chat about her fast-paced life, her unusual start in television and, oh yeah… George Clooney.
Note: This transcript has been edited for clarity and length.
From engineering to entertainment journalism
Jennifer Stewart: You do not follow a linear path. You go with opportunities. You’re an engineer, and now you’re one of the most recognizable faces in Canadian media. Where does this kind of zest for life come from?
Sangita Patel: I think it was since I was a little kid. I was one of those kids who always wanted to try something different. I love my job as an engineer. But there was something missing. I applied for journalism and engineering at the same time. And my dad said, ‘Well, where are you going to make a living? Where are you going to make a life?’ And of course, it was engineering. And it was great. But I felt so isolated, sitting behind a desk all day. And I really love talking to people. My mantra is always talk to someone new, and you’ll learn something new every day. That was something I knew that I wanted to explore.
My mantra is always talk to someone new, and you’ll learn something new every day.Sangita Patel
Catherine Clark: When your parents learned that you were throwing in the towel on an engineering career and taking a different plan, was it a shock to them and to your friends? Or did people expect this?
Sangita Patel: My parents were excited. I am blessed with parents who just want me to be happy. They know I’m going to make the right decisions for myself. I finished university, I paid off my debts, and I thought this is the time to do it. I ground myself before taking any major risks. And my parents were really ecstatic about it. I am blessed with parents who are just amazing and always being part of my life and my journey and always being there to make sure I’m doing okay.
Jennifer Stewart: That’s amazing. I think of you truly as an entrepreneur. You do a number of television appearances, you are Covergirl’s Canadian ambassador, you are on HGTV. You really have done an exceptional job reaching out and being a business person. What does that mean to you to think about your life and your journey very entrepreneurially?
Sangita Patel: That’s the first time I’ve ever looked at it that way. So, thank you. I think for me, it’s been what’s next, and one of the things I’ve learned while being in isolation is understanding to appreciate what you have in your life. I’m learning that now and saying, you know, this is amazing. My kids are healthy, and I’m able to do something that I love.
One of the things I’ve learned while being in isolation is understanding to appreciate what you have in your life.Sangita Patel
I look for fun, I look for passion, and I go with it. I try to just live life to the fullest. And I think it’s partly because when I was younger, I lost my grandparents, all my grandparents, and I learned that life is too short. And I kind of take that with me and just seize the day. Really every day is unique and fun. And sometimes it doesn’t turn out to be fun. And then I pull away from that life and then go on to another journey.
I always leave every door open and try something new.Sangita Patel
Jennifer Stewart: I love that. Speaking of fun, who’s the most fun celebrity you’ve ever met?
Sangita Patel: There’s so many! The fun thing is the things that happen behind the camera. There are some great moments with celebrities where if you have the opportunity to just chat with them, it’s amazing because theyre down to earth and they’re just like us.
Like George Clooney just making jokes after having coffee with him after an interview. And he’s so down to earth. He showed up for an interview with nobody. He came in an Uber, did the interview, and then he took the selfie. It’s the worst selfie he’s ever taken. They are just like us. Sometimes it’s hard to believe, but there’s some pretty incredible people in this industry.
Being the first Canadian ambassador for Covergirl
Catherine Clark: Another thing that you do beyond having the opportunity to talk to people that most of us only ever get to see through screens is as a model for Cover Girl. You inspire other people, inspire women. It’s particularly important to inspire young women to know that how they look is okay, no matter what age they’re at, no matter what the colour of their skin. Why is it important to you to be in this role?
Sangita Patel: It goes back to the time when I was on social media, and I was introduced to Instagram and I started posting photos and I’m like, ‘What is this? Why am I doing this app?’ And when I sat back for a second, I realized there’s something called DMs and I looked into my DMs and I saw all these South Asian girls and young girls, young adults, talking to me. And I never really understood that I was representing a group of women in the entertainment industry. You don’t see often people that look like me on television, especially doing entertainment.
And I realized at that point I actually have a platform where I can talk. And then I had two girls, and as they were growing up, I’m like, ‘I don’t want them to face the barriers I did. They should be able to do whatever they want, no matter what it is. And it doesn’t have to do with the colour of their skin.’
And then when I turned 40, I thought it was a joke that Cover Girl wanted me to be their first Canadian ambassador. I still can’t believe it’s been three years working with Cove Girl. And the way they celebrate women, my age of women, of my ethnicity, it’s truly an amazing, pivotal moment in my career and my life. And it shows, I hope, to other girls that it is possible.
Jennifer Stewart: It’s absolutely huge and just so inspiring. And I hope you know exactly how inspiring it is. You mentioned you’ve got two girls. What’s something that you’ve experienced that you hope they don’t?
Sangita Patel: The last two years, as everything that’s been happening with COVID and Black Lives Matter, it made me sit down and reflect on the things I have gone through because of the colour of my skin and being a minority and how you are brought up to be grateful for every opportunity you get, rather than speaking up to say, ‘I deserve this.’ And I think that’s women in general. I remember reading an article where women are great at advocating for other people, but they’re not great at advocating for themselves. When it comes to negotiations, whatever it is, men do really well with negotiations. And I found that very interesting. It’s true. We, as parents, as mothers, we want to fight for our kids.
I just want them to understand they are allowed to grow, and not always have to think about the appreciation of what they have in their lives.
Catherine Clark: So, if you could give teenage Sangita one piece of advice, what would it be?
Sangita Patel: I guess the advice would be, you deserve it. You’re allowed to grow. You deserve everything you work for.
You deserve it. You’re allowed to grow. You deserve everything you work for.Sangita Patel
Lessons and insights of pandemic
Jennifer Stewart: You have been super busy throughout COVID. How are you doing? And how has your pandemic experience been?
Sangita Patel: I was traveling so much before this all happened. And I was on the road every two weeks, I was in LA or New York, and I didn’t have a chance to actually watch my kids grow. It’s been so much fun being home with them. I’ve become a hermit. Like being home, I have a new schedule where I work out in the morning, and I’m not rushing, and I work from my bedroom.
I have my moments where mentally I’m not feeling great because I’m such a hugger. I need to hug people and I miss my parents I’ve been seeing them through a window. I want to see my family and friends like everybody else. It’ll hit you once in a while. But then you sit back and I have a lot of family members who are frontline workers and I think about the importance of me making sure I take care of myself so they don’t get sick. I just love the fact that I’ve been here for my girls.
Catherine Clark: Are you worried about going back to your regular schedule once the pandemic is over?
Sangita Patel: Yes, yes. I think that goes with the fear of not knowing how we’re going to react once we get out of our isolation and how other people are going to react. I hope it goes back to whatever normal was, where we can be all together.
I don’t know how I’m going to react when I go out into the world. I think my kids have been out in the world more than I have. It’s partly because of my parents. I have this mentality of not doing anything, just in case I have to be with my parents if they get sick. And so yeah, I am a little bit worried about it. But I think if we gradually get into the real world, hopefully, it’ll be fine.
Jennifer Stewart: Do you like being home? Once we do get back to some normalcy, are you going to put up some boundaries to be more protective of your time?
Sangita Patel: I think I will. I just leave doors open. And with that comes me not learning how to say ‘no.’ I say ‘yes’ to everything. And I don’t want to disappoint people. I want to be there for everybody. My mom used to say, the only way you’re going to be happy is if you make other people happy. And I’ve learned that that’s not true all the time. I need to be happy so my family can be happy as well. This has sussed out what are my priorities, and my priority is my family. So I need to learn to say ‘no’ when it doesn’t fit my life.
Catherine Clark: There’s this general concern that we’re all just going to go back to what we knew. There’s no real understanding yet about how much this has fundamentally changed us as people. Have you learned other things about yourself through COVID, things that you didn’t expect?
Sangita Patel: What did I learn about myself is that I love napping. I need to follow a schedule, I have to have some kind of normalcy in my life, even when I’m home. Also, I learned that I am someone who keeps my feelings guarded. I don’t tend to talk about my feelings very often. And I’ve learned through this is that I have to be able to let myself be sad, let myself cry, let myself go through those emotions. It’s okay to go through those emotions, and it will actually make me more of a stronger person. So that’s been a big learning curve for me.
Jennifer Stewart: What advice do you have for women that may want to pursue an opportunity but are scared to do so?
Sangita Patel: The worst thing that can happen if you go for something is you get a no. And if you don’t try, you’ll never know. So why not try? And if it doesn’t happen, you go on to the next journey. It gives you an indication of is this right for you. Give it a try.
Virtual interviews with celebrity gave more human connection
Jennifer Stewart: And how has it been pivoting? Entertainment Tonight Canada is such an iconic show. How has it been pivoting to doing virtual Zoom interviews? How has that changed your job?
Sangita Patel: We do virtual Zooms all day, all night, depending where they are in the world. I’ll be up at three o’clock doing an interview with Russell Crowe. But one of the things I noticed is that it’s more personal. I feel when you’re in someone’s house, and they’re in our house, you have this more conversational opportunity with celebrities that you usually don’t. You have the extra time and I think they’re feeling as much as we do. And they want to have that human connection through these Zoom calls. Because everyone is in the same boat. It doesn’t matter if you’re the Prime Minister or if you’re the biggest celebrity in the world. We’re all going through the same feelings right now.
Catherine Clark: How do you want to be remembered?
Sangita Patel: I want to make sure that I helped in some way or another, that I helped make change happen. My parents were immigrants to Canada, and they went through a lot to make things happen for us. I saw their hard work. I saw their struggles, and I hold on to those struggles and it teaches me that I have bigger opportunities than they did.
And now my kids, they don’t get to see that struggle, but if I can help in any way to make people’s lives easier, or if it makes a difference in their lives emotionally or spiritually, I’ve done my job. And if it means making them laugh, I’ve done my job. And you’ll see on my social media trying to create more positivity than negativity. There’s enough negativity out there. I just want to bring joy.