“I’ve been very lucky in my career, it never feels like work to me,” says Jill Belland of City TV’s Breakfast Television. “Sometimeswaking up it feels like work, but other than that…”
Photo by Ingrid Kuenzel
15th generation French Canadian, Belland started life in the first solar-powered home in western Canada, which her father and his brothers built in Elk Island, outside Edmonton, but she grew up in Calgary.
Her TV career began after working as a summer student at the Kid’s Cancer Care Foundation, where she helped organise a fundraiser. “I had come to know the team at BT there, and when I went back to school they offered me a job to pour coffee on the morning show,” she says. “It was a great job. I worked 5:00 – 9:00am, then I’d go to class during the day studying dance.” Belland is still very active, teaching ballet bar classes and as a runner.
Her rise in TV has been fast; within a month she was trained as a production assistant, then hired to produce segments before becoming a full-time PA for the 6 o’clock news. Her first job on TV came a year and a half later when MTV Canada held auditions for entertainment reporters. “I lucked out in that preparedness meets opportunity,” she says. “I had a producer who took a chance on me, so I worked for MTV for a summer and then got my own show when I was 22 years old.”
Belland hosted ‘Wired’ from 2004 to 2006, and joined the morning show in 2008. It wasn’t easy, but after seven years, Belland has grown used to the lifestyle. “I initially really struggled with the sleep schedule,” she explains, “but now I can do one late night a week, but not more than that.” During the week, she’s rarely able to sit down and have a meal though. “We have a lunch club after the show every day,” she says, “a group of us will go out for lunch, which is at 10 o’clock in the morning – you miss the lunch rush!”
So what wine is Belland saving for a special occasion?
“A girlfriend and I travel around the world to run marathons, and in 2012 we ran the Bordeaux marathon,” says Belland. ”It’s a total riot, 10,000 people in costumes run chateau to chateau for wine tastings and some of the chateaux were spectacular.”
Most people wouldn’t take a ‘wine-tasting marathon’ seriously, but Belland didn’t actually sample until 17K. “We just took our time but we also paced ourselves on the tastings because there’s so much to enjoy there,” she explains. “At the end of the race we got this bottle of 2007 Chateau Tour de Pez, for finishing. It may not be significant for wine connoisseurs, but it’s an accomplishment.”
And when is she planning to open the bottle?
Belland has set her sights on the Boston marathon, the most elite race in the world with 38,000 entrants and an average of 30,000 participants. “It really separates recreational runners from athletes,” she says. The plan is to run the Calgary half marathon, then Sacramento for the qualifying race, which, if all goes well, would put her into Boston in two years.
“We’re saving the wine for when we qualify for Boston,” she adds. “We’d celebrate after we’d run the race. At this point it’s a pipe dream as I haven’t started the training yet.”