We have even more in common now since the birth of her first child, daughter Marquesa, four months ago, so I was very excited when I got to meet Melissa on the set of THE SOCIAL just last week.
When I went behind-the-scenes at the show, I had the chance to hang out with Melissa in the makeup room, and soaked up her pre-show conversation with producer Brandon. She chatted about the party she and her hubby (and fellow "cuddlebug") Ryan had thrown on the weekend, ran through some of the comments she might make on the day's hot topics and what photos should be on hand, and also shared lots of colourful tidbits that were definitely not intended to make it to air. Melissa has an interesting mix of personality traits: super smart and articulate, while very much giving off a party-girl-and-proud-of-it vibe.
It didn't take too long to make her already beautiful face camera-ready, by the way...and I watched carefully as the false eyelashes were applied, as I've never quite managed to brave that!
Of course I needed to get a (somewhat blurry) selfie with the queen of the smartphone after her makeup was done:
Before THE SOCIAL went live that afternoon, Melissa and I sat down in the guests' green room backstage for a quick one-on-one chat (as she munched away on an apple that she had proudly packed in her lunch bag that morning!)
What milestones has little Marquesa reached lately?
We're thinking she's starting to teethe! She had her four month vaccinations last week and she had a rough week, so I figured it was just the vaccinations because she reacted kind of poorly to the first set as well. She was just hot and cranky and crying, but then we realized that she was also shoving everything she could into her mouth, so we're not a hundred percent sure but I think it's going that way. So that's her thing right now!
Jennifer Blakeley Photography
There was some backlash when you decided to return from maternity leave after three months. You've been in the public eye for a while and I'm sure you've faced criticism before, but how do you handle reactions like those, and how much does it bother you when it's so personal?
You're human so it's definitely going to hurt you, but the more you get it, you develop a thicker skin. Every time someone scratches at you your skin gets thicker. I anticipated it, so it wasn't a surprise to me. Sometimes people come at you and you don't expect it, which can be a little more off-putting, but with this situation I fully understood from friends and colleagues who went through it that some people might say "Whoa! That's pretty fast!" and considering we're on a show that really speaks to women and they're predominantly our audience, I was prepared for it in a sense.
It was far outweighed by the support I received, but sometimes the squeaky wheel gets the oil and people were squeaking. I wanted to use it as an opportunity to address the issue dead on and so that's what I chose to do with it. It was sort of a teachable moment for everybody else, at my expense in a sense, but it didn't hurt in the way you might think because I was anticipating it. I didn't necessarily want to give voice to the few negative people out there, but at the same time, if I'm experiencing it, that means someone else who's choosing to go back early is probably experiencing it too, and our show is about highlighting diversity in all choices, and when someone chooses to do something, let's support them.
Photo: Courtesy Melissa Grelo
You're obviously passionate about what you do - and very good at it. I'm curious to know whether you think you would have been as drawn to return to work as soon if you were in a different industry, or if there's a bit more pressure because you're in television?
I definitely think there's a different standard in television, but regardless of what industry you're in, my perception is that the pressure is just different for females, period. For a lot of women, we're ambitious, we're go-getters, so even though I happen to be passionate about my job on television, there's someone else who could have a corporate or office job and is just as passionate and wants to come back early as well.
Having said that, this is a very visible role. The show is new, it's my baby and I was just as passionate about that as having my baby. This is part of me, and my identity and my satisfaction, and the happier I am as a whole, the better mother and better person I can be. It was a choice that I made before I even had her, because I know myself. I was flexible enough to know that something could change, and if I had decided to stay home a little longer everyone would have been okay with it, but this was different in the sense that the show was so new and I love it so much. So yes on the one hand, it's different because it's TV, but I don't think that's unlike the same struggles another woman might have in a job that she's equally passionate about.
As a teacher, I'm curious what made you decide that teaching wasn't the right career for you?
The decision really came when I started, and became very disenchanted with, the Masters in Ed program I had enrolled in. I wanted to study Gender Equity in Education and found that I wasn't getting what I had hoped for in the program. It was likely also a sign that I was seeking something else, another avenue to pursue in life, my passion. After seeking the help of a business coach/psychologist, I discovered that my obsession with news and writing could actually be a career. A few months later, I enrolled in a Broadcast Journalism program and the rest is history!
Who would your dream guest be for THE SOCIAL?
We just missed her! Hillary Clinton. Everybody knows that she's my idol, for every reason in the book and she was in town for her book launch so we had tried and tried to get an interview with her. Unfortunately, her schedule was so ridiculously tight that she could only do very select media, but she would have been my dream guest on the show. Not just because we're not sure if she's going to run for president or not, but because of her stories, her writing, what she's lived, and what her initiatives are right now. Overall she's so fascinating as a person, but it does add to the appeal for me that she is a woman, and in politics which is still predominantly a man's game. She's learned so much. Definitely my dream guest.
You're definitely a glamour girl who enjoys getting done up. As a busy mom now, if you only had time to grab one beauty product, what would it be?
Lip gloss. A fun coloured lip gloss, if that's all I could use. If I had two, it would be mascara and lip gloss.
Thanks for the chat, Melissa!
You can follow Melissa Grelo on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and of course catch her daily on CTV's THE SOCIAL.