Skip to content Skip to footer

Multi-Media Trailblazer Donna Holgate

Fact checked by Charmaine Gooden
Proofread and copy edited by Carol Martin

From not seeing herself represented in the media growing up to becoming the first Black woman to host a daily national television program on style, fashion and beauty in Canada, Donna Holgate made a name for herself in the pre-digital age of fashion journalism.

Holgate credits her mother, Dorothy, the “original fashionista” for her love of all things fashion. “My mother did not kid around when it came to her appearance. I remember being quite young and admiring the fabric of her dresses, her hats, gloves, high-heeled shoes, all on point.”

Early Life and Career

Born in St. Georges, Grenada in 1957, Holgate was the fourth of five children. Her parents, Eukley and Dorothy Holgate, raised her and her sisters Maureen, Paula and Claudette and brother Phil. In the early 60s, the family moved to Jamaica.  A few years later, they relocated to Ithaca, New York. Following her father’s passing in 1968, she, her mother and four siblings immigrated to Toronto in 1969.

“I was lucky to grow up in Toronto at a time when the Black community had a thriving and creative base that nurtured and supported us,” Holgate says. “We may not have been as included in the mainstream, but our community provided us with opportunities to showcase our talents.”

Holgate remembers her talented peers, “Jean Fleming, Linda Carter, Tonya Williams, Len Henry and Denise McCleod, and so many more.” She dabbled in modelling, but her eyes were on becoming a fashion and beauty journalist.  She was able to gain valuable experience as a fashion writer for several community publications, including Spear magazine and Contrast and Share newspapers.

 

 

This special section creates a spread of 2 photos that will jut out into the side margin.

 

 

She remembers being told that if the network already had one person of colour on camera, they would not consider hiring another one. “Can you believe that!”

Breaking Barriers

Holgate’s work in publishing includes writing, styling and producing feature stories in the areas of fashion, beauty and lifestyle for national and community publications. As the fashion and beauty editor for Excellence, a Black national magazine, she was able to showcase Black talented creatives in the fashion and beauty space, including designers such as Winston Kong.

She went on to become the fashion and beauty editor for Modern Woman magazine, a Canadian national publication. While Holgate didn’t often see diversity represented in the media, she made it a mission to use her position at Modern Woman to create an inclusive environment. “I was very inclusive. I brought in people that were disabled, people from every race, every nationality…it was really cool breaking barriers,” she said.                     

Holgate fondly remembers the icons who supported her, including Beverly Mascoll, who was a trailblazer in the beauty industry. Among others Sandra Whiting, Madge Azan, and Arnold Auguste, offered guidance and opportunities that gave Holgate the confidence to pursue jobs in the “so-called” mainstream media.

TV and Radio

As Holgate was making a name for herself in magazine journalism, she was also pursuing work in television. In the 80s and 90s, there were very few people of colour on camera. Holgate credits the tenacity of her agent, Robyn Friedman, along with timing and preparedness for her success in Canadian television at that time.

She remembers being told that if the network already had one person of colour on camera, they would not consider hiring another one. “Can you believe that?” Holgate scoffs.

Nonetheless, Holgate’s career in television was stellar. She has appeared on CFTO, The Comedy Network, CTV and Global. Her credits include guest host of CFTO’s Eye on Toronto, host/reporter/segment producer for Upfront, a weekly magazine show on Omni, and host of CHTV’s daily entertainment programs, Spotlight and Quick Takes.

In 1994, she joined the Life Network as a regular on-air lifestyle commentator/expert on Real Life. In 1995, she hosted Just Ask with Donna Holgate, a one-hour national weekly, prime-time interactive show on fashion and style.

With her growing popularity, Holgate was offered her own daily talk show, Images with Donna Holgate in 1998. It was with this show that she made history as the first Black woman to host her own daily nationally televised show in Canada. Holgate used her position to promote many Black models, hairstylists, designers and makeup artists. “I wanted young Black kids to be able to see themselves on television being valued for their talent,” says Holgate.

In 1998, the W Network recruited Holgate to be co-host and segment producer of WTN Weekday, a national daily talk show. This project allowed Donna to broaden her range as a journalist and utilize her skills as an interviewer through such topics as fashion, politics, and entertainment.

Holgate’s next role was in radio. In 2002, she launched Voices, a weekly interactive current affairs program on FLOW 93.5, Canada’s urban music station. The show premiered as the station’s flagship talk program with Holgate as host and producer.

Holgate used her position to promote many Black models, hairstylists, designers, and make-up artists:

‘I wanted young Black kids to be able to see themselves on television being valued for their talent.’

Influence and Legacy

Holgate’s versatile career allowed her to experiment with different forms of journalism at a time when opportunities for Black women weren’t readily available. She was finally able to help contribute to the diverse beauty standard she wished she had access to as a child. Her impact on Canadian fashion and lifestyle media helped open doors for women of colour.

About the authors:

Archive of images at BFC:

Her career includes publishing and broadcast, hosting and producing.

Her career includes publishing and broadcast, hosting and producing

NameDonna Adelle Bernadette HolgateBirthAugust 17, 1957BirthplaceSt. Georges, GrenadaEthnic OriginGrenadian, JamaicanOccupationsWriter, Host, ProducerShare

2 Comments

  • Mikaela McDonald
    Posted 15 June 2022 at 9:36 pm

    What a beautiful and inspirational woman. I am so in awe of her accomplishments and the barriers that she was able to break as one of the first Black women on network television in Canada. Beautiful.

Leave a comment

© 2024. All Rights Reserved.

Go to Topcss.php