If you watch Cheryl Hickey on television, you know she’s effervescent—a confident journalist who’s travelled the world interviewing the rich and famous. But what you might not know is that she’s just as vivacious one on one. The Cheryl who more than 3.8 million viewers watch on “ET Canada” each week is the same Cheryl you meet when she’s off camera. She’s one of those people who you instantly feel a connection with—she’s positive, down to earth, kind and funny, and her passion is utterly contagious. She possesses an incredible gift of gab—it’s one of the qualities that has made her shine while hosting the country’s most-watched entertainment news show since 2005, and it’s also a trait that makes her the perfect choice to host a brand-new home renovation show.
HGTV Canada’s “Family Home Overhaul” is a feel-good renovation series that sees the network’s top designers and contractors come together to give deserving homeowners the renovations and makeovers they desperately need. “This show has heart—I knew it would when I first learned about it,” says Hickey. “It’s all about family and community. We all know people who give and give—these are special people who continue to give, even when their homes are literally falling apart around them.” In “Family Home Overhaul,” participants are chosen based on nominations from families and friends via HGTV.ca. Homeowners meet Hickey and the makeover team, and they’re given a complete home overhaul—a top-to-bottom fix. What makes the series so heartwarming, though, are the homeowners’ stories. Hickey affectionately talks about one family—refugees who moved to Canada for a better life and are dedicated to helping other newcomers. “They saved and scrimped and did everything they could to escape the awful situation in their homeland. But the house they put their life savings into was in worse shape than they could have imagined,” she says. “People need hope and they need to see other people doing good things. That’s what this show gives to viewers.” Hickey also says HGTV Canada’s roster of star contractors and designers—including Scott McGillivray, Tiffany Pratt, Tommy Smythe and Samantha Pynn—are seen in a new light in every episode. “You’ll see their personalities and not only how they renovate these homes physically, but how they leave good energy and spirit behind for the homeowners.”
Hickey admits there was a steep learning curve on the show as there isn’t a script to work from. “I learned a lot from the people on set. The team worked so hard. The way they can walk into a space and see exactly what needs to happen is a gift,” she says. “And my director said something I thought about every time I arrived at work. She said, ‘You have the keys to the Ferrari. Rip around in it and just make sure you bring it home.’ She told me to go for it and to give it everything I can.”
This kind of determination and devotion to a job or project isn’t new to Hickey. With a broadcast journalism degree, her first gig was at a radio station in her hometown, Owen Sound, Ont. She then took a TV job in Barrie, Ont., and eventually ended up at Global Television in Toronto as a news “chopper” reporter and videographer. A few years later, she moved up the ranks and decided to take on the entertainment beat. When “ET Canada” came around, she was a natural fit. “I love to talk and interview people. I love real conversations. My job is all about the art of conversation.” Since landing the gig, she’s interviewed hordes of Hollywood A-listers and has appeared on numerous red carpets. It’s
hard for her to name her favourite interviews, but there are two celebs who really made an impact. “Oprah—she’s a big deal. She’s an entrepreneur who brought wellness and spirituality to the forefront, and that’s so important. She’s also a good hugger,” she laughs. “George Clooney is another—he’s just so nice, gracious and cool.”
When she’s not in front of the camera, Hickey’s life is full—she’s also a wife and the proud mom of two children, Jaxson, 10, and Nyla, 6, plus a dog named Murphy. (“Jaxson is a great little basketball player, and Nyla loves gymnastics and art,” she says.) She’s also an avid volunteer as an ambassador for Plan International Canada, SickKids and “as many women’s causes as I can support,” she says. She’s busy, but she’s humble about what’s on her plate. “I don’t make it work all the time. There are times when I have to focus more on my family, and times when I have to zone in on my work. Balance isn’t a good word,” she says. “Then there are times when life throws you curveballs and things get messy. I just always try to be present.”
If all that wasn’t enough, Hickey is an entrepreneur. Three years ago, she launched Cheryl’s Home & Family, which focuses on products for everyone from tots to grandparents. With nine products launching this spring, the brand aims to make life easier and more comfortable for everyone in the household. “We want to help the most vulnerable in society and change the conversation around seniors, especially,” she says. Arm Here For You was the first product she developed: It’s a blanket with a pocket for the arm that enhances the bonding experience of feeding and cuddling babies, and it’s wonderful for seniors and those in wheelchairs who may experience cold extremities. The upcoming product line will include a reimagined Arm Here For You 2, back-to-basics teething accessories and affordable weighted blankets. The next phase of products will include must-haves for pets. Hickey also hosts a YouTube series based on the brand that features various experts talking about pretty much everything to do with families, from breastfeeding to keeping kids safe online, to the sleep habits of seniors.
Whether she’s talking about her family at home or her television family, it’s obvious that she’s dedicated and supportive to everyone around her. And out of all the hats she wears, it’s being a parent that she says is her favourite, most important job. “Like all parents, I just hope I don’t mess my kids up too badly,” she laughs. “I’m just trying to figure it out. Family is everything to me.”
Photography by Alvaro Goveia
Styling by Jessica Gilbert
Makeup by Tricia Langenberg-Kealy
Hair by Saina Sarafian
On Cheryl: Smythe 100% wool tailored blazer, shopsmythe.ca. Tailored pants by Freda’s Boutique, fredas.com. Jewellery courtesy of Knar Jewellery, knar.com.