Saturday, November 15, 2014

Ziyah Karmali Brings Multiculturalism to Mainstream Screens

“I knew I wanted to be a storyteller when I was five years old,” says Ziyah. “I always told my mom I would be famous one day, and that she would be able to watch me on TV.”

When Ziyah Karmali was approached about a job hosting her own morning segment, she had only been writing a column in the Edmonton Examiner for about a year. ‘Ziyah in the City,’ as she cleverly titled it, took a progressive turn away from what might first be assumed another sex-in-the-city-esque-spin-off and instead became a cultural hub for unique happenings that Edmontonians otherwise wouldn’t have known about.

The ambitious twenty-seven-year-old has an impressive background, so it’s no surprise that she brings an undeniable energy to the morning show on BT. Crowned Miss Edmonton after graduating from the University of Alberta in 2010, Ziyah taught French immersion at the elementary level for two years – but always having a strong passion for journalism and writing, she decided to pursue other avenues.

After leaving teaching to dive headfirst into a newspaper column, this bold move paid off about a year later with her hosting DiverseCity. In the segment, Ziyah would introduce a much larger audience to the same sort of happenings that she penned in ‘Ziyah in the City,’ while opening a more culturally diverse door that our predominately conservative city was yet to see.

“I explore and dig into stories that aren't necessarily considered mainstream,” says Ziyah. “Seeing as multiculturalism isn't always considered mainstream, DiverseCity shines light on the hidden stories of our city. I'm challenging traditional programming, taking it to another level. I'm trying to give a voice to those who don't think they’re being heard and at the same time aiming to eliminate fear and discrimination.”

Focusing mainly on the unique cultures, faces and communities in Edmonton, Ziyah insists that DiverseCity is bringing multiculturalism to the forefront. The host says that every day she acquires new insight about Edmonton and the people that live in it. Her newfound knowledge constantly inspires her to dig deeper and share the amazing stories she learns with those around her.

Ziyah recalls some of her favourite segments: Chinese New Year, Ukrainian Easter and Serbian Christmas. She’s especially fond of being able to interview the number of incredible people who reside in Edmonton and the stories they have to tell, such as those who grew up as child soldiers and refugees who have built successful lives for themselves in the city.

If DiverseCity is bringing multiculturalism to the forefront – which it most certainly is – then Ziyah is undoubtedly the face of that movement. A role model for women of colour who want to be seen on television screens, Ziyah’s newfound TV career is a push forward in itself. The host describes her experience of transitioning from print to television as smooth for the most part, saying that her new job in front of the camera is very rewarding. “I'm extremely passionate about [the segment] and absolutely Iove what I do,” she says. “I’ve had such a great time learning things I would have otherwise never been privy to.”

Not only is Ziyah creating a dialogue through sharing her experiences with various cultures in our city, but she’s setting the bar higher for career women of all colours in Edmonton who are wanting to create change. Aware that there are many ambitious young women who watch her morning segment and can excel from her lessons, Ziyah gives advice for those women interested in paving new roads: “Stay focused, stay determined and listen to your heart,” she says.

With eleven-thousand followers on Twitter, Ziyah is moving intersectionality from television screens to tweets, discussing hot topics such as sexuality with Mr. Canada, living vegan at Padmanadi and the biggest Buddha statue in North America. The BT host, who believes that cupcakes do indeed save the world, is using her engaging presence onscreen and off to help Edmonton move into a more inclusive home. She encourages us to embrace multiculturalism as a tool that will bring us closer to one another, saying that she’s looking forward to seeing Edmonton’s various cultures grow together and being a part of having the segment grow with it.

“Over the past year I have come to realize that Edmonton truly is a hub of culture,” says Ziyah. “…By understanding each other, we’re able to live in a safe, happy and harmonious society.”

DiverseCity airs twice weekday mornings from 5:30 to 9am on Breakfast Television. If you have a story you think Ziyah should share on the air, she encourages you to email her at You can also find her on Twitter @ZiyahKarmali.

Published in the October/November 2014 Issue of Edmonton Woman Magazine.

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