He’s bold. He’s brave. And he tells it like it is. With his opinionated, unfiltered wit and trademark blazers, Daniel Pillai has taken charge of the media landscape in his own unique way. As a celebrated host, writer, and producer, Daniel has gained a loyal following for his entertaining interview style with the biggest names in pop culture. This includes Hollywood heavyweights Hillary Swank, Kevin Spacey and John Travolta, to Bollywood biggies Salman Khan, Madhuri Dixit, Priyanka Chopra and Deepika Padukone.
1. Describe what you do in less than 140 characters. Go.
I’m an entertainment journalist and media personality. I’m the host of my own chat show DATE WITH DANIEL and my own lifestyle show F’D WITH DANIEL. Yes, every pun intended!
2. What was the inspiration for your career route?
My foray into media and television came as a happy accident when I was discovered by journalist Veronica Chail in 2012 to join Canada’s leading Bollywood show, CityTV and OMNI Television’s Bollywood Blvd. What was intended as one segment ended being three full seasons. I say “discovered” because I was working in corporate public relations at the time and Veronica really encouraged me to take up a hot-topic segment on the show to showcase my personality and love for Indian cinema. Three months into that segment, I quit my full time corporate job and I took a leap of faith to enter the media business. It’s all thanks to her and the rest is history.
3. What is the most memorable milestone in your career so far?
There are a few. Certainly meeting Veronica is at the top of the list. She’s really the one who encouraged me to give media and television a try despite my lack of experience and anxiety about being on TV. She’s taught me everything I know on how to put together entertaining stories and providing valuable and engaging content to viewers. We’re now besties!
Other highlights are meeting my favourite Bollywood actresses Madhuri Dixit-Nene and Priyanka Chopra. I consider them inspirations, so to be able to meet them and speak to them was personally fulfilling. And, of course, interviewing Hillary Swank and Kevin Spacey was pretty special too.
4. Where do you see yourself in 5 years, 10 years, 20 years?
I would like to see myself having engaging and valuable conversations with people all over the world in whichever platform the future has in store for me. I am fascinated by the human condition and I always love to find out what inspires people, what their personal stories are and how they live life with their own unique perspectives and philosophies. In all of this is a selfish desire to constantly learn from these individuals and be a vessel to carry their stories to the world.
5. Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
Never take “NO” for an answer. And never, ever let anyone take advantage of you and determine your self-worth. You are the key to the universe and its power lies in you. Showcase it and hustle hard!
6. Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is it (or they) important to you?
I’m a passionate LGBTQ advocate and I support the community in various forms throughout the year. It’s always a pleasure to work with Pride Toronto yearly, and its always lovely to work with independent organizations who are determined to create a positive dialogue about gender and sexual equality. I’m also a proud BCCA (Body Confidence Canada Awards) supporter. I hosted their award show this year and I truly love their mandate to help create awareness about body image and acceptance.
I also released a photo look book called “The He/She Project.” The look book and accompanying video take my experiences growing up gay in a very unaccepting South Asian community, and turn it into a positive universal story of self-love and self-acceptance for everyone. I guess you can say this all comprises my advocacy work. I’m all about being who you are and showcasing that to the world and being a part of and creating all these projects helps me do that.
7. What is one major challenge that you’ve had to overcome in your career? How did you overcome it?
Speaking of body confidence, I struggled with my weight all my life. Working in the media and entertainment field, I am constantly reminded about how overweight I am compared to ideal body types. But I take it in stride and I push on and in four years I think I’ve achieved a lot. I just embrace my curves and be the best version of myself. Plus being thick and juicy means I know how to have fun! Screw ideals! Yaas!
8. What does the word notable mean to you?
It means that I’ve got a story to share that people want to hear. And if in the journey of finding my voice I can help others find theirs…then I think that would be a notable contribution to the world.
1. Where is your favourite place to wine/ dine in your city and why?
I love anything and everything Indian, Italian and Mexican.
2. What’s the most visited website on your Internet browser? The most played song on your phone?
Oh boy, YouTube.com is at the top of the list because that is where I host my shows DATE WITH DANIEL and F’D WITH DANIEL. I can also spend endless hours watching videos from other creators. Bollywood fan sites are also at the top of the list…I’m a junkie. Right now, the most played song on my phone is my personal anthem “Man! I Feel Like A Woman!” by Shania Twain. Her album Come On Over is my all time fave and all the songs from it are played repeatedly.
3. Who’s one person you think everyone should be following on social media?
Me (shameless plug).
I love the daily affirmations and positivity from Danielle LaPorte and Gabrielle Bernstein. I am also a religious follower of Elizabeth Peru for my cosmic energetic updates on the universe.
4. What’s your favourite country to visit and why? And what’s the next one you plan on travelling to?France, because with every corner you turn, you’re greeted with beauty and history. The country has such a romantic and whimsical feel to it and I love it. I also love croissants and macarons. Italy, because I love pizza and pasta and I can spend an eternity there. I think I would love to take another trip to Italy just to satisfy the cravings I am having as I write this.
5. What gives you the greatest FOMO?
I don’t really get FOMO to be honest, lol! I’m one of the fortunate few.
6. What’s your guiltiest pleasure?
CHEESE! I am lactose intolerant, but the smell and taste of cheese is something I cannot resist. I also love watching the Real Housewives of Atlanta…those girls are my fave!
7. What’s something you wish you didn’t spend so much money on? What’s something you wish you spent more on?
I don’t think I have any regrets with the money I spend. I truly believe in living life to the fullest and enjoying your money because you’ve earned it. Now, you have to be smart with how you spend it, but I don’t have any regrets. Anything I buy or invest in is something I desire and if I can go out and get it, why not?!
8. And finally, what does success look like to you? Work, play, or otherwise…
Success to me is always being myself and inspiring others to do the same. Growing up in a very conservative South Asian household, I was told who I needed to be and that was predetermined before I was born. I spent so many years trying to fit into the rigid structures of my culture when I really wasn’t meant to fit into any of them…being overweight, being gay and working in a creative field, which my family doesn’t know anything about.
But despite all of this, I have managed to stay true to who I am and I think we all deserve to experience and live this. Being who we are and maintaining that in all we do and experience in life is something I think we all long for, and if we can do it gracefully and with poise, that to me is success!