Tyrone Edwards On Mental Health, Being Un-Muted and Caring for the Underserved
This is My Story, a series dedicated to creatives of colour and their paths to success. By championing these diverse stories and backgrounds, we hope that our cultural conversations will expand and that respect for our differences will flourish.
“We’re on the verge of something big, massive, huge. We have the opportunity to be a part of one of the most transformative times in history, a moment in time that can be remembered in history books as people who truly fought for change,” said etalk co-anchor Tyrone Edwards in a virtual TEDx talk that streamed live late last year. Called “My Trauma is Not a Trend,” the fifteen-minute video shows the Canadian television personality, whose career began in 2011 as a host for MuchMusic and progressed to E! then etalk, speaking candidly about the world finally seeming to wake up to anti-Black racism in the wake of George Floyd’s death in police custody in May 2020.
“I never thought I’d see this chance for change in my lifetime. In fact, I spent many years building up a wall around me to protect me. Building up a tolerance to mistreatment and harassment just to get me through. So as much as this excites me, it also terrifies me — because my trauma just cannot be a trend,” he goes on to say, opening up about his worries that the momentum of the collective outcry, which erupted through protests and black squares dominating social media, will fizzle as many wait for life to return to some sort of pre-pandemic normalcy.
This isn’t Edwards’ first time speaking out publicly. The powerful TEDx talk, which sees the broadcaster dive into some of his daily realities and struggles as a Black man in society, came after the pop culture reporter’s incredibly emotional and viral moment on The Social mere days after Floyd’s death during a segment on men’s mental health and the pandemic. While being interviewed, a tearful Edwards expressed his pain and outrage over the systemic racism and violence Black people continue to experience, and his boiling frustration that those outside of the Black community around him don’t seem to express the same level of anger when injustices occur. Since that raw moment on national television, Edwards’ clout has been on a much-needed rise within the entertainment industry, and we’re all here for it.
Below, FASHION caught up with Edwards to talk about his latest co-anchor role, breaking free from fear to pursue his dreams and what’s on his horizon.
On his role at etalk
“I’ve taken this seat as the co-anchor of etalk and the timing is just impeccable. Yes, we’re an entertainment show, but now that I’m un-muted, I can bring so much more to the table and talk about things that matter: anti-Black racism, mental health, mandated masculinity and what that looks like today versus what it did before. I love that my journey as an individual, my journey as a man, has prepared me for this very moment that I’m in right now.”
On his career journey and learning to never stop dreaming…
“Initially, I had a very particular, very niche dream: I wanted to host RapCity on MuchMusic. I knew exactly what I wanted to do, and I did that. I was literally living the dream almost to the point of it being so exciting that I felt guilty because the older you get, when you look around, you realize how many people aren’t. I also come from very humble means and my mother and my aunt taught me how to be satisfied and not want for everything. When you don’t have much, you have to learn how to make do with what you have and be grateful. So when I got the RapCity job, I felt guilty to want for more, to dream for more. But time on the job led to more access (bigger celebrities, bigger experiences), and eventually what ended up happening was I built up the nerve to dream again by doing some personal work to become a better version of myself and to realize why I was thinking the way I was. A lot of it had to do with me just thinking like a survivor. But I realized, ‘Hold on. I’m not just surviving anymore. Now it’s time to thrive. Now it’s time to build. Now it’s time to think about dreaming again.’ So I did, which has helped me grow in front of the camera over the last couple of years. It’s also made me a better reporter and host in general.”
On what’s next
“I’m a community guy and one of my legacy pieces is going to be free walk-in mental health clinics for youth. Right now, I’m an ambassador for the Yorktown Family Services Mental Health Walk-In Clinic near where I grew up and the numbers are unreal in terms of the need for mental health services, how they’re being received and the positive impact that they’re creating. But I know that getting mental health support is not something that is easily accessible — or even a reality — in a lot of neighbourhoods like the one that I grew up in. And what that really comes down to is neighbourhoods being underserved. Like the neighbourhood that I grew up in: There’s nothing wrong with it; it’s just underserved.
“So I want the walk-in clinic to be replicated throughout the city where it’s needed: In all other underserved neighbourhoods that are lower income or have a lot of single-income homes. I’m no doctor, but I truly believe that mental health is linked to rising crime rates and people going in and out of jail. A lot of times, these are people who have issues that have never been diagnosed. People that could really use some support but never get it.
“It wasn’t until my twenties before I started to realize that it wasn’t weird or weak to speak to someone. That I didn’t have to feel ashamed or lesser than. I didn’t think like that when I was 17. I even remember my first [therapy] session and getting into my car afterwards and driving away. I was like, ‘What the hell? That’s a luxury! No wonder rich people do that stuff. I wish I could afford to do that every two weeks.’ Because it is a luxury to be able to talk so someone and have them work through things with you professionally and without biases. And it’s not about just about going when you’re at your worst. It can be preventative. Your mental health is the most important thing.”
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