because I couldn't stop laughing. I get nervous before interviews and my stammering only made this phone call more comedic. Enjoy my profile on motivational speaker and MTV personality Sabrina Jalees, originally from Ryerson's Folio.
The audience took their seats. The lights dimmed. A sole performer stepped onto the stage with one thing separating him from the crowd, a microphone. He scanned the group for inspiration and hoped his material would impress. At the comedy club, the spotlight can be an intimidating place. Toronto-born teen, Sabrina Jalees didn’t see it that way. From her place in the crowd Jalees saw her future, and she wanted it to start immediately. “I wanted to tackle the comic and say what was on my mind,” she says.
At 25, Jalees has made a name for herself in the Canadian comedy scene with her brand of cultural humour. This former Ryerson University student has worked in print, radio and television. Though much of her material is informed by her experiences growing up half Pakistani and half Swiss, Jalees has recently found one more way to share her story. Armed with creativity and unfailing ambition, she’s now telling audiences what it took to land her dream gig.
Motivational speaking is Jalees’ latest venture. Her mix of humour and advice makes the experience that much sweeter for the audience. “It’s like having a vitamin with a milkshake, something good for you along with something you’ll enjoy,” she describes. After writing a story for the Impact Entrepreneurship Conference, Jalees was recruited by Speakers’ Spotlight (www.speakers.ca). In her talks she encourages people to find out what they love, take action and embrace diversity. She also wants audience members to be empowered by what makes each of them different, a point that hits close to home for the radio and television personality.
Since her first stand-up performance as a Yuk Yuk’s amateur at age 16, Jalees has dealt with being embarrassed by her heritage, Muslim post-9/11 and discovering her sexuality. “I realized I was gay while I was doing stand-up,” she reveals. “Now I can speak about it and empower other people.” Most importantly Jalees is excited about what she does for a living, and she wants her young following to feel the same.
Currently Jalees is touring American colleges and doing stand-up. She describes her decision to relocate to New York as a natural progression for any creative type. In New York she is able to reach a larger market and strengthen the work ethic that got her recognized on the streets of Toronto.
Being on the go in New York City reminds her of her days as a Ryerson student. She was studying Radio and Television, and working relentlessly toward her goal. Between classes she performed her stand-up act, penned a column for The Toronto Star and hosted a television show on CBC called Smart Ask. “I wanted it all,” she says. She remembers it as being one of the busiest and most fulfilling points in her life. Now her weekend visits home are filled with tapings of CBC Radio’s LOL!, MuchMusic’s Video On Trial and Slice’s Plastic Makes Perfect.
Up next for Jalees is season 2 of YTV’s In Real Life, a reality series in which contestants aged twelve to fourteen compete to win four years’ college tuition and a family vacation. Jalees was a writer and host of the first season. In the future she hopes to write and host a television show for MTV, a move that would reach viewers similar to those of MuchMusic. She’s also taking a course on Advanced Sketch/Improv with the Upright Citizens Brigade. It’s clear that Jalees hasn’t stopped learning or dreaming. Surely her determination keeps her going, but it also might be the voice of that had-to-be-heard fifteen year-old inside.