Canadian audiences know her as a dynamic host of The Zone, YTV’s weekday whacky after-school entertainment. But Melony Manikavasagar, also makes time to work on her studies as a third-year RTA: Media Production Student at Toronto Metropolitan University.
When reflecting on what it was like when she realized she was joining an iconic Canadian media team when she joined The Zone in July 2022, she said it was hard to process.
“You grow up and The Zone just becomes a childhood memory for you. So, being back into it, I would think back to all the times me and my sister would watch it with hosts like Carlos, Suki, and even Lisa. My sisters are always like, woah, you’re doing that!”
While Melony is still early in her career, she has done a lot in her three years in the media industry. Specializing in radio broadcasting and film and television at school, Melony takes time to hone her on-camera and behind the scene skills everyday. Although hosting is her full-time gig now, Melony still has big goals and dreams of stepping behind the camera in the future.
The interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
What inspired you to get into hosting?
MM: I’ve always kind of had this ambition to be on camera, but growing up, and especially throughout high school, I was very much a behind the scenes kind of girl.
I would just sit and observe. But I thought that hosting is such a great skill set to have in this industry. Even if you want to be a professional behind the scenes, it’s just so great to understand how to work with the audience, staging and stuff like that. So I thought it would be a really good tool kit to have for myself as a potential media professional.
What inspired you to get started in television and how did you start that journey?
MM: It’s such a hard industry to get into. It’s a bit daunting. But then grade 12 came around and I was like, I can’t think of doing anything else. I love storytelling, I love writing, and I love the teamwork aspect of it, too. My friends and I had so much fun doing multi-cam shows — the hours we spent practicing and rehearsing — and then the adrenaline you get when you do that live show was just amazing. So I was [thinking], I have to be in television. I have to do something within this field.
That’s when I saw RTA and I decided to apply to the program. Now, here I am! It’s so cool that I get to actually do this as a career. Growing up, [I thought] I can’t do anything else. I just hope that in school I’m writing scripts. I hope I’m working on my own short films and that is what I’m doing in this program, which I’m so happy about.
It’s so cool that I get to actually do this as a career.
How do you balance being a student and also being a host of The Zone?
MM: What I love about working with The Zone is that it is very flexible. Everyone here knows how much I value my education and they also value it, too. They know it’s something important. They want all of our hosts to be able to work towards their goals. So they’ve been very flexible with my school schedule and they’ve been very supportive. Any time I need to focus more on my school projects, they’ve always given that space for me. I’m very grateful for it.
What experiences that you have had, have helped you hone your skills and your outlook in this field?
MM: At The Zone, I learned so much from my co-hosts, Spencer and Kelsey. They both have such great backgrounds, especially in performance, which is obviously something I never had before coming here, because I was very much a behind the scenes girl. I loved script writing, and I never knew how to articulate those thoughts, those visions on camera, and they really helped me grow and adjust into that.
Everything, even at school, has helped me a lot to hone in on my skills like learning how to do little things like wearing our mics. The dynamic you have on a set has really helped me to work with other people, even in my classes! Like navigating any problems that may come up and learning how to manage and deal with other people’s different personalities because there’s always going to be so many different personalities on a set. It’s all about respecting everyone. I love that I get to learn that all the time.
Now that you’ve done both behind the scenes and on-camera, are you being drawn to one more than the other?
MM: Now that I’ve kind of had experience with both, I do miss having some more creative control in making short films and stuff. I miss writing and I definitely am gravitating more towards that stream. But I think the best part about hosting and journalism and stuff like this is when you are in this field, you kind of do have more of a say now! If you’re a host, it’s your name. It’s not a character given to you. You’re trying to portray who you are to the audience, so we do have more of a say in what we can talk about and stuff like that. So, I love it.
We work a lot with the producers and writers and anything we think we should add… they’re always open to suggestions all the time. They might help us rework some of them and [help] articulate them better, but they’re always so welcoming and open to hearing all of our ideas.
How do you keep motivated on a day-to-day basis?
MM: It’s definitely the people that I surround myself with. I am very much an introverted person, but after the pandemic, I was like, okay, I miss socializing a lot! I have so much fun on set with the other hosts and the crew on set, we have so much fun. There are so many laughs going on. Even if I wake up and I’m not feeling that great, the moment I come here, everyone is so welcoming and we have so many things to talk about. It’s always a good time and I always leave with a positive feeling.
What is a typical day like for you?
MM: Lucky for me, when I’m here at The Zone, I don’t need to do my own hair and makeup. So that gives me a bit more time to sleep in! So I wake up at 6 a.m., I get on the go train and then I get [to The Zone.] I have my hair and makeup done, and then we shoot up until 5 p.m. Then I always have a class at 6p.m, so I have an hour to get to class and decompress a bit. So usually my classes are musical theater, comedy writing, writing for animation or even single cam. Those are usually 3 hours, so I leave class at nine, I get on the train and then I’m home by 1030p.m. I take a shower, take the makeup off, and do it all again the next day!
What do you do to decompress after after a long day, whether in that hour you mentioned, or even when you get home?
MM: Within that hour, I love listening to music or I call my best friend and we just talk. She doesn’t go to school here, so we just talk on the phone until I have to go to class.
Outside of a workday, usually on the weekend is the best time for me to decompress. I’ve been playing piano since I was nine, but I love just like playing by ear. I don’t look at any sheet music. I just sit down and I play for the longest time. You almost get into this trance. It’s so therapeutic and it could go on for hours, but it’s my favorite way of decompressing.
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What is your biggest expense right now?
MM: It’s definitely food because I am in Toronto like 24/7, and the amount of food there… you have so much of a variety! I’ve tried so many different types of cuisines, and so many different type of places, and I don’t even think I’ve tried half of the things here. There’s just so much to choose from! Every day I spend money on food, even though I like to pack my whole lunch already.
What area of finances do you wish that you were better at?
MM: I definitely wish I was better at investing. I never know what to do with that. I do want to set myself up for financial success in the future, but I also just haven’t given myself enough time to learn how to do it. But I know it’s something I want to do. It’s a goal of mine.
I do want to set myself up for financial success in the future, but I also just haven’t given myself enough time to learn how to do it.
From your point of view, what does your future look like? Where do you see your career going?
MM: I’d love to try doing more hosting, especially entertainment hosting because I’m a huge movie fan. I love shows and I just have so much to say about any new film that comes out. I also see more showrunning maybe in the future. I’d love to make a children’s animation. Growing up, I loved things like Adventure Time, Winx Club and Monster High. I’m literally obsessed with Bluey right now! I would love to make a show like Bluey, with cute little dogs, talking [about] such great topics for kids and adults. I think we really need shows like that. So, I’d love to be showrunner one day and work on that.
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What is the best part of your job?
MM: When I wake up in the morning, I always think I’m so lucky that I got something I wanted. I think the hardest part about being in this industry, especially as a student, is getting your foot through the door. Leading up to this, I [thought], I just need one thing to get my foot in the door, because I know I have these skills that I want to work on and I know there are things I want to do, I just need that one step! I was like, Let me in!
Every day I wake up, I feel lucky that I get to come in here and learn something new because every day is so different. The people that I work with, everyone’s pathway into the career that they have right now have all been so different. But I love that I get to hear their experience, and I think that’s definitely helps me, especially in my career.
What I love about this job is the people I meet for interviews. You get to meet such talented people and even within like a few minutes with them, I learn so much and they always give me such good advice! So I definitely love meeting people and learning about this industry, especially through such well-rounded people like the crew and the hosts. I love doing this and I want to do more of it!
When I wake up in the morning, I always think I’m so lucky that I got something I wanted.
What advice do you have for those considering pursuing a career in television?
MM: I’m still at the beginning of my career so there’s still so much I want to learn and there’s so much left for me to develop. But the most important thing that has helped me even since being in high school, is taking every opportunity that comes your way. Saying yes no matter what it is, even if it’s something that you don’t want to do… you never know what experience you’ll get out of it. You’ll never know the people you’ll meet and connect with, and you never know who’s listening.
Also taking that extra step to go and look for opportunities even if they aren’t coming to you. I know for me, I was always doing something because I [thought], it’s not enough to just have these skills sitting in your toolbox, you have to go out and use them! So I was doing background acting because I wanted to be on set, and I wanted to see what a set looked like and how it worked.
I did wedding video photography and videography and I never thought I’d do something like that. It really wasn’t my goal, but I learned so much from it. You work with really cool cameras that I didn’t get to use in class, so I got a really great experience out of it.
Even seeing the casting call [for The Zone], for the first time. I thought I wasn’t qualified enough for it. But that’s why, again, say yes to everything. Even if you think you’re not good enough for it, you never know what may come of it!