The Toni Francis. I purposely refer to her in that manner when we first get on the phone. She laughs, and of course says she writes it that way out of necessity, but I can’t help but see her name as fitting.
Confidence is important for Toni, and what other way to show that confidence than by adding a “the” to the front of your name. “It’s super hard to find that confidence working in media and maybe not looking a particular way … makes me think I’m not meant for this.”
But those apprehensions are temporary for Toni. She understands her value and is ready to show the country what makes her unique. Her confidence is built on her experience working on short and feature films, music videos, and even a stint in the corporate world.
In her own words, however, this year was time to put on her “big girl panties,” and really go for it. Below, we talk to Toni about what it means to be a young woman in media, her new interview series on YouTube, and how she sees herself fitting in and standing out in Toronto.
- You said you did some prior work in short and feature films, along with some music videos. Can you name specific films and videos you worked on and what your duties were?
I’ve been working on and off in media for the past six years. It’s been a rollercoaster ride so far but I’m proud of the things that I was able to accomplish. I was the co-editor-in-chief of IVI Magazine most recently. In the past I worked as producer on “The Awareness Show,” “Things Over Drinks,” and Vanessa Lu’s “Hallelujah” music video, as a production manager on “And They Watched,” “Learning to be Social,” and “Waack Revolt,” and I assisted on My Ex-Ex feature film and “Symph” ft. Tory Lanez – 100 Bands” music video. I currently produce an interview series on Youtube and working on a short film “Somebody’s Sun,” which I wrote and will be directing.
- Was there something that pushed you to take the leap to do your own thing after you went corporate? Like one specific thing? Or maybe a culmination of events?
I’m not sure if there was one specific thing that pushed me to take the leap, I would definitely say it was a culmination of events. I had left my most recent contract job in the corporate world, and I was home trying to figure things out. It had been months and nothing significant was happening to me. Looking back, the truth is, I wasn’t doing anything significant for myself. In July of last year, my old boss called and asked if I could come back and help out for a few days. Six months later I was still there. For the past few years I found myself in this cycle of working in media for a couple of months and then going back and working in the corporate world behind a desk when things were slowing down and I just never found my footing, to be honest. So here I was back at the place I was supposed to leave, kicking myself for not knowing how to get out of this horrible thing I felt trapped in.
One day while I was heading to work, I just told myself I can’t do this anymore. I was witnessing all of the people in my network pushing themselves to chase down their dreams and here I was scared because I thought, What if I’m this crazy person who has convinced themselves they’re the next best thing and everyone else is looking at me with a side-eye like, “Girl, please go and sit down somewhere.” That can be such a crippling feeling but I knew that no one was going to hand me the life I wanted to live, I had to create it myself. I know I’m just as good, if not better than some of the people I see working in media but it’s a simple fact that I’m not allowed to talk shit if I’m not working my ass off to prove that. So I gave my boss a very generous two-month notice and I decided that in 2017, I was going to begin this journey and not look back, regardless of what anyone thinks, regardless of the days I don’t feel that I’m good enough, regardless of the sacrifices, I’m not looking back.
- What makes you feel like you are a leader? What pushes you to believe that anything is possible?
Even though I have had my doubts, there’s always been this voice in the back of my head reminding me that I am powerful beyond measure (I even have that phrase tatted on my collar bone, haha). When I was in college, I never made any excuses. I graduated at the top of my class, produced some great projects for both school and independently, all while being a single mom and taking care of a two-year-old. I never back down from leadership roles, I actually crave them because I know I have what it takes to get things done. Some might call me a control freak but I think you need to have a bit of that to be a leader. I need to know what’s going on and why it’s happening and if I can contribute in any way to make it better. That’s who I am and that’s the person I need to show the world now. Anything is possible because I’ve made up my mind about it. It was that simple for me. I had a pretty crappy childhood and an even worst time in my twenties, but I made up my mind that if all of these people in the world can live their best life regardless of their circumstances and be successful then why can’t I? I truly believe that everyone has the capacity to be great, but not everyone believes that of themselves. Once I started believing that, there was literally nothing or no one that could tell me differently.