Less than two years after graduation, Vijaya Selvaraju (BBA 2008 UTSC) found her dream job on Twitter. A keyword search turned up a posting for a travel-show host for ProjectExplorer.org, an award-winning educational site for children. After a 10-page application, one video on what it means to be a good global citizen, another video showcasing Toronto, and three interviews, Selvaraju became the only international presenter for the New York-based Project Explorer.
Even as an infant, Selvaraju travelled a lot. Born in Chennai, India, she and her family lived in Cameroon before moving to Canada, and logged trips to Southeast Asia and Europe. Her father worked for an international bank and both parents had a penchant for travel; they also believed it was an important part of their children’s education.
For her graduation trip in 2008, Selvaraju went to Europe not with friends but with her parents and younger brother. “I started a sort of diary for myself. Instead of using a pen, I would use a video camera,” she says. These videos focused on food, and the series is posted on her YouTube channel: Selvaraju tastes gelato with local residents in Italy, samples frankfurters in Germany and enjoys panipuri in India – with her mom behind the camera. “I would direct her, walk her through the shot with the camera, review the footage and say, ‘That wasn’t a good shot, do it again,’” she says with a laugh, adding that her mother also gave feedback on her performances.
Selvaraju made her TV debut at age 8, appearing on TVO Kids as well as Video and Arcade Top Ten, a show that features kids playing video games. “I had no clue how to play video games. I just wanted to be on TV,” she says. “I was pressing random buttons.”
At U of T Scarborough, Selvaraju majored in life sciences (“I thought it was a stable thing to do”) and business (“a great backbone for any career”). She became an associate producer on the quiz show Reach for the Top – a position she still holds – during her first year of university. After graduation, she worked as talent co-ordinator on So You Think You Can Dance Canada. “I would secretly read the teleprompter and think, ‘I could do that,’” says Selvaraju. She entered the MuchMusic VJ Search 2009 and didn’t win, but the process left her with a great video portfolio.
Six months later, she found the Project Explorer job, filming series in Mexico and Thailand. “As travel host, I researched and wrote every single piece that I presented, unlike big-shot TV shows where you have a team to write for you,” she says.
In April, Selvaraju decided to strike out on her own. “I’m in the midst of putting together concepts for a show and trying to dip my feet into the Toronto scene, which I think is bursting with opportunities,” she says. Selvaraju is collaborating on the show with a partner, and it will be travel-oriented, with her as the host.
The beauty of travel is that it’s a state of mind, Selvaraju says. “You don’t have to hop on a plane or a train or a cab to get to your next destination. It can mean surfing the web or being open-minded and excited to learn about somebody else’s culture.”
To read more about Vijaya, visit www.vijayaselvaraju.com