Madison Tevlin has spent her whole life being judged at first glance. You see, she has Down syndrome but, let’s be perfectly clear, it has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with WHO she is. Just check into her new talk show, WHO DO YOU THINK I AM? on CBC GEM where she’s the host and you’ll see Madison connecting and chatting one-on-one with extraordinary people who are often misrepresented, misperceived or misinterpreted by their exterior.
This season, Madison sits down with Ann Pornel (The Great Canadian Baking Show), Sarah Nicole Landry of The Birds Papaya, and Canadian singer Tyler Shaw, just to name a few. With every person on the planet, there is so much more to discover and Madison gets to the heart of who they really are.
To say she’s landed my dream job is an understatement! So, with that in mind, I reached out to Madison to learn more about how she got here and what she really wished people knew about her…
When you were a little kid, what did you dream you would be when you grew up?
Madison: When I was kid my dream was to always be a talk show host because I LOVE to talk. But now I have realized to have a conversation with someone you have to take turns while talking. You listen and not just talk. Let the other person have a voice and not just myself.
When did you realize you wanted to be on television?
Madison: After my video of ‘All of Me’ got a lot of attention, I realized I could achieve my dreams more than I thought I could before. So I was 13 years old when I realized I wanted to be on TV and my first show ever was Mr. D with Gerry Dee and Jonathan Torrens. It was SO much fun. Now, here I am today hosting ‘Who Do You Think I Am?’ and am doing what I love to do.
How did you get this cool show?
Madison: I was exploring what I wanted to do with my career, so I talked to my friend Sylvia who worked in Marketing but is now a Producer. We ended up bonding over the fact that we had both felt judged in our lives. Before she told me she’d been judged I honestly thought I was the only one. So we came up with the idea for me to talk to all kinds of people who have felt this way, to break down stereotypes and barriers. We made two pilot episodes in 2019, and then pitched it to CBC who really liked it, and now here we are!
What helpful advice have you received so far about being on TV?
Madison: There were so many people that gave me advice before I started this show. I’m lucky to have a lot of support. But my Mom was the one who saw so much in me and never gave up on me. I want to say a big thank you to my mom; she really pushed me out of my comfort zone. If it weren’t for her I would not be who I am today. Before this show I tried not to talk about having Down syndrome because there is so much more to me. But she really helped me realize that I need to share my story so other people can, too.
Have there been any talk show hosts that have inspired you?
Madison: Someone I really look up to and who inspires me to be the host on this show would have to be Ellen. She is funny, she dances, she scares people, but she also lets people to be themselves on her show. On my show, I want people to open up to me! I really think that by asking lots of questions and getting to know someone, we really get to learn so much more about them instead of judging them at face value.
You’ve had some amazing guests so far in your studio, has anyone said something so awesome that you really loved?
Madison: I loved ALL of my guests. They were so different but it was really interesting to hear the story of who they really are. One guest I had an amazing connection with was Sarah from The Birds Papaya. We talked a lot about feeling judged, and I learned how she handles it. She also got ME to open up a lot about living with Down syndrome, which I wasn’t expecting. We had a great chat.
Who would you love to interview in the future?
Madison: Someone I want to interview in the future would have to be Shawn Mendes. He is one of my favourite singers of all time. I think he would have a really interesting story to tell about who he really is and what he does. I love his music and I really want to know his background.
What is something people always ask you?
Madison: People always ask me what is it like having Down syndrome and I always say it is the least interesting thing about me. There is so much more to me than other people think. When I was born my parents were told I might not ever talk, walk or be part of society but I’m doing all of that and more! I have so many opportunities coming my way and I have accomplished so much.
What advice would you give someone who is interested in doing what you are doing?
Madison: My advice would have to be to never give up on your dreams. Push yourself out of your comfort zone because you never know what you will learn. Every day is a different day and a new chance to learn something new about yourself, or someone else.
We love your interviews on this show! What else would you love to do?
Madison: Now that I have done this show, something I want to continue with are my acting and modelling careers. I am signed with a modelling agency and that is something I love to do. For acting I want to see myself more in TV shows and movies. I just finished a big project that is still top secret, but I think you’re going to love it!
OOOHHHH OKAY! I can’t wait to learn more! So, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Madison: Something I love to do in my spare time is to sing and dance and make bracelets. I love to do all these things and it really makes me feel good about myself in the moment.
What’s currently on your music playlist?
Madison: I honestly listen to music every day. I just groove in my seat and let go of everything that’s in my mind. Right now I’m listening to Shawn Mendes, Tyler Shaw (of course) and Taylor Swift!
How about your favourite shows or movies?
Madison: One of my favourite shows would have to be Glee or Friends. I LOVE the music in Glee, but I also love that Becky is such a strong, fun character who also happens to have Down syndrome in that show. For movies it would have to be Mamma Mia.
And finally, what is something you wished other people knew about you?
Madison: Something I wish people knew about me is that I am a really organized person and like getting things done. I am a very hard worker; when something is not completed, I make sure I get it done right away. I just don’t leave something and not continue with it. That is not the kind of person I am and I think it’s a big part of why I have accomplished so much.
WHO DO YOU THINK I AM? recently premiered on CBC Gem and is available to watch free on the streaming service.
Thank you Madison for taking the time to chat!
Photo credits: Courtesy of CBC Gem