Shari Graydon

As a child, Shari Graydon wasn’t allowed to watch TV on weeknights. Nor did her parents ever buy her brand name clothing. Despite these debilitating setbacks, she made the cheerleading squad, was elected to student council, and had friends.

After earning a degree in Theatre, Shari worked for the world’s largest public relations agency. Her job was to flog stories about fast food chains and drug companies to the news media. (All she can say now is that she’s sorry, and she’s been trying to make up for this lamentable lapse in judgment ever since.)

Shari has had experience on both sides of the microphone and camera. She produced a TV series for WTN, wrote and performed regular commentary on media issues for CBC Radio and TV, and served as the national spokesperson for Media Action. She also wrote a weekly column for The Vancouver Sun, taught media literacy at Simon Fraser University, and served as press secretary to the premier of British Columbia.

Shari's first book, Made You Look: How Advertising Works and Why You Should Know (2003; updated and re-issued 2013), gave her the opportunity to speak to students from one end of Canada to the other about the tricks advertisers use to spirit money out of our wallets. Made You Look has been revised (Fall 2013) to include modern marketing practices using social media, viral videos, digital tracking, and reality TV.

Her second book, In Your Face: The Culture of Beauty and You (2004; updated and re-issued Fall 2014), explores all the weird and wonderful things we’ve done to our bodies in pursuit of looking good. It also sets out to prove that you don’t have to look like Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie in order to get a date, get a job, or get a life. Like Made You Look, it has won a number of prizes, including the Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Non-Fiction.

More recently, Shari edited a collection of essays by 41 women reflecting on the benefits of getting older called I Feel Great about My Hands—and Other Unexpected Joys of Aging (2011). Its royalties support the social enterprise she founded in 2010 called Informed Opinions, which builds women’s leadership through media engagement.

A chocoholic vegetarian, Shari bikes in summer, skates in winter, and does yoga all year round. Born in Montreal, she grew up in Vancouver, but now lives in Ottawa with her husband, David Mitchell, who makes her laugh every day.

Shari was honored in 2007 with a Canadian Governor General’s Award in Commemoration of the Persons Case. This award honors individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the advancement of women in the social, economic, and cultural life of Canada.

School, Library, and Conference Presentations
The richness of Shari Graydon’s media analysis presentations reflects her diverse experience as a columnist, broadcaster, educator, political spokesperson, and media critic. Her practical knowledge and media experience are complemented by academic rigor (she has a master’s degree in Communications and has taught at the university level). Moreover, her research-informed analysis is leavened with a lively sense of humor that permits her to engage and entertain, as well as to educate. For more than ten years, she has used her voice to call attention to the power of the media and the influence of popular culture. Her columns, keynote lectures, workshops, and broadcast commentaries generate laughter, provoke debate, and receive rave reviews from students, educators, parents, and business people.

Made You Look: How Advertising Works and What You Should Know
At a time when advertisers have mastered the marketing strategies necessary to capture the “tweens,” and are now focusing their sales efforts on the “tinies” (a.k.a. two- to four-year-olds), media literacy skills in kids have never been more important. Made You Look is an interactive presentation that invites kids to explore the impact that advertising has on their lives. It recognizes and celebrates their inherent fascination with the media, while encouraging them to bring an informed perspective to all forms of promotional culture. In a lively and humorous exchange, participants are encouraged to identify the strategies that advertisers use to provoke insecurity, inspire desire, and separate them from the money in their wallets. Topics explored range from corporate branding, product placements, and infomercials to celebrity endorsements, special effects, and the “cool hunt.” Along the way, kids are taught to unpack the subtleties of ambiguous language and sophisticated imagery.
Presentation format: informal and interactive, slide supported
Maximum: 60(kids); unlimited (adults)
Recommended age group: 8-12; or adults
Length: 50 minutes

In Your Face: Tips for Surviving the Beauty Culture
From ancient myths and fairy tales to contemporary cartoons and reality TV, to social media and glossy magazines, messages about beauty ideals and their importance abound. Spiced with some historical and international examples, this session engages participants in exploring explicit and implicit appearance cues, questioning the disconnect between the media reality and their own, and considering what research tells us about how visual media shape perceptions – of ourselves and others. In the process, it invites youth to notice the impact of stereotypes and standards on those around them, and examine their own attitudes about what’s hot and not, why we care, and what we can do in response.
Presentation format: slide-supported dialogue

Maximum: 90 (teens), unlimited (adults)
Recommended age group: 12-15; or adults
Length: 30-90 minutes (can be tailored to group’s needs)

Reviews of Shari’s presentations:

“Shari’s keynote was brilliant. She provided context, substance and hope, all wrapped up in humour and punchy imagery. An absolutely perfect close to our conference, I’d give it an 8 out of 5.”
—Merryl Bear, Director, National Eating Disorder Information Centre

“Shari’s presentation at the Vancouver Public Salon was deeply human, engaging, iconoclastic, witty and so in touch with the issues of today.”
—Sam Sullivan, MLA, Former Mayor of Vancouver

“Enlightening discussion of controversial material presented in an engaging and humorous way-one of our best-attended events.”
—Vinetta Peek, Vice President, American Marketing Association (BC)

“The presentation was thoughtful, informative, and thought-provoking.”
—East York Vice Principals Association (ON)

“Shari’s illustrated talk was deeply engaging, meticulously researched, thorough, energetic, professional, and of urgency and importance to us.”
—Doug Biden, University College of the Fraser Valley (BC)

“Well-prepared, engaging speaker with relevant subject and visuals … enlightening and challenging.”
—Participants in B.C. Ministry of Social Services conference

“Shari Graydon gave the best lecture I have ever had in my entire university experience!”
—Fourth-year student in advertising course at the University of Ottawa