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Adrienne Clarkson Biography, Career, Awards and Personal Life

Adrienne Clarkson Biography

Adrienne Louise Clarkson is a Hong Kong-born Canadian journalist and stateswoman who served as Governor General of Canada, the 26th since Canadian Confederation.He was Born in Hong Kong in 1939. She received her early education in the Ottawa public school system and later obtained an Honours B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from the University of Toronto. She also did post-graduate work at the Sorbonne in France, and became fluently bilingual.Clarkson’s ancestry lies with the Hakka and Taishanese people in Taishan, Guangdong, China. Her paternal grandfather immigrated in the late 19th century to Chiltern, Australia. There, he operated a general store called Willie Ah Poy Fruitier and Confectioner, Ah Poy being his name in the vocative, based on the Taishanese pronunciation, and what Australian immigration officials heard Poy enunciate in response to their request for his name.

Poy’s first son, William , was born in Victoria but was later sent back to Taishan, from where he made his way to Hong Kong. There, he worked with his father for the Canadian government and met and married Ethel Poy, with whom he had two children: Neville, born October 29, 1935, and Adrienne, born February 10, 1939. The elder went on to become a plastic surgeon in Toronto and married Vivienne Lee, who later became a Senator.

Adrienne Clarkson Career

In 1965, after being introduced by a college friend to the producers of Take 30— an afternoon variety show run by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC)— Clarkson was hired by the Crown corporation as a freelance book reviewer. This marked the start of her nearly 30-year career with the CBC, as, after less than a year in her initial position, Clarkson was promoted to co-host, thus becoming one of the first members of a visible minority to obtain a prominent position on Canadian television. She remained with Take Thirty for a decade, while also branching into print journalism by becoming a regular contributor to such publications as Maclean’s and Chatelaine. Similarly, Clarkson wrote and published her own romantic fiction novels: A Lover More Condoling in 1968, and Hunger Trace in 1970. Beyond these, her non-fiction book True to You in My Fashion: A Woman Talks to Men About Marriage— a collection of interviews with men on the subject of divorce— was published in 1971, during which time her first marriage had hit a hard patch.

In 1974, Clarkson began her own public affairs television show Adrienne at Large, though this was not particularly successful and lasted less than four months. The series did, however, allow her to travel extensively outside of Canada, as she recorded segments for the show in locations such as South Africa (where she interviewed Nadine Gordimer and Helen Suzman), and her native Hong Kong. With the cancellation of the show, the CBC created in 1975 the hard journalism programme The Fifth Estate as a means for meeting Canadian content requirements. Clarkson was brought on to co-host with Warner Troyer for the first season, but, due to persistent problems between the two, Troyer left the series, leaving Clarkson to host with Peter Reilly and Eric Malling thereafter. She focused on investigative journalism and gained prominence after an in-depth study of the McCain family’s business practices led a Senator to publicly accuse her of being un-naturalised.

After winning several ACTRA Awards, Clarkson ended her job with The Fifth Estate in 1983 and was subsequently appointed by the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, John Black Aird, on the advice of his Premier, William Davis, as the Agent General for Ontario in France, acting in this role as a cultural liaison between the province and the country, as well as promoting Ontario in several other European states. After five years at this post, she returned to private business, becoming president and publisher of McClelland and Stewart, at a time when the publisher was in financial difficulty. Clarkson was not only unsuccessful at improving the company’s fiscal problems, she was also highly unpopular with employees, and resigned herself after 18 months that saw several protest resignations; the imprint Adrienne Clarkson Books does, however, remain with McClelland and Stewart.

Clarkson opted to return to television, hosting through mid-1988 Adrienne Clarkson Summer Festival, which became popular enough to be picked up and repackaged as Adrienne Clarkson Presents, an arts show that was critically acclaimed, but which never received high ratings. After four years of hosting the show, Clarkson was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Canada for her long media career, which included hosting more than 3,500 television programmes, as well as assisting charitable organisations, such as the Kidney Foundation of Canada, Horizons of Canada, and International PEN. Further, as host and executive producer of Adrienne Clarkson Presents, she received numerous Gemini Award nominations— winning in 1993 for best host in a light information, variety, or performing arts programme or series— and was the 1995 recipient of the Donald Brittain Award, a special honour given every year for the best social/political documentary programme. In the same year, she also won a Gémeaux Award for Adrienne Clarkson Presents. Her precise diction and sometimes haughty demeanour did sometimes become the occasional subject of satire, however; most famously in the CBC Radio series Double Exposure, where co-creator Linda Cullen mimicked Clarkson with the line: “I’m Adrienne Clarkson, and you’re not”,derived from Chevy Chase’s early Saturday Night Live refrain.

Throughout the 1990s— during which time she also wrote and produced films, such as ‘The Lust In His Eye: Visions of James Wilson Morrice and Borduas and Me and Artemisia— there was much speculation that Clarkson would soon be given a high level appointment by the Queen-in-Council. This was finally realized in 1995 when Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and then Minister of Canadian Heritage Michel Dupuy advised Governor General Roméo LeBlanc to appoint Clarkson as chair of the board of the Canadian Museum of Civilization, and later, to the Canadian War Museum as well, all while she continued to host her show. It was during this time that the War Museum announced the decision to build the structure which now houses its collection, and which Clarkson opened as Governor General in May 2005.

Adrienne Clarkson Governor General

Clarkson was the first visible minority to be appointed governor general, and the second woman , the first Chinese Canadian, and the first without a military or political background. She was also the second person to have been appointed to the Order of Canada prior to nomination as governor general-designate, after Jules Léger. Clarkson brought with her a new approach to the governor generalcy, and dedicated much of her self-imposed mandate to drawing national attention to Northern Canada.

On 8 of October , 1999, Clarkson was sworn in as the 26th Governor General of Canada, and was soon actively participating in her role, becoming immediately instrumental in the final stages of the repatriation of Canada’s unknown soldier from France. Her eulogy read at the tomb’s dedication ceremony on May 28, 2000, was described by the Royal Canadian Legion as “powerful”, and led journalist John Fraser to state: “You have to go back pretty far to find anyone who stirred national emotions the way Clarkson did with her magnificent speech…” In the same vein, after a decade of inaction on the part of the Cabinet, Clarkson moved to have Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry honoured with the Commander-in-Chief’s Unit Commendation, on behalf of the Queen, beginning a long relationship between Clarkson and the regiment.

Adrienne Clarkson Photo

Adrienne Clarkson Photo

Adrienne Clarkson Award nominations

  1. 1992: Gemini Award: Best Host in a Light Information, Variety or Performing Arts Program or Series for Adrienne Clarkson Presents
  2. 1993: Gemini Award: Best Performing Arts Program for Adrienne Clarkson Presents – shared with Gordon Stewart
  3. 1994: Gemini Award: Donald Brittain Award for Best Social/Political Documentary Program for Adrienne Clarkson Presents
  4. 1994: Gemini Award: Best Host in a Lifestyle Information, Variety or Performing Arts Program or Series for Adrienne Clarkson Presents
  5. 1995: Gemini Award: Best Performing Arts Program for Adrienne Clarkson Presents
  6. 1998: Gemini Award: Best Performing Arts Program or Series, or Arts Documentary Program for Adrienne Clarkson Presents: Black and White to Colour: The Making of “The English Patient”
  7. 1998: Gemini Award: Best Performing Arts Program or Series, or Arts Documentary Program for Adrienne Clarkson Presents

Adrienne Clarkson Personal Life

Details will be updated soon…

Adrienne Clarkson Video


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