Interview conducted by Chanèle McFarlane
Photography by Keidi Janz

Kat Stefankiewicz is most certainly a multi-talented woman, if we’ve ever seen one.  

You may recognize Kat as the in-game host for the Toronto Raptors but outside of that, she’s also an enthusiastic emcee, dancer, actor, choreographer, runner, yoga enthusiast, spin instructor and an adidas ambassador. As she so eloquently puts it, you always want to “be able to offer that little bit extra.”

That being said, looking at her extensive resume, you probably wouldn’t believe us if we told you she was once an introvert. However, one of the many things we admire most about Kat is how she used dance and sports to step out of her comfort zone, allowing her to discover her true purpose: bringing fun and entertainment to people’s lives and making a lasting impact.

Here’s Kat on breaking into the entertainment industry, the importance of taking leaps of faith and learning to prioritize me-time within her busy schedule:

Tell us about a time that life handed you lemons. Did you make lemonade? 

My road as a self-employed artist has many times handed me lemons. It's an unpredictable and sometimes unstable field. You wait for that once in a lifetime audition after weeks of silence or the extreme opposite of being overwhelmed by the workload you can't say no to because you have work! If you're confident that this is what is going to bring happiness to your life, you learn to turn the lows and obstacles into growth and gratitude. Lemonade is delicious!

I now view a quiet period in work as a sign that I need some time away from the madness, to regroup and refocus. A positive mindset is a miracle maker.

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After that first year, how did you scale your business and continue to grow?

Breaking into the competitive entertainment world isn't an easy task so I found myself opening my eyes a little wider than what was my ideal at first. Being a professional dancer was not something I dreamed of but I used my triple threat skills (graduate of the Music Theatre program at Sheridan College) to get a foot in the door.

My first notable gig was a member of the Raptors Dance Pak, standing as captain for three years. It allowed me to not only perform professionally with a high level of exposure but to make industry connections and practice my craft while I continued to rearrange and solidify my ambitions. I have always approached my journey with the mindset that there is always someone better than you. Harsh? Maybe. But the reality of the business is just that. This forced me to grow my skill set not only as a performer but to continue learning and be able to offer that little bit extra.

I have added production skills to my repertoire such as producing, script writing, shooting and editing which have landed me gigs. I have also grown my brand as an individual, using social media platforms to get my stories out to the world. This allowed me to transition into hosting and television which was a goal from day one.

The unpredictability of the business definitely calls for persistence and a constant hustle in one’s character. It was the ten year mark in my career journey where I could confidently start turning down gigs and be a little more picky in my attack. I saw this as a sign of success. Somedays I still can't believe that I have been working consistently as a self-employed artist for this long but time flies when you're where you are meant to be, habitually putting in the work and having fun at the same time.

How do you measure success in your career?

A big part of why I do what I do is the constant desire in my soul to leave a positive mark on the lives of others. It's honestly the emails and small notes from others about how something I created or the words I spoke resonated with them, leaving them in a better place. To me, this and being respected for what you contribute to the world is success.

"If you're confident that this is what is going to bring happiness to your life, you learn to turn the lows and obstacles into growth and gratitude. Lemonade is delicious!"   

How much of your success as an entrepreneur has come from taking risks versus playing it safe?

All of it! Again, the entertainment world unfortunately holds the stereotype of being one with a low success rate. When an opportunity lands in your lap, especially as a newbie to the network, I believe in saying yes and then figuring it out afterwards. Sometimes you only get that one chance.

My first gig on live television was one that I approached that way. I was handed a microphone for NBA TV Canada on the Raptors pregame show with little experience to support me. I remember watching hours of sports broadcasts and entertainment shows to conquer little details like delivery and even how to hold my hands! It was one of the scariest yet most rewarding 'yeses' in my life. If I said no, I wouldn't be here. I'm a big fan of taking that leap of faith. And if you 'fail' (I really don't like using that word!), it wasn't meant to be yours because something better is around the corner.

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You're 30 minutes away from walking into an important meeting. What do you do to get yourself in the right headspace?

For one, I am always early. It is something I have committed to in my days. If I'm late, I don't get to audition or live TV isn't waiting for me and my chance is over. So 30 minutes before, I am there.

I also like the silence before the storm to clear out any distractions, set my intentions and focus on the task at hand. I'm a big fan of breathing exercises to shake away any nerves and ground myself.

Also, maybe it's the cheerleader in me but a little "you are amazing!" self talk is a motivational winner. Remind yourself that just 'you' is enough.

Was there ever a moment that you questioned your decision to become an entrepreneur? How did you overcome it?

To be honest, I have never doubted that this is the path I should be on. But I did doubt how to get there. Having a clear vision of your passion points and purpose in the world are the ultimate start when putting the pieces of the puzzle together. Think about it everyday. Write about it everyday. Pretend you're already there. You'll be amazed at how the process starts to speed up on it's own.

What is the last investment you've made that has made your life better?

Investing in me-time! As a self-employed creator, unless you force yourself to stop the clock, you're basically working 24/7. Over the past couple of years, the importance of balance in my every-days has strengthened everything in my life.

Yes, my career is my passion but tapping into my other passions makes life so much more full; time with family and friends, my need for an active lifestyle (it's my therapy!), reading, cooking, photography, travel, etc. You can call it self care. I used to feel guilty when I wasn't on the constant hustle but as I grow, time for myself has really grounded me and brought clarity to my beliefs and values. Now I schedule it into my calendar.

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What do you love most about yourself?

I love my never-give-up attack on life. Putting thoughtful energy into growing confidence in what I bring to the world has watered the rest of my life with strength. I use mis-steps and what some may call failure as lessons learned with the mentality that it is all catering to something greater. The minute I fumble into a negative nook, I consciously notice it and flip it around. I challenge you to try it!

What is your best negotiation tip?

I think coming into a scenario with a strong vision of what you bring to the table is important in so many aspects. Be so sure of your assets that they're convinced you're Erin Brockovich. And put yourself into the other person’s shoes. What are they looking for? What do they see when they see you? What do you want them to see? What are you aligned with from that start? Also, egos suck. Create a neutral environment with the intention of bringing a positive outcome for both parties.

What is one thing you wish you knew before becoming your own boss?

The importance of balance and that the space just below perfection is just as satisfying. Also, if you don't know exactly what your 'ultimate' is, that is okay. As long as you're putting energy into growing your goals, the universe has your back. I never had a 'dream job', I just confirmed what my passions were, wrote them down and I continue to visit them everyday. I would never have been able to tell you that this would be my road through life. But I trusted that every step was leading me to a life of fulfillment which included leaving a positive impact on the lives of others. Share your journey through the highs and lows! It may make someone say, “because of you, I didn't give up.”


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