Virgin Radio Canada's Rachel Ettinger: Why I want to use my platform to support girls
Rachel Ettinger can be heard on Virgin Radio London in Canada every weekday morning. But she’s interested in more than just playing music and chatting with her co-host Jeff Kelly. She explains why she’s passionate about using her platform to make a difference...
I’ve been working as a morning-show host at Virgin Radio in London, Ontario, for four years now, but working in radio wasn’t my original plan. I did a biology and business degree, and thought I would end up in the field of science – maybe a veterinarian or something. But I got into Virgin Radio when I filled in for a host one summer, while I was at university. Just before I graduated, the host handed in her notice and I was offered the job. I literally graduated and started working in the position two days later – and when I look at everything that has evolved from that, I’m so grateful for the opportunity.
The demographic of the show is mostly women aged 20-35, but I know we have a lot of young girls listening, and boys too. I discovered I had this platform and there are some important things I want to talk about.
For me, the biggest thing is education. I try to be myself all the time, because that’s why people listen to our show. I think the key is to open up about all sorts of issues and chat about them, so that younger people can make informed decisions. That’s how I look at everything to do with health. As long as you’re talking about it and they can identify with it, even the younger girls can get it. They’ll think, ‘Oh yeah, that doesn’t seem right.’ But if we’re not talking about this stuff, then it’s just going over their heads.
I try to build up individuals to look at what makes them a good person – all of their skills and strengths. I’m trying to combat other pressures, such as Beyoncé’s Coachella diet or the Kardashians’ tea diet and educate girls about how dangerous those can be.
Here for her
About 18 months ago, I was really working hard on social media for my branding, and I realised that women’s health is something I want to talk about more. So I set up this side hustle called Here for Her, an Instagram account where we talk about inequality and health issues, and challenge norms. I have health professionals on there, such as doctors, physiotherapists and massage therapists, all talking about how you can take control of your health.
When Here for Her came along, I kept that and Virgin Radio very separate. It is strictly something I’m really into, partly for myself, because I’m learning about all this stuff, but also hopefully helping other people. But then my boss and I sat down, and she said: ‘How can we combine forces?’
Access for all
Last year, we teamed up with a local teacher, Matt Sereda, and the public school board to provide free menstrual products in all 26 Thames Valley district high schools. It was a real success, so Matt and I took the idea to the city council. As of April 2019, the City of London has been providing free menstrual products in all public municipal buildings, including community centres, arenas and libraries.
It’s about challenging the norm. Toilet paper is seen as a necessity, whereas menstrual products are seen as luxury items, which is hilarious – anyone who menstruates knows it’s not a luxury.
At our local food bank, the most common item they ask for is pads. That tells you everything you need to know. It’s a crisis – of poverty, but also, when you look at it on a bigger scale, it’s about equality.
If I didn’t have this morning-show position, I wouldn’t have done anything with Here for Her – it’s about having that voice. I’m in tune with what my platform can do for me and I work hard at seeing what else I can do to raise the bar.
I think that’s the key to anything you’re doing: knowing your platform, knowing who you’re speaking to and how you can keep pushing the envelope.