Every ounce of adversity only drove the content creator further
Teddy Tong had never heard his parents cry like this.
“I’ve heard my mom cry, but not my dad,” he said.
Tong, like many other Asian-Canadians, faced adversity before breaking into the media industry. But, as that sob scene in his Toronto home a few years ago makes clear, even bigger obstacles often come from Asian-Canadians’ own parents. Tong succeeded when he began to trust himself, and move past his failures. But that didn’t happen overnight.
Teddy was raised in an immigrant household. His father comes from Vietnam, his mother from the Philippines. Growing up, his parents had lots of expectations for him, particularly around a career in the medical field.
“My dad said ‘Be a dentist, pharmacist, a doctor. And if you can’t do that, become a nurse.’”
Enter 2012, and Tong finds himself reading an acceptance letter for York University’s kinesiology program. This would take him one step closer to entering the medical field.
From kinesiology, Tong switched to nursing, as he felt his parents would be in favour of that decision. That was until he switched programs for the second time. Tong would switch to paramedics, so he could enter the medical field, while still being able to live out his youth thanks to the shorter length of the paramedic program.
In 2014, Tong experienced a turning point in his career path. His parents called him over to their room to talk. He saw both of them, sitting down and crying together.
“Teddy, you keep switching programs, you need to figure this out,” his parents said.
Tong’s father also suggested that if school didn’t work out, he could always join the military.
But behind the grit and grind of meeting his parents’ expectations hid another passion. A passion for comedy, acting, and entertainment.
Josh Skrupskas, a tattoo artist at Chronic Ink, shares a friendship with Tong since they met in 2017.
Skrupskas described Tong as a beacon of hope for younger people of colour who aspire to achieve a career in the sport media industry.
“The story of Teddy trying to find his passion in life, disappointing his parents, but understanding that he needed to focus on his happiness, I think that that story is super super powerful.” said Skrupskas.
“I think a lot of people get confused, and then they may take a route that they shouldn't have, because they were pushed by cultural differences or their parents' perspectives, and I think that’s what makes Teddy's story really inspiring.”
With his passions for comedy and entertainment, Tong began posting skits to his Instagram page. The content within the skits would range anywhere from general humour to skits surrounding his life as a Filipino Canadian.
Bleacher Report’s Cabbie Richards said that Instagram’s “Stories” feature was where he first discovered Tong’s skits. Tong’s authenticity and bubbly energy was what caught Richards’ attention.
“That's where he shows us so much of his personality,” said Richards. “Watching his skits, I saw a little bit of me in there.”
But Tong’s skits weren’t always met with positivity or praise.
With his phone in hand, filming a skit for his viewers, everything comes to a halt as his father enters his room. He knows that the skits are not in line with his father’s expectations of Tong entering the medical field.
“Are you even funny?” his father asked.
“What is this? You're Asian, you will never make it on TV.”
Fast forward to 2019, and Tong’s skits began to gain traction. His father’s words would prove wrong. Tong secured his place on the television screen with his new series with TSN, titled “Teddy Talks.” This would only serve as a taste of what was to come in Tong’s career.
It was the night of the ring ceremony for the Toronto Raptors. Raptors fans are screaming, chanting and shouting, celebrating the team’s first championship in franchise history at Scotiabank Arena’s “Jurassic Park” viewing area. On this evening in October, he was on a mission to interview fans as a part of his series with TSN. With every interview, he handed a fan a basketball and asked them to perform some dribble moves for the camera.
The fan takes the ball from Tong’s hand with no hesitation and attempts to dribble it. Travelling downwards towards the ground, the ball lands, but only bounces an inch off of the ground. The fan, realizing that the ball was deflated from the start, looks back up at Tong, who is too busy laughing at the prank that he had just successfully pulled off. Teddy shares a and a handshake with the fan, and moves on to another interview, in hopes of continuing this streak of laughs.
Aside from the laughs and giggles, representing his Asian background is something Tong says he wants to be an important part of his broadcasting career
Being an Asian-Canadian personality on television, Tong hopes to not only represent his roots, but to serve as an inspiration for the younger people of colour that aspire to make it in the sport media industry.
As for the Canadian broadcasting industry, it’s been known that there has been a shortage of racially diverse talents, especially those of Asian descent. In the 2008-2009 Report on Diversity in Broadcasting, the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) launched the Action Plan on Asian-Canadian Representation.
“Our plan centres on ways in which the private broadcasting industry can advance the representation of Asian-Canadians in news, information and local programming,” the report read.
Global News’ Tracy Tong, a prominent Asian figure in today’s broadcasting industry, connected with Teddy over the fact that the two share the same last name. She said that it’s important for one to represent their race and culture on the air, while taking pride in doing so.
“For us, Asians thrive in a space where it may historically, may have been dominated by people of another background,” she said.
“There are a lot more Asians now, in media and in journalism. And I think that's something to be proud of. Anytime you see people of a minority group break into a space or an industry that may be dominated by another ethnic background, I think that there's a lot of pride there.”
Despite his tremendous success and a platform that’s only gaining in popularity by the days, Tong says that he is still growing and improving his craft.
“If there’s anything I want to tell these kids who look up to me, it’s that like you, I’m still a work in progress,” he said. “I really sympathize with the pressures that they feel, and I’m showing them that this is where hard work takes you.”
Today, at 28 years old, Tong is one of the most recognizable faces in today’s sports media landscape. From appearing on new segments with TSN, to being on the receiving end of sponsorships and endorsements, such as a collaboration with Canadian clothing company Roots, while his platform has reached incredible heights, Tong is still continuing to do the very thing that jump started his career: his skits.
“The skits changed my life,” said Tong.
“Especially my first 20 or so. I don’t remember what they were all about, but I just loved making people laugh through my storytelling. And the crazy thing is, I feel like I’m still getting started.”