He used charm, others’ personal tragedies and fake celebrity endorsements. How Christopher LaVoie cast his reality show and reeled in successful entrepreneurs, while also being the target of online hate.
The final episode of his series for the CBC in April ended with the story of a young Muslim woman from her high school who was expelled for wearing a hijab.
LaVoie is an aspiring television producer. A former soccer player, he has a high-profile career as an actor in Toronto, and had a long-standing ambition to get into the world of public broadcasting.
But, he says in a phone interview from Toronto, his life took off when he was selected by the CBC as one of about 20 artists in their Reality TV series for 2015.
He landed the show, “The Big Show,” in July 2015 and went away on a 10-day, $30,000-per-day production retreat, where he met and began dating a fellow artist, Shanna Leach, who is an activist and former co-host on “The Debaters.”
They were working on the show when Leach, who was also Muslim, was asked to leave her school in the fall of 2015 due to what a teacher said was a violation of religion.
Leach said she then moved closer to Toronto, where she reconnected with LaVoie and eventually moved in with him and his current girlfriend, Natasha, who is also Muslim, about a year ago.
They were working on the show when Leach, who was also Muslim, was asked to leave her school in the fall of 2015 due to what a teacher said was a violation of religion. (Kate Murray/CBC)
LaVoie and Leach were both born in the U.S. but had lived in Canada for many years before he came across them on social media.
He says Leach was kind, funny and “brilliant,” and they were able to develop a rapport.
“She’s a bright, smart, amazing, beautiful human being,” he says.
LaVoie, 31, says he hopes the show, which he says has a big “broadcast feel,” will do some good in the world