On Point with Ginger…(and Fred)
By Brian McCullough
There is a popular YouTube clip from the 1936 RKO musical comedy Swing Time that speaks to Ginger Bertrand’s love of dance, her bubbly zest for life, and her total respect for girl power. It’s a high-energy dance number from the movie, starring Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, that shows the legendary hoofers cutting a rug in perfect step together.
“I’d love to have met her,” Bertrand says of her namesake. “She danced everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in high heels. That’s hard. I’d want to tell her, ‘You go girl!’”
The “backwards and in high heels” expression comes from a 1982 Frank and Ernest comic strip by Bob Thaves, as she knows, but the sentiment clearly resonates for this buoyant Keller House alum who used to dance competitively and still loves to go to the ballet. It’s no coincidence that there is also a Fred in her own life. He’s an adorable rescue beagle-boxer she adopted two years ago, and who for some reason seems to have his own Instagram account: @floppyfred. Woof!
For the past decade, the Toronto-based Bertrand has been making a name for herself as a go-to publicist in the Canadian food and entertainment industry. She was a key player in making Chopped Canada the highest rated series to ever premiere on Food Network Canada.
In 2015 she surprised a number of people by bidding farewell to a plum position with the Food Network to risk everything on launching her own PR agency—GAB Communications. Today, Bertrand and her small team of publicity and talent management specialists work their behind-the-scenes magic for valued clients such as Food Network’s Top Chef Canada, HGTV Star Mike Holmes and family, Order of Canada recipient Chef Jamie Kennedy, and one of Canada’s most reputable restaurant portfolios: King Street Food Company (Buca, Jamie’s Italian, Jacob’s Steakhouse, CXBO, La Banane)...to name a few. She says she’s never looked back.
“I was really excited about working for myself, and my family has been so supportive,” she said. “But everything’s a calculated risk. If you fail, you have to think of it as a learning opportunity and an opportunity to reset. I’m such a positive person that, whatever I do, I feel I won’t have any regrets.”
Bertrand said she’d always intended to work in the field of entertainment, and after graduating from Elmwood in 2002 went on to complete a BA in Film & Media Studies at Queen’s before entering the industry. She said it took her a while to figure out that the communications side of the house—the writing, the projects, the presentations—was probably a better fit for her than the production side, so she went back to school to earn a postgraduate certificate in Public Relations from Humber College.
“I’m so proud of what we do for all of our clients,” Bertrand said. “We approach everything as partners to give them a platform for their message. If they already have a platform, we see it as a golden opportunity to leverage this and create something totally new for them, especially in the digital space.”
Bertrand only attended Elmwood for her Grade 12 and OAC, but she made the most of these years by getting involved in rugby, robotics, Classics Club, theatre and her grad committee. At the end of Grade 12 she received the Judy and Margot Toller Memorial Award as the student who demonstrates the following characteristics: warm and caring, courteous and respectful, humourous, helps others, has a joy of life and determination, accepting of everyone, leadership and friendship. And to think she had resisted switching to Elmwood from her public high school after Grade 11.
“I did not want to go to an all-girls school at first, but it was probably the best decision my parents ever made. It was where I met my best friends—four girls I graduated with—who are more like family to me now. I had great teachers, and a great experience. Elmwood gave me strength to be confident in taking leadership roles because nobody ever said we couldn’t try something.”
Bertrand said that Elmwood’s strong work ethic and supportive team environment made it possible for her to follow a creative route to university and into a successful career in public relations afterward. With business now on the upswing for this hands-on media strategist, and with her team excited to be settled into some new office space, Ginger Bertrand reflects that opportunities are what you make of them, and that teamwork is everything.
“Look at every opportunity as a jumping-off point for growth,” she said. “Finding a team, finding a community, finding a good fit when you are going out into the workforce is so important. I really care about my team, and that’s something that rubbed off on me from Elmwood. Find something you really love, because you only live once. Try to get what you want out of life.”