Career path?! What career path? There was no career path when we were growing up,” she says. “I was a whiz in math, so my teachers said I should go into business. So that’s what I did and I was going to be an accountant.” But life had other plans for Simeone. Her father died when she was 21. This family tragedy led Simeone to reflect on her life and her roots.
“My father always told me to hang on to my roots,” she recalls. “So I decided I wanted to clean up my Italian. I wanted to learn it perfectly, and this was something I was doing just for ME.” Simeone left for Benevento, Italy, to settle her father’s estate… and it became home for a while. “I fell in love with Italy, no question about it,” she says. With a conviction to master her mother tongue, she attended university in Naples. Two years later, after taking command of Dante’s language, Simeone decided it was time to come back home to study at Concordia University.
A new door opened wide the day she went for a coffee in Little Italy.
“Carole Gagliardi (Italian-Montreal news editor and director) overheard me speaking Italian flawlessly. She asked me to do a screen test,” Simeone recalls. She agreed, and Gagliardi asked her to start working as a host of TeleDomenica immediately. It was a job Simeone adored. “I was there every single Sunday for 6 years.” She was also quickly approached by the Board of Directors of the Italian Chamber of Commerce. Simeone became the youngest person, and the first woman ever, to be named Executive Director at the Chamber. “For me, it was not a job, but a dream come true to promote trade and business with Italy – the country of my roots – with the country that is my home!”
That dream job lasted 14 years, and during this time, journalists in the city were getting to know her too. “Every time something would happen in Italy, journalists would ask me to comment. And I always had something to say!”
In 1998, CJAD approached her to be a regular columnist on the discussion panel, Gang of 4. Her day job had her travelling on a regular basis, but she felt it was her duty to accept the offer. “I said yes because we, as a people, won’t exist until we are represented in the media,” Simeone says. “We – all immigrants – have something to say. We have been invisible for too long.”
After CJAD, Simeone worked at Global TV, on her own all-Italian-language show 7 Giorni. “With the exception of Pauline Marois, Jean Charest and Gerald Tremblay, all our guests spoke Italian – including newsmakers!”
She went on to do commentary on French television and radio for Radio-Canada. Simeone also had a political-commentary segment on CBC News Montreal, for which she won four awards. “I got into this business because I have something to say,” Simeone mentions. “I have a message – in Italian, in English, and in French – for all communities, and that’s why I want to be here.”
Simeone also says it’s about time there are more Italians in the Montreal media. She recalls, years ago, a hairdresser at a TV studio remarking that Simeone was the first brunette to sit in her chair. “We need examples. We can’t all sound the same. We can’t all sound like vanilla, because some of us sound like espresso coffee.”