Kristin Kreuk has been voted Canada's most beautiful person in an online poll organized by ET Canada, Global TV's entertainment magazine. We live in an age of numerous and fragmented media; you are forgiven if your first reaction to this news is, "Who?"
Kreuk is a 32-year-old actress who got her start in the CBC teen drama Edgemont before graduating to the Superman spinoff Smallville, a U.S. series that was conveniently shot in her hometown of Vancouver. She currently plays the lead in the fantastical U.S. police drama Beauty and the Beast. In short, she is the kind of person known primarily to the kind of person who votes in online polls organized by ET Canada – although she probably reached a rather different demographic when she served on the Canada Reads 2015 panel on CBC Radio. (She was defending Kamal al-Solaylee's Intolerable, which lost out to Kim Thuy's Ru.)
She had better luck over on Global, where she beat out crooner Michael Bublé – you've heard of him – in the final round of a good-looks contest that lined up 32 men and 32 women for a series of elimination votes. According to the 852,000 who chose to click, Kreuk is more beautiful than actress Rachel McAdams, singer Celine Dion, comedian Seth Rogan and even Justin Bieber himself.
Of course, a vote like this is only a popularity contest to be won by fan campaigns on social media: "More like Canadian with the most dedicated fans" was how the unassuming Kreuk described her win on Twitter. Bublé, meanwhile, had been organizing a tongue-in-cheek social-media response, including a video of himself with his nose taped back like a snout.
How do you define beautiful, anyway? I mean, I'm a great admirer of Jay Baruchel as an actor, but I'm not sure I would have picked him as one of the 32 most pulchritudinous men in this country. Meanwhile, ET producers defined "person" as celebrity, preselecting actors, musicians, female models and male athletes as their candidates; your husband or that stunner who works in the local Loblaws need not apply.
But, more to the point, how do you define Canada? About half the names on that list are young Canadians famous for their roles in American film and television. Some of them, such as McAdams, worked prominently in Canada before they went to Hollywood, while others, such as Rogan and Ryan Gosling, have only ever had American careers and are now successful enough in Hollywood that I doubt many Canadians or any Americans would identify them as anything but American. Only a handful of actors on the list – Tatiana Maslany of Orphan Black; Adam Beach of Arctic Air; Travis Milne of Rookie Blue – are stars of current or recent Canadian TV shows.
While fans may continue to identify musicians as Canadian no matter how long they live on Lake Geneva (Shania Twain, eliminated in the second round of voting) or in Vegas (Celine, toast after the first round), the actors, continually called on to play Americans in American settings, will gradually be identified as such.
Some of these beautiful people may come to echo the full-throated patriotism of Donald Sutherland, heard this week loudly protesting the federal law that disenfranchises ex-pats. Others will quite naturally take dual citizenship and identify themselves with the place they work and pay taxes.
Hollywood is the centre of a global entertainment industry; it attracts talent from all quarters, and Canada has long provided a steady supply. You would hardly ask those with the talent or the good luck to forgo the opportunity to work there. But any place worth living produces its own culture, too, and the ET list is the challenge of the Canadian entertainment industries writ large: They lack their own celebrities with which to market their products.
Entertainment programs such as ET are part of the industry's marketing arm. If you doubt that, ask yourself why the list includes the stars of Vikings on History, Food Network chef Chuck Hughes and HGTV host Scott McGillivray, all personalities appearing on channels owned by Global's corporate parent, Shaw. And Hughes, McGillivray and their Canadian lifestyle programs notwithstanding, what the beautiful-people contest winds up marketing is mainly American TV and film.
It's a problem that has plagued Canadian screen industries for years: People often suggest we need more Canadian celebrities, as though celebrity were something you could bottle and decant as needed. Still, as the Canadian production industry has grown and even Hollywood has increasingly had to look beyond narrow national borders for co-producers who will share the costs of TV shows, a more integrated North American industry has emerged. That is producing more bi-national careers for people such as Missy Peregrym, now in Canada working on Global's Rookie Blue (which also airs on ABC in the United States) – but who was sadly eliminated in the first round.
Kreuk is certainly a convenient win for ET. In Canada, Beauty and the Beast airs on Showcase, another Shaw channel, and the actress currently lives where the show is shot – in Toronto. Standing in for New York, of course.