By Nicolle Hodges
Photography Alfonso Arnold
…JOY AND LAUGHTER get second billing when it comes to seriousness,” he says. “And really, maybe it should be the other way around.”
Todd Talbot isn’t one to frown. Whether it’s walking through a lavish home as a real-estate whiz and HGTV personality, bringing his effortless candor to the stage at the Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) and UBC Hospital Foundation’s ‘Time to Shine’ Gala, or filming inside the prize homes as part of the foundation’s Millionaire Lottery (of which he is the spokesman and public face), there is something that just seems to be working in his favour. Yet, there is a place far outside of these more luxurious surroundings that has given him a chance to realize how important his smile really is. That place is the hospital.
When the Millionaire Lottery began over two decades ago, it kickstarted the stuff of dreams: the chance to win a grand prize home or a cash prize (and not petty cash either, try a couple of million). Today, the essence of the lottery hasn’t changed—one day your life looks one way, and the next, you’re handed keys to a new one—albeit, the prizes are bigger and better than ever before. These are aspirational prizes; the kind of prizes that people dream about: houses and cars and boats and cash and–wait, what does this have to do with a hospital, and where’s Talbot?
He sees where the money raised through the Millionaire Lottery actually goes: buying life-saving equipment, and supporting specialized adult health care and research in Vancouver, at Vancouver General Hospital, UBC Hospital and GF Strong Rehab Centre. A hospital is a place that seems suspended in time, and it’s a place Talbot often visits at this time of year. Within those four walls, lives are saved, new ones are brought into the world, and it is the last place others will visit. Either way, rarely do you walk out the same as you walked in, and the time that passes between those two points can feel both endless and like a blip.
While filming for the VGH Hospital Foundation one afternoon, Talbot met a schoolteacher from Victoria. They got a chance to talk, laugh, and enjoy a moment of normalcy. It appeared to be (if observed from the outside) a seemingly mundane interaction that was actually quite profound, and it was profound simply because it happened. In a hospital, a moment lived is a moment alive. They have kept in touch ever since.
“For me, the opportunity to be in the hospital and put a smile on somebody’s face and come out of whatever situation they’re in, it’s a little like an escape,” he says.
Talbot takes a deep breath and reflects for a moment. “Not to be heavy-handed about it, but we do take our health for granted until that moment of time when we put our lives in the hands of doctors and nurses and staff and their equipment,” he says. “I haven’t really thought about the experience as being a benefit to me, but bringing a certain spirit to what I do, to have fun, to make people laugh, it does feel really good.”
Our lives in the present moment are an accumulation of all the decisions we’ve made along the way. Beyond being the spokesperson for the Millionaire Lottery, Talbot has been a theatre professional for twenty-plus years, has traveled throughout the U.S. and Canada performing as MC and speaking at home shows, corporate and charity events, and is the host of Love it or List It Vancouver, among other W network programs.
To see Talbot walk into a room is like watching a firefly released from a jar. His face is lit up and he readily holds eye contact, his smile is nearly impossible not to reciprocate, and his energy is—pardon the subtle hospital pun—infectious. With the plenitude of good energy, it’s easy to see his role as more impactful than merely walking through a home or hospital filming stories and standups. It is a lifetime of understanding human interaction, with a dash of showbiz.
“I think joy and laughter get second billing when it comes to seriousness,” he says. “And really, maybe it should be the other way around. That’s one of the elements I’ve tried to infuse in this role: bring personality first, instead of just pointing towards the prize.”
After all, it’s great to dream about winning the Millionaire Lottery, but to know that you’re helping to save lives even if you don’t—that’s the real magic. That’s worth smiling about.
For more information about the V GH and UBC Hospital Foundation Millionaire Lottery, visit millionairelottery.com
Make-Up Sarah Sadresfahani
Stylist Sarah D’Arcey
All Clothing Supplied by Emil Clothing Co.