In her 50 years in the industry, television pioneer Gloria Mizzi has interviewed hundreds of women from all walks of life. She talks about the talent she unearthed, the poverty that still exists, and how women need to believe in themselves.
As soon as I walk through the door of Gloria Mizzi’s spacious apartment in Sliema, she beams at me, commenting how glad she is that I am punctual. She is too, she notes, a vital asset for someone who has worked in the fast-paced world of media.
We agree to chat in Mizzi’s kitchen over tea, which immediately sets a more casual tone for our interview. Indeed although this is the first time I am meeting this television celebrity, I feel like we’ve known each other for years, and as she makes me a special brew from China we quickly find ourselves musing over our travels and favourite overseas spots.
Once we switch to interview mode, it is clear, and unsurprising, from the get-go that Mizzi is a deft hand at interviews, giving me detail when needed, and not getting bogged down by detail at other times.
There are few who are not familiar with Mizzi as she has been a household name across generations. I will never forget my grandmother commenting on how stylish and well-dressed she always was as we watched her on TV, probably some 25 years ago. Mizzi has made a name for herself, having pioneered magazine programmes, and setting a standard not easily matched to this day.
Mizzi came to the world of television through a momentous baptism of fire when another TV personality, Lino Spiteri told her to take on her own show despite her having no prior experience.
“I still remember wearing that Mary Quant dress with black and silver tights,” she reminisces of her first appearance, adding how she does not know how she “survived [her] first show”. We know the rest, and she never looked back since then.
Mizzi pioneered afternoon and morning programmes, having identified this lacuna in local TV airing time. She also introduced the programme Il-Mara tal-Lum on which she interviewed women from all walks of life.
“I believe everyone has an interesting story to tell,” she notes, recalling the various people she had interviewed, from a piano teacher, to doctors, engineers, a mathematician, women from different communities, lace-makers and embroiderers, and chefs, cookery being another popular topic she established.
“You realise what a lot of talented people there are out there,” she observes, adding how she enjoyed meeting so many interesting people.
Another programme of Mizzi’s – the award-winning Minn Taħt L-Ilsien – saw her interview separated women, battered wives, women who had been in prison, nuns and airhostesses.
My dream had always been to live in Sliema
“I work very well with women,” she comments.
A theme that emerges from our conversation is indeed women and empowerment. In Mizzi’s view, “Women don’t network – if they network they’ll take over.” She adds as her advice to women: “Believe in yourselves and you will achieve it. A woman will always do what she wants to do. She is very resourceful.”
One of the topics close to her heart is violence against women and Mizzi did a lot of voluntary work with a house in Valletta.
“There is a lot of poverty, and a lot of it is caused by drugs,” she laments.
Many associate Mizzi with cookery, both on television and in her publications, which she herself says she loves, and which is something she always turns back to.
Mizzi will never forget the adrenaline rush of recording live, a skill she mastered, most importantly in keeping calm no matter what. During one particular programme featuring a jeweller, he noticed a solitaire had gone missing. While the police conducted their search, Mizzi kept her cool, continuing her programme amidst the hunt. This story ended well with the missing diamond being found in between the folds of a chair some time later.
A staple indeed of Maltese culture, Mizzi was actually born in Libya, her father was from the Maltese community in Tripoli and her mother was Maltese. Having grown up in Tripoli without the luxury of being able to go out with her friends, Mizzi relished the social life of Sliema.
“My dream had always been to live in Sliema,” she muses.
Mizzi’s fondness for her hometown has seen her involved in the community. She got elected to the local council as vice mayor in the early 1990s. She recalls the difficulties this brought with it, being given hell following the announcement of a new car park in High Street. She admits that while she had many visions, few materialised.
“While the local councils are very good for the locality, I’m not sure how much power they really have,” she comments.
We cannot not talk about the huge development works currently under way in Sliema, of which Mizzi still has hopes.
“Hope springs eternal,” she says. “What I hope,” she stresses, “is that when people are building they should show regard to the neighbourhood. One cannot stop what is called ‘progress’ but the neighbourhood should be protected from abuse.”
She calls to mind one meeting involving her apartment block.
“The architect told us to close the windows due to noise and dust. That was very offensive,” she notes, underlining the complete disregard as far as noise and dust are concerned. Despite this very real problem, Mizzi finds the silver lining as it were, commenting that, “Sliema is beautiful. We have the sea.”
Mizzi looks back with great fondness over her 50-year successful career, but as of last year, she decided to thrown in the towel.
“I’ve done all I wanted to do and got a lot of satisfaction from it, but I don’t miss it,” she says.
Her retirement will allow her to dedicate more time to the most important things in her life: love and family. “I have two children, five grandchildren, and a great granddog,” she says proudly, and humorously.
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