By Creeson Agecoutay and Tom Yun
TORONTO (CTV Network) — Ask anyone who knew actor, comedian and broadcaster Candy Palmater — when she entered a room, her one-of-a-kind fun and unique personality filled it.
That’s how Palmater’s loved ones and colleagues are remembering her after her partner, Denise Tompkins, announced that she had died on Saturday at the age of 53.
“Her smile could light up a room and no matter what kind of day I might have been having, as soon as I got to see my Candy, it was just instantly better,” said hairstylist Connor Lange, who became close friends with Palmater after she sat in his chair at the salon he was working at.
“Candy was amazing. The way that she just looked at life, every single day … she lived to the fullest while still being able to slow down and just enjoy all the little things that she loves so much,” Lange told CTV News.
Born in New Brunswick and raised by her Mi’kmaw father and white mother, Palmater went to Dalhousie Law School in Halifax and became the first Indigenous law student valedictorian.
She later left her career in law and went to work for the Nova Scotia Department of Education, focusing on the need for Mi’kmaw culture and teachings in the province, before finally becoming a comedian.
Current APTN CEO Monika Ille had been the manager responsible for programming in Eastern Canada at the network in 2009, when she received a VHS tape of Palmater performing stand-up. At the time, Palmater was pitching her own comedy variety show.
“I have to say that I fell in love with Candy as I saw her. She was so good, sharing her story. She was funny, bright. She looked good on camera,” said Ille.
Palmater’s pitch became the “The Candy Show,” which aired for five seasons on APTN.
“She had this drive. She had this passion. She had this larger-than-life personality and she wanted to make sure that people’s voices were heard, especially Indigenous people,” Ille said.
As her stardom grew, she hosted the “The Candy Palmater Show” on CBC Radio One and became a regular host on CTV’s The Social.
“When I think of Candy, she was … larger than life, eternally sunny, endless kindness, and always led with joy,” Melissa Grelo, co-host of The Social, told CTV News.
“Candy was a natural storyteller and would so flawlessly and easily share some of the most challenging things she’s ever experienced in life, and yet, be able to always see on the other side of things — the lessons that were learned and how it made her a stronger person.”
A true feminist trailblazer, Palmater changed perceptions of what it meant to be gay, to love one another and self-acceptance. Last year, she also worked with Vancouver-based filmmaker Shana Myra on “Well Rounded,” a documentary that tackles fatphobia.
“Her boldness and her voice, really, I think, lends courage to other people. And that was part of her stated comedy philosophy. She really wanted to use her humour for good,” Myara told CTV News.
According to social media, Palmater had been sick for months diagnosed with EGPA, a rare disease that causes the blood vessel inflammation.
Lange was with her during her final days in hospital. He said even then, she had that same bright spirit Canadians grew to love.
“Every single day, when I walked into that hospital room, she just greeted me with her huge smile,” Lange said.
“She was just beautiful, strong and fearless every single day and I think that’s something that we can really learn from her.”
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