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By Jason Keller

On a rain-soaked Wednesday afternoon, a buzzing crowd of aspiring fashion moguls, radio/TV junkies and curious celebrity hounds filled a lecture hall in the engineering building and awaited the arrival of one of Canada’s most revered media architects.

The man responsible for CityTV, MuchMusic and Bravo! was to address the School of Fashion with a lecture cryptically titled “Freelance Expectations in the Real World.” “We’re just waiting for Moses to enter the building,” assured our smiling host, MuchMusic alumnus and current Ryerson fashion instructor, Ziggy Lorenc.

In the meantime, the warm-up act came in the form of a 45-minute video of Znaimer’s (who once attended Ryerson for two weeks) storied beginning as a young Tajikistan refugee with little money, a few ideas and a truckload of chutzpah.

Once his chauffeured ride finally pulled up to the building’s entrance, Znaimer was escorted into the lecture hall by Lorenc, with two videographers. “Who’s going to ask the first question?” Znaimer asked softly, glancing at the intimidated audience.

Apparently there would be no lecture, as Znaimer skipped straight to the Q&A. Fortunately, cringe-inducing queries like “what do you eat for breakfast?” and “what do you think is hip?” were kept to a minimum. “New mediums are invented by people who didn’t go to school,” Znaimer said bluntly.

“I’m looking for people who have something to say, who are unconventional with unusual personalities. I’ve always given people like this a chance.”

Znaimer acknowledged he was proposing a conundrum. “How do you retain your originality and still acquire the process? The good news is there’s schools like this. But the bad news is there’s schools like this.”

Speaking with The Eyeopener after the lecture, Znaimer elaborated on how students can “do the dance” between learning proficiency in their fields while retaining the sense of innovation and uniqueness that will bring them closer to that enviable position at the corner Queen and John streets.

“I think it’s important that while you’re being taught something, keep aware of avoiding a certain fate. “Learn something that will set you apart,” he said. Looks like getting that coveted MuchMusic job could be tougher than discretely slipping your resume into Znaimer’s coat pocket. Despite his cold-hard reality checks, Moses Znaimer’s world remains undeniably seductive.

Going from kid buying his first TV set with bar mitzvah money, to heading up a television media empire, all the while retaining an aura of sophisticated coolness, Znaimer has created a larger than life persona, and he didn’t even need a hit song to get it.

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