by Yasmine Shemesh
There is a scene in the second episode of Lido Pimienta’s new variety show, Lido TV, where Pimienta sits on a stoop with a group of young girls. The room is bathed in warm, colourful light. Pillows, adorned with whimsical faces (like the ones seen in Pimienta’s visual art practice) cascade down the sides of the stairs. The Colombian-born, Canadian-based artist sways from side-to-side, puts her arms around the children’s shoulders, and sings.
Girl, when you see another girl walking down the street, and your eyes meet, smile at her, she’s not your enemy, she is your sister, she is your sister.
“I hope that song becomes viral,” Pimienta tells Chatelaine. “Pre-COVID, I would go to universities and high schools and art galleries around North America, talking about my experience as a young artist. I would teach the song to people and we would sing it together. And that’s what I would leave them with.”
It’s a powerful moment in the CBC Gem series created, written, produced, and hosted by Pimienta. There are countless others. At first glance, the show looks like a children’s educational programme, but make no mistake: this is a show for grown ups. Each episode is centred around a theme, like colonialism, beauty or feminism. Some combine comedy sketches, performances, and documentary segments filmed on location in Colombia. Others have interviews and special appearances by Canadian artists that include Nelly Furtado, Shad and Bear Witness of The Halluci Nation. The sets are candy-coloured and welcoming, with a cast of puppets that help Pimienta insightfully explore the topics at hand.
Lido TV is smart, thoughtful, joyful and full of heart. There’s nothing quite like it. Of course, there’s nobody quite like Pimienta.
Pimienta, who is of Afro-Caribbean and Indigenous Wayuu descent, moved from Barranquilla to London, Ontario in 2005, when she was 19. A creative powerhouse and artistic visionary, she works across many mediums. Her 2017 album, La Papessa, won the Polaris Music Prize, 2020’s Miss Colombia was nominated for a Grammy, and, in 2021, Pimienta became the first woman of colour to compose a score for the New York City Ballet. She’s also an internationally exhibiting visual artist and holds a degree in art criticism and curation.
Lido TV is her first foray into television. And it’s the kind of show, Pimienta says, she would have loved to have had when she was growing up.
“The intention of the show, since the beginning of the process, was how good it would have been for us, as children, to have the adult version of ourselves help us out and tell us, ‘these are the tools that you’re going to need to survive in this very cruel world.’ That was carried through our episodes: we had the curiosity to investigate the themes and came up with answers—many answers, not just one answer—and did so in a way that is not patronizing.”
Everything, from the biting comedy to the vibrant aesthetic to the tender tone, is done with razor-sharp purpose. It was also important for Pimineta to underscore that, while the show touches on universal themes, she isn’t a mouthpiece: she’s speaking for herself.
“When you’re a racialized person, it doesn’t matter what you do; I could write a song about a flower and immediately that becomes the flower of the revolution,” Pimienta adds. “So I wanted to make it clear that I am coming from my own experience. I am not coming from a place of the high-moral-administrator-agent-police that is representative of all racialized people. Because I don’t want that responsibility and I hate that title when people push this narrative that I’m this activist and that I’m this martyr for my people. No. I am centring myself because it is my show. It is called Lido TV. I created it. I’m showing where I started and how I figured out what to do so I could survive, so I could cope. And I hope you take something from it. Nothing more, nothing less.”
In each episode, Pimienta shares something she has experienced herself in relation to the episode’s theme. In the “Feminism,” episode, for example, she recalls how, when she was a kid, she played in a soccer game and all the boys—her teammates—took their shirts off because it was so hot outside. Naturally, she did too. She was also hot. But everyone freaked out. The adults stopped the game, even though Pimienta’s team was winning. That was the day, she notes in the scene, when she learned that certain rules apply to little boys that don’t apply to little girls.
Today, Pimienta is well-known for her fabulous, maximalist style. Fashion is another voice for her, an expression of who she is. And on Lido TV, the role fashion plays—like everything Pimienta does—is deeply intentional. “In the context of the show, it was important to always have me as powerful,” she says. “Because it is so important to see a tiny brown woman being the main character. It is so important to have this tiny little brown woman, which is me, being over the top and taking as much space as possible. And because it feels good. It feels good to not be the victim. It feels good to not be the token. It feels good to be the leader. And it feels great to own your show.”