Gemini Award for first-time nominee

By RON FANFAIR

Dr. Jordie Isen admits he did not know what to expect when he showed up at last week’s Gemini awards that honour the best in Canadian television.

Neither did his artistic daughter, Tajja, who was a first-time nominee.

“I have been to several of these things and I have seldom had a sense as to how the vote would go,” said Isen, who manages the talented actress, songwriter, pianist and vocalist.

The tension was relieved when 18-year-old Tajja Isen joined Colin Fox, Dwayne Hill, Bruce Hunter, Rick Miller and Adrian Truss as winners in the Best Individual or Ensemble Performance in an Animated Program or Series for their presentation in ‘Atomic Betty’.

“We were thrilled,” said Dr. Isen who instantly text messaged the good news to his Trinidad-born wife Karen (her father Ken Simon is a lecturer at Humber College’s business school) who was at home taking care of the couple’s four younger children.

The Canadian animated TV series follows the adventures of Betty – portrayed by Isen – who is a little girl with a big secret. She’s the sweet and brainy girl to her friends, but sheds her “humdrum persona” and becomes Atomic Betty, “Galactic Guardian” and “Defender of the Cosmos” when the galaxy beckons.

“It’s special when you are nominated for such a prestigious award,” said Isen who won the Young Artist award for Best Performance in a Voice-Over role in the cartoon that premiered in North America in August 2004. “But to win an award like this the first time you are nominated is something that’s really hard to explain. I was very surprised, but the cast is great and the show is wonderful.”

The Westmount Collegiate graduate, who also has a passion for Literature, is a first-year English student at the University of Toronto.

“I want to become a professor, but I will remain artistically active,” said Isen who was nominated for an ACTRA Award of Excellence in 2007.

Isen, who attended the last three Grammy awards in Los Angeles, is currently working on a 16-track album that she describes as “piano centred with a jazz element.” She’s writing the songs and providing piano and vocal accompaniment.

“I keep a notebook by the side of my bed and I will get an idea in the middle of the night and go to my book,” she said.

Isen has spent six weeks this year in England working with Paul “Six” Wickens, Paul McCartney’s musical director, and Jon Kelly, to produce the debut album.

“They are considered among the best in the business and that’s why we chose to do the production in London with first-class studio musicians,” said Dr. Isen, the president of Chiro-Ped Inc. which specializes in custom foot orthotics and biochemical assessment. “They believe in Tajja and are very supportive of her. They want her to have the best product.”

Five years ago, Isen played the role of Young Nala in the Toronto production of Disney’s The Lion King. She was the longest running Nala on the show, performing for 11 straight months and was nominated for the Equity Emerging Artist award.

Isen comes from an artistic family.

Her great-grandfather, Morris Isen, played the trumpet with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in the 1950s and her grandfather, Mel Isen, is a piano teacher.

In addition to helping his daughter shape her musical career, Dr. Isen has been involved in several charitable projects to benefit the Caribbean. In 2004, he helped Lluidas Vale Rehabilitation Foundation (Toronto chapter) ship 30,000 pairs of shoes obtained from the Markham-based The Orthotic Group to Jamaican communities devastated by Hurricane Ivan.

Two years ago, Dr. Isen assisted Guyana Christian Charities (Canada) in securing 600 pairs of orthopedic footwear that were distributed in underprivileged villages in Guyana.

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