Stefan Richard, a member of Sagkeeng First Nation, has built his career in the media and entertainment industry, first as a professional wrestler, then a seasoned podcaster and now in radio broadcasting as the current morning show host for Now Country 104.7, a local Winnipeg radio station. He has also recently started work as the host of a TV series centered on learning different Indigenous cultures and languages. The series will air on APTN Lumi (APTN’s streaming service) later this summer.
I’ll never forget the first time I met Stefan. He was quiet and had a somewhat intimidating demeanour about him—I wondered if he was in the right place. You see, we met at a youth leadership conference over a decade ago; he was a youth delegate and I was the youth leadership program manager. The conference brought such a diverse group of young people together from all across Canada, youth who wanted to see positive change in the world and have a hand in creating that change through youth-led initiatives. Stefan was there for the same reason. When he smiled, the intimidation melted away, and I was surprised by his lighthearted temperament and sense of humour. He brought a unique perspective to the group as a First Nations youth from Winnipeg, and I am forever grateful that I had the opportunity to get to know him.
Fast forward 13+ years and our paths cross again, both of our lives looking much different now than they did when we first met. In my recent interview with Stefan, we reminisced about our younger days and talked about his time as a pro-wrestler and all the places he travelled to across Canada, the United States and Japan. What I learned was that, soon after I met Stefan, he began his struggle with addiction. A five-year struggle that nearly took his life. He’s been clean now for almost a decade, and although it was a challenging time in his life, he’s moved on. A father of two now, Stefan chooses to focus on the positives in his life and has set some lofty career goals.
So how does one go from being a pro-wrestler to broadcasting and then becoming a TV host? Well, it turns out Stefan was quite the showman and often played the villain role in his wrestling matches. He compared the appeal of pro-wrestling to that of watching a play or going to see a stand-up comedy show. “It’s a form of acting and entertainment with a little something for everyone,” he said. “There are ups and downs. There are tag-team matches, matches with dudes flying off the ropes, and then some are more care-free and comedic.” And like a good movie, almost every professional wrestling match has an antagonist and protagonist, and all the anticipated drama one could expect, especially when a championship belt is on the line.
“The one thing I was really good at with pro wrestling is the entertainment part, the talking and the interviews. Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold and The Rock are notorious for being good talkers. So I figured I could build on that in other areas of my life, because I knew I had that gift. I knew that there were certain fields that it would apply to really well—one of those being podcasting. So I started the Ever Sick podcast and I interviewed as many people as possible, like comedians, musicians, athletes, business people and sports executives.” Stefan interviewed everyone he could to see if he was cut out for broadcasting. It paid off because others started to notice his work, which led to hosting the Digital Drum podcast on APTN where he had the opportunity to interview artists from all over Turtle Island.
Over the years, Stefan has interviewed many incredible people, but the two most memorable thus far are 1975 Stanley Cup winner Reggie Leach of the Philadelphia Flyers and rapper Drezus. “We were in this little makeshift studio at like 10 a.m. on a Monday morning, and there’s a Stanley Cup winner just sitting in the same room with me and we’re just shootin’ the breeze. And I’m like, ‘What is even going on? How did this happen?’” Stefan’s interview with Drezus was a pivotal moment in his career. “We got super personal and really connected on a different level. We talked about growing up with single moms and not being connected to our culture, and just really deep stuff that caught a lot of people’s eyes and ears.”
A natural transition from podcasting turned out to be radio broadcasting. Stefan was recruited to work at Native
Communications Inc. (NCI) radio station as the afternoon radio show host, which eventually led him to his solo gig as the morning show host, for Now Country 104.7. Stefan’s path into media and broadcasting was certainly not a linear one—he never imagined he would be where he is today. When asked what advice he has for young people interested in getting into broadcasting, he shared, “The thing I say, especially to Indigenous youth who ask me about getting into media, is to do it! Because the time is right now for us to tell our own stories, instead of having our stories told for us. Our stories are often told from a damaged narrative, but they don’t have to be. Focus on the story, the people and the great things being done in community. There is power in telling your own story.”
One of Stefan’s proudest moments in his career is co-hosting the Manitoba Country Music Awards (MCMA) with musician Don Amero last November. “Historically, country music has not exactly been left-wing—the 2021 event was the first time there has ever been two Indigenous hosts hosting the awards together. Don wore a big Winnipeg Jets Jersey that had the number 215 on it, and my beadwork and my Every Child Matters bracelet. It was a very proud moment for me.”
So what’s next for Stefan? He plans to shoot for the stars, optimistic his experience as a radio personality, and a writer and host of the upcoming show on APTN Lumi will open more doors for him in media and television. At just 34 years old, he’s got a book deal in the pipeline and has a goal of one day being on the New York Times bestseller list. Stefan also looks forward to hosting more award shows. “I like to say the Manitoba Country Music Awards was my warm-up for the Oscars. So I’ve put that out in the universe and I’m hoping it comes true.”
“My journey has been very nonlinear. There was wrestling and then I had to overcome addiction and get my son back. Then I had to find something to fill the wrestling gap, and it ended up being podcasting and radio broadcasting,” said Stefan. “I’ve controlled none of it, but this is what I want to do. It’s all come naturally, like one after another, and that’s the only reason I say things like hosting the Oscars and being on the bestseller list. It’s because I feel like things have come so far that I can say something like that now and it has the potential to come true.”
After a seven-year hiatus, Stefan recently stepped in the ring for a special appearance in Fargo, North Dakota, but it wasn’t as easy as it once was. “It was okay. I’m in a little bit different shape now—a little bit heavier, a little bit
older. It was a big shock to the system, but I did it for fun.” Stefan’s not sure if he will hit the ropes one more time before hanging up his wrestling boots for good, but in the mean time we can catch him on APTN’s Face to Face and on APTN Lumi later this summer as he takes a fresh and lighthearted approach to learning Indigenous languages, interviewing Elders and Language Keepers, and helping people connect to their Indigenous cultures in Canada.
Danielle Vienneau, Editor-in-Chief with SAY Magazine, believes in the power of sharing stories to inspire greatness in others. To submit your story, email firstname.lastname@example.org.