“I wanted to share the message that a full and happy life is still attainable after trauma, receiving life-altering news and serious diagnoses”
"As a wife of 19 years and mom of 6 children, I enjoy spending as much time as possible with my family. Currently, I homeschool my 3 youngest children. I love baking, singing, dancing, traveling and writing. My husband and I went back to college a few years ago and both obtained our degrees from the University of Houston. At the age of 40, I did a study-abroad in France, joined a sorority and graduated with Collegiate Honors from the University of Houston- Honors College. I have also had the opportunity to travel to 11 countries beginning at the age of 40, in the last 11 years which has been my dream since childhood.
At 47, I was initially diagnosed on 7/24/2015 with Stage 2 Rectal Cancer, where they found a fist-sized tumor in my sigmoid colon. In the midst of my cancer treatments which included chemotherapy and 33 radiation treatments, I almost died on 11/11/015 from a bowel perforation and obstruction. After waking up from emergency surgery and realizing how close I came to death, my priorities and ideas about life were enriched. I embraced my new colostomy which I affectionately call “Fred” while in the hospital. I chose to overcome my disability with positivity because I was grateful to simply be alive. Since then, Toodles my stoma, formerly known as Fredand I have experienced many ups and downs. I have been hospitalized multiple times due to serious blockages and post-treatment complications. Making it through all of my physical challenges, I remain grateful to God for each and every day I am granted.
As a recent ostomate and Rectal Cancer Survivor, my mission has been to raise awareness. I would like to share the message that joy, love, and a happy life are still attainable after trauma, receiving life-altering news and diagnoses. What I have gained from having a positive attitude is a fullness and empowerment for my life. Coming from a childhood of physical, sexual, verbal and mental abuse, being able to be transparent is healing on so many levels. After battling cancer and nearly losing my life during the course of treatment, I was able to fulfill my lifelong dream of becoming a published author, motivational speaker and traveled internationally to four countries post-cancer.
One of the powerful things which helped me to embrace my new normal was seeing pictures of other ostomates in bikinis and swimsuits on social media before I had my ostomy surgery. Because those brave men and women inspired me, I decided to unveil my colostomy in public while vacationing in Jamaica in 2017. It was one of the scariest and bravest things I have done. Seeing all the different reactions on the beach that day was surreal. Embracing life in the skin I am in was the true gift/lesson and decided from that day forward to rock “Toodles” with pride.
This empowering action led me to set up an Instagram page to showcase my ostomy through pole fitness and burlesque. Being able to share my journey with others has helped me to heal on so many levels.
Last fall, I was able to travel to Australia to model in both, a book project - “Underneath We are Women” by photographer, Amy Herrmann, and walk in Melbourne Fashion Week’s - Access to Fashion Runway show which featured models with disabilities. This year, I was photographed for the upcoming “The Skin I’m In” book by photographer, Ferrell E. Phelps highlighting the beauty of what makes us different. After recently being featured on Dove’s #showup project and reading so many beautiful and uplifting comments/dm’s, it has reaffirmed that my purpose to help uplift/empower others.
As a burlesque dancer, Toodles and I have been able to perform on numerous stages in Houston, Dallas, Oregon and Ohio. The moment the audience first sees my colostomy bag is always a special and vulnerable moment between myself and the crowd. After the shows, people come up and share their experiences of cancer and colostomies with me. Upon hearing of the tragic suicide of 9 year old, Seven Bridges who was bullied for his colostomy. I have made it my mission to keep showing up and showing my bag, so that no other ostomate feels alone or ashamed of a medical device which helps us to live. We all deserve to feel self-love and acceptance and it is a blessing to be an advocate for self-empowerment. It is amazing to think a frightening diagnosis of cancer has empowered me to keep growing and showing up for myself and others, especially my daughters."
Stay connected and follow along with Kimberly and her journey here: @cancerwarriorcolostomyqueen
“We believe that together we can share a smile to each and every person in need of it. Let's make the world a happier place!”
During our holidays in Sicily in the summer of 2017 we met a refugee. We gave him some money, from which he could buy food for one, maybe two days. A very short-term solution. But like millions of others living amid war and famine, this man needs much more than food for some days. This man comes from war, chaos and has very probably suffered the loss of loved ones. Despite the fact that more than half of the people living in war areas are exposed to multiple severe traumatic events, only one in four of them have access to psychological help.
Niels, wearing his new hat, was studying the basics of social entrepreneurship at that moment and Aishah works as a neuropsychologist. This is how we got our idea. Originally a hat offers physical protection: a straw hat offers protection against the harmful effects of the sun, a beanie offers warmth against the cold and so on. But what if something as simple as a hat could, besides offering physical protection, also offer mental protection? One hat serving two functions by use of the one for one principle: for each hat sold, one person in a crisis area is provided with psychological help.
With hatsup. we strive to sell awesome products throughout the year. For each product sold, hatsup. puts a smile on the face of the customer and a smile on the face of one person in mental distress.
"On August 25, 2011 my husband of 19 years came home and confessed of a 3-month affair with a staff member from the church we had been attending. SHOCK was a word that came to life in a very real way. Then, in almost rapid succession the full wheel of grief: anger, denial, loss, confusion and overwhelming sorrow. This was NOT happening, not to me, not our perfect life!! We were the couple that everyone asked "How do you do it? What's the secret to a good marriage?" How did infidelity worm its way into our lives?! My world imploded. My heart was shattered into a million tiny pieces. Would it ever feel whole again? Years of our history together seemed forever altered by the disillusionment of what I thought we were and who I was, really wasn't. Yet, this was the beginning of learning my true identity. And the beginning of understanding grace in its fullest form.
After breaking every wedding photo, chucking a carton of milk & a bottle of Tide at my husband and putting a hole in our wall, we went upstairs and did something normal; we folded laundry, then we went to bed. At 6am, after no sleep, I finally cried and looked up "what to do after an affair" on my phone. I had no roadmap for this type of crisis. My husband called our pastor who arrived immediately and began to develop a plan with us for healing. Some more secrets came out that we had both been hiding. He said, "divorce is an option but I really don't think that's God plan for you." I clung to those words. My understanding of grace was not well formed in my moment of deep grief. That would come though, through the long journey of surrender, gratitude and forgiveness.
We saw a counsellor a few days later. She was tough. We did the homework. My husband took full responsibility for his actions. I knew that it was his choice and not my fault for why the affair happened, yet the experience wasn’t lost on me either. I went to work to peel back the layers of my own behaviours in order to make changes in my life. Our children were told of the deceitful events. We felt it best to inform them as deception and secrets were no longer a lifestyle we held fast to. It was a stark discovery for them as well. Something they were not expecting at all. My husband was forthright, remorseful and very emotional as he explained what had happened. The next day we were all in family counselling together. This continued over the next year as we did sessions together and separately. I feel it really helped each of us to navigate our own emotions and healing during a tender time. It was instrumental in our recovery. My husband and I also attended a weekly recovery group program. Our plan to heal included many changes to our previous lifestyle like attending activities we used to do separately we now did together from work related events to errands. We didn’t drink alcohol separately. We cleared our schedules and spent time praying, listening to healing messages, taking walks, and having long, painful but deep intimate conversations about our past, fears, hopes, dreams, secrets, desires and what we needed from each other. Even though we had a great friendship, parented three lovely children together and had a good sex life - we really didn’t know each other deep down. There were a lot of things we were scared to feel and to talk about. We wore many masks in order to hide our secret shame. In all of the repair and healing, we chose to see the redemptive story of grace. We offered forgiveness and real love to each other even when it got brutally difficult. We made many intentional decisions to humble ourselves and put the other first. Hanging onto bitterness and resentment, although tempting and satisfying, did not serve me or our repair. It was a daily choice to choose forgiveness and to trust in those early months of recovery.
Our community of friends, family, work colleagues, and church supported us. Many people helped us through these very dark days and nights as we cried many tears. The beautiful thing was that we never felt judged - only loved. We surrounded ourselves with people who, like us, wanted our marriage to survive. This encouragement was our life support!
Nine months later, like a birth, my husband re-proposed on the beach in Florida on my birthday. He got down on one knee (very different than our first proposal which was more of an ultimatum after an argument) he took my hand, presented me with a new gold ring, looked me in the eye and said “I didn’t do this right the first time, I wasn’t the husband I should have been, but I love you more than anything and I want to marry you properly this time with a clean heart”. I said “yes”. We celebrated our 20th anniversary with a vow renewal in October that year with a hundred friends most of whom knew our story and had walked alongside us that past year. Hope bubbled up. A new marriage - built on truth, pure love and transparency!
We are different people now. We have done the hard work and are enjoying a vibrant marriage and life. If I said everything was totally amazing, I’d be lying. Infidelity leaves a mark that never goes away. There are still triggers and thoughts that can sideswipe me even on the best of days, but the decision is whether I choose to live there or not. I choose to accept that this devastating thing happened, but it won’t define me. It doesn’t get the last word, I do. And in believing that what was meant for evil God is now using for good, and for the saving of many lives (we share our story openly to give hope to those whose marriage resume is also marred by infidelity). We trust that if we didn’t have THAT we wouldn’t have THIS and THIS is so much better because we now live in the light! Life is good again. A new normal. My heart has been mended, but with cracks where the light of God can shine through so others can see hope from a very wounded place. Our marriage is stronger, yet vulnerable, in a very authentic wholehearted way. Leading with forgiveness and love is a daily choice."
On July 2nd, 2018 I was caught in the crossfire of two strangers while I was at a stop sign and had the shock of my life. After the shots stopped I saw my car window shot out, my driver door and passenger door ruined by bullets and my body full of blood. I knew blood was draining from my face and didn’t know why just yet but I knew I had to find help, quick!
I drove myself to look for help without really being sure of what exactly happened to me and after trying to find help at the nearest gas station that turned out to be close I ended up having to crawl on the side of the street and wave down for help to call 911. After being rushed to the hospital I finally woke up to my new reality. Half blind and an obvious change of appearance. I didn’t let it get me down. I still have my beautiful life to celebrate every single day. No one can condition me to believe that I’m unfortunate just because I look different because I know that what’s inside of me is more beautiful than any physical trait could ever be. I still smile every day because my looks have changed but who I am hasn’t and that’s what really matters in life. Now I strive each day to be a better person than I was before and ever since this incident I’ve been blessed and highly favored despite everything I lost. I still look in the mirror and I’m happy to have my life and be thankful for every aspect of it.
I felt the need to share my story because in the world of social media so many people see the facade people give and feel that they have to keep up and be perfect to fit in. That’s not true. I didn’t know how I’d be perceived when I finally opened up about my story but I wanted to share with the world everything that I’d gained from my incident and to let people know that life’s blessings are bigger than the trivial matters that we focus on. Once I started receiving feedback on how many people I helped I knew that I had to keep pushing and help as many people as I can. That is what has me working on many different ideas on how to help more people on different platforms. I plan to share my story as much as I can with the hopes to inspire people to be unapologetically them, every moment of their lives."
Follow along with Jessica's story here: @YamaguccEYE
"I have just fully recovered from a closed head trauma (traumatic brain injury (TBI)) I incurred in a freak accident at school in January 2018. My recovery was a long journey that began with double-vision (constant exotropia), chronic fatigue and an extended absence from school (about six months of 7th grade). During this time, I will tell you there were some days when I wasn't sure I would make it. Vision therapy took a lot out of me and after about 20 weeks, I was able to correct my issue, which was an amazing accomplishment. I think one of the greatest challenges I faced at this time was isolation from friends. My mom and dad watched me become lonely and afraid, but my inner spirit was always strong and that has remained one of my greatest assets.
In September 2018, I was strong enough to return to school for 8th grade but this was not without a lot of ups and downs. I would have a couple of amazingly great days and then hit a wall of fatigue where I would fall into a deep sleep for a day or so. Additionally, even though I would perform well when at school, keeping up academically was a challenge I repeatedly rose to, though it was a give and take when it came to fatigue. At some point my brain just needed to map everything I was up to! It was also during this time that I faced some unexpected judgement from my peers because I looked perfectly healthy! This, coupled with those intermittent battles of fatigue, resulted in a lot of absences from school, which only compounded my normal teenage middle school angst surrounding social conformity and acceptance.
This past February, after some urging from a family friend and mentor, I decided to compete in The Pride of Vista Lions Club, Miss Pride of Vista Scholarship Pageant. My parents thought this would be an activity that might help me regain some of my confidence. As I completed the pageant coursework and attended weekly rehearsals, I could see this was something that was really helping me conquer both old and new fears and definitely boosted my activity level into a higher gear. I felt brighter, radiating from my spirit and it was great to feel some of my “old” self emerge again. As part of my course work, I was required to design a personal platform that I would discuss with the panel of judges in a sit-down interview on the day of the pageant. As such, I developed a platform - Invisible Injuries - a concept born from my own injury. This became a cathartic process for me and in developing my talking points, I was finally able to really articulate how I felt throughout my recovery.
In April, much to my delight and surprise, I was crowned Teen Miss Pride of Vista, First Princess! Since then I have embraced my role as a public figure and volunteer representing Pride of Vista Lions Club but I would like to do more with my platform! Having just exited middle school, an environment where I faced incredible (and unique) scrutiny at times, I am fully aware, and believe, that teens my age do not appreciate that there are a great many hidden struggles that our peers are going through. I can tell you that I am extremely dedicated to finding an outlet to speak on this platform. I believe that developing a program to speak at middle schools would encourage this age group to empathize with each other, knowing that private struggles are indeed very real, even if they aren’t visible. I would like to be able to speak for those who do not have a voice because I feel that a little empathy can go a long way!
So, how can you help? I’m not sure! But I do believe that I have stumbled upon something that is a true need for this age group and I would love the opportunity to develop a broader platform to get the word out. Invisible Injuries and hidden struggles are as real as injuries with big scars! Kids my age suffer in silence (and that is fine because privacy is important), the point is that PTSD, anxiety, depression, traumatic brain injuries and more are very real and pre-teens need to develop the skills to show empathy and compassion for one another (instead of being so harsh and judgmental on each other), because as I once told my mom, “Middle school is hard enough, but throw a TBI into the mix along with a bunch of judgmental peers, and it’s another story entirely!”
Follow along with Abby's story here: @abbydaliot
Contribute to the welfare of artisan communities, generating regular and fair job opportunities; while promoting the conservation of millenary traditions through enduring goods.
The social motivation with which we grew led us to live and work together with artisans; on one hand, experimenting the social and cultural wealth of the indigenous people and on the other, the instability and isolation that they face in their everyday life.
Through social entrepreneurship we are looking for new alternatives to generate economic and social transformation, building on social justice and a business logic .
REDEFINING THE SENSE OF SUCCESS
Throughout these years, Someone Somewhere has gone from being a college project to a lighthouse iluminating the path up for many companies which are seeking to create both, economic and social value.
Its purpose is inspiring a new kind of enterprises that, based on talent, creativity, and an infinite dose of perseverance, are targeting the market at responding to social challenges by enhancing and professionalizing the work of mexican artisans.
With the aspiration to be one of the best companies for the world, and not just the best of the world, the efforts of this Mexican company are redefining the bond between fashion and the people behind its production. This is done in order to boost a wider, fair and humane textile industry. In addition, the company is part of the global community of the Certified B Corporations.
In the following pages, you will be able to appreciate how Someone Somewhere revalues the term "impact". This report is a celebration of the results achieved this year, but most importantly, it highlights the commitment to keep improving the positive social impact that emerges from the bond between hundreds of artisans and thousands of consumers.
Ramsés Gómez Molina
Executive Director Sistema B México
"I created Make Lemonade because I was craving an office that lived inside my imagination. During the time that I was freelancing, I found myself inspired by online communities that supported women doing cool sh*t and the beautiful coffee shops that I visited frequently. Tired of working at home alone or at cafes with unreliable wifi, I dreamt big and figured I could combine two of the elements that inspired me so much. Spending your days in an environment that makes you feel good is so important and at the end of the day, I wanted to have fun all the time! So, Make Lemonade is my full-time fun job that everyone is invited to enjoy!"
Check out more about Make Lemonade and visit their space! @makelemonadeco
Amaia Sage was born with Piebaldism. Piebaldism is the absence of cells called melanocytes in certain areas of the skin and hair. About 90% of people affected have a white section of hear near the front hairline. People with Piebaldism also have unpigmented patches of skin that appear symmetrical with spots or patches of pigmented skin within or around the boarders. Amaia was born with the white hair as well as the patches around her knees.
The day I birthed Amaia I posted a picture of the both of us and within secs it went viral. The picture was flooded with likes and comments and has been posted on many pages. People have reached out sharing their pictures and stories of themselves and family members and friends that have Piebaldism. Ive spoken to people in Jamaica, London, Africa, Brasil and all over America its incredible. I would say she was born an advocate. As she has grown so has her following. Month after month her pictures would continue to go viral so I decided to make her a personal IG just so the focus can be on her
I also pursued a modeling career for Amaia. It has been successful. Shes modeled for Primarydotcom, Nike, Gap, littlestarorganic, Walmart and has a commercial for Nickelodean. Shes also done a campaign for the AllWomxn project x Express. It highlighted her being an advocate. I love that she different and has been embraced by the industry. Its empowering. Amaia being a model has allowed her to reach a bigger audience. She is showing the world that its ok to be different its ok to be yourself. She is a brown girl with white hair and pink knees and is owning all of of it
The holiday season was approaching in 2011, when four sisters-in-law; Jessica, Caroline, Katy and Vanessa Mulroney, were seeking a way to give back to their community. They noticed that while there were many ways to donate toys and holiday gifts to children living in local shelters, there were no such gift drives for their mothers. They thought about how stressful and lonely the holidays must be for many of these women, and wanted to make the season just a little brighter.
The sisters sent around an email, calling upon their friends, family and acquaintances to make gifts for the women living at one family shelter in Toronto. They asked for Shoeboxes filled with special gifts like beauty products, warm hats and mitts, gift cards and chocolates - items that a woman living in poverty might not otherwise have access to. They nearly tripled their goal, loading up a truck with 400 Shoeboxes and delivering them to four local shelters. The support for their gift drive was so overwhelming that The Shoebox Project was officially born.
Since that initial holiday season, the charity has been growing at breakneck speed. The Shoebox Project is now a trusted national charity in Canada and the USA, with about 80 local volunteer-run chapters delivering Shoeboxes to women impacted by homelessness across North America. The Shoebox Project has delivered approximately 180,000 beautifully-decorated and thoughtfully-curated gifts, valued at about 9 million dollars, since its inception.
A gift from The Shoebox Project, provides a woman with both practical items and special treats that she may not otherwise purchase for herself, and includes a personal message of support or encouragement from someone in her very own community. It serves as a simple pick-me-up during a difficult season, and a priceless reminder for a woman that she is a valued member of society, that she remains worthy of nice things, and most importantly, that she is not alone.
Check out more from The Shoebox Project and learn how to further support them here: @shoeboxproject
"My mission statement and my message is something I’ve only just merged through my fortunate access to @officiallyquigley s course called @thesoulcialmedia - where she tutors you - with lots of humour as well as head and heart work- how to use social media in the most authentic way for you, to gain successful but REAL results by being your REAL self and basically where the soul comes into the notion of SOULcialmedia . I’m just starting off with this, as for quite some time I was caught up in the whole number game, comparison game, and literally letting MYSELF allow the gram to dictate my worth because my perception wasn’t as aligned with pursuing my passions and paving a creative career path out of those as much as it was fearing what people thought of me and what other people WANTED to see.
So anyway, after completion of the course - and probably about half way through it anyway as things begun to click and I really started to tap into myself and my own goals - I’ve discovered my three most down to earth niches to describe what I do are: self expression, creativity and body positivity. In all honesty, my account used to probably primarily be one where I shared my recovery journey from anorexia nervosa... and whilst I still share my story about the battleground I made out of my own brain and body back then, it’s not the be all and end all of my platform now because I’ve moved mountains mentally, physically and emotionally and metamorphosed in so many ways that it wouldn’t be showing the true me which I am to express. I’ve discovered a girl beyond the feud with food but also beyond blog and one I love to bring back to instagrams creative squares with my writing and pictures about life’s ventures.
I love drama and dance, fashion (although I say I faSHUN), photography, writing and reading real life stories and funny fantasies, music from mosh pits and festivalling to your bog standard singing in the shower and solo raves to banging tunes in my bedroom… My fave fashion by far is the boho vibe, and that’s for both attire and accessories. This past few years I’ve gone from what I would now call a “bin bag girl” look with an ongoing outfit of baggy black garms, to mixing in some much “gladder” glad rags so that I can redefine and reflect my mood, mentality and also just ME, who I am and what passion or project I’m currently paving my way through or brainstorming the beginning of. I love arty make up but also simple styles too. Bare faced beauty and real and raw talk to go with it is where I feel most at home though. Partially because the only cosmetic I have a clue about is skin care, even though I really want to learn more about make up… and then mostly because redefining and slaying societies body and beauty standards is where I like to raise the bar the most.
Taking random road trips and trekking through cities like London to see their spectacles will never become a bore for me. That links with my wanderlust for venturing, wandering and wondering, and for finding novel ideas and new things in either the named or nameless nooks and crannies. My timeless desire is to just travel. I want to possess a passion passport.
I live and love for fab vibed and veracious people, the ones who allow me to be person I am and allow me to share my spirit and the soul that leads the soles of my feet. I love being productive. I’m an all or nothing and a work hard play hard- which is sometimes quite hard haha. People call me a “human being being a human doing”, but I’m cool with that because I want to live out loud as well as laugh out loud. That leads me onto laughter. Laughter and hilarity literally heals me even when I’m already happy. Like that pleasure-pain of a sore stomach and aching cheeks when the hilarity is that high. Name anything that makes me laugh and it’s on my list of favourite things. If someone is funny or witty then their words sink in so much more. And because laughter is my favourite thing in the world, that basically means I don’t necessarily need a list of fave things as such, because if I just put the word laughter on the first line then it would be a one liner list leading to all the events and experiences which have hilarity in them for me. I should probably stop with the “sh••s and giggles” about anything and everything though, because I may land myself in some real shiz. I tend to nervously laugh when I’m in an awkward situation or feel ambiguous about how to act.
I also love learning. Be it the subject of psychology in my sixth form where I’m currently doing my a-levels, or performing on stage for theatre studies like I’ve just done for my end of year exams. But the best thing I’ve found is learning about the world and it’s ways, learning about other people's lives and the sonder we often fail to see. I love the perspective of placing myself in someone else’s shoes- velcroed with a different vision and strapped with my inner education on empathy due to the experiences I’ve been through myself. Ted Talks on YouTube is always go-to too, as I love seeing other people’s stories of successes, brick walls and breakthroughs, whilst simultaneously seeing how I can apply that to my own journey in this wacky life thing.
I both advocate for mental health awareness and also articulate it personally through the story of my own struggle with anorexia nervosa, which I fought alongside and against for seven years before finally kick butting its bony butt, braving a fair few leaps of faith over fear and finding the inner fire and the things I love about life (like I’ve said above)- as well as the idea of a future- to replace the feud with food. I not only want to show how amazing life can be, but also how much MORE amazing it can be by choosing to change, taking some chances and challenging yourself to crawl out of that comfort zone. I mean- in all honesty- my “comfort” zone wasn’t even exactly comfy. It was starving whilst spoon feeding myself fallacious thoughts about food phobias and body dysmorphic views in these floor length mirrors I hated on my “flawed” figure from head to toe in . It was that malnourished mindset and then the whole of the behavioural debacles that derives and develops with eating disorders- due to being at war with yourself and creating a battle ground out of every mental and physical floor you place your feet and thoughts on. But I don’t just hope to shed light on all the shiz about anorexia anymore. That’s so far behind me emotionally, mentally, physically- and I’d even say in some ways spiritually- that I want to channel my own change into changing the world. And that’s by revamping people's perspectives of their own world, the big wide world, their life, the lives of othersand themselves. Anorexia aside, it was my world I needed to work on. And letting in the world outside of my own in the home I’d made out of my head.
Of recent however, it’s been my dads battle with three different types of cancer- and his throat cancer being incurable and chemotherapy being dependent on whether or not it grows back- which has pushed me to the limit emotionally, mentally and sometimes even physiologically as the fear and panic pervades me and my perception. As you can see from my stories I’ve shared about him, he is my hero and I love him with all my head and heart and the thought of the canker or cancer finally taking him is something I’m struggling to face up to and fight the awful emotions about. I’ve got to be realistic but I don’t want it to be real. It was about a year ago that I decided instead of spending the entirety of my time creating such a negative space from the evil that Is cancer and only feeding into its contagiously poisonous and sickening state by reinforcing that it’s “bad”... that I was going to create something empoweringly positive from it that would not only inspire me but hopefully others. I began to pour my heart and soul into pen and paper or thumbs and fingernails on the phone screen... I began to share every little inkling of my imagination and insight that came to my head and had bounced up brainwards from the bottom of my heart about my dad and his fight, or the man he was before his poor head was banjaxed and baldened by the chemo and chaos that comes with cancer. I wanted to show him how much he means to me, how much he’s done for me and also show carevivors of cancer that they’re not alone. My dad is my world and I want to show the world that. He’s so proud of me for pursuing my passions and trying to pave a creative and unconventional career path out of these and I’m over the moon that I can make his story a part of that too. And not only that, but I’ve discovered the fine art of vulnerability. My vulnerable self is the most veracious version of me and I feel vulnerable sharing that vulnerability every single time- but it’s also helped me to volumise my voice and resonate with REAL people as their REAL selves. That’s some powerful shiz. It’s been a game changer.
So back to my main aim - I guess it’s to empower others through empowering myself. You know the saying “empowered women empower women.”? I want to change the women to PEOPLE. I believe in equality. And I want to empower people to express every element of themselves and not hold back from who they are no matter how much their own or other peoples perfectionism pervades their self perception. I want to change their “what iffing” to “why the hell nots?!”
I salute and champ creativity of any kind and believe every being and brand IS ONE OF A KIND... and that every person on this planet is a walking work of art in their very own unique way. Through my own story and the inspiration I’ve seen through the stories of others that I know or follow in their journalled journeys- whether that’s a book, a blog, a vlog or street performance… whatever their self expression is- I have this burning desire to show people that they can change and both chase and choose their whole selves and happiness. And, basically- although I know it will be by no means as basic as that- my aspiration is to do just that, that embracing and expression of self, through actually doing it continually myself.
So I have all of these passions and a mahoosive list more (but I won’t bore you any further with my gab gab gabbing) and this is what paints and paves the paths to the person I am right now and the one that I am constantly creating from the blank canvas I was born from."
Follow along with Gabi here: @gabu1ously
Randell is an Author, Community Leader, Spoken word artist / speaker, Arts Practitioner and Event Producer.
Randell is a celebrated spoken word artist, community leader and arts educator. As the Founder of R.I.S.E Edutainment (Reaching Intelligent Souls Everywhere) R.I.S.E provides youth with inclusive and safe platforms across the GTA to creatively express themselves through the performance arts. Throughout the years, Randell has produced nearly 400 events with R.I.S.E Edutainment. Through this work, R.I.S.E has received the Harmony Awards, Vital Ideas and Vital Youth awards from the Toronto Foundation and recently was awarded the Mayor’s Youth Arts Award by the Toronto Foundation.
In the last seven years, Randell has been recognized by CBC as Torontonian of the year in 2015, NOW Magazine’s May 2017 Local Hero, and The Black Canadians Awards Best Spoken Word Award winner in 2014. Randell has shared stages across North America including opening acts for Terry Crews, Paul Mooney, Kardinal Offishall and many more. He has curated shows at Daniels Spectrum, Harbourfront Centre, the Art Gallery of Ontario and Nuit Blanche in 2017 and 2018.
As an Arts Educator, Randell has worked with the Toronto Public Library and numerous school boards to empower young people to find their creative voice through poetry and creative writing. Through his workshops he also infuses the growth mindset to help youth overcome barriers related to academics and literature.
Randell is also a graduate of the MaRS Discovery Districts' Studio Y Fellowship program which focused on entrepreneurship and social impact. The program provided him with dynamic skills and resources to deepen his impact with the youth and communities I works in. Randell, also graduated from the Centre for Social Innovation’s Agents of change program and REMIX Project. He is an avid believer in turning life into a classroom.
Randell's story leading up to R.I.S.E Edutainment:
Randell in the News:
Randell on Social Media:
Milli is the owner of a baby carrier brand called Junior Foxes, but her major mission in life is to inspire a deep sense of self-love (sometimes through a little tough-love). A survivor of childhood trauma, and super-low self-worth, Milli personally knows the struggle of pulling yourself out of the dark. Through her baby carrier business and her own personal Instagram account, Milli aims to stir up passion in women to take back their sense of self and love on themselves big time!
A Doula by trade, Milli is dedicated to providing care and connection because that's what she feels will heal the world. Through getting back in touch with her own feminine strength, she found the flow to achieve her own personal and professional goals with more grace and ease. Milli is a firm believer in the magic and power of femininity to heal. You have to become the truest and best version of YOU, not what anyone has told you to be, or what the world thinks you should be. Sometimes, that takes a lot of letting go. It takes a lot of discovery. It's messy. It means dropping your perfectionist veil. These are all the steps Milli has gone through to get to where she is now.
Perfection is too hard and smooth, there is nothing to grab onto, real is much more inviting!
"My journey began around the age 10 years old. In my situation I feel like it has not been easy. I already felt alone at this age not because of my vitiligo. I came from a home that was not the best. It was a lot of fighting in both households. Plus, usually in black homes, you are raised to be strong and man up. This was the normal way of life in my eyes. Then, all in the same aspect, I was a little girl that had fantasies and dreams. I dreamed one day I was gonna be married with the picket fence on the hill with a dog and 3 beautiful children. Also I knew I was gonna be the next Naomi Campbell and Flo Jo. Boy I was in for a surprise.
I started playing baseball and my coach had vitiligo. Of course I did not know what it was but I felt sorry for him inside. Then the next thing I know I noticed I have a white line surrounding one of my finger tips. I did not say anything until it started going to my other fingers. Being a little kid I thought my vitiligo and his had a connection, was God punishing me? This left me questioning everything about God. Why would he want me to feel this hurt, pain, and loneliness inside. Why? My parents took me to the doctor just to be told that I had vitiligo. No explanation of why, I just knew that I would be turning white.
The only thing the doctor did was refer me a dermatologist in Indianapolis, In. At my first appointment, I was put inside a machine that looks like a tanning booth but instead of laying sideways, it was straight up and down. The medicine that he put on my skin was strong enough to take my fingernail polish right off. Inside the machine the doctor placed sunglasses on me to protect my eyes. Nothing ever changed with my skin, my eyes were just sensitive to light. My family never had a response or action to me having vitiligo. I believe they just saw me. If only they knew what my insides looked like; it felt like I was dying.
The next thing you know, I’m wearing dermablend makeup and black orchid lipstick. I never wanted to wear makeup, but this made me almost feel normal. I use to love going swimming with my family and friends until it was ruined at South Side Complex pool. I never went swimming again or showed my feet. In 6th grade when we had to swim, I went to my doctor to get an excuse. I told the doctor that the chlorine irritated my skin. He wrote me a doctors note that got me through junior high and high school. By this time I was cutting my arms but no one knew because I wore long sleeves. I would press the razor on my vein wanting to slice right through it. I am not gonna lie, it hurts cutting your skin.
I found it hard to concentrate in school. I was too focused on my makeup not rubbing off on my clothes, homework, books, or anyone else’s clothes. I finally got a boyfriend I am in 8th grade its my oldest son father Dominique. Now he treated me special, I knew he loved me and I loved him too. When I got pregnant with my son I was so happy. I would tell myself that my son is gonna love me for me unconditionally, he is mine. My sons father accepted me for me, even though at this time i was in my angry phase. The stares and looks people gave me changed me into a defensive person. Everyone would ask him why I was so mean. This vitiligo made me angry, and society made me feel like we do not belong. He loved me for me as well. He was first person to ever seen me without my makeup on my hands or face.
Vitiligo made accept things that I should not have, but I did.
My mission at first was finding out who I am. I was lost and did not know my worth. I started talking live about it long before I actually showed everyone, also about the things that have been done to me. I have never felt so scared and nervous. First of all, I did not know that people were watching me. So when I revealed myself the internet went crazy.
People started telling me how I inspired them and how their lives were changed for the better. I was so overwhelmed. I am just a girl from a small city. The feeling that it gave me to help other people set my soul on fire - I could not stop. I knew then that God made this my purpose. Also me being a part of a group called Fearfully and Wonderfully Community Group helped, located in Indianapolis, Indiana. I am vice president of the group, and president is Denise Crooms Blanks. Nothing better than being around someone that looks like you. My mission is to help others embrace the skin they are in whether it's vitiligo, lupus or whatever condition is holding them hostage. It is time to be free - you are not promised tomorrow. I knew I did not want to be that person wishing I would of opened up later on in life. My main focus was vitiligo until I started attending women empowerment groups and being apart of different health affairs - it opened my eyes even more. There still has to be a cure because everyone is not able to embrace it. I will keep my color the way it is because there is not any other emotion that I need to experience. I am finally happy now. What do I now? I do everything. Especially swimming again. The smile my children have on there face will last me a lifetime.
Since me coming out of my makeup and attending World Vitiligo Day in Washington D.C. and Detroit, it changed the game for me. I went there as caterpillar I came back a butterfly. Transformed in 6 months. I became unstoppable! God has Blessed me with being able to rock the runways from Paul Mitchell, Live Out Loud Charity, New York Fashion Week etc.. Now tell me dreams do not come true. I also walk for the American Foundation For Suicide Prevention, and am in a couple of magazines. The Enchanting Model Magazine (18 page spread), Pick Me Up Chat in the UK, Underneath We Are Women Book by Amy Herrmann. This heart that God placed on my face it to share it with the world."
Stay connected with Denise and her story here: @deniseislovingherself1st
"I wrote my first personal mission statement when I was 10.
I had just read Stephen Covey's "7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens" (typical kid stuff, right?) and I was fascinated by this introduction to personal leadership and generous relationships. I was hooked - and kept reading and seeking out more ways to learn about personal development.
After participating in and leading multiple student leadership conferences across Ontario, Canada in high school, I moved to Vancouver to go to business school. This is when my life started to take a turn. The more I looked inside at who I was and how I was showing up - I realized how inauthentic in my own relationships and friendships I was being. People knew "of" me, yet even my closest friends didn't know who I was.
Coming out as a gay man changed my life. It changed who I dated, where I went for a night out, what friends I confided in, who I voted for, and what my future looked like. And it was the most freeing experience. Having the courage to own who I was, weirds quirks and all, is something I continue to harness daily - especially in a world filled with people and communities that tell me I'm not good enough or I shouldn't be happy (but can be happy if I buy this or do that or be someone else).
After graduating I lived in Denmark to obtain my MBA and start my coaching program. Shortly after I finished and moved back to Vancouver, something felt incomplete for me. So I headed to Bali to complete my yoga teacher training. My time in Bali learning about spiritual development was the perfect balance to my time I had spent in spreadsheets learning about corporate development. Today I feel like a perfect corporate hippie - able to geek out on healing modalities and personal transformation in one breath, and geek out on marketing plans and financial models in the other.
This has come in incredibly helpful as I now run a human capital consulting collective alongside my sister. We recruit, develop, and inspire great leaders within amazing companies across North America. It feels like a total dream to do work I love, with my partner-in-crime, for leaders that are really committed to making a difference in the world. Our commitment to sweaty and healthy lifestyles, equitable systems, and bold goals shows up not only in our training programs and events, but also in the organizations we support. For example, for everyone who takes our online manager training, 10% goes to One Girl Can.
Now - my life is dedicated to creating liberating structures for more people to be fully expressed.
I am a board member for two companies I love: Mealshare and Next Gen Men; I am a yoga teacher and faculty member on the Sacred Fig yoga trainings; I self-published a book and created a deck of cards, The Inquest Deck, to generate deeper conversations with yourself about yourself; I am married to the man of my dreams and we are in the process of becoming dads; and I still look back at the mission statement I wrote when I was 10 to say thank you for this beautiful journey dedicated to personal transformation I am on."
Find more about Matt here:
Kimberly's feature was brought to us by Michael Sawbill, who wanted to celebrate and acknowledge Kimberly for her bravery and courage. We see you, Kimberly, thank you for all that you do!
You are my Heroes,
"As a staff member of the Metropolitan Riveters, I’m often the last person to leave the arena after our late weeknight practices. The second-to-last person, without failure, is always Kim Sass. When I asked Kim why she doesn’t rush out of the locker room like her teammates, she replied, “Because, this is my first and only time of the day that I have to slow down and chill out a bit.” Sass (as people in her hockey orbit unanimously call her) is a driven, dedicated, and passionate dual-career professional from the moment she wakes up, until the moment she goes to bed. That is why Kim is a Heroic Human to me.
Everyone is unique, but Sass is a brand of her own that no-one else could possibly pull off. She epitomizes her last name by staunchly defending her stances, goals, and actions in a witty and tactfully defiant way. Most recently, I witnessed Sass endure a painful lose-lose crossroad in life where she made the tough, but necessary choice to miss an NWHL playoff game in order to fulfill her commitments with her new architectural firm. As expected, this was an emotionally exhausting decision, especially because doing the right thing didn’t feel good at all. Instead of projecting her immediate emotions, Sass has diplomatically shared her experience with her audience to raise awareness of the plight of professional female athletes.
While her career worlds are dictated by contracts, coaches, and codes of conduct, Sass frequently challenges these stipulations to courageously advocate for herself and peers. To friends and fans alike, she is as genuinely authentic as it comes. However, when there is clearly a wrong to be righted or an opportunity for improvement, watch out. Sass will relentlessly pursue her goals with an inner-strength I can only strive to emulate.
All the while, between her professional pursuits, Kim’s mind is still vibrantly alive with blasts of creativity that seem to come out of nowhere. Whether it’s innovative ways to promote the NWHL or advocate for women’s rights, Sass surprises many with her stream of great ideas. Artistically, she has a knack for photography, crafts, and painting. Did I mention she successfully collaborates with her boyfriend in a joint art and woodworking venture? Yes, she does that too. I recommend you ask to see their wares!
Sass has a loyal and growing following of fans, young and old alike. To them, she’s approachable, comical, friendly, communicative, and welcoming. And that’s no façade. Away from the autograph line, Sass is all of that and so much more. I’ve also had difficult moments balancing two professional pursuits. Any moment that my drive or dedication has wavered, a quick conversation with Sass has inspired me to continue plugging away, and reminded me why supporting women’s athletics is a valiant effort. Nobody could go wrong by looking up to Kim Sass as a role model. If a young person chooses to follow in her footsteps with the same tenacity, they’ll have a good chance of becoming a Heroic Human some day too."
Stay connected with Kim here:
"I'm Katie Cheesman. I've had a love for the elderly for as long as I can remember. As I’ve worked with this special population throughout my nursing career and in caring for my grandparents, I’ve come to know how vital they are to our society.
While working with them, I’ve noticed how lonely they can be, and that all they really want is for someone to sit down and listen to them.
Too often, their stories go unheard or are forgotten.
I created The Listening Ear Project as a way to be a listening ear for this generation and to share their incredible stories that deserve to be heard.
My “why” behind this project boils down to the fact that I feel like I was born to do this work, like my calling in life is to advocate for this incredible generation. I want them to know that they matter, that they have a voice, and that their words are valuable.
Often times we label seniors as just “old.” We fail to see that they have LIVED LIVES. Full, rich lives just like you and I! They were a young bride, a struggling father, an influence for good in the world... and yet, in our culture they somehow lose their value with age. My goal is to share their wisdom and advice, because we have so much to learn from them.
An additional hope of mine is that through my work I can help others not only see the worth of the people I interview, but to help them understand that they have that same worth. I want to inspire, uplift, and encourage others to serve those around them so that we can create stronger relationships, families, and communities."
Check out the beautiful stories Katie has captured and follow along with The Listening Ear Project here: @thelisteningearproject
"My entire journey as a new immigrant to Canada in 2003 has been about finding a place to belong, dealing with microaggressions and learning how to thrive, lead at work and in my community as a Black Immigrant woman who didn't have any community or support and who didn't feel like she belonged.
I got interested in my field because I would like to let women who are underrepresented, Immigrant, Women of Color and other women know that they can bridge their own personal leadership gap and realize their full potential and contribute to their community and the world by leveraging the power of mentorship, community & sisterhood.
Most importantly I want women to know that the dreams they are worthy of the dreams and desires they have right now.
Because of my mentors, self-leadership, through resilience, perseverance and sheer determination, I activated my inner warrior and have since then through SisterTalk we have mentored over 1000 women and can share the "Elephant" encountered in their unique leadership & life experiences. Our organisation is called SisterTalk.
Through SisterTalk we provide mentorship, wellness initiatives, design leadership experiences and create safe spaces that eduspire (educate & inspire) , motivate & support the leadership development, address the Elephant In The Room in order to amplify the stories & voices of diverse women of color in the Corporate & STEAM industry."
I was born with a birthmark called a venous malformation on my upper lip and right cheek, which I have had around 20 operations on to reduce the size of it.
Growing up I had to endure a great deal of prejudice and mental abuse which by the time I had reached my teenage years had completely shattered my confidence. I was very shy and I felt like I was living a never ending nightmare.
People told me that I was ugly.
People told me that they would kill themselves if they looked like me.
People told me that I would never achieve certain things in life, and because my confidence was so low I started to believe them.
I have now achieved everything and more that people told me that I wouldn’t, and I continue to achieve more things that a lot of people don’t think that people who look “different” would be able to do or would have the confidence to do.
With strength and positivity I have completely overcome the adversity that I faced in the past, and I want to show everyone that you can get through any low points that you might experience in your lifetime and you can achieve ANYTHING that you set your mind to.
At one point I thought that I was always going to be unhappy and shy, but here I am now happier and more confident than I ever thought I would be.
I first became inspired to help others in 2016 when I realised that documenting the experiences I endured when I was younger could raise awareness of the prejudice that some people have to face and that it could help to uplift and inspire other people.
In February 2016 I put a post on Facebook outlining some of the experiences that I went through when I was younger and the post also contained a collage of how my birthmark developed over the years before I had it mostly removed.
The overwhelmingly positive response that the aforementioned post got really helped my confidence and it showed me that there are lots of people out there struggling with similar things as I did growing up and that my story inspires many people, so ever since then I’ve continued to document my experiences and spread the message that you should never judge a book by its cover.
Regardless of what someone looks like, what their race is, what their sexuality is etc - nobody should ever be subjected to any sort of prejudice or abuse.
Diversity is a beautiful thing which should be accepted and celebrated, and I will continue to do my best to strive for more diversity, inclusion and equality in the world."
Stay connected with Rory and follow his journey here: @vmrory1993
"My mission is to help women learn how to love themselves RIGHT NOW. Not when they lose the weight, or when they find their partner, or when they get the promotion. RIGHT. FREAKING. NOW. After a decade motivating people in the fitness space (which I still do!), I would constantly observe women reaching massive weight change goals, and yet - they’d still somehow be critical and unhappy with themselves even after such mass change. I knew there was something missing, and realized it had a lot to do with how “fit” their mindset muscles were, not how fit their bodies were. There was a missing link.
Our society is far too focused on how our bodies look. It has always been this way. There’s always an “ideal” body type that’s perpetuated everywhere we look, and if we don’t think we fit that mould, we tell ourselves a story about our worthiness. I seek to change that with every woman I work with. Getting a Fit Mindset is just as important as getting a fit body. (In fact, it’s probably MORE important!)
Women inspire me. You, reading this right now, YOU INSPIRE ME. Our bodies are such beautiful, unique vessels, but we send them so much negative energy when we constantly tell ourselves we aren’t good enough because we desire change on the outside.
And it’s okay to desire change, but my mission is this:
Inspire women to EMBRACE the person they are now (including their body), and make plans to EVOLVE themselves in whatever way they want, to build an even stronger future self.
We have things backwards. We expect that during the evolution, we’ll learn how to embrace later. After. (If I lose the weight, THEN I’ll be happy with myself.) Instead, we need to embrace the person we are, and then evolve into whatever we want to be. From a place of love. (I love myself exactly as I am right now, and I know that movement is fuel. I choose to practice movement because I love myself.)
I love inspiring women to see how f*cking fantastic they are.
To lean into their uniqueness and to not allow their worth and value to rest on their external appearance.
To set goals and make changes from a place of love, instead of hate.
To find their own version of living MOMFIDENT AF, and being unapologetic about it.
Confidence is a skill. It can be built with time and consistency.
All it takes is a little focus (...and maybe a few nudges from a loving coach!)"
To follow along on Courtney's inspiring journey, follow her here: @momfidentaf
Brooke Van Ryssel is a Certified Group and Personal Trainer and Registered Holistic Nutritionist. She is also the owner/founder of My Body Fitness + Nutrition, Winnipeg’s first Body Inclusive fitness and nutrition company. Having worked in the health and fitness industry for several years Brooke knew that when starting My Body that things had to be different. She created My Body to bring body Inclusivity to the health and fitness world in her city, a place it has been either absent or just unwelcome for far too long. In October 2018 Brooke opened the commercial location of My Body a Body Positive/Inclusive group fitness gym and community space! This location features 30 minute group fitness classes 6 days a week, Body Inclusive Yoga 2 days a week, as well as a holistic nutritional consulting office accessible to all fitness levels and ALL BODIES! We are Body Positive, Fat Positive, diet culture free, advocates for mental health, feminist, anti-racism, anti-ableism, and allies of the LGBTQIA2S+ community.
Unlike the traditional gym model, My Body’s focus is not on aesthetics but rather how you feel and what you are capable of, because there are so many other reasons to move and nourish your body that have nothing to do with it's appearance.
My Body is an intentionally safe space for ALL humans to sweat, laugh, and learn together in a truly judgement free zone, all because they love their bodies.
Brooke is committed to making real change in and outside of the industry with My Body, celebrating diversity through inclusion and actively working to help as many people as possible to accept and love their bodies.
My Body House Rules:
1) All Bodies Are Welcome
2) Zero Tolerance Policy for Body Shaming or Bullying of any kind.
3) Smash Beauty Standards
4) Crush Diet Culture
5) Lift Each Other Up
What empowered you to open this physical space?
"I wanted to create a safe space. The most common feedback I get from those who come workout at My Body is “This is the first time I have ever felt comfortable / confident / safe / welcome / accepted, in a gym environment”.
That is why I created this space, for those who want to experience joyful supportive movement without a focus on aesthetics, without fatphobia, without diet culture! Where the workouts are accommodated to support and challenge each individual who walks in the door, understanding that modification is NOT weakness, it is accessibility. Where everyone is moving their bodies in a way that is appropriate for them, sweating, laughing and growing together in a strong community that supports them endlessly. Working out Because We Love Our Bodies, rather than using exercise as a form of punishment.
Simply put, I thought that it was about damn time to subvert the norm of the group fitness gym/gym environment in general from the typical concept that focuses on what you look like as the highest priority and excludes SO many people based on them not fitting that picture/ideal. Creating a safe space for all human beings to experience joyful movement and inclusion!"
What conversations are you trying to change surrounding body image?
"In my industry there’s always conversations around basing someone’s health solely on what they look like. I am trying to change the conversation and provide education so that everyone can one day know that “Fit” is not a body type. You can not determine someone’s “health” based on what they look like, and also even classifying people’s worth based on what they look like or their perceived health is fatphobic and ableist.
We are so much more than our bodies! You are not worthy because of your body but regardless of it...We are worthy simply because we exist. I tend to push Body Acceptance and Neutrality for this reason. If you’ve spent years hating the way your body looks bad one day someone just says “hey you should just love it. The beauty standards are garbage and we’re made to profit off insecurity. So just love your body as it's sentiment is wonderful but I don’t believe that you have to love the way your body looks in order it accept and respect it. I always tell people to start with acceptance and focusing on what you and your body can do rather than what it looks like. Our bodies are basically just the skin bags we walk around in..."
To follow along on Brooke's journey with My Body Fitness + Nutrition, click here: @mybodywpg
This feature was brought to us anonymously. Thank you to those who continue to bring inspiring, empowering and trailblazing humans to our community. We see you, and want to celebrate you!
You are my Heroes,
"Natasha Negovanlis is a Canadian actress, who is most known for playing the titular character in the little web series that could, Carmilla. But besides being a talented actress, she’s also one of the most kind-hearted, humble, and empathetic human beings I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. She, alongside co-creator and co-star Annie Briggs, shared their YouTube series Clairevoyant with the world last year. It’s about best friends and roommates, Claire and Ruby, who finds themselves in a financial pickle when they’re late to pay their rent. And they decide to pose as online psychics to make some quick cash, then realize Claire actually has psychic abilities and things get weird. Think like a Canadian Broad City with a supernatural twist - an absurdist comedy with a lot of heart and positive representation.
Natasha continuously uses her platform and voice to raise awareness about mental health and starting conversations to help end the stigma around it. She’s a wonderful advocate of Bell Let’s Talk, and is very approachable talking about her own mental health and what works for her. She doesn’t shy away from speaking about what moves and matters to her, but also engaging to see how she can help herself and be more accessible for others as well. Her openness about her own mental health has helped many find their voice and speak up about their own, and find the courage to reach out and ask for help. And she isn’t afraid to speak up for the voices who have been marginalized, and is constantly trying to educate herself and learn from those around her. She’s also an incredible advocate and member of the LGBTQIA+ community, and is doing what she can to help create more positive representation and content for the queer community.
In 2017, she won ‘Fan’s Choice’ at the CSAs and used her speech to acknowledge positive representation in the media. “It has been an honour and a priviledge to provide more positive onscreen representation for the queer community. For MY community.” She frequently volunteers with, and supports, various LGBTQ+ and mental health organizations. She has worked with The Centre of Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto for years, teaching improv classes to people who struggle with depression and anxiety. She believes that laughter truly is the best medicine.
She also used to volunteer as a foster mom at Save Our Scruff, which where she found her furever friend. A scrappy little mutt named Charlie. And when she can, she creates care packages for the local homeless people and their dogs, if they have one. She is the kind of person who champions the people around her, and lifts others up. And is genuinely happy to see others succeed. Sometimes I feel like there’s no one who wants to see you win more than her. There’s also no one I feel who really just connects and can draw you in like Natasha. Which I think is her empathic nature and big heart. She just has this warmth about her that I find difficult to explain. And her humour is as big as her heart. She’s beautiful inside and out, and truly one of the good ones. She is an ally, advocate, and activist whose work on and off screen shows how much of a humanitarian and heroic human she is and why she is one you should keep your eye on.
Natasha is always lifting everyone else up, so I want to celebrate her and give her some recognition for all the good she does. I think she’s one of those people who never feels like they’re doing enough, so hopefully it will be a reminder that she’s already doing more than enough."
Follow along with Natasha's inspiring journey: @natvanlis
Photo Credit: Katherine Kwan
Bell Centre with Marie-Mai. Photo Credit: Patrick Beaudry
Photo Credit: @shelley.thompson.2017
Photo Credit: @thelaunchctv, @bigmachinecanada, @bigmachinelabelgroup
"My name is T. Thomason. I'm a singer/songwriter originally from Nova Scotia, but I've been living between Halifax and Toronto since 2012. I've been singing since I could talk, making up songs forever, and writing them down since I could write. After a couple glasses of wine over dinner, you could likely get a story out of my parents about me being sent to my room as a 4 year old, and them sitting outside my door, trying not to laugh as they listened to me forlornly make up a song about being sad, cause I was bad, and now mom is mad.
I grew up in an artistic family - my mom, Shelley Thompson, and my dad, Ed Thomason, are actors/writers/directors for film and theatre, as well as sometimes radio producers, theatre company artistic directors, and guest workshop teachers at high schools. This family has always been hustling.
I was encouraged to love music from the start. At our house, Bob Dylan was God. I spent a lot of road trips in the backseat of the car listening to Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Carole King, and Garth Brooks and getting lost in their lyrics to pass the time. My parents would explain the songs to me: what they meant, who the characters were - we'd break them down at great length. Powerful songwriting was always about poetry and telling stories. I also learned early on that songwriting could be powerful enough to spark change, or at least conversations, and give a voice to those who are often ignored. Over the years, I have come to learn of and love many better examples of this, but my first favourite Dylan song is where this seed was planted in my bb brain.
Hurricane is the true story of Rubin Carter, a boxer who was wrongfully convicted of murder in the 60s and 70s by a racist police force, judge, and jury. Hurricane plays out like a movie and indeed, it's long enough (8:33) to be a short film. I'll never get enough of how masterfully the story of the song is constructed - jumping from one character to another through the verses, but never losing the listener, and always hammering home in the chorus: "Put in a prison cell, but one day he [Carter] coulda been the champion of the world".
Beyond listening to a lot of incredible singer/songwriters, I was also in the back seat of the car bopping to pop and rock icons like the Backstreet Boys, NSYNC, Avril Lavigne, Green Day, and movie soundtracks like Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, Freaky Friday, Josie and the Pussycats, and Shrek. I've always been a huge fan of hooky melodies, modern sounds, and the songwriting format of pop music. All this to say that songwriting and music have always revolved around 3 things for me: storytelling, emotional honesty, and fun.
I put out three albums of original material between the ages of 14 - 19. My parents were a huge part of connecting me with the right musicians and industry people to help make this happen. Not only did they encourage my passion, but my mom helped with the business side to push things forward by applying for grants on my behalf for the first two records, overseeing my relationship with a management team for the third album, and driving me all over the maritimes for gigs. There was never any doubt in my mind that this is what I was going to do for the rest of my life.
At 20, on the heels of my third and final release of that era, I had the sudden realization that I needed to take a break from music. Things were going great - I had a management team, a booking agent, I had recently played shows with music titans like Gord Downie, Carly Rae Jepsen, and Collective Soul. I was excited about the music I was making and I was excited about what was to come.
So what happened?
In the summer of 2014, I had a particularly vivid dream. I was in what seemed to be a never ending hallway and a loud, booming voice was yelling at me and echoing everywhere. I woke up in a full body sweat and knew with terrifying certainty that my life had to change, though I tried for the next few months to forget the dream and the feeling in the middle of the night. In the period that followed, I read a lot about queerness, feminism, and transness. It wasn't particularly intentional or conscious, it just kind of happened. Same with starting to seek out more of a connection to the queer/trans communities local to me.
Through many conversations with friends old and new, I began to feel ready to get to know myself as the person I knew I was becoming. I was extremely fortunate to have incredibly supportive friends, family, and co-workers surrounding me. To this day, the most daunting person I had to come out to about my transition was myself. One of the biggest difficulties about acknowledging something had to shift was that I knew it would impact the career I, and many others, had been working to build for the last 6 years. I agonized over, first: Would people believe me? Then, would people be angry with me? How much money would I owe people who had invested in an artist who would no longer exist? Who would work with me, who would listen to my music, what would my music sound like, would transitioning somehow cancel my interest and drive in music... basically what would this whole career and life overhaul entail?
In the end, I did change my name and pronouns, I did change my team, my sound changed the same way any growing artist's sound does, and I lost and gained support along the way, as many artists have in their careers. I put out an EP in 2016 called sweet baby, on my own. It was my first release as T. Thomason, without my former team, and in the middle of my vocal change which was happening as a result of beginning testosterone hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Sweet baby taught me so much. It brought me opportunities that helped me find the team I'm currently working with, it proved to me that people would still listen to my music as a new artist, it forced me to discover that it is possible to maintain a singing voice through testosterone HRT despite the prevalent narrative that says otherwise, and it solidified my friendship with my producer, Dave Henriques. As a result of all this learning, Dave and I continued working together to make the singles Bliss and Loser which were a huge parts of finding myself on season 2 of CTV's The Launch in late 2018.
The Launch has felt as though my dreams of being "T. Thomason", whoever I hoped he'd be, have finally arrived. I was incredibly nervous to go on the show. There was a pretty big part of my anxious brain telling me that they were only interested in me as a token trans person to fill their diversity quota. Through the whole process of auditioning, negotiating my involvement, filming, even being launched with my single HOPE and the aftermath, I have had to learn to trust others and myself in order to hush up that voice.
The Launch was (and continues to be) a surreal experience. The mentors on my episode (Scott Borchetta, Marie-Mai, Sarah McLachlan, and Alex Hope) pushed me to be my best as a vocalist, a writer, a performer, and a recording artist in the studio. They pulled things out of me that surprised and delighted me. It felt as though I was being given the opportunity to fill the shoes (Crocs?) I'd been dreaming of for a long, long time.
It wasn't only the mentors on camera who inspired me, but many folks behind the scenes of the show as well. Through The Launch, I have met people who I could have only dreamed of meeting this time last year. I am pleasantly surprised by how many of them I’ve ended up in conversations with about kindness, honesty, breaking down binary ways of thinking, and the complexity and uniqueness of each other's life experiences.
I know. The entertainment industry isn't the first place that comes to mind when wondering where these (sometimes friggin intense!!) conversations are happening. But they are. Not often enough, but they are beginning.
I feel so blessed to have been paired with the song HOPE through The Launch. Hopefully ;) it will plant a tiny seed in some bb's brain that songs are powerful, they can start conversations that can lead to change, and anyone can sing those songs. The more, the merrier. "
To follow along on T.'s incredible, inspiring and trailblazing journey, click here: @swtbbt.
"My name is Chelsi and I am a Personal Trainer, Nutritionist and Mental Health Coach. I work with mainly women and teach them to discover that their happiness, health and self love is already within them. I help my clients flourish and feel good from the inside out, while falling in love with their self care journey.
I felt called to this industry and work at a young age. I was a very lazy teenager and was overweight at age 14, 5'1 and 185lbs. I was not active and my diet consisted of breads, frozen foods, cookies and fast food. I already had very low self confidence and entering high-school took away the only part of me I thought I had. My friends from middle school, ignored and rejected me... I felt like I had no one and nothing.
I ended up becoming involved with not the best group of friends. I became a criminal, shop lifting on the daily, creating problems at school (the odd time I was there) and with my family. I got into drugs and was in and out of my house. Two years later, I was kicked out and had to go to a new school. This is when life really started changing.
I started hanging out with the same people but the difference was that I had a teacher who KNEW I was worthy of more. She pushed me one day in fitness and did not let me back down.
From this day on I promised myself to take better care of myself and made it my mission to inspire others the way she inspired me. I started exercising regularly, eating healthy and spending more time outdoors.
It took a few years of discovering spirituality and learning to believe in myself and lots of work on that myself before I was comfortable with adding mindset coaching into my business but I always knew it was the missing link in my journeys and most others journey."
Stay connected with Chelsi and her inspiring journey here: @wholehealthchelsi
"My name is Arielle Coree and I am an intuitive mentor, speaker, writer and podcast creator. Why do I do what I do? I recognize that there is this falsehood that so many carry around and that is because for a long time so did I. This falsehood I am referencing is the assumption that those who lead others must have had an easy road. On the surface, they are perceived to be unshakably confident, successful and immune to the trials and hardships of the typical human existence. This is what holds a lot of people back from sharing their stories. This fear of seeming imperfect, weak and maybe even broken. This falsehood is at the core of my 'why', my 'mission'. You see, I can say with unwavering conviction that the moments I have felt as though I didn’t fit in, far outnumber the moments I did and this caused me to question whether or not there was something wrong with me for the majority of my life. Was I too sensitive, too unrealistic, or just too far removed from reality? Would I ever find my place in this lifetime? Would I ever find strength and power in my voice, or worst of all, did all of this add up to one thing, my brokenness?
These are just some of the thoughts that have haunted me by day and frequently kept me awake throughout all hours of the night. You see, I have always had this passion for helping others, this dream of somehow leaving the world better than I found it. But, my journey has not been perfect, it has actually been rather messy. Woven between those high vibe easy to share moments of my life there have been seasons of domestic violence, depression, sexual assault, an eating disorder, anxiety, toxic relationships which led to an extreme lack of confidence, and loss of my voice and identity - and most recently being diagnosed with Chronic Lyme Disease and all the infections that coincide. Well, these very aspects of life that some would assume may leave me unqualified to lead or help others heal have actually become some of my strongest credentials. Through these life experiences I have learned a great deal about perseverance and strength.
I am far from perfect but, to be honest no one ever truly is perfect, right? I believe we have two choices in life, we can either allow our struggles to dim our light or we can choose to turn our pain into power and rise. When I came to that realization, I knew I had to share my story, and my voice because I knew I wasn't the only one to experience hardship and allow it to break me. I knew it was my calling to advocate for others and step into this role of a lighthouse in a world that is so easily swallowed up by the dark. So, I trusted my intuition and began creating. I started with social media platforms then moved to creating a business where I offered online courses, one-one- mentoring and high vibe clothing. Over the past two years, my platforms have evolved and prove themselves to be a true extension of my soul as they take on the energy of whatever I am healing through in the moment. I let my soul guide me, I fiercely trust in the Universe and try my best to not question any of the leaps I take - hence my newest venture, Soul Moments With Arielle Coree (a podcast sharing the raw, the real and authentic thoughts that stir my soul). I share because I trust that the words have been placed on my heart for a reason far larger than myself. They are not shared to bring attention to me but instead to bring healing to you. One of the most beautiful gifts we can give one another as human beings is the gift of being seen, heard and supported. So, that is why I do what I do."
Stay connected with Arielle and check out her many offerings here: @arielleandtheearth
"Both my wife, Jackie, and I had experiences being bullied growing up.
Mine started in the sixth grade when we moved to a new house. Which meant a new school. From day 1, the "cool" kids decided they didn't like me. They would taunt me every day. Make fun of me. Push me. Kick my heels walking down the halls. I was terrified to go to school every day. They were all I thought about. What's worse is that I was totally alone in it. I was ashamed. I had a popular brother who had no issues making friends. Which, to me, meant that there was something wrong with me. So I never told anyone. Not the teachers. Not my brother. Not my parents. Nobody ever heard a thing about it until recently. And still, it's hard to talk about.
Skip ahead to a year ago. I'm not that kid anymore. I keep reading these awful stories of kids being bullied. And all I can think about is how alone I felt and how alone they must feel. After years and years of never talking to anyone about being bullied, I talked to my wife about it.
Then the idea hits us. There are likely countless people out there like us, who have been bullied. Who have stories. Who have gone on to do amazing things, despite it.
What if kids knew there were people out there who could empathize? Maybe that would help them understand they too are not defined by their bullies. That the best part of their life is around the corner. That talking about it is a good thing.
Together we fleshed out how big this organization could be. Then five months ago, we launched The Misfit Project.
We want to inspire kids and teens with stories of amazing Misfits just like them. So they can believe that they will come through what they're going through, just like our mentors did.
But the Misfit Project isn't just about awareness and community. It's about empowerment and confidence. When a kid has something positive to focus on - Something they're good at. Something they love - they have a tool to replace the confidence that's being stripped away by their bullies. So working with our community of Misfit Mentors, we provide one--of-a-kind experiences in their areas of expertise to bullied kids and teens who are passionate about those things. Whether it's fashion, music, art, coding, photography, sports. Whatever. To reward their individuality. The very thing they're made to feel bad for. And that's what it's all about. Making kids own their status as a misfit and wear it as a badge of honour."
Check out the Misfit Project here: @the_misfit_project
“My name is Nathalia Freitas. I’m from Brazil and I live in Los Angeles/CA. I was born with a condition called Congenital Melanocytic Nevus, or just Nevus. A large birthmark that covered 40% of the right side of my face, plus thousands of satellites all over my body. From nine months to 13 years old, I had nine surgeries to remove my facial Nevus. Being different was always a big deal specially in my childhood, I would be noticed very easily. At school kids were cruel and used to call me Fred Kruger, monster, ugly face and that was very hard for me. Until I was seven years old and realized four things:
1. I was born like that, that was not a choice, that’s a condition.
2. I am healthy - I was not in an car accident, I was not in a fire. I AM FINE.
3. Image is not everything - it’s just the way I look, it’s just in the outside.
4. It does not define me, I can do whatever I want, just like YOU.
When I decided to embrace myself and love the way I look, everything became easier.
Today, I share my story on social media and advocate body positivity. I give motivational speeches against bullying and how to improve self-esteem. I have a background in marketing, love to cook and dancing is my therapy.
What empowered me to help others?
When I met people with physical differences I noticed that they are not happy about themselves. Some of them are not comfortable having relationships and don't believe they can find love. I wish they could see themselves as beautiful as I see them. I felt like nothing I would say could change their state of mind. So I started telling my story on social media hoping that I could inspire anyone that feels insecure about themselves. Even being born with a giant facial birthmark and having scars from surgeries, I learned to love myself and I embrace the way I look. If I can do it anyone can."
Follow along on Nathalia's journey by following here: @lovingmydots
"Aydian asked me to start a podcast with him last summer and I thought it was a great idea. He and I are two trans guys from very different backgrounds with the shared experience of being trans but experiencing manhood and fatherhood differently. Being trans isn’t a monolithic experience and we wanted to be able to show that. Also we wanted to showcase different ideas around masculinity and manhood, discuss the things we’ve learned and had to unlearn, and talk about what makes us different from cismen or the same. It’s a really interesting conversation.
I’ve been very open about my life and my transition because being a model of possibility is important. I want people to know that men like me exist in the world, that the human experience is complicated and gender is what you make it. I’m proud of my journey as a transgender person and what the experience of becoming a man has taught me. I also have been empowered by a lifetime in the queer community. It’s important that I always use my platforms to bring attention to issues affecting the community as well as looking at the ways we innovate, create, and influence culture."
To check out Tiq's podcast with Aydian Dowling, head over to his Instagram page and follow along! @themrmilan
"August 2016. We started as an online social experiment: everyday non-trained plus size women learning and posting one dance every week for a year.
I was interested in seeing the effect of the actual practice and lifestyle of a dancer on plus size women. Not for health reasons, as exercise, or as a means to lose weight. I wanted to know how the lifestyle of dance effects every day plus size women. Not just the physical strains it puts on our bodies. It’s more than that. I want to know how our minds, hearts, and spirits will shift when consistently faced with something we think we can’t do. Either because it’s too hard, too fast, too intense, or just not “for” us. And then, time and again, discovering that we were dead wrong.
In short, we can do anything when we don’t give up. Dance is a living breathing practice of that. To create that type of discipline in our lives and in our bodies is the greatest gift we can give.
It is the gift of limitlessness.
The movement went viral. Two years, hundreds of dance classes and workshops, speaking engagements, a nationwide commercial with Shonda Rhimes. FATGIRLSDANCE™ is a worldwide movement BENT on trashing body image stereotypes through the universal language of dance. We have squads all over the world, not to mention indvividual bad ass babes dancing all over the world and sending us their footage.
The why behind FATGIRLSDANCE™ is two-fold: first and foremost is the impact for participating women–that they begin to form connection with their bodies, communities amongst each other, and relief from negative, patriarchal, unattainable, and at times crippling body image trauma that pervades every aspect of our lives. And to have some fucking fun. Next is for those who are watching us. To show that we are fearless. We are visible. We are here. We do move and move well. And your ideas and opinions about what fat bodies can do is not only flawed. It is indoctrinated unexamined bullshit.
Together, we are changing the narrative of who fat people are, what they can do, and what are stories are. This is the future. This is fearlessness.
This is FATGIRLSDANCE™."
Stay connected with this inspiring movement by following along here: @fatgirlsdancemovement
Taylor is such a special human. Her story brings such inspiration and truly reminds us that anything is possible. After seeing her audition for So You Think You Can Dance in 2018, I knew we needed to hear more about her story.
You are my Heroes,
My name is Taylor Haines, I’m 20 years old, and I’m a below the knee amputee. When I was born, my mother was counting fingers and toes and noticed I only had 9 toes. I was diagnosed with fibular hemimelia hours later. F.H. is an orthopedic disorder with a prevalence around 1 in 100,000. In my case, I had the complete absence of my fibula in my left leg, a shorter femur, no cruciate ligaments in my knee, missing ankle bones, and the absence of the 5th lateral ray (translation: no pinkie toe). When I was 11 months old, my left foot was amputated at the ankle. My parents will say it was one of the hardest decisions they had to make, but I couldn’t be happier with the choice.
I grew up in an extremely active family (3 Olympic athletes, 3 professional baseball players, etc.) I was on skis at age 1, learned to ride a bike, took swim lessons, played soccer, and even completed several triathlons. I did not take no for an answer, and have been challenging and pushing boundaries since I was a little girl. I do not believe my prosthesis defines me.
People stare, children and adults, and more so if I take the prosthetic off. If curious, I’d rather they just ask about it! When I was in grade school, a lot of birthday parties were at swimming pools. My mom and I had a long talk about whether or not I would allow my leg to dictate how I lived life. I had to make a deliberate choice, was I going to sit on the sidelines and watch life, or was I going to be in the middle of it? I chose to be in the middle. I try to not let what other people think get to me. Frankly, I think everyone has to make such a choice, I just had to make it a little younger than most.
Dancing is a huge part of my life. I started dancing when I started walking, on my first ever prosthesis. I use dance as a way to express emotions with my body. Bringing a story to life via dance is mesmerizing to me. I also love the added challenge of the creative process itself, so I began choreographing at age 12. Years of dance lessons, captain of a dance company in high-school, salsa exhibitions, member of a hip-hop crew in college, dance has been the center of my life. In the summer of 2017, I was featured in an international television commercial for AXA UK. The experience was one of the most physically and mentally demanding things I have ever done, but I am so humbled and proud to have been a part of the project. Because of that commercial, I was contacted by So You Think You Can Dance on FOX network and auditioned for their 2018 season. While I made it through a few rounds, I didn’t make it past the premiere episode. Still, the audition process was a fun adventure. I hope to inspire others to always try what scares them and to be willing to put in the time and work for results. I think everyone has their “something” –be it a physical disability, a mental disability, emotional issues, or anything of the sort. Everyone has some kind of challenge; some are just more visible than others."
Check out more about Taylor and her amazing, and awe inspiring story here: @taylor_haines
"My journey to work with men came from my own journey to grow myself. If people had met me years ago they would have seen a man who looked to have it all. The career, the partner, travel, cars, ext. The man the world saw, the outer man, looked great. But the man behind the mask, the inner man, was a whole different story.
He was insecure, unsure of his future, scared to commit, purposeless, and worried that at any moment, people would find out he was a fake. I started learning psychology, working with a mentor and opening up to my close friends about the lies, cheats, and drinking that had been going on behind the scenes for years.
One day, after opening up to a friend about the real struggles of my life that no one knew about, he broke down and told me that he had tried to take his own life less than two months before. I was shocked. We knew everything about one another, except for the things which truly mattered most. It was in that moment that I knew my life work - to work with men, and the ones wanting to understand them.
Since then I’ve been fortunate enough to speak about mental health on stages around the world, at places like the United Nations, and beside incredible people like Gary Vaynerchuk, Lewis Howes and more. "
Follow along on Connor's journey with Man Talks, and check out his podcast, men's groups and one on one coaching here: @mantalks
"At 9 years old, a simple walk to the shop to buy sweets turned me from being a "normal" 9 year old active child, into a shell of a person trapped in a coma for three months, and hospitalized for two years.
The press named me "The Girl Who Became a Human Fireball". A simple mistake of being in the wrong place at the wrong time resulted in a petrol container explosion that changed my life forever. It took 60+ operations to rebuild my body and get it to where it is today.
As a female in my 20's in a society consumed by image, this now gives me a platform to share that imperfections are also beautiful. My scars tell my story of struggle and heartache, that has only helped me become the beautiful woman that I am today. My scars are my reminder of survival. Not everybody is lucky enough to have markings of where their character was built.
I was put on earth by god as a warrior. I've fought battles and have scars to prove I won. "Sacha" means helper and defender of mankind, and that I am. As a woman I am powerful. I am courageous. I am strong. I have overcome every obstacle in life and I am more than ready to fight my battles to come. Thank you god for putting me through the darkest paths in life to lead me to my purpose. To inspire and show the world not to be afraid, of scars, of change, or of anything at all!"
Almost a decade ago, an anxiety attack had me on the floor, hyperventilating, crying, and feeling lost, confused and broken.
This was my rock bottom.
After I was able to breathe properly again and stop crying, which required my sister to rub my back and read to me to ease my mind and calm my body, I came to the ever present realization, that I had something happening inside my mind that was causing me turmoil and unrest.
It was time for a change.
It had to stop.
I didn't want to feel like this anymore.
Even though the process was not an overnight journey, and is actually a never ending one, I started on a path of self-exploration, self-awareness and self-empowerment.
This journey has not just helped me manage my anxiety, but it was allowed me to become a more authentic, aligned and abundant version of myself.
It started with books, videos, podcasts, articles, workshops and seminars for personal growth and development. I learnt how to meditate, I learnt about how the mind works, I participated in plant medicine ceremonies...I dove in more and more as the years went on. I was focused on my healing and my inner peace.
The Universe, as it usually does, had other plans. It kept guiding me towards a bigger purpose. It manifested in people crossing my path or synchronistic situations that led me in new directions. This kept happening in order for me to step into my truth and mission, which is to help empower as many people as I possibly can to overcome limiting beliefs, manage their anxiety and tap into their power so that they can live an abundant life.
We all deserve to live a life that feels good and fulfills us. So many of us get stuck in limiting thoughts about ourselves and our lives and we make things so much harder on ourselves then they need to be. We get stuck in fear, doubt and insecurity and it keeps us playing small and staying scared. We forget how powerful and worthy we are, and instead lower our standards and expectations merely to survive through this life.
That is NOT what we came here for.
We did not come to this planet to merely survive it.
We came here to experience, to learn, to adventure, to contribute, to expand and to become a better and brighter version of ourselves.
Through my content, blogs, Instagram posts workshops, meditations, online programs, retreats, private coaching and classes, I aspire to inspire as many people as possible to remember who they truly are and what they are capable and most importantly, worthy of.
Life should be magical. We just have to get out of our own way, become more aware and conscious and work towards re-scripting the mental narrative to be on our sides and lead us towards our potential and purpose.
That's why being a Self Empowerment + Mindset Coach is so important to me. When you gain back control of your mind, you gain back control of your life. End of story. That's how you tap back into your power, gain clarity and manifest abundance! It all starts in the mind.
That is where my journey has taken me. So I thank my anxiety and especially my anxiety attack, for making things so uncomfortable I couldn't ignore it anymore, and made the changes I needed to make in order to get where I am today. I found my power in my pain, and boy-oh-boy, what an epic ride it has been.
Follow along on Anna's beautiful mission here:
"I was the only cisgender black woman in high residency at my grad school; a seminary in liberal/progressive Berkeley, California with the words "dismantling white supremacy" in its mission statement. That was the most toxic white space I've ever been in in my entire life and I was daily triggered by the audacity of that lie. (1) You are not dismantling white supremacy with one black woman on the roll. Period. We will not be free until black womxn are free because liberation IS in the intersections, therefore black women's unique, historical condition in the margins makes it vital that her liberation is secured in order for there to be a real possibility of freedom for all. (2) The intentional and systematic silencing and invisibilizing of black women kept me isolated in every space and roll I held within that institution. My classmates could only see me when it was time for physical or intellectual labor - then I went back to being a nonfactor and there is no dismantling white supremacy when it is on the intellectual and physical backs of black womxn.
So I created Black Girl Mixtape because I have lived my entire life in a reality where there is no intellectual space that centers black womxn, specifically as the authority. The idea that there are conversations happening that exclude black women - even some conversations about black women - forced me to be the change that I want to see. Black Girl Mixtape is a Safe Think Space for Black Women and Black Femmes. It has become a multiplatform lecture series created to center and celebrate the intellectual authority of black women and to do the work of decolonizing authority in order to make it possible for black women to be established in credible rolls of power and influence; rolls that allow us to impact sustained systematic change. We are a lecture series tour, a podcast, an online educational institution with 6-10 week grad school level learning/courses on various subjects, and soon a multi-city dinner docuseries (launching January 2019 in Paris, France).
Before my grandmother transitioned out of this earthly form in 2015, she visited me in a vision during a meditation and told me, "Do what you say you are going to do and be who you say you are. If you say you are a teacher - teach. If you say you are a writer - write." That was so profound for me because my grandmother is the reason I am a teacher. She taught me how to make my first lesson plan when I was 6 years old acting as the student teacher in the "Baby Class" of my Sunday School at New Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church. Calling me, from the spirit, as a spirit, into my higher calling as a teacher was the last lesson that my grandmother ever taught me before leaving this earth. Black Girl Mixtape is the manifestation of that plea from my grandmother to "Do what I say I am going to do and be who I say I am." I am a teacher, a preacher, and a black girl advocate. Black Girl Mixtape gives me the space and platform to operate in my highest self and to make room for other black women to have that safe intellectual freedom space as well."
Follow along on Ebony's powerful journey and initiatives by following her on Instagram: @blackgirlmixtape
"My mission as Mr Good Vibes is to inspire people to love the life they live. Only positivity. That energy works wonders. You begin to wake up without an alarm clock. Your passion wakes you up. I hope that through the way I live and carry myself, others will see it as an example to do the same. I love every aspect of my life right now. Being a division 1 student-athlete on top of running a social media marketing agency is insane, and many would wonder how I make time for everything. The answer is this: when you care about it, you make time for it. It just means that I have to sacrifice other things your typical college student cares about (partying, drinking, netflix, dating, fortnite, etc.). I wake up every morning and have a schedule for how I'm going to get closer to achieving my goals. Classes in the morning, practice in the afternoon, and business development at night. Not much time for leisure - but when you're as passionate about your life as I am right now, you don't experience fatigue or burnout. That's the feeling I hope to help everyone else feel in regards to their own lives.
My story is an interesting one. I wasn't always the popular athlete or entrepreneur that may be portrayed through my stage name, Mr Good Vibes. In fact, I was bullied. I grew up in white neighbourhoods as the only black kid and was left out of games, called different names, and was even asked why I'm a different colour than everybody else. I was quite scrawny back then, so I was cut from our local regional soccer team and told I was too small to play. And even when I did find another team, I was made fun of there for being shy and having a unibrow. So it's safe to say I never expected to be where I am today. I didn't know what to expect. Until my grandmother pulled me aside at the age of 14 and told me, "Antonio, if God brings you to it, he will bring you through it." Meaning, you have to just work hard on the natural-born talents given to you and trust that God is directing you on the right path.
Over the next few years I worked on my game and earned scholarship offers. I maintained honour roll status in school, and I had my first taste of the business world when me and my younger cousin experimented by starting a landscaping business around my neighbourhood. I was making thousands of dollars during the summer as a 14/15 year old through running this business, so I knew I was somewhat talented in entrepreneurship. By senior year of high school I started the Good Vibes movement. I noticed there wasn't enough positive news being spread. Negativity was louder than positivity. I always heard people complaining about their lives and focusing on the wrong things. I wanted people to see the world how I saw it. The good side of things. Just to always be happy and grateful to be alive. That's why I started selling Good Vibes t-shirts around my school. They were an instant hit and I sold out of the 50 shirts I brought to school by the end of the first day. I grew the movement throughout the school and partnered with Habitat for Humanity through a connection via my principle. Within the first two weeks, more than 500 students (approx. half of the school) were reppin' a Good Vibes shirt.
I then went on to partner with other high schools, running anti-bullying campaigns. I provided universities with thousands of shirts for their orientation weeks. And even had the opportunity to be brought in by Loblaws to talk about how positivity can create a better employee/customer experience, and multiple store locations would wear Good Vibes t-shirts every Friday.
After spreading Good Vibes throughout Toronto, we had the opportunity to work with Tim Horton's and Cineplex on a youth marketing campaign. Now Good Vibes Enterprises is a full-service social media marketing agency that helps brands connect with Generation Z and Millennials.
In addition to running the business, I have still remained true to my brand name and still spread positivity as Mr Good Vibes. Speaking to the youth at high schools is a great passion of mine. The impact that I feel after motivating/inspiring thousands of students beats any other feeling. Nothing compares.
One thing that keeps me motivated is the fact that I know I will die one day. Knowing that I won't be here forever and that my time is limited, keeps a fire lit within me. I don't get tired because I know I was put on this earth to fulfill a mission as Mr Good Vibes: show everyone the power of positivity and how they can use it to win."
Stay updated with this incredible movement by following @itsmrgoodvibes
"In my teens I struggled with body image. All the activities and ways of thinking that I thought would make me confident and happy, actually resulted in me being more anxious, depressed, and floundering in life. I went to counselling and things got better, but they weren't great until I watched Jean Kilbourne's documentary "Killing Us Softly." There are few moments that have been completely life changing for me, but this was was one of them as my eyes were opened to how significantly media images and messages deeply influence us. Fast forward a few years and I was co-facilitating a girls body image group for grade 6 & 7 girls. As we progressed through the sessions I was surprisingly struck by how the same insecurities I had struggled with when I was 13 years old were the same struggles that these girls were struggling with. In fact, they had more challenges because of the pressures of social media which were barely around when I was in school. As I reported these observations to my MA research supervisor, I asked him if I could create a body image program for my thesis. He had told me that if I could find a problem in the research literature, then I would be given the green light. I said, "Challenge accepted" and did a deep dive into the research literature. I wanted to learn, what had been done, what was helpful, what was not helpful, what was missing in our body image conversations. From that deep dive I surfaced armed with many tools and ideas and thus began Free To Be!"
Stay updated with Renae's Free To Be Talks by following her on Instagram @freetobetalks
Heroic Humans is a social impact movement that provides a gathering space for inspiration, celebration and empowerment. We aim to foster connections among heroic people and groups, helping to establish a broader reach and more profound influence on their individual communities. We care about authentic connections and the power behind all people and passions. Let’s join forces and recognize those who make a difference.
Heroism comes in all forms. Whether it’s someone who lights you up, inspires you or others, or pours your favorite cup of coffee; everyone has their own story to tell and a life to change.
With your help, we can uncover raw emotion and vulnerability, overcome adverse conditions, and applaud human empowerment in all its forms.
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HEROISM LIVES HERE