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Monday, June 19, 2017

Petra, Rosie & Pastel Supernova

Petra: My style is urban rock. I inspire myself.

Instagram: @PetraLLC
Rosie: My style can be described as "Trash Barbie".

TorontoVerve: Who inspires you?

Rosie: Refer to the answer of your first question.

Instagram: @SugarTburlesque

Pastel Supernova: My style is urban pin-up. My mom inspires me. Most of the stuff I have either looks like the stuff that she used to have or is something she used to own. Her style is ultra-feminine.

Instagram: @PastelSupernova

The ladies are part of the Love Letters Cabaret and they'll be performing their burlesque show, Knockout, at Lula Lounge this Thursday, June 22nd.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Jessica

"My high school music teacher said that I wasn't enough," Jessica told me in a crowded Kensington Market café. We had just finished an hour of shooting photos around the neighbourhood and sat down to talk.

By the way, if you're looking at the photos thinking that the saxophone is just a flashy prop, it's not. Jessica is a talented musician and the saxophone is her creative outlet. It's also a hurtful reminder of her past.


It happened near the end of her senior high school year. She arrived with her saxophone to play for her final music exam. After her performance, her teacher approached her and would abruptly change her life with a few simple words and gestures. "It wasn't even really what he said," She explains. "It was the way he looked at me and shook his head. I didn't understand why he said what he said, but I knew enough to quit music."

Before that day, she had planned on pursuing music in her college years, but that didn't happen.

Instead, she chose to go to theatre school, where she eventually regained her confidence to express herself artistically. After five years, she picked up her sax for the first time and started playing again. Now, she wishes she could go back and share her words of wisdom with her younger and disheartened self. "I would hug [myself] and say, 'Take your time. Be patient. What's hard now won't last forever.'"

We don't always remember the words that people say to hurt us; however, we do remember how they made us feel. That's certainly the case with Jessica who shared her feelings with the utmost clarity. I asked her why she feels her teacher failed her as a mentor and she responded decisively.  "I think [he] was afraid of me and my potential. I don't think he could handle seeing a fierce, young woman -- especially a woman of colour. Looking back now, I know that I was a force to be reckon with in high school, but I didn't know that at the time. I definitely know that now."

Thanks to the support of the Latin theatre community, Jessica found the strength and courage to not allow anybody to get in the way of her dreams.


More importantly, she's happier now that she's assertive and has taken control of her life. "I've walked away from my abusive relationships and I've learned to accept the things that I can't change. That's my process. It's why I continue to find successes and blessings in my life."


Jessica's street style was previously featured last fall.

Follow Jessica on Instagram.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Best Street Style Blogs on the Planet!

TorontoVerve is #13 on FeedSpot's Top 40 Street Style blogs on the Planet!


That's right! TorontoVerve shares this honour with street style icons: The Sartorialist, Style Du Monde, Facehunter and Easy Fashion Paris, to name a few.  Of course, I can't accept this honour without giving a big thanks to all the fashionable people who have appeared on the blog these past 7 years.  It's been a fun ride and I'm looking forward to capturing more stellar fashion and inspiring stories on the street.

Thank you, Feedspot, for this great recognition!
  
Check out their best street style blog list.


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Rachel


TorontoVerve: What's the best advice you've received?

Rachel: My mom always told me, "Never give up. Always believe in yourself." That's always helped me with my acting career. I always try to walk in my mother's footsteps. She's a positive force in my life.

TV: You played one of the ghoulish mannequins in Silent Hill 2 and you recently co-starred in the horror-thriller, The Sublet. How do you feel about horror films?

Rachel: I love horror. The scarier the better. I love not knowing what's going to happen and then freaking out.

TV: Your character gives the lead a hard time in The Sublet. How did you feel about playing an unlikable character?

Rachel: Actually, I didn't realize how unlikable I was until we started doing the scenes. In the theatre, it played like comic relief. [Festival audiences] laughed at every mean thing I said. I liked playing a nasty person because in reality I'm not.

Follow Rachel on Instagram and Twitter.


The Sublet Trailer

Monday, April 10, 2017

Juzar Dean


Juzar Dean is a model and singer. "My music is like new age pop. It's my own vibe -- creative and easy to listen to."

Check out his vibe on Soundcloud and follow him on Instagram.


Monday, March 27, 2017

Alysa

How important is fashion when auditioning for acting parts? I asked Alysa King, star of indie-horror hits Berkshire County and Bed of the Dead


Alysa King: Fashion is huge. When I read a script, I have a mental image of what the character is like and I always wear something to suggest who they are. I usually don't go full out because you're never quite sure what the casting director is looking for. I'm going to audition for a police officer soon so I'm not going to wear a pink sweater. I'm going to wear something that's more tactical with dark tones.

TorontoVerve: 2016 was a successful year for you with the Slasher series, Bed of the Dead and Holy Hell. What does that kind of success mean to you?

AK: As an actor, you're always looking for the next project so it's sometimes hard to live in the moment and appreciate your success. Slasher is on Netflix now so I usually hear, "Hey, I saw that! You were really great!" It's neat to get that kind of feedback from people. That's what it's all about for me.

TV: In Holy Hell (NSFW trailer), your character is quite racy; which is a huge departure from your other roles. What kind of response did you get from your fans?

AK: [Laughs] Amy is outrageous and completely over the top. When [director] Ryan LaPlante and I set out to do this character, we went balls to the wall and had fun with it. I really didn't know how people were going to receive her. I thought maybe I was going to get a lot of hate mail because the humour is so offensive, but it's done very well at festivals. Apparently, many people share our dark sense of humour; which, both pleases and surprises me.

TV: What's the best advice you've received?

AK: My grandpa told me it's not worth getting upset over the little things in life. It's best to look at the bigger picture and appreciate the people who are in our life because we never know when they're going to be there or not.


Alysa will soon be seen in the comedy series Fare Trade and the creature-feature Hunter's Moon, starring Colm Feore.

Follow Alysa on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Teaghan

I love shooting dance-themed photography — especially in dingy alleys. Here’s my shoot with budding singer, actor and dancer, Teaghan Young. 


Teaghan Young: The best advice someone has ever given me is: “Success is the best revenge." That’s what they said before they screwed me over and I thought, “Hmmm…good mantra. Now I’ll have to be very successful so you will not be able to avoid seeing me." [laughs]

TorontoVerve: You’ve got a list of names for those people? 

TY: Yeah. I just think it’s important to be nice to everybody even though you don’t like them because you never know where they’ll end up. Be nice to them until they give you reason not to. That’s what my mom told me.


TV: What does dancing mean to you? 

TY: I fell in love with ballet when I first started my college course. It’s peaceful and graceful, but powerful. You’re doing things that your body shouldn’t be doing, but you have to make it look beautiful. It’s almost therapeutic. I love tap and jazz dance, but ballet calms me. I’m never going to be a professional ballet dancer. I’m never going to be in a company, but I just love it. Ballet is the foundation of all dance.

TV: Who inspires you in the ballet industry? 

TY: Misty Copeland. She’s the first Black dancer to play the lead in Swan Lake. She’s so graceful and you can tell that she works so hard. Also my ballet teacher, Debbie, inspires me. She’s been with the American Ballet Theatre and the New York City Ballet and she’s done Broadway. She’s so funny and understanding. That’s how every ballet teacher should be. She gets that not everybody is built for ballet, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. She can also do any dance move in jeans.


TV: Is the ballet industry really cutthroat? 

TY: [Laughs] I don’t go to an exclusive ballet school. In general, the performing industry is very cutthroat. My program has a total of 150 kids in it. I made a family there. I know within my family it’s not cutthroat, but once I get out there, after I graduate, it’ll be a shark tank.

TV: In the movie Showgirls, the seasoned performer makes life difficult for the new kid because she feels threatened by her talent.  Have you ever encountered that kind of treatment? 

TY: Absolutely. I’ve encountered it a lot. It’s definitely hard to see a [newbie] sneaking up on your career.


TV: So what do you think of the TTC's "We Move You" ballet campaign?

TY: I think it’s awesome. I love the movement in their ads. It’s a great campaign.
 

TV: How do you feel about the controversy surrounding the campaign — specifically its promotion of unhealthy body images?

TY: I don’t agree with it. I think a lot of ballet dancers hear a lot of crap about their body. The women and men in the National Ballet of Canada are not thin because they don’t eat. They’re thin because they’re dancing 8 hours a day and they’re working out on top of that. I read an article where a woman said that it was an unattainable body type. I can understand the criticism if the TTC had skinny models in a photo-shopped ad, but those are the ballet dancers’ actual body. It’s wrong to tell plus-size people that they’re unhealthy. The same can be said about thin people. I’ve been accused of being anorexic when I was younger. Kids used to make fun of me. I know it’s not to the same extent as with plus-size people. It’s not inclusive praising one body type and shaming another. We should accept all body types.


Follow Teaghan on Twitter and Instagram.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Diversity in Film, White Privilege & Locker Room Talk: A Conversation with TIFF Programmer, Kiva Reardon

The 89th Academy Awards are dropping this weekend, so it’s the perfect time to talk about movies.

When I was a kid, I loved films so much — my family would say that I lived and breathed movies. I didn’t think much of that description at the time. Personally, I thought it was an exaggeration. Now those words come to mind after speaking with Kiva Reardon. She’s a Programmer at the Toronto International Film Festival and the founding editor of cléo, a journal of film and feminism. Reardon lives and breathes movies because cinema has actually shaped the course of her life. In this interview from last fall, we talk about her passion for film, what it’s like working at TIFF, and whitewashing in Hollywood.


TorontoVerve: When did you first become passionate about film? 

Kiva Reardon: I grew up around movies because my dad worked at Telefilm, so all my scrap paper were old scripts, but I watched a weird curation of films. I wasn’t allowed to watch commercial TV, so I could only watch PBS or TVO. As a kid, watching Saturday Night at the Movies with Elwy Yost played a big part in developing my film knowledge. Obviously, I had a steady diet of Disney stuff growing up, but I also watched a lot of black and white classics. In terms of critical thinking, it was in my undergrad — I had this class with Professor Ned Schantz and we had to give weekly responses to films that we watched. He taught a lot about feminist film theory and I discovered that film was more than just the boys’ club that it is. Another professor, Alanna Thain, introduced me to French New Wave cinema and that’s how I first saw Cléo 5 à 7 and got to know the brilliant work of director Agnes Varda. I learned that feminism and film has a place together, and that’s how my love of film really began.

TV: You’ve tweeted your top seven favourite films — one of them being Titanic, directed by Kathryn Bigelow’s ex-husband. I’m curious to know what your guilty pleasure is, the film that you’re almost ashamed to tell people you love, but you have an affection for? 

KR: I don’t really believe in guilty pleasures. I like to subscribe to [American filmmaker] Susan Sontag’s thought of no highs and lows. I think dismissing popular culture and popular films can be really dangerous because they may seem innocuous, but some are works of art and even when they’re not they can say so much about the culture that they’re reflecting. This also gets into the idea of canon. What is good and isn’t good? Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about that. Specifically, who writes these canons? Mainly, straight white guys — which basically rigs the system. So, if you have a knowledge of female filmmakers, queer filmmakers, African or Asian filmmakers, some people won’t give them the same culture capital. They’ll say, “Oh, that’s nice niche knowledge.” No, it’s not. You’re just seeing it through the prism of something white and male. Like Shonda Rhimes' Scandal. I love that show, but is it a guilty pleasure because it’s a soap on TV? No. I think it has incredible writing, incredible thought and characters, so we should take it seriously. That’s a long-winded answer to say, “Yes, I love Titanic.” [Laughs] I was 10 years old when it came out and my mom took me to see it three times. I was so obsessed with it. A big thanks to my mom who’ll never get those nine hours of her life back.


TV: What does your typical day at the office look like? 

KR: It depends on the time of year. For the first part, I’m watching a lot of films every week at home — not seeing human beings or much sunlight. I’m writing notes that say, “Yes, this works.” Or, “No, it doesn’t work for these reasons.” After that period’s done, it shifts more into planning, execution, communication and writing notes for the programme book. And when the Festival comes, I’m barely in the office because I’m running around with dignity and grace for about 10 days [laughs].

TV: What are you looking for when you watch a film? 

KR: For me, I’m always looking for images that are striking and that are strung together in a way that is emotionally and intellectually compelling. What I’ve learned about programming versus my work in film criticism is that they come from the same vein of thinking about films critically. But the great thing about programming is envisioning other audiences. There’s something nice about thinking how a film can be shared with other people.


TV: There’s a growing trend in Hollywood to have diversity represented both in front and behind the camera. Studios are hiring women directors to tell stories about women, and black directors are hired to tell stories about black people. What are your thoughts about this new trend, and the ire that it’s getting from some people in and out of the film industry? 

KR: People often get angry about quotas, and I don’t think quotas are the solution, but they’re definitely a stepping stone. They’re also a way for someone to get their foot in the door when it’s really hard to get your foot in the door — especially if you are a woman or person of colour working in film, where you don’t have the same network or nepotism to rely on. Frankly, there are racist, sexist and unconscious biases out there. Someone might look at me and say, “Oh, she knows about women’s stuff because that’s what she is.” I also know a lot of things other than my own lived experience. Because of my gender, I don’t have the privilege of being a generalist. White guys are seen as the norm and, of course, they must know everything about everything. That can be most frustrating. Quotas aren’t the ultimate solution, but they are a way of levelling the playing fields. And, hopefully women won’t just be relegated to telling women stories and people of colour telling people of colour stories. One of the most frustrating things that my female filmmaker friends tell me is, “If I get another question about what it’s like to be a female filmmaker…you know what, bro? Ask me about my work.” That will inevitably come up because that’s a reality of their life, but it detracts from what they’re making and also frames them and their work within that box. I’m not a woman film critic or a woman film programmer. I just do those things, and I happen to be a woman.

TV: Do you get that often? People wanting to hear just your female perspective on things? 

KR: Yeah, I’ve told some editors, “Hey, you’re only assigning me women stuff.” Which is nice, obviously, because those are the voices that I want to champion, but it can also be frustrating. It narrows what I write about because there are fewer movies made by women. I’m all about more voices writing and talking about film. Magazine editors are largely male, largely white--and I’m speaking as a white person, which gives me a huge amount of privilege. Although I may complain about a gender issues, I’m still white, and that gives me a huge leg up.


TV: Diversity in film was a huge spotlight at this year’s TIFF. The Festival featured notable films like Moonlight, Queen of Katwe, Loving, Barry, A United Kingdom, I Am Not Your Negro — not to mention, Lagos. Nigeria was the recognized city in the “City to City” programme. That’s quite impressive for a major film festival. It seems rather timely after two years of #OscarSoWhite. How much of this was coincidence or intentional? 

KR: You can absolutely ignore those conversations and pretend that programming happens in this perfect world where politics don’t matter. But, if you’re not asking yourself, “Why is this programme all white?”, then you’re just not seeing the big picture. You’re not thinking of how you may immediately dismiss something because of race, gender and ableism. I think that the more we talk about it, the more people will become aware of the biases that we have. We live in a world that’s largely racist and patriarchal. Biases are ingrained in us and unless we talk about them, we won’t end up challenging them. I think that TIFF really wants to be a part of that conversation and bring about change. Having Lagos in the “City to City” programme last year was incredible. Nollywood is one of the biggest powerhouses of film. It’s up there with Hollywood and Bollywood. The films may look different, the stories are told differently, there are different shooting styles and different production levels. But if we only use Hollywood or European cinema as benchmarks of what “good” is, then the game is always weighted towards what already has been deemed as acceptable, as opposed to thinking about seeing things differently. It’s great that a festival can be a platform for other kinds of films. Some of these [Nollywood] films might not have been seen in Canada [on the big screen] otherwise. That’s a big responsibility, as it has the potential to be really life altering for filmmakers and audiences.

TV: Although diversity in film is on the rise, sometimes with every step forward, there are two steps backwards. I’m referring to whitewashing in Hollywood, such as the casting of Scarlett Johannson as an Asian in Ghost in the Shell. What are your thoughts about whitewashing? 

KR: And Doctor Strange with Tilda Swinton. The Doctor Strange team came out and said, “Whoops, sorry.” But that’s not enough when they already made this whitewashed movie. There’s this idea of white neutrality, which is: “You can be anything.” No, you can’t. And that idea stems from the argument that, “Well, those actors of colour don’t exist.” Or, “Those writers of colour don’t exist.” They do, but if you’re a casting director--or even an editor of a film publication--you might just need to put in a little more work to find these voices. And, you might need to put in more work to help them come up, as opposed to picking someone who’s always benefited from their race, economics, class or gender.

TV: I remember Samuel L. Jackson once saying, “They’re always looking for the next Tom Cruise, but not the next Denzel Washington.” 

KR: Totally. As a white person, I think about the kinds of privileges that I benefit from. The harder, and way more crucial, step is moving from the liberal platitudes of recognition to actually making a change in the real world. It’s harder because that’s the moment when you start having difficult conversations with yourself, and other people. It worries me to think that these woke liberal arts enclaves don’t want to take that next step of actively making a change.


TV: What do you think of the Academy’s recent effort to increase diversity within its membership? Do you think it’ll make a difference? 

KR: Yes, but I don’t think it’ll be overnight. I think Cheryl Boone Isaacs [the President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences] gets it and is making crucial structural changes. I don’t think that it’ll be like suddenly the Oscars are this perfect representation of all the different voices around the world. But it’s a start. I’m keen to see where we will be at in five, 10 and 20 years.

TV: I wasn’t so upset with the second #OscarSoWhite. How can you blame the Academy for not awarding people of colour when there weren’t many great roles for people of colour? The only way to fix the problem would be to hire more people of colour in studio executive roles or to buy more scripts written by people of colour. 

KR: That’s why I love Ava DuVernay and her film company, ARRAY. Or even someone like Jessica Chastain, who has an all-female production company. These women are using their power and clout to make sure that other stories get made. I don’t know if it’s a solution, but it’s definitely the antidote to just getting another Iron Man movie. I’ve been in meetings where there are so many guys. It’s not necessarily toxic, but you just become aware, “Oh, I’m the only chick at the table again.” That’s the distinction between diversity and inclusivity. You can talk about diversity in quotas, but inclusivity is, “I feel at home here.” It’s about not feeling like “the other”.

TV: When was the last time you felt like “the other?” How did you handle it? 

KR: Someone today asked me if I was a co-worker’s wife—after I finished an onstage Q&A! That happens all the time. “Oh, are you their girlfriend? Are you their plus one?” No, I’m their co-worker. I work here. Or, they’ll think I’m someone’s Personal Assistant. Not that there’s anything wrong with being someone’s wife, girlfriend or Assistant, but I’m not those things.

TV: It’s good to call it out whenever that happens; otherwise, people won’t change. 

KR: I was having a talk about whiteness with my friend yesterday and how doing the work as a white person means talking to other white people and calling it out. Racism exists in white communities, and so if white people call it out more that’s maybe when change will start to occur. I think about this with rape culture, too. If you’re a guy and hanging out with a bunch of guys who are using sexist or transphobic language, you should be saying, “Hey, bro, don’t say that.” When you hear it from someone who you share a space with all the time, that’s probably when you’re more likely going to start thinking about it and change your own behaviour.

TV: Especially with locker room talk. 

KR: Yeah, which is a term I also hate because I was a jock growing up, and I spent a lot of time in locker rooms —locker rooms are not just for men! [Laughs] That phrase just re-inscribes the idea that sports are for men. That drives me insane.


TV: I really like your photo with legendary director Agnes Varda (taken by photographer Matt Barnes). Your face is quite expressive — serene. Makes me wonder, what are you thinking about? What are you thinking about in that photo? 

KR: I was definitely thinking that I need to get a copy of this, so I can show my grandchildren, one day. [Laughs] And also, I was having an out-of-body experience when I was watching it happen. I was also very aware of what I was doing with my hands. I was watching her being photographed all day and she would always be doing something cool with her hands. She has this real confidence and strength in front of the camera, and I was like, “How do I look cool?” So, I just grabbed the chair in front of me and thought that might work. That photo is framed and sitting on my bookshelf now.

TV: What does her work mean to you? 

KR: She talked about stories that I cared about. If she could be like this outspoken feminist in the film world, then maybe there’s some wiggle room for me to try to do same.


TV: You Instagrammed a photo of her sleeping on a couch. What’s the story behind that photo? 

KR: Agnes cares a lot about the next generation of filmmakers. She’s 88, and when she’s around young people her energy level and aura change. And not in a cannibalistic way. She really wants to support and learn about young people. She was very honoured that this [naming of the TIFF filmmaker lounge after her] was happening. Happy that young people were seeing her films, but she was also a little embarrassed. We had this huge mural of her on the wall [in the lounge]. She gave a little speech and said, “I’m really happy, and when I’m really happy, I always take a five-minute nap.” So, she took a five-minute nap and we shot it.

TV: Did she know that her photo was being taken? 

KR: Yeah, she was performing her happy sleep for us. Agnes is the smartest person in the world. She walks into any room and she’s the sharpest mind there. She knows what’s up.

TV: TIFF has a program for young people called Next Wave. What are your thoughts about young people and how they regard cinema? 

KR: The folks in that programme are super smart. There’s a wide range of things that they want to do. Some want to direct. Some want to write. Some want to be film critics. They’re really energetic and inspirational. I love running into them around the Festival. They’re always filled with so much energy and enthusiasm. It’s infectious.

***

Follow Kiva on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Nicole


Nicole: My style is anything that doesn't describe anyone else. I'm inspired by anyone who is willing to go out there.


Saturday, December 10, 2016

Sebastian


Sebastian: My mom just celebrated her big 50th birthday. I asked if she were to write a letter to her 20-year old self, what would she say? She said, "I would tell myself to take more time for yourself and not get caught up with work and bills because in the grand scheme of things, they really aren't that important and you miss out on a lot of things." She's taught me to really live life to the fullest.

Follow Sebastian on Instagram.


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Jessica

Jessica recently won NOW Magazine's Face of NOW and we talked about it in this Annex shoot.


Jessica: I'm really excited about being the face of NOW. As an actor, I never thought that I would have the opportunity to be on a cover of a magazine. I'm not super tall or skinny, but I still felt like I should go for it. Their editorial team is going to do a photo-shoot with me and I'm going to be in a NOW commercial. It's pretty crazy.


TorontoVerve: What's the best advice that you've received?

Jessica: My mother told me that "life is beautiful." In a time when I felt that important people were abandoning me, just thinking about that one quote allowed me to envision the brighter things that life could offer.

Follow Jessica on Instagram.


Thursday, November 17, 2016

Sate


Sate: My style is black, powerful, bold and sexy. I'm inspired by risk takers who are unafraid of who they want to be.

TorontoVerve: What's the best advice you've been given?

Sate: My mother shared her sister's words, "It's in the struggle that makes life worth while." That reminds me that the struggle is never permanent. It's getting through that struggle that's worth it.


Sate is the lead singer of her own rock band. "People have described us as Tina Turner heading Black Sabbath," she says.  "Hard rock, punk and metal are a part of my soul."

Catch Sate's performance tonight at the Horseshoe Tavern.

Follow Sate on Instagram.


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Jasper


Jasper: My style is practical, and just because something is practical, it doesn't mean that it can't look good. All my suits are custom made and I choose them based on what feels current. Nature inspires my fashion. You look at the seasons and the changes in colour. That influences the colour and fabric I wear.

TorontoVerve: What's the best advice you've received?

Jasper: Everything has a time and place. That helps me be patient.