“Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.”
- Nora Ephron
Canada’s Wild Wild West has been brewing all kinds of marvelous things over the years and this statement is not in reference to the gold rush of the last few decades that still has get-rich-now hopefuls packing their belongings in a bid to score a golden nugget. While we’ve been sitting here feeling all smug about our own east-of-the-country talents, deeming ourselves superior geographically for being saddled by the country’s top two cosmopolitan cities granting us access to, like (insert Valley Girl voice here) EVERYTHANG, there’s been a surge of goodness coming out of the Canadian Prairies that has been building like an epic Scandal-size revelation.
Case in point #1
Unless one has been living under a rock, ears everywhere have been happily tickled by Calgary-born Kiesza’s dare-you-not-to-dance Hideaway single for most of spring and summer. It’s made a huge splash on the music scene both at home and abroad, but also proved so powerful a summer anthem that it stood as the most requested song at this year’s TIFF #NKPRIT14 lounge, as reported by my imaginary fairy godmother Natasha Koifman on her namesake PR company’s Twitter account. Not too shabby for a young woman who passed on the opportunity to become the Canadian Navy’s first female sniper. What can one say: exchanging one type of “hit” for another (and one far less deadly!) does have its benefits…
Case in point #2
Regina actress Tatiana Maslany, of sci-fi thriller series Orphan Black fame, has been so heavily lauded as the One to Watch by our media that it didn’t take long for her genius and multifaceted acting to be recognized by the Critics’ Choice Awards, earning her the ‘Best Actress in a Drama Series’ trophies of 2013 and 2014, where she beat out the likes of Homeland‘s Claire Danes, The Good Wife‘s Julianna Margulies and The Americans‘ Kerri Russell, to name a few. On any given night, Ms. Maslany appears on entertainment show eTalk as frequently as its co-hosts, leading me to suggest that producers should seriously consider a weekly WWTD (What Would Tatyana Do?) segment — this is one Prairie girl who clearly lassoed all of us with her charms, brilliance and very-Canadian modesty.
Case in point #3
Their number may be continuously on the rise (style bloggers, that is!), but while it may be tempting to group all #ootd enthusiasts into the generic same ol’/been-there/seen-that pool, some of these style mavens have figured out ingenious ways to parlay their love of fashion into passion projects bound to turn more than a few heads. The latest newcomer to the genre? Alyssa Lau, the Edmonton-raised blogger behind Ordinary People, launched New Classics Studios yesterday, a women’s sustainable and ethical fashion e-commerce space. Forgoing her initial plan of becoming a biochemist in favor of pursuing the dream of fashion that many of us hold dear, Ms. Lau’s tongue-in-cheek blog name may soon be viewed as ironic rather than literal as far as this ambitious entrepreneur is concerned; but like any fascinating journey that pays homage to where one has been and is headed next, it remains as relevant a narrative as one’s evolution.
Hello Alyssa! Thank you for agreeing to answer the following questions for WhoIsArlette. Kindly tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Alyssa Lau and I’m a 22-year-old Chinese Canadian style blogger, PR coordinator and BSc graduate who is mildly obsessed with animal friendships, anime, and all things Zelda.
How did the idea for New Classics Studios come about?
A few months ago, I was working full time as a research assistant in a Biochemistry lab when I decided (rather abruptly) that I didn’t actually want to go through with graduate studies like I had planned to. So, that’s when my boyfriend, Eric, suggested I open an online store. And because I wanted my next project to be in tune with my own values, that’s where sustainable fashion came into play.
You’ve already garnered a significant following for New Classics Studios on social media despite the fact that the brand still hasn’t launched officially. What has the response been like so far?
Everyone has been incredibly supportive, which I’m so grateful for!
Who would you say is the ideal New Classics Studios client and what can she expect from it?
I don’t know that there’s an ideal client for New Classics Studios, but I’m hoping that our customers or at least browsers will become more aware of the issues surrounding the mainstream fashion industry.
Let’s dream big: if you could tap any celebrity or public figure to be a brand ambassador for New Classics Studios, who would it be and why?
Emma Watson! She’s already done some great humanitarian work and worked with sustainable fashion labels, so it’d be more than a dream to see her in our clothing.
Where would you like to see the brand go in a few years from now? Are there plans to expand into other markets?
In a few years, hopefully we’ll still be operating! Jokes aside, I would love for New Classics Studios to be an even larger curation of sustainable garments and accessories. There are just so many incredibly talented designers in the field of sustainable fashion that I would love to bring to New Classics Studios! As for expanding into other markets, for now, we will just be focusing most of our efforts within Canada. But, as always, New Classics Studios plans to be accessible internationally!
It may be time to treat yourselves to some ethical dressing love — online shopping excursions are found to be most successful when a certain redhead belts out “oohs” and “aahs” in the background for added effect — just sayin’!?
Photo Credit: Picture of Kiezsa via the Huffington Post Canada; picture of Tatiana Maslany via emmys.com; all New Classics Studios pictures courtesy of Alyssa Lau
“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.”
1 Chronicles 16:34
I’m not the first and I won’t be the last to wonder whether labor, with its unforgiving twists and turns, is meant to make us stronger or make us cower before the Great Inventor. I’ll stick to thinking of it as the greatest double-edge sword blessing known to humankind: you’ll come out of it grateful for the gift, but will certainly pay for it in contortions, screams and the will to die before finding deliverance.
It’s on Wednesday, October 8th, that Baby S decided to make her big, can’t-stop-me-now entrance into the world, all ten fingers and toes perfectly extended and her booming, crying voice announcing that the newest CEO in town (Chic and Effervescent Orellana) was here to stay. The journey started at the Ottawa Birth and Wellness Center, where I was scheduled to deliver my little mami through a drug-free, natural water birth (judge my lack of sanity if you must, but please do it silently). However, when evidence showed that my dilation had only reached 4 centimeters after 7 hours of severe contractions and uncontrollable shaking, I had to consider whether the descent into hell was worth my life. Elodie, my too-cool-for-school Parisian midwife, offered to break my water and I relented…leading to the unexpected surprise of meconium (little mami’s first stool). Given that this is considered a fetal distress sign, I had to be moved to the Ottawa Civic Hospital for monitoring.
For the last couple of hours of labor, as I experienced the last echoes of what I would characterize as birth’s own version of “death row”, I entered the transition phase, sensing that I was one sentence shy of calling it quits on my drug-free stance. But I was reassured by my midwife that I had come this far and could do it, and the thought of seeing my daughter come to the way I had planned it gave me the incentive to get it done…and I did; the belly building soon collapsed like a deflated parachute. From the moment her body emerged, she appeared alive, eager and ready to take on whatever this new environment presented her. If there ever was an opportunity for hubby to pass out cold from the sheer spectacle of blood and bodily fluids, this would have been it, but surprisingly, he handled himself in a cool, calm and collected manner, cutting the life source that linked me to our daughter for 9 months without wincing one bit. At last, free to be together without the assistance of the “Alien-like” cord.
As she was placed on my chest, tears of relief fell freely from my eyes. I inhaled her scent deeply for the first time and looked down at that tiny body and that puffy face, amazed by the black, silky hair framing her features. Her mouth opened wide to yawn and I laughed imagining that perhaps introductions lagged a bit more than she would have liked. Then she opened her eyes: beautiful brown almond-shaped eyes that twinkled under the window’s sunlight. Hubby stood over me, admiring the new woman in his life, the one I know trumps me in his eyes, but for whom jealous contempt will never enter this heart.
The time for her to latch on and have her meal came and she clang on eagerly. I hummed lightly, contemplating her tiny fingers. Once satiated, she smacked her little bow-shaped lips together. Hubby whispered: “how could anyone be so perfect?”
After being weighed, measured and cleaned, little mami was given to her father for “skin-to-skin” contact and my eyes softened at the sight of him looking down at her with pride. His expression said it all: that he now understood that “feeling”, that this is what real love feels like.
My brother, now present in the room, proceeded to snap a thousand pictures that would rival a September issue of Vogue: The Infant Edition. Soon thereafter, my father arrived from Montreal citing the frustration of being subjected to a few detours, but he soon let the memory of the trip that delayed him vanish from his mind as he laid eyes on his only granddaughter.
I took up this time to sneak in a nice, warm shower to clean off and be with my thoughts, which ran the gamut of:
Have I really given birth without the assistance of drugs? (Answer: Yup!)
Did I really manage to keep myself from screaming all kinds of expletives to relieve my pain? (Answer: You bet!)
Wait! Did I really just give birth to another human being after 13 years? (Answer: Hey, yeah! Hey, yeah!)
Was it all worth it? (Answer: Go ahead and borrow from American Express’ PRICELESS tagline).
Once back in bed, I was offered a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, which in my mind, morphed into the best meal I ever had…if a P&J sandwich came anywhere close to tasting like a medium-rare steak with a side order of sushi!?
After a few hours, I was released from the hospital. Off we went, little mami fully bundled up for a surprisingly mild and sunny fall day. As I sat in the front while my mom took up residency next to S in the back, I thanked God silently for the gift of seeing our little family of three suddenly grow to include this lovable munchkin.
“Ready to go home, little mami?”
Welcome to the world,
Sophia Maya Orellana
Happy Thanksgiving to all of you! In all things, be thankful.
Photo Credit: Proud uncle Patrick Narcisse
October gave a party;
The leaves by hundreds came -
The Chestnuts, Oaks, and Maples,
And leaves of every name.
The Sunshine spread a carpet,
And everything was grand,
Miss Weather led the dancing,
Professor Wind the band.
― George Cooper
At last, here you are again, dear October: you beautiful month of wonder
…shedding fiery-colored leaves into the crisp fall air like a visual symphony;
…dishing out heaping cups of Starbucks’ comforting PSL (Pumpkin Spice Latte for the uninitiated!) to keep the masses in seasonal coziness;
…giving city dwellers and suburbanites alike just cause to don grown folks superhero capes à la Olivia Pope, #BossStyle;
…inspiring breathtaking editorials from the industry’s finest and blurring the lines of fantasy and reality;
…holding the distinction of hosting Canada’s ultimate fashion affair outside of that “other” frantic, what-a-circus month;
…making us pause to count our blessings among our loved ones and regard gratitude as the right attitude;
…acting as the perfect accomplice to the self-professed “October’s Very Own” Grand Party Master in what is sure to be one of fall’s most unforgettable extravaganzas;
…marking another year in this life and welcoming another precious one to the fold.
You are lovely, sweet October; you are loved.
Welcome back, dear friend — now let’s dance!
Photo Credit: Chris Nicholls for FASHION Magazine | October 2014, via inspirationbbycolor.com
I know what you must be thinking: this girl’s a joke! Coming on here, expecting there’ll still be readers when she’s made a disappearing act like Houdini without much of a word, except for that last time when she hit us up with two posts in a row, which was SO last month ago!? Does she really think we’re fools? That we’d be sitting here WAITING on her to show up late like Mariah Carey at the 11th hour?
First off, let’s remove all negative connotations linking me to diva behavior because there is none in these parts — I always hope that you find something compelling enough to tune in to WIA. I’ve said it before and I’ll reiterate it here: WhoIsArlette.com is NOTHING but lost words in the Grand Poobah online universe without my faithful readers. That being said, pardon my absence, my lack of musings, my wave of mommy brain forgetfulness, my erratic behavior, my…just forgive me already, please?!?!
Yes, things have slowed down despite my best efforts — when one can barely roll through the front door without causing a 5.0 earthquake with their hippopotamus frame, there’s cause for celebration.
I’m now in week 38, which by the medicine world’s standards is all well and swell, but for me, this spells S-H-O-C-K; after all, Jamal “The Kid” showed up at 37 weeks, so I sort of imagined that nature would set the course for a repeat performance. WELL! Looks like Little Mami is already showing me she’s not about that life!? Needless to say, I’m restless and carry out many conversations with her about her peekaboo/running-game-on-you dictatorship and how I want (see NEED!) it to come to a swift end.
Hubby and I have been bombarded with texts, calls, tweets and direct messages asking for labour progress details and unfortunately, we haven’t been able to deliver “spread the news!” ferry dust yet. Hubby, who’s been nothing short of amazing, finally escaped the house for a few hours after I’ve begged him to repeatedly (I couldn’t stand to see him drown in another comatose support day). I’ve become pretty “chummy” with the ladies of The Talk and The Social — who else would be willing to keep me company, even if said relationship is of the one-sided kind and I have no say in the matter?
I know I’m close: I can taste it. The nesting phase has kicked in a few days back and I went into overdrive with the cleaning, prepping and whatnot like a deranged Martha Stewart clone. I know I’m close because I’ve since adopted a middle of the night wake-up habit, listening to the breeze ruffle the trees’ leaves and trying to catch backyard night crawlers in their scavenging act. I know I’m close because…I JUST HAVE TO BELIEVE IN SOMETHING, K?!?! It’s the way of the world.
Going to attempt my own “break your water” dance in the hopes that things go off like a Soul Train revival…except not today. Reasons? 1) it’s hubby’s #forever25 birthday and the man still guards “his” day like a 5-year old toddler guards his favorite toy and 2) it’s “Shonda Rhymes owns Thursday TV” thanks to the return of my guilty pleasure drama Scandal (and the arrival of newcomer How to Get Away with Murder). Multitasking need not apply tonight — tweeting my anxiety over pushing out a little human being is all the sacrifice I can handle at this time.
Keep me in your thoughts and prayers and por favor, resist the urge to prick needles into dolls that have a semblance of me because you found me to be less than reliable lately; we all peeples. Just know that your support keeps this train humming along the tracks, even when all parties involved are delayed…
Photo Credit: C. ‘WhoIsArlette’ and W. ‘Only1O’ Orellana
WE’RE A LITTLE OVER AUGUST’S HALFWAY MARK ALREADY…is this a good thing or not?
Can we talk for a minute about how QUICKLY this summer flew by? Technically, it’s still l’été, but before long, some of you will be back on 3-hour long lectures, trying with all your might not to stab yourselves in the eye with sharpened pencils (if you happen to love the Big Institution and its teachings, you have my utmost admiration and respect). For others, this signals the final stretch of taking off work early on Fridays and extending weekends past Monday for whatever summer lovin’ has you a blast: cottaging, patio watching, last-minute getaways, Rebecca Black Friday karaoke singing and road tripping.
Speaking of the latter, the O Clan took a little day jaunt to my birth city of Montreal a little more than a couple of weeks back, which was perfect for moi as I slowly feel that my feet will soon cease to be in working order. Our wedding photographer and friend Marie-Michèle joined us for a picnic in Little Italy before we headed off downtown for what was to be back-to-school shopping for Jamal (i.e. the excuses I come up to satisfy my own selfish urges would have your mind blown).
Here’s how it went down for two “refuse-to-grow-up” parents, one “a-little t00-grown-up” teenager, a “can’t-wait-to-come-out” bun in the oven and a “stuck-with-these-fools” MTL friend.
7:30 a.m. | Cocorico! The rooster call that is my cell phone wakes me up from my slumber, though I suspect Little Mami has been on duty before the fact thanks to her incessant jabs to the ribs. August, in my book, you’re fully welcomed. Now, get this kid out already!?
8:00 a.m. | My morning routine is no-nonsense and must have me ready in 30 minutes or less because frankly, I don’t like wasting my God-given time on earth singing into a loofah in the shower. My momma cooks up the breakfast of champions for the entire family: eggs, French baguette, ham, fresh veggies and fruits, juice, coffee, the works! Timmies won’t erect a monument in my name anytime soon.
9:25 a.m. | Get the day’s essentials in the car: cooler, sunscreen, road snacks, camera, chargers, happy moods. I’m one stone throw away from breaking into song à la Julie Andrews, with cartoon birds flying all around me.With a 17-mminute late start, we are finally off!
12:00 p.m. | In Montreal already!? After driving 4.5 hours to Toronto and back for 8 years, I tend to forget how easy-breezy it is to get from OTT to MTL — straight line uncomplicated business (unless your foot gets too heavy on that pedal and Sûreté du Québec happens to be hiding away in the bushes like the Big Bad Wolf looking to stick one Ontario-licensed driver with a speeding ticket). Admit it: they hate us.
12:35 p.m. | Getting across the island from the Trans-Canada highway into the downtown core is like getting through a war zone: you’re constantly on edge and feel like a ticking time bomb every time someone cuts you off, doesn’t signal changing lanes, or gives you the stink eye for daring to drive a vehicle with a license plate that doesn’t spell JE ME SOUVIENS. I feel like screaming “Les Québécois, c’est juste des têtes de cochons! (Quebeckers are a bunch of stubborn folks!), but can anticipate my kid’s smart-a** comment to the effect of “Uh, Mom? Wouldn’t that make you one if you’re born a Quebecker too?” Let’s here it for the analogy of the Pot calling the Kettle black. Even in imaginary dialogues with the kid, I must concur “Touché, Jamal, tou-ché”. I save myself the humiliation.
12:50 p.m. | Parking, surprisingly, is easy to score in a city known for its narrow streets better fitting Barbie’s convertible than human-size vehicles. We’re here, sun shining, temps rising, appetites growing. This is how you do Montreal.
1:15 p.m. | We walk over to Dinette Triple Crown and soon after, Marie-Michèle appears in an oh-so-adorable casual tee, jean shorts and Chucks uniform, with a Raised by Wolves strap back hat over her short cropped do (she’s too cool for school). More and more people arrive and in the interim, I learn MM is a vegetarian (oops!), which may be problematic since the unassuming little gem, a Southern cuisine spot located in Little Italy, is known for its fried chicken and other grease-spoon fare.
1:30 p.m. | I’m salivating already and my eyes are the size of saucers. This place has garnered rave reviews from MTL’s top foodies. Little Mami sticks out her bum in her favorite cavity of my stomach, which is code for “Let’s do this, mama!” #PasLtempsDniaiser
1:40 p.m. | It’s our turn to order and I rattle off my list like an auctioneer: (3) Meat & Threes, with a combination of sides (mashed potatoes and gravy, creamy slaw, cornbread, biscuits, fried sweet potatoes) and let’s finish this off with the Mac ‘n’ Cheese (locals call it a “revelation”). From here on out, it’s a 30-minute wait for our picnic basket.
2:10 p.m. | I have to pause for a moment and observe the picnic basket Dinette Triple Crown hooks us up with: checkered tablecloth, dishware, cutlery, sauces aplenty and mason jars to wash down those pipes with water or summer’s quintessential refreshments of ice tea and lemonade. It’s a required IG moment, but instead, I’m savoring the basket’s content and snapping away with my mind’s eye.
2:20 p.m. | After being on the lookout for a vacant picnic table (mama can’t do the ground in her condition!), hubby scores us one. Unpacking the basket makes me giddy with anticipation. Everything smells like the best meal you’ll ever have in your life and I soon find out that the reality far exceeds the assumption. The chicken is so scrumptious that KFC should stand to go bankrupt (truthfully, they shouldn’t even be mentioned in the same breath nor sentence); DTC is just THAT.GOOD! The food is so plentiful that despite the four of us taking bite after bite of food in a bid to clear the contents of our basket, it remains steadfast like manna from the heavens. Leftover lunch for damn sure! #nocomplaints
2:50 p.m. | Although we’re feeling like Beluga whales the sea cannot contain, I think to myself that maybe we should end this on a sweet note by going to St-Laurent Blvd and getting La Cornetteria‘s specialty, the Cronetto, which supposedly has people singing heavenly hymns. That moment would most likely deserve a cheesy 80s track like “Take My Breath Away” by Berlin just to signify the epicness of all that is great in life, but it never materializes; we’re all too full.
2:55 p.m. | We part ways with MM, driving south to park near Des Pins. As we walk towards St-Laurent Blvd, we spot a little barbershop and the boys decide to have their hair shorten as the unforgiving blazing sun hits us overhead. We leave an hour and a half later, both of them looking fresh to death while I continue to look every bit like my sorry-a** self with mustard splatters on my blouse that have me looking a Basquiat portrait.
4:30 p.m. | Off downtown! Parking in these parts is a little trickier, but my little go-to saving grace is the all-day $7 parking at the Eaton Centre, which is both convenient and beyond affordable by MTL standards. Let the shopping games, from Underground City all the way to St. Catherine Street, begin!
6:30 p.m. | Two hours later, we withdraw from our retail pilgrimage EMPTY-HANDED (did that really happen?) and return to our car, feeling as though we’re not quite done with MTL yet. Where else can we head to? I’m thinking street performers, evening walkers, lively entertainment…Old Montreal? The area never disappoints with its Parisian-themed cobble-stoned streets. I may call Ontario home, but I consider myself quite a blessed girl to have been born in this city filled with French charm and history. But alas, I can feel the achiness of my feet from the constant walking turning me into a party pooper. Time to retire you, Montreal, except something tells me we’ll see each other again…in another year. Bye bye, la’w! (as my fellow Montrealers would say).
Je me souviens très bien de nos moments passés ensemble et les chérirai longtemps (I remember well our times spent together and will cherish them for a long time).
Photo credit: C. ‘WhoIsArlette’ and W. ‘Only1O’ Orellana
I’ve been waiting for it: the sibling jealousy that can arise from any kid who’s used to being the only child and who suddenly must contend with the thought and impending arrival of another human being…except, my only kid is surprisingly quite excited to be welcoming a sibling in spite of a significant age gap. Although Jamal is now a teenager and slowly coming unto his own, I still regard him as the little boy who used to raise his arms to me with a look of complete dependency. I still see the joyous little tyke who would trip, see a streak of blood trickle down his leg and instead of crying, would get back up and keep running without a care in the world. He’s my first and if there ever was evidence of a boy being a proud son, let alone a momma’s boy and unapologetic about it, mine certainly takes the cake!?
I wonder to myself how I’ll manage to love both of my children in equal measure without making neither one of them feel neglected. I feel a bit of pity for Jamal as he’s been witnessing our families and friends fussing over this little person who is yet to be born. I try to put myself in his shoes and think of the impact this may have on him, whether he still feels he matters to me, to his stepdad, to his grandparents, to his uncles and aunts, both biological and honorary. When my heart suffered its worst heartbreak a long time ago, his presence and his hugs were enough to give me the push to go forward when I wasn’t sure I had anything left in me to keep going or fight for. There hasn’t been a day that’s gone by without him telling me “Mom, I love you” several times with the purest spill of the heart. I’m in awe of this kid: I don’t know why I was entrusted his care by the Most High, but I believe that it was more for my own benefit than it ever was for his. He saved me from…me.
I enjoy our talks, our walks; his joie de vivre; his maturity, which he balances perfectly with the realities of being a teenage boy while still living out his don’t-want-to-grow-up “Peter Pan” fantasies that keep him amazed by the little things. I let it soak in, try to learn from his way of looking at life when I get manic inside and feel like a complete failure. Even if I waited a long time for a daughter, I never want to make my son feel like he’s any less wanted, regardless of the circumstances from which he was born. I wasn’t ready then for motherhood, but I did what I felt in my heart was closest to my convictions, and the end result turned out to be one that broadened my understanding of what true love is.
He’s my first born, my buddy, an extension of me and my mini-BIG me and now, he’ll soon be a big brother. Thankfully, he doesn’t hang with the Green-eyed monster and rather, looks at what is on the way as another open door to letting love flow from his heart. Baby S is blessed to have someone openly advocating her well-being, protection and happiness the way only a big brother would.
Whoever Jamal ends up with later on in life (ratchet ‘hood rats need not apply — every last one will get screened!), I hope she can see him as I see him: with a heart for the women around him, with a gentleness and generosity that I have yet to witness in other young men his age, and with a drive to better himself in every way while remaining close to the lessons in humility my husband and I try every day to impart.
This is who we were then and this is who we’ll continue to be well into the last days of our lives. This post may be called Sunday/Son Day and come a day after the fact, but it is no less us being on our merry mother and son way.
Photo credit: C. ‘WhoIsArlette’ Orellana
Clash and Crash is the best way to sum up my style as of late: on the one hand, I’m all about comfort (for obvious reasons!), but on the other, I try to retain that sense of individuality that would seem impractical to many in my shoes, almost schizophrenic in nature.
Beetlejuice meets Willy Wonka: two child-like worlds colliding, one rooted in twisted fantasy while the other appeals to innocent wonder. Except, we grown and I’m leaving the magical incantations and hard-learned factory lessons out of the equation. I dress as I please for the one and only earthly body I’ll ever get.
To dress yourself during pregnancy and retain parts of yourself, you may have to look the other way if your style of dress happens to be a little “unusual” by society’s standards. I’ve gotten my fair share of odd looks in the last few months for choosing to outfit myself in slouchy pleather pants as opposed to lazy sweat pants, graphic tees as opposed to monochromatic tunics, and high heels as opposed to sneakers. I’ve been singled out (out loud!) by a bus rider for DARING to wear a form-fitting dress that hit 10 inches above the knee (oh, l’horreur! Get Tim Gunn on the phone tout de suite!). I’m very outspoken naturally and couldn’t care less about others’ opinions of me in the matters of dress codes (especially if the judging jury could easily pass as extras on the set of Weekend at Bernie’s) but I’ve found myself growing a little apprehensive with each stare, as if I WASN’T allowed to dictate my place in the world by what makes me feel good, at a time when my body is foreign and unrecognizable to myself and needs nurturing much more than judgment.
When has pregnancy, one of life’s greatest gifts, become something to shun as dirty or inappropriate if it is not concealed under prudish attire?
At a time when I should be walking proudly, bearing the energy and beauty of my blessing, I’ve been made to feel like I should not “advertise” the evidence of my joy in ways that suggest out-of-the-box self-expression, and this has both startled and saddened me. I began second-guessing my own personal choices, telling myself that perhaps I’d be better off jumping aboard the peasant dress, flats, ponytail and bare minimum face look. Comfortable? Very. Remarkable? No. If blending in was ever what I set out to do with my look, my thoughts, my words and whatever else you may think of, there would no purpose for this blog, for opinions, for influence and for growth. Real life, for me, began the day I found my voice. Hence, the apprehension has no business setting shop in this life that waves the “No Apologies” flag.
The Sunday that I set off to explore Ottawa for fun in one of my black, body-hugging halter dresses, I was stopped by a woman in her early forties who saw me walking by as she was having tea on a patio with her mother. She ran after me and this was our exchange:
HER: “Excuse me?”
HER: “I’m sorry. I had to come running after you to let you know that my mother and I just saw you walking by and that we love seeing a pregnant woman showing off her pregnancy curves. You look great!”
ME: “Are you serious? You have no clue how much this means to me. People haven’t been too kind with their stares and comments.”
HER: “Really? You have a glow! You know where the judgment stems from? My mom told me once that in her time, a woman was meant to cover evidence of her pregnancy because if she didn’t, it was synonymous with her doing the deed. But times have changed! So, don’t let people’s looks get to you. You look amazing!”
ME: “Thank you for coming over. This has made my day and reminds me that I should stick to my guns. Have a great day!”
To that lady, thank you: not because you’ve given me a green light to resist convention, but because you’ve reminded me that the more convinced I am of my inner light, the easier it is to let it shine bright into the world.
Photo Credit: W. ‘Only1O’ Orellana
“Yeah. I always carry this much s*&t into my bag; you never know when you may have to jam.” – Allison “The basket case” Reynolds, The Breakfast Club
As an aspiring writer (and one who hopes to become a published author some day), I try to find ways to connect my thoughts and emotions to a topic that 1) interests me; 2) is relevant to my readers; 3) allows me to flex my thinking and prose; and 4) is presented in a much different (if not unusual) manner than what the masses produce. I’m in no way the next Margaret Atwood or Alice Munro and would much rather be a first rate version of myself than the 1,000,000th version of someone else; but thankfully, judging by the enthusiasm I’ve garnered through comments, retweets, personal messages and the likes in the last year, I believe I’ve managed to successfully achieve that mandate without pulling teeth. I take pride in writing FOR you and engaging WITH you.
However, I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t admit to feeling inspired and tickled pink by some of the content fashion and lifestyle bloggers put out, because a lot of it is darn right fun, light and beautiful! Sometimes, part of the fun is joining in on the fun and contributing your take to the conversation. Lately, I’ve been thinking that I’d like to spill…the contents of my bag à la Allison Reynolds (I’ll let Miss “basket case” hold on to the inevitable fate of becoming a shopping bag lady that sits in alleyways, talks to buildings and wears men’s shoes).
Many men are confused by women’s need to carry an elaborate “accoutrement” on their arm every day, and depending on which end of the spectrum they happen to stand on, they may be as perplexed as The Devil Wears Prada‘s Nate (“Why do women need so many bags?…You have one, you put all your junk in it, and that’t it! You’re done!”) or as empathetic as his buddy Doug (“Fashion is not about utility. An accessory is merely a piece of iconography used to express individual identity”). Here, here, Doug! Couldn’t have said it any better…
So, with that being said, here are the every day essentials that go into my sturdy-and-beginning-to-fade Aldo ‘Folortan’ trapeze studded handbag, last year’s birthday gift from the hubs that continues to score me compliments to this day. Eventually, I hope to graduate to some more grown-up fare — you know, a little something that rivals rent money and which preferably, comes in the most divine buttery leather. Brands, if you have quick reflexes, this is your cue to #showmetheswag!
1. KEYS | Pretty self-explanatory, non? I have multiple sets and don’t quite know why I have yet to unite them on a single key chain. If I’m ever stranded out of the house, I can always attempt a break-in, but then again, this would be the fastest way to assisted suicide and to having my mug shot appear on the 6 0’clock evening news, with neighbors taking turns putting me on blast à la Antoine Dodson (“You’re so dumb, you are really dumb…for real!).
2. GOOGLE NEXUS PHONE | The few times I’ve left my cell phone at home, the feeling has likened itself to the Phantom limb phenomenon — I know a cell phone will never come CLOSE to replacing a real organ, but you catch my drift (#wedependent). Just like 99.9% of the living and breathing population, my device serves as my alarm clock, my office-on-the-go, my connection to the world, my distraction, my sync pad, my personal DJ, my…I’ll stop now.
3. KOBO READER | This is the earliest and most basic version of the device, but it works like a charm and keeps me enthralled in the fiction and biographies of movers and shakers. My current read? The Glitter Plan by Pamela Skaist-Levy and Gela Nash Taylor, the founders of fashion brand Juicy Couture. It’s a light, fun and insightful summer read for the girl who wants to achieve her dreams of striking out on her own. If case you didn’t get the memo, being a #GirlBoss is all the rage, dawlin’! (that’s a shameless plug for Sophia Amoruso’s book, which is also an eye-opener).
4. SWAROVSKI CRYSTAL PEN | This was a gift from my BFF, Roseline, for my 34th birthday. It’s such a striking pen that once, while attending a prenatal class, I took it out of my purse to fill out some paperwork and the girl sitting next to us almost had a convulsion at the sight of it (I thought she was going to deliver her baby right there and then). It’s slick and pretty, and as my bestie said, fit for a writer. Ah!
5. iPOD NANO | I nicknamed her “Lacey” for reasons unknown. It was a gift from the hubs when we were dating. He had it engraved on the back with Pearls & Times Events, which was my event planning company at the time. Lacey has choked a few times over the years (and even went into cardiac arrest for several months), but she’s since come to. She holds sentimental value and has been making up for all the past drama by entertaining me loud and clear ever since. Pfft! Picky little technology…
6. BUSINESS CARDS | Mine are as plain as they come, but they provide all the info one needs at a glance. The company that does them delivers quickly and at an affordable price. Plus, I die of happiness every time I look at that “WhoIsArlette” typeface that’s become synonymous with my online brand.
7. LIPGLOSS | I scored this one at the Sparks Sessions Conference in Toronto last November and man, it’s the best damn thing since sliced bread. It’s hydrating, goes on smoothly and projects the most beautiful sheen. This one, Almay’s ‘Just Plum Good’, was chosen for me by Jacquie Hutchinson, Revlon Canada’s National Product Trainer and makeup artist. I call her aunt Jacquie because she’s so laid back and accessible despite her tremendous success.
8. PRESTO CARD | The genius behind this public transit card is that whether you’re in Ottawa or Toronto, it works! (it even covers the Greater Hamilton Area). I’ve commuted aboard the “people’s limo” all my life and love the convenience of public transit: it allows me time to read, listen to music, draft my next ideas, nap or people watch.
9. ST. IVES HAND LOTION | My ultimate pet-peeve is dry hands. I lather lotion on mine several times a day and have been told that their unwrinkled appearance tricks people into thinking I’m younger than I am (is that a back-handed compliment or…?). Either way, I patrol the streets for ashy hands and pray silently for the guilty.
10. HAIR ELASTICS | I fight with my hair on a near daily basis; it just has a mind of its own. Black ouchless hair elastics are what allow me to thread the careful divide between the unruly, limp and annoying and the presentable and pulled together. I never want to be the girl who looks like “Who Shot John?”, so oftentimes, I keep one around my wrist and a few extras in my bag.
11. SUNGLASSES | No matter the season, these eyes need their cover. I don’t overthink it and rotate a few pairs based on my outfit and mood. I always purchase cheap ones from fast fashion brands like H&M and F21 because I tend to break or lose them easily. Buying a designer pair that could later be destroyed, lost (or worse!) stolen would send me into septic shock, so I stay in my lane.
12. CHINESE COOKIE FORTUNE | While out to a late Thai lunch with my cousin, his fiancée and their moms last summer as we were planning said cousin’s wedding, we were given the standard parting gift: the fortune cookie. Since I was seated at the end of the table, my cousin, who picked one for himself, noticed I didn’t have any and gave me his before grabbing another one. Turns out the one he “passed” along to me had this happy and serendipitous message: “You will become an accomplished writer 3 6 9 11 42 48″. I don’t know what the numbers stand for; I don’t even believe in Chinese astrology. But I do believe that some things are meant to be and well, if you know anything about me, the rest of what’s to come will be history…
There you have it! Other things that often find their way in my bag as well: a few magazines, a notebook, gum, a few colored pens and my passport (because, well…you never know when you may have to jam!).
Tell me: what’s in YOUR bag?
Photo credit: C. ‘WhoIsArlette’ and W. ‘Only1O’ Orellana
…but when a dapper and sweet-voiced Tennessee-born gentleman, with hypnotic music and killer moves to boot, happens to stop by your city for a night and a friend invites you along to see him do his thang, you must:
1) Dig into your well of patience to get you through the work day and keep yourself from bursting like a Cinco de Mayo piñata;
2) Spend your entire afternoon revisiting his discography and refreshing your memory’s jukebox so that you don’t look like a complete aberrant fool during sing-alongs;
3) Remind yourself 1,000,000 times that his sexy love anthems, no matter how convincing they sound when he croons and smirks directly into the camera, are really not about you.
Oh, to hell with it! I love me some JT like a fat kid loves cake and tonight, I’m going to Take Back The Night.
#FollowMe via Twitter and Instagram at @WhoIsArlette because my own idiotic, happy face will become a hashtagged occurrence of its own.
Now, get Jimmy Fallon on via teleconference — he’s needed for some hashtagging sign language.
I looked down at my watch: 11:08 a.m. I sighed deeply and picked a piece of thread unraveling from my alleged “in pristine condition” vintage blazer before sighing again. Although we were only eight minutes behind schedule, I seethed with impatience as we waited for the most-buzzed about exhibition tour in town to begin. My muscles started to grow numb from foreboding — nothing had taken place yet for me to assume that some impending doom was upon us, but nonetheless, the feeling clang on like an icky rash. Every few minutes, newcomers to the group would arrive at once, marching dutifully like ants in a single file before stopping abruptly at the edge of our broken circle. The creases on their faces gave away their palpable excitement as they spoke animatedly amongst themselves before letting their childish laughs rip through the air. Finally, our guide appeared seemingly out of nowhere and proceeded to commend our attention by waving a gaunt and veiny hand to rally the troops.
“Good day and welcome to the Starving Artist Exhibit!” he shouted enthusiastically, revealing scraggly, yellowing teeth under a thick mustache. “The International Museum of Hopeful Creatives is thrilled to be the first to host this never-before-seen, world-class exhibition about the exhilarating and uncertain world of the struggling artist. Since its inauguration 6 days ago, the exhibit has had an unprecedented number of visitors, breaking early attendance record predictions of 10,000 guests. I’m happy to report that we will be reaching the 1,000,000-visitor mark with you all today! Aren’t you lucky to be part of the one in a million group to mark this milestone?”
The group erupted into cheers, clapping boisterously. The guide ran his hand on the back of his close-cropped hair, adjusting his thick-rimmed glasses over his nose and licking his lips suggestively as he looked in the direction of a pretty young brunette who bore all the winning elements of a made-for-the-runway model. An elderly woman standing nearby for whom the innuendo didn’t go unnoticed, wrinkled her nose in disgust.
“Before we go any further, please step this way and pick up the paddle that represents your vocation and follow me!” he continued, leading the way into an area where light became increasingly sparse. I looked down at the rows of wooden paddles, my eyes glazing over the options:
Photographer…Musician…Graphic Designer…Stylist…Painter…Makeup Artist…Performer…Videographer…
I came to a complete stop as the Writer paddle came into full view. It definitely mirrored my reality the closest, but didn’t sum up entirely the scope of my dreams. My mind argued against the paddle’s one-liner headline, which fell short of telling the real story of the struggles I faced on a daily basis as an aspiring writer. Accustomed to regularly receiving generic “Hi There!” pitches from PR companies and brands, it didn’t take me long to realize that I was perceived as another “Eager Beaver” puppet whose strings these industry giants felt they could pull with promises of free swag and VIP tickets in exchange for free marketing write-ups. I grabbed the paddle and twirled it in my hand, following the group closely behind.
“The exhibit has been designed to showcase several types of creatives, taking you through the realities of their dreams and struggles based on a number of factors such as passion, self-promotion, personal marketing and branding, ferocious competition, creative license, high-demand client expectations and so on,” noted our tour guide. “Feel free to peruse the massive display at your leisure and ask me any question you may have,” he added noncommittally before disappearing behind a wall.
As I approached the 12-ft long window display, I was taken aback by the House of Wax-like figures who stared back at us blankly as if their souls had been stolen in some cannibalistic ritual meant to exterminate them. One of them appeared to be struggling under the weight of multiple bags, overpowered by Transformer-size equipment; another stood amongst several racks of high-price gowns and boxes of shoes, while an impeccably dressed figure stood nearby looking condescending and requesting “More options!”. As I walked by each figure, I read the descriptive over each one silently:
The Shoot-Free-for-Exposure Photographer…The Barter-for-Beats Producer…The Gimme-More-for-Less Graphic Designer…The Copy-My-Genius Painter…The Run-Around-Town Slaving Stylist…The Put-a-Price-on-My-Art Makeup Artist…The Nickel-and-Dime-Me Performer…The Let-Me-See-Quality Videographer…
A burly man with a balding head dressed in what seemed to be his return-from-the cottage getup, spoke up to one in particular.
“These mannequins are creepy,” he said. “They almost look life-like!?” he observed. “These descriptions seem so accurate, but are so sad,” he continued. “It’s almost as if these people have lost that sparkle in their eye because no one takes their craft seriously. They look distressed, worn-out…”
“…almost as if they’ve been doing this forever and are now depleted from trying to prove their worth and feeling like they’re getting nowhere” suggested a lithe redhead, who knelt closer to the window before tapping its glass with her finger.
“This one looks like she hasn’t slept in days,” said a couple as they pointed out another target. A few of us gathered around them and let out groans of agreement. I felt sucker-punched: the figure sat among a sea of rumpled sheets, looking focused on what could be construed as another rewrite. I considered the scenario before me: how many hours had she put in already in drafting what she hoped would be read, shared and celebrated? Was she doing it because she had been contracted to do so or because she hoped to be in the near future? Was she being promised her own bylines and hence, pouring all of her heart and soul into those lines, hoping to be found worthy of an opportunity? Would her work go on to live gloriously, or vanish unrewarded, taking her along with it?
We all stood in silence, each one of us gazing in the direction of the objects of our afflictions.
The elderly woman from earlier spoke quietly: “At this rate, they should have just slapped ‘Will work for food!’ above the entire display because that’s essentially what each one of these represented figures want — to share their craft with the world while ensuring their likelihood. We’re first driven by the feeling of contributing something worthwhile to the world. Showing skill, talent, innovation and creativity…that’s one thing; but nurturing those traits is quite another!? This is why many fail and give up when recognition is slow to come…Where do we draw the line? When do we agree to keep going out of love and when is it time to demand respect for our time, efforts and work? Hmmm, food for thought, I guess…” she concluded with a gentle smile, winking my way. I smiled understandably.
I looked down at my watch: an entire hour had gone by in the blank of an eye. I looked around the room at the other attendees — silence weighed heavily over the room, leaving only racing thoughts to speak louder than words and interrogations ever could. The awkwardness was suddenly broken by the tiny voice of the pretty brunette.
“How come there’s no figure representing a model?” she asked inquisitively. We all turned to look at her before looking back at the window display. Our guide emerged from his hidden corner, his clothes slightly wrinkled.
“Oh, the committee was slow to introduce this one to the gallery, but it’s already in the works.”
“What will the figure be called?” asked a teenage Asian boy without raising his eyes from his Instagram feed.
“The Make-Me-Famous-Now Model” replied the guide. “Well, what do you know, the tour is already over. Thank you all for visiting the Starving Artist Exhibit. Please do not forget to return your paddles before leaving. Hope you enjoyed yourselves. Have a wonderful day!”
He turned to the young pretty brunette and whispered: “I can quickly show you the model figure you inquired about, if you want?” he offered, smiling brightly and extending his hand to her. She took it without hesitation and followed him.
“Thanks for the tour, Mister…?”
“You can just call me Terry…”
SUPPORT CREATIVES. YOU WOULDN’T WORK FOR FREE: WHY SHOULD THEY?