Nikki DuBose on Modeling, Mental Health, and Politics

Nikki DuBose is a former model turned author who is nothing short of a superhero. Nikki released her memoir Washed Away: From Darkness to Light in September of 2016 in which she reveals her journey to self-care. As an advocate for mental health, Nikki is a Celebrity Ambassador for The Shaw Mind Foundation, and has worked with assembly members such as Marc Levine on addressing the need for updated workplace protections within the modeling industry.

We had the opportunity to speak with Nikki about some of the work she has been doing, her journey to get there, and what is next to come.

Photos by Russ Elloway

Kimberley: What led you to write a tell-all account about your life and your experiences?

Nikki DuBose: When I started recovering in 2012, one of the main things to help me recover was realizing that I needed to stop isolating, so I started getting involved with The National Eating Disorder Association and I found a lot of camaraderie in that. I realized from that and through my writing that there are a lot of people who have more issues… and beyond the eating disorder, there’re a lot of layers in that. So that just led to many other things, especially with the writing and connecting. I just realized that writing a book would help me to connect with people. There’s really no shame in speaking about mental health issues, although we think that there is shame because we don’t talk about it so much. Even though, through the power of social media, there are a lot of videos, and articles — in the real world, when you go out and you’re in your own head, you feel ashamed. Or when you’re at work you feel ashamed to talk about it.

The book and the writing were some things that helped me and gave me confidence because as a person in my natural state, I have depression, I have really low self-esteem… so it really helped me and helped me to help other people. It was a big stepping stone and I try to encourage people, even if they think they’re not good at writing, to try. It’s a creative outlet. Some people like to paint, or some people like to draw, so I think it’s a good way to get your story out there because we all have a story. Every single one of us has a story.

K: In your book, you discuss journaling as a therapeutic way for you to get your thoughts out. Has writing helped you all your life or did you stumble onto it later?

N: I was more artistically inclined. As far as writing goes, [I wrote] ever since I was little. I remember in third grade I wrote a short story and I was really into that. My mom is also artistically inclined so I think it kind of ran on her side of the family. I always liked it, but I do know that my mental health issues kind of hindered me pursuing it. What I mean by that is, I was more inclined to draw or write in my room behind closed doors because it was a way for me to express the pain I felt, than because I was more shy, or because I was being abused. I would go in my room and do that rather than participate in a writing class in school or something.

In my junior/senior year in high school, I did finally participate. I was a senior editor for this newspaper. I would gain some confidence and I would try, but then I would drop out of high school. It was a real struggle for me, however, writing was always one of the things that I eventually leaned back on and it gave me confidence. That was true in high school and that was true in college. Finally, I was sure I was recovering, because eventually something that I started to do helped me to remember all the memories I had repressed. I just started to let all those memories out, so I guess writing has always been that tool that I can rely on to help me. I’m a strong advocate for writing, or painting, or any type of art therapy.

K: You often speak of your experience in the modeling industry and how it can be a tough space for young girls, especially if they’re starting out on their own. What led you into the modeling industry at such a young age? How did it shape your self-perception?

N: That’s a very good question because people need to hear that over and over again because I still find that it’s just a small percentage of people who are telling the truth, versus people who are wanting to get into that business. It is a multi-billion or almost trillion dollar business. I pushed myself into that business because I had really low self-esteem and I like to link trauma in childhood to why people can be attracted to that business. You don’t have to look very far to see how many celebrities or stars come from broken homes who want to become famous. That was definitely true for me.

I didn’t feel like anyone special. My mother had severe mental health issues: bipolar, dissociative identity. I had child sexual abuse, physical abuse, all this stuff going on, and I felt like, in my mind, that it was something that naturally clicked in my head. I didn’t analyze it. I felt like, if I can be recognized, if I can be in a magazine, then life will be OK. That was my natural thought process. I entered a local, very well-known modelling school and was bullied and fat shamed. I was already dealing with an eating disorder for a while by that time, and BDD, which made it worse, so I left that school.

The thing is that, because I was so used to being abused, and living in that type of environment, I still kept going back to wanting to be famous or wanting to be in that type of environment. A few years later I got back into modelling again in California, and started working in television and then eventually signed a big contract in Miami with one of the biggest agencies in the world. I got into more problems because I hadn’t dealt with my mental health issues, and by that time I was becoming very successful at modelling. I wasn’t one of those stories that you hear where like, I was in the mall with my mom and a scout found me. It wasn’t like that; it was the opposite.

 

K: There was a passage in your book that stuck out to me. It reads, “Who am I? I’m certainly not special, but a joke, a close hanger for everyone to admire and forget.” What did you mean by this passage?

N: I mean, it’s exactly like that, because that’s what I felt like. That was from when I did a big fashion show and at that time, I was dealing with psychosis and all these things, and mental health… and mine was so messed up, I really felt like I’d worked so hard but it didn’t matter because nobody cared. So, here I was working for people, but nobody gives a shit about me. So, what was all this for? Why was I trying to attain this lifestyle, this status, when in the end I felt like they were laughing at me. I felt like they didn’t care about me. It was like a reflection of my childhood to me, because I was still dealing with that trauma but I didn’t really realize it. I felt like I was dealing with something that was really burdening to my soul.

It was really hard for me mentally, and I felt really alone. I think I dealt with these jobs much harder than other people, because I had these mental health issues but I internalized things deeply. I could feel the superficiality of the business. I could really digest that. I could sense it. I could see it, and I just felt like I wanted to get out of there. At the same time, I couldn’t because I was attracted to that.

K: What advice would you give to girls who aspire to enter the industry?

N: I think there a few different things. I worked on a legislation last year, and we’re actually doing a campaign right now: it’s hashtag “DearNYFW.” We are doing it with the National Eating Disorder Association and the Model Alliance and we signed an open letter —thirty-five models calling for more health and diversity. Last year, I worked on a bill trying to regulate the fashion business. Any young person has to understand, and especially their parents have to understand, that the industry isn’t regulated. When you are trying to work as a worker in a business that’s not regulated, as an independent contractor, it’s really dangerous because you don’t have protection. You can go in there and they can tell you to lose weight, like every single day, and that’s alright, because you’re not protected. Someone can abuse you psychologically and sexually. You get raped — it happened to me, it happens to a lot of girls, and guess what? It doesn’t really make a difference because there are a thousand girls going in there and it happens to a percentage of them. There’s no worker protection, and this has been a business that has been operating like that since the very beginning and we publicized that it has been operating like that. We took it to the senate, the assembly, and we got turned down.

On the other end, the more commercial aspect, what I like to tell young people is that, beauty isn’t bad. It’s not bad to want to model, I don’t put down the industry, because fashion is amazing. I’m a woman, I love fashion, but it’s not everything. It’s just one component of life. I’m all for humanitarian causes. I think it’s more important to look inside yourself and to see what your passions in life are, how you can contribute to the world, how you can help other people. Try not to get sucked up into a multi-billion dollar business that is just there to make money, and not really there to care for you. It’s not bad, but it’s not everything — try to not make it your whole life because you’re so much bigger than that as a person. You’re so much more important than that as a person, you have so much more to offer this world than just the way you look or how much you weigh. It’s not all there is to life.

K: You worked alongside Assembly member Marc Levine on the California Assembly Bill 2539, which addresses workplace protections and health standards in the modeling industry. Can you tell us a little about the bill, your contribution, and the next steps going forward?

N: I worked on that because I’ve had a great partnership with the National Eating Disorder Association for several years now. I’ve done a lot of different things with them at a national and local level, so we partnered up. We all worked together to try to get this bill passed. It was turned down in the appropriations committee, where they decide how much a bill is going to cost. This year, we have another chance with the bill so we are determining now how we are going to move forward with that.

In 2015, I started working on a mental health education program for models and agents because when I was working in the modelling industry I noticed that there was absolutely zero mental health education and resources to support the models. It’s twofold: agencies need to be educated, they need to understand what eating disorders are, and models need support. When they are independent contractors, they usually can’t afford health insurance. They need free support, so that’s what I’m working on.

K: As a Celebrity Ambassador for The Shaw Mind foundation, (a global charity passionate about tackling the stigma that can accompany mental health issues) you have been featured on the Oprah Winfrey Network on the TD Jakes Show. What have you taken away from this experience?

N: The Shaw Mind Foundation is a great, and I signed on with them. They are currently petitioning to get mandatory mental health education in schools in the UK. I’d like to bring that on here, in the US, in getting mental health education.

The TD Jakes Show is amazing. I love TD Jakes. He is a Pentecostal pastor and coming from the South, it just connects with me because I feel like I can do something in church and I don’t have to sit still. I feel it in my soul. I would watch him on TV when I was in Spain. It helped me along my recovery path. I was watching him and somehow we got connected, then I went on there.

When I was doing the interview, I was thinking, “oh my god!” I felt a little bit struck. Also, because I felt like it was a very good interview. He’s a really good person, and I feel it’s really good what he’s doing with his show because, first of all: he’s a man, a person of faith, and with him introducing mental health issues on his show, it’s great. I personally feel like we need more people doing that, who are faith-filled, talking about mental health, bringing it to the forefront, not people who are from Hollywood attacking other people’s mental health issues, but are applauding them. It was a good interview and I love him, he’s a great person.

K: You are currently working on the Omnibus Child Victim’s Act which aims to extend the current statute of limitations for child sexual abuse an extra five years beyond current law. What does this bill mean to you? What are the next steps going forward?

Nikki DuBose: The revised bill would eliminate the statute of limitations because New York has the worst laws in the whole country for child sexual abuse victims. I got involved in that because it’s something that is really close to me. I currently live in California and we passed that, we don’t have any limitations. One of the things I do with the foundation is I sometimes get involved with legislative issues, and when I heard about this issue in New York, I said, “why has this been turned down?” It’s going on 11 years now. My friends who are working on this, through the “Stop Abuse Campaign,” contacted me and said I would like to get involved because I think it’s ridiculous that this is going on 11 years. The Catholic church paid two million dollars to lobbyists in the past ten years to block this. This is all public information. When the bill was first introduced, the assembly woman who was working on it tried to making it a catholic church bill, but I said that child sexual abuse is not just in the catholic church, it affects everyone. I was sexually abused by my mother, and a male figure, and it correlates into mental health issues and it relates to eating disorders.

This year, for the first time ever, we got the Governor of New York’s support. Which is a big deal when the governor puts his stamp on an issue or bill, then it really shows the legislature that he is serious about getting the bill passed. It makes me sick because statistically from the CDC, and the state of New York, there are 43,000 children every year who are sexually abused. That’s the reported cases. With these kind of issues, they’re often underreported. I hate seeing things like this go on and nothing being done, especially when law makers are being paid to handle issues and they let things like this slide. We want to get this bill passed this year.

K: You have been very open about your personal experience with abuse and have become a mentor for young people everywhere. What advice would you give to young people to come forward if they find themselves in a similar situation?

N: It’s not easy. I don’t think there is one formula. It depends on which type of abuse. With sexual abuse, we know that statistically, it can take the victim 21 years to remember their memories. With physical abuse, I haven’t looked up statistics, but I know that with domestic violence, it can be really hard to get out of that. Everyone’s inner strength is different. I think that if I could give one piece of advice it would be to know that you are worth all the love in the world. If you can just reach out to one person and confide in them, do that, because you are worthy of love. I think it’s really difficult when you are in that situation because I’m trying to think back when I was in the midst of trauma, you can’t see anything else. To some a little bit out of that, I would say to try and confide in someone and get help. Reaching out is the most important thing that you can do. Try talking to a neutral person, and knowing that you are worthy of that care, of that love. You are worthy of getting help is the most important message.

K: You are an advocate for inner beauty and spirituality. What advice would you give someone aspiring to work on themselves with this as a focus? How has spirituality helped you?

N: When I started to work on myself I was in a really bad state. I didn’t understand anything about myself and my perception of myself was completely warped. I think it starts with a healthy dose of compassion. Understanding that you are perfect just the way you are, but you are obviously not going to feel that way.

In the morning, I started with meditating on something positive and this eventually translated onto feeling good about the way that I looked. I would meditate on something spiritual, or on little notes that I wrote to myself. Everything was on purpose. It was a conscious decision that I made. I would write things like, “I’m worthy” or “this is what I love about myself.” I was recovering from BDD and I was recovering from an eating disorder. These were critical things that I did.

I wrote down all the positive things that I liked about myself. I chose to focus on the positive rather than the negative. Whatever we chose to meditate on, that’s going to amplify and resonate in our mind. I would put sticky notes on my mirror, because I had such a horrible self-esteem. You’ve got to remember, when you’ve had an eating disorder for a long time, it affects you, deeply. Or even if you have depression, or low self-esteem, we all have at some level, some type of hatred towards ourselves at some point in our lives. Or maybe someone else tells us something bad about ourselves.

I think that putting the sticky notes up was a great way. Every time I passed myself in the mirror, even though I felt ridiculous doing that, it really worked. I would look at myself and say: you’re amazing, you’re special, god loves you, I’m confident, I’m one-of-a-kind, I’m going to do something great with my life today. Even if I didn’t, because I wasn’t leaving my house, because I was sick, those seeds that I planted in myself led to a start of an amazing life because I didn’t feel like I had a future, but I was planting those words in my mind and my spirit, which is the basis for everything. I think that starting with things like that can help anybody. The way that we think about ourselves, and our environment. Changing your environment starts at home, it’s the basis for everything.

I had to make a conscious decision to change my friends and the people I was hanging out with because if they weren’t a reflection of the way that I wanted to see myself or the way that I wanted to be, I had to make really important decisions. I would encourage people to think about that.

K: What’s next for you? You’ve mentioned running for office in the next few years, and with the book tour going on, you are pretty busy! What are you excited about?

N: Yeah, that’s what I’m really excited about. I didn’t expect to do that because I never really saw myself doing politics. I don’t see it as I’m a politician or anything, but it’s something that came out of my natural passion for advocacy work, my own suffering, and a desire to help people which I’ve been doing ever since I’ve been recovering. It’s a natural progression for me, being involved with people at the state-level and national-level and here in the community.

I see myself running for office in the next couple years.  I’m just getting involved with the League of Women’s Voters Los Angeles. They’re heavily involved with the election process and the local issues here in Los Angeles, and the policies. I am getting more involved in that and learning about the issues that affect our community, and our state and combining that with the advocacy work that I’ve been doing because I do care about people, I care about mental health. When I do run, my main mission is to bring mental health to the forefront because what really got me interested in politics is that, when I went to California capital in Sacramento, I helped Senator Levine with AB 2539, it was 90% men in the legislature. This issue is kind of laughed at, about worker protection and help for models. I had a conversation with a friend who is an attorney and working on this issue and she said, “you should run, there is no women working there.” I also realized that there was no women pushing forth mental health issues. There are very little women pushing forth protection of children. I feel like this really needs to be pressed and since I’ve been doing it anyway the past few years for free, I would love to go in there and keep fighting because it’s a passion of mine.

I love writing and I’m working on another book. It’s a cultural book about the Gullah culture in South Carolina, where I’m from. I love keeping things alive that people tried to kill. I want to continue doing that, some more book signings and speaking engagements. There are a lot of great things going on, but I can tell you the thing I’m most excited about is the political aspect. I want to keep it alive and show that women are in there, fighting for mental health issues. I feel that the only way we are ever going to bring mental health to the forefront, while of course there are many other issues that I care about, it’s really about if women are in there and they are the ones fighting for that because from an advocacy perspective, being in there and trying to fight with lawmakers – it’s hard. These issues often get pushed to the side.

Nikki’s book Washed Away: From Darkness to Light is available through Outskirts Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Google Books. It can also be purchased on Kindle, Nook and iTunes.

Nikki is also a contributor within We Chose to Thrive by Becky Norwood. The book is a collaborative effort by 31 women who share their stories of overcoming abuse, while hoping to reduce the stigma that pertains to it.

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Bruno Ledyet’s TABLEAUX VIVANTS at Montreal’s Galerie Youn

Bruno Ledyet is a Montreal-based painter whose works are concerned with introspection, beauty, and certain kinds of intrigue. Nudity is common in Ledyet’s work yet it is approached as a way to deeper feelings. Through June 29th, Montreal’s celebrated gallery, Galerie Youn will be hosting TABLEAUX VIVANTS, a public and free exhibit of his works. Here, Ledyet explains aspects of his works and his creative process:

Portrait de Juno Youn et Lloyd — Bruno Ledyet (Acrylic on canvas, 48” x 72”, 2017) Image courtesy of Galerie Youn

In most paintings, the figures are not engaged in a particular activity. They’re in a contemplative state, perhaps thinking about the beauty in their surroundings. They’re almost hedonistic, away from the craziness of the outside world, creating their own aesthetics.

Everything starts with a pattern, a combination of colors. Inspiration can come from a film, a video, a painting, bit of paint on a wall somewhere, etc. But it also comes from the model. There has to be something that captivates me about the person, something I find so beautiful that I have to paint it.

My portraits are like tableaux vivants: they’re not scenes from everyday life, but are inspired by it. They are landscapes of my mood when I painted them. Often, a figure is a starting point. Patterns and juxtapositions in colors appear almost organically. Or I have something in mind already and it happens to fit. For instance, in ‘An-devant le Rideau Chinois,’ I wanted to capture the figure’s flesh, his gaze, his style; then the red shades and the pattern became obvious to me.

An devant le rideau chinois — Bruno Ledyet (acrylic on canvas, 20” x 30”, 2017) Image courtesy of Galerie Youn

The models’ faces and their gazes are crucial. Most often, they look out — they know they are being looked at and they stare back. In a way, they are presenting themselves to the viewer. ‘Portrait of J’ is a good example. It has a few symbols — my symbols —, clues I left here and there that hold parts of the meaning of the piece.

Very often, the meaning of a work relates to my own life. But this occurs on a subconscious level. I realize it only long after I’ve finished a piece. Often, the models are, in fact, me. The works are dream-like, stylized versions of my life and the feeling it entails.

‘Toile de Jouy Dream’ started with Samuel. He has posed for another painting and had told me that he had this suit made with a Toile de Jouy pattern. I knew I had to do a painting of him wearing it. Two years or so passed and I had this dream — I often have these weird dreams of strange landscapes and places in crazy Technicolor, or ones with great big old houses filled with objects — where I saw a prairie with a row of odd-looking houses with huge storks made of green tiles in the front. And I thought of putting Samuel in that place and using the greens and blues to give it this unreal nighttime feel and depth to the surroundings.

Toile de Jouy Dream — Bruno Ledyet (acrylic on canvas, 48” x 72”, 2017) Image courtesy of Galerie Youn

‘Adrian Odalisque’ exemplifies my approach. It is a take on art history, namely the female nudes from the 17th to the 19th century. The figure in ‘Adrian Odalisque’ seems to be offering himself to the gaze of the viewer, but he’s not. Even though my paintings often have male nudes, or are nude portraits, my art is not erotica. My figures’ faces often display melancholy, not desire. They speak more about revealing the self, about being vulnerable, about taking risks. There is quite a bit of irony in my paintings — a romanticism that doesn’t take itself seriously and a subtle surrealism.

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A Patio Season Guide That Won’t Leave You Constantly Waiting on a Table

About two weeks ago on a Wednesday the weather hit about 26 degrees and people of Toronto celebrated the best way we know how: on a patio. I myself was graced by the retail gods on this day and was released early from my steaming duties and, of course, like everyone else, set out to find a good spot in the sun to grab a drink in. This goal was much more taxing than I realized it would be as my boyfriend and I were repeatedly shut down by stressed out servers telling us the wait would be over an hour. Finally, in a little nook on Kensington we found a place that was wide open, just waiting for those in search of libations! While this was a small victory, it had me thinking that that this journey didn’t have to be so difficult if I just knew about this wonderful outdoor watering hole all along. Here are some no fuss, no frills and usually no wait time kinds of patio’s sorted by location that will be your favourite places to hang on your next downtown adventure in the sun.

Kensington Market

El Rey (2a Kensington Ave)

Photo Courtesy of El Ray’s Instagram

The bench’s at El Ray give a very simple feel but the location mixed with the red aesthetics and Mexican music makes it a great place to spend an afternoon after hitting up some stores in the area. They also offer a wide selection of cheap beers (priorities, people), a huge mezcal selection, and delicious options for shareable Mexican snacks.

Bloor West/The Annex

Paupers Pub (539 Bloor Street West)

Photo Courtesy of Ernesto Garcia

Paupers Pub is an endless building with multiple levels including two patios! With one on the roof and one on the street, it’s less likely for you to get turned away due to a large waitlist. The staff is super accommodating to large groups and the patio on the rooftop has its own bar, making it okay to stand around if there are no seats or tables available. Paupers Pub’s large and always developing draft beer collection is another reason to want to spend the day in the sun here.

The Entertainment District

El Patio (145 Pearl Street)

Photo Courtesy of El Patio

If you want Instagram worthy photos while having fun taking them, then El Caballito‘s El Patio is where you want to check out! It has a beautiful atmosphere and is known for their tacos — definitely a drunk, hungry person’s oasis. For party options, you can organize a tequila tasting event on the patio for the summer or you can chose to create your own type of event with the staff as they are very accommodating with the specific needs of their patio lovers!

Queen West

The Bovine Sex Club (Tiki Bar) (542 Queen West)

Photo Courtesy of Blogto

A true no fuss zone. Above the debaucherous Bovine Sex Club lies the Tiki Bar. This patio has great music, tiki themed drink options, and a colourful crowd of like-minded strangers who just want to drink. A huge disguised benefit to coming here is their lack of kitchen, which means you can bring your own food from any takeout place you’d like!

The Village (Church-Wellesley)

Hair of the Dog (425 Church Street)

Photo Courtesy of @simplyharmonyxo (Instagram)

I feel like I am in my grandparents carefully tended to garden each time I go to Hair of the Dog. The multiple levels of patios are covered in vines, decorated with fountains, and each spot still somehow manages to provide the perfect balance of sun and shade — it is a picky person’s dream! Hungover breakfast is the best thing to have on this patio as the greenery surrounding the space makes you feel like you are breathing in some fresh goodness while you are still in the air polluted, city streets.

Parkdale

Caddilac Lounge (1296 Queen Street West)

Photo Courtesy of Blogto

An old-school rock themed bar makes the Caddilac Lounge‘s back patio a great place to go when exploring Parkdale. Some patios on the street can be really nice, but the secluded area that the bar provides for its sun worshipers continues their theme and is a fun space to bring a bunch of friends on a Saturday afternoon. The venue is just a few steps inside, so a great place to have an all night adventure.

Harbourfront

Amsterdam Brew House (245 Queens Quay West)

Photo Courtesy of StreetsTo

While Amsterdam Brewhouse can be a little touristy, their lakeside view is totally worth the extra crowd. Also, their patio has multiple levels and wraps around the building, which is great for your chances of finding a seat quickly. The beer is also house made and the servers are extremely knowledgable on their specific beer options and pairings, making this a beer, food, and sun lovers’ paradise!

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Novella Picks the Realest ‘Best Of Toronto’

Artwork by Michelle Cheung for Novella Magazine

There are Best Of.. articles everywhere these days — the best brunch, the best shops, the best bars, the best theatre, not to mention the best restaurant for a particular dish like pizza, ramen, etc. Despite the information overload in the internet, some categories, also essential to getting the most out of the city, have been egregiously left out. Hence this somewhat tongue-in-cheek but in all honesty a well-curated list picked by Novella’s motley contributors! Take notes.

Best Place to Get Shitfaced

Every crazy drunken night has started and ended at Sweaty Betty’s located at 13 Ossington ave. The bartenders are really cool, it has a nice patio, and the drinks are cheap enough to make you ask yourself the next the day “how the hell did I get home?”. — Drew Brown, Editor-in Chief

McQueen’s Pub on Queen East is a great place for a series of afternoon pints. Start at three and by the time dinner bell rings, you’ll be well into conversations with the barkeeps — whose names I, naturally, forget — and the nice usually older regulars around the bar (shout-out to the older gentleman always on a tablet, drinking pinot-grigio and the PBR tall boy lady), and find it hard to leave. Order another pint, some wings, and sit around some more. — Hoon, Managing Editor

When you need a place to chill out with your friends, have a good drink, and take your epic dance moves for a spin, you need to get yourself to The Beaver (1192 Queen Street W.). The atmosphere is warm, the bartenders are friendly, and the drinks are cheap. After dancing the night away, the bar has a back patio where you can get some air and cool off before catching your second wind and starting the boozy dance party all over again. – Michelle, Social Media Coordinator

To be honest, I feel like you can get shitfaced pretty much anywhere. But, if I had to choose, I tend to enjoy getting shitfaced at The Ballroom on John Street. The atmosphere is chill, the dress code is casual, the decor is creative, and there are two floors to choose from, including a bowling alley on the first floor and a large restaurant, bar, pool table, ping pong table, and dance floor upstairs. The best part? Live music. — Claire Ball, Contributor

Best Place to Get Over a Hangover

Caplansky’s Deli (356 College St) With all day breakfasts full of eggs, smoked meats, and loads of lovely carbs, Caplansky’s is the perfect place to nurse that raging hangover. The atmosphere is nice and cozy, the service is excellent, and the prices aren’t terrible. Not to mention, compared to other weekend brunch spots, there are never any huge crowds or lines to ruin your day. I’ve spent many a weekend morning/afternoon gorging myself on challah french toast and smoked salmon eggs (and endless cups of coffee). — Adina Heisler, Contributor

Wake up, get dressed, and look up a pho joint closest to you; the fresh noodles soak it all up; the broth flushes everything out; the tai (rare beef, eye of round), nam (brisket), gan (tendons) rejuvenate. In my case, the neighborhood go-to is Pho Linh in Brockton Village. There’s one closer, on Bloor, and we won’t name names, but there are reasons for the extra hungover ten minute’s walk down to Pho Linh. If you’re in Leslieville, where I used to live, Com Tam 168 was always a solid choice. And if any champion out there knows of oxtail pho in the city, please give me a shout-out. — Hoon, Managing Editor

Clinton’s Tavern (693 Bloor Street West) — Let’s get real, no one really makes it out for hungover brunch before 12 pm. That’s why I ask, why restrict myself to breakfast foods? The club area at Clinton’s may be the place that did the damage the night before, but allow it to be your spot to replenish and you will be widely impressed by the chill atmosphere and massive amount of delicious and creative pub food. Other bonuses include it being affordable and any dish can be altered for a vegetarian! — Meg, Contributor

Last year I went to an event at Starving Artists located at 810 College St. and I am still dreaming about the waffles. This west-end all day brunch restaurant serves delicious stuffed waffles or just waffles with the ingredients on the side. I had the waffles with bacon inside and it was sooo good. Yes, after a night of drinking there is very little that can drag me out of bed but the food at Starving Artists is great motivation. -Drew Brown, Editor-in Chief

Recently I went to Insomnia on Bloor Street West and now I am obsessed. Their brunch menu is what dreams are made of. With a variety of benedicts to choose from, and the best coffee I’ve ever tasted. This place is a must try! Once you’re finished with your daily coffee dose, they have $5 mimosas! What better way to cure a hangover? — Claire Ball, Contributor

Best Place to Take Your Date When You’re Broke but Want to Look Rich

This really depends on how rich you want to look and how broke you actually are. But if I am to err on the side of optimism, let’s say you’re broke in the sense that Becky literally has no money but Ubers four blocks to a spa. In this case, consider Kintaro near Church and Wellesley. The dishes are conducive to sharing, the atmosphere feels cozy, if not swanky, and is nicely decorated, and pints of Sapporo are cheaper than glasses or a bottle of wine. A good night at Kintaro will set you back around $50~60 for two people. Not cheap, but not French bistro prices either. — Hoon, Managing Editor

I feel like this situation all comes down to the proper execution of the date. Going to any restaurant that’s not on the pricey side might just give you up right away, so why not play the “I’m too fly to want to go to nice places card” and maybe take the opportunity to show off the little places in Toronto you like to go to for fun. Some of my favourites are, hitting up Pancho’s Bakery in Kensington for a signature $1 churro and looking through the stores, putting some Baileys in a cup of coffee and heading up to the top of Casa Loma, or teaching your date your favourite card game over a tall can in Trinity Belwoods. Any of these will make a memorable date that will show them that you are a keeper despite your ever shrinking bank account. —Meg, Contributor

Best Place to Take Mirror Selfies

Nordstrom, The Eaton Centre — This is weirdly specific but the Nordstrom bathrooms are hella nice and are the perfect size and length to take full outfit pictures. The lighting is decent and it’s not too shabby to post a pic with a fancy af bathroom in the background. Maybe people will assume you shop at Nordstrom. You’re welcome. — Natasha Grodzinski, Contributor 

In the privacy and coziness of your private domain, be it the living room, bathroom, or kitchen countertop. Doing so also gives you extra good karma points for saving other people from having to see you try multiple times to get that shot right. As they say, way to hell is paved with publicly taken selfies then posted on Instagram. — Hoon, Managing Editor

Locals Only on King Street West has exceptional mirror selfie potential. Honestly, I don’t really take mirror selfies frequently, but I’ve already planned my next one to be taken here. The bathrooms have decorative wallpaper that makes for a great background, and the mirrors have a soft light around them so the lighting is on point. Mirror selfies from the Locals Only bathroom are definitely Instagram worthy. — Claire Ball, Contributor

Best Place to Buy Art When You’re not a Art Snob

Museum gift shops always have good selections of nicely printed posters, either framed or not. They also have puzzles that can be glued afterwards and framed, if you’re into that sort of thing, which I unashamedly am. So next time you visit the AGO or ROM or wherever, don’t skip on the gift shop! Mingle with the tourist group and discuss best bargains. — Hoon, Managing Editor

Once you walk into Kid Icarus (205 Augusta Avenue) in the eclectic Kensington Market, you will see beautifully well-designed posters plastered on the walls, handmade cards, and stationary goods. They are a design shop that specializes in printing, and if you feel like stretching your own artistic muscles, they offer workshops in screen-printing and linoleum carving. Be sure to give yourself at least thirty minutes to explore this little shop — it will be worth your time. — Michelle, Social Media Coordinator

Best Neighborhoods for Thrift Shopping

Bloordale — The strip along Bloor St. in the west-end between Dundas West and Ossington is filled with tons of thrift stores. You’ve got everything from Value Village and Vintage Depot to smaller independent stores all within a fifteen-minute-walks of one another. My personal recommendations are the Odd Finds General Store and Ransack the Universe. Perfect for spending a Saturday afternoon browsing away. —Natasha Grodzinski, Contributor

Parkdale — Personally, I’ve always been an avid Queen West vintage buyer (usually between John and Bathurst). However, the other day I sat on the 501 streetcar a little longer and was in absolute clothing bliss. From Public Butter to House of Vintage, my Levis collection has doubled in size and expanded in quality! A definite must go! — Meg, Contributor

Best Thing to Buy at LCBO When You’re Hosting

Jive Elderflower Pearl Edition Sparkling Wine $8.30 — Not only is this one of the LCBO’s  best-kept secrets, it clocks in at just about $9.40 after taxes. Making it unbelievably cost effective when hosting a party. But don’t let the price fool you, this stuff tastes like citrus, flowers, Paris, and sunshine in a bottle. The stuff is so good you could probably bring loved ones back to life by just sprinkling this elixir of the Gods over their grave. I stand behind Jive sparkling one so much that if it was socially acceptable, I’d pour some into a travel mug and start my day with it. — Chris Zaghi, Fashion Editor

Bulleit Rye is $40 and that may seem like a lot until you consider that it’s a multi-awards winning Rye and that you can make Sazeracs, Old Fashioneds, and Manhattans, drink it on the rocks, drink it neat, drink it out of the bottle, cook with it, and still have some left over for the day after in case you need the hair of the dog. You may ask, I like it fine but what if my friends don’t like whiskey? Well, nothing wrong with a party of one. — Hoon, Managing Editor

This may sound strange but Twisted Tea Original is a great go-to drink to have stocked in your fridge if you’re hosting. They’re refreshing, delicious, and, just in case things get a little rowdy, they go super easy if you need to start chugging or shotgunning. So make sure you buy the cans instead of the bottles! You never know when you might need them. — Claire Ball, Contributor

Best Place to See a Band You’ve Never Heard Of

I don’t know that many bands, so I’m not sure if the bands I’ve never heard of are necessarily bands everyone’s never heard of, and I’d hate to frown and have malicious thoughts at someone who’s supposedly known the said bands since they were in utero. But the last couple of times I’ve been to REX on Queen West, the bands, some of them student bands, were really great. — Hoon, Managing Editor

The Hideout (423 College Street) — I was personally offended when the Hideout closed the doors of their always bumpin’ Queen West location but ecstatic when learning that they’d be just down the road at a new location on College! The venue does a really great job at hiring bands that will play for the people in the bar. Even if you’ve never heard of the band, you’re bound to join the dance floor and hear a great mix of the bands personal songs and covers! —Meg, Contributor

Self-claimed as the best place for live music and cold beer, it’s hard to argue with The Dakota Tavern (249 Ossington Avenue). When I feel like visualizing myself in an indie folk music video, this is my go-to. The bar, with low ceilings and Christmas lights strung on stage all year around, offers a more intimate experience with bands. Order a few beers with your friends and you might even find yourself belting out some tunes. – Michelle, Social Media Coordinator

Best Underrated Festivals

TURF (Toronto Urban Roots Fest) — I wouldn’t necessarily call TURF underrated because it is quite popular, but it’s definitely not on the level with other music festivals you see come through the area. The headliners get attention but the rest of the festival is low key. The line up is a mix of bigger names and small bands touring around the country – some of those smaller bands draw small crowds, but those shows are a blast to be at. You can absolutely find one of your new favourite bands here and take in some of the amazing food options they have at the same time. — Natasha Grodzinski, Contributor

Corn Fest on St. Clair, happening later this year in August, is just something I’d like to attend. I expect a lot of varieties of corn, cuban corn, grilled corn, popcorn, tortillas, tamales, and more. Apparently there will be free BBQ as well. — Hoon, Managing Editor

Best Place to Workout and not Feel Judged

The YMCA — There’s a reason there’s a song about it. You get your regular gym nuts at the Y, but there are also so many people of all ages that go for so many different reasons. We have seniors chilling, kids running around and everyone in between just trying to do their thing. Everyone’s going at their own pace. Just avoid those in the middle of a personal trainer session. They can get intense. — Natasha Grodzinski, Contributor

Sully’s Boxing Gym is an old school boxing gym up on Dupont by Dufferin. You might get yelled at and pushed to do better but nobody will judge you, as long as you keep trying. The crowd is always friendly and Tony and Winslow, the two beyond fantastic coaches, are always helpful. — Hoon, Managing Editor

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A Conversation with Gaëtane Verna, the director of the Power Plant Contemporary

Power Ball, the notorious art party and fundraiser, is back this year with Stereo Vision. Power Ball XIX, hosted by the Power Plant Contemporary and Max Mara, will once again transform the renowned gallery into an immersive artscape, with works by architecture and design studio Pedro&Juana and artist Francesco Pedraglio, among others, alongside performances, cocktails, hobnobbing, chit chatting, admiring, and more!

In anticipation for the big event, Novella had a chance to speak with Gaëtane Verna, the director of the Power Plant regarding not just the Power Ball, but also what she has to say about our contemporary art scene.

Hoon: Tell us about this year’s Power Ball theme, Stereo Vision.

Gaëtane Verna: For this year’s 19th edition of our major annual fundraiser, we wanted to move away from our previous years’ themes of pleasure and excess. The TV series Stranger Things had just been released around the time we had started to brainstorm for this year, and we loved the idea of the Upside Down world. We were also inspired by similar elements from works such as Cronenburg’s films Videodrome and Stereo and David Lynch’s TV show, Twin Peaks. This led to the idea of seen and unseen worlds, which ultimately became Stereo Vision. The beauty of Stereo Vision is that it can be interpreted in many ways: our art installations will reflect the theme in different ways through various interpretations, and immersive environments. We want the party to really transport guests, and be this otherworldly space where visual art, music, food, fashion, community and society intersect.

H: How did you come across Pedro & Juana and Francesco Pedraglio? What drew you to their work and led you to work closely with them for Power Ball XIX?

GV: For our Power Ball VIP Party we always feature insightful living international artists; artists who have never been seen before in Toronto and Canada – in all, the best of the best in contemporary art. Collaborating with an internationally recognized artist to present a one-night-only project is an essential part of our annual fundraiser.

For this year’s theme of hidden worlds, parallel universes, we thought, who better to build and realize this vision of an entirely different world than an architecture and design studio? Pedro&Juana is completely unique and a departure from the types of work we had previously highlighted for the VIP Party. Their ability to cleverly design and redesign a space, and the thought they put into how that space affects the relationships between those present in an environment is certainly what drew us to them. Not to give too much away, the Mexican architect and artist duo will be working in collaboration with Italian performance artist Francesco Pedraglio to create a room where the real and the represented will be questioned by creating a mirroring play of vignettes.

H: Aside from being a notorious art party, the Power Ball is also an important fundraising event. Tell us what the fundraising is for.

GV: The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery is Canada’s leading non-collecting public gallery dedicated exclusively to contemporary art and culture. This is, in fact, our 30th Anniversary Year and we pride ourselves in delivering the best in contemporary Canadian and international arts in everything we do.

Power Ball is, of course, no exception and we always deliver a not-so-ordinary fundraising gala (and art party!) experience for two reasons. First and foremost, and very simply, we aim to raise funds so that we can continue presenting new works by living Canadian and international artists and have our audience visit us and see these artworks for free – our gallery is admission-free, all year. We also provide opportunities for audiences to engage with the work in alternative ways, and this is where our public programs and educational events come in. The donations from Power Ball are crucial in helping us produce these as well, and many of these programs are free. Power Ball is the engine that powers The Power Plant and we could not deliver our many commissioned works and public programs without the support of all our guests to this annual event.

Secondly and equally important, this event helps us showcase the work of local artists to an audience that may be different from those that visit us during the regular exhibition seasons. Part of our mandate is to present the work of diverse artists to an equally diverse audience, and to be a forum for the advanced artistic culture of our time. Our aim is to encourage visitors to engage, ponder and interact with the artwork presented within the walls of The Power Plant and through the years we’ve understood that this is an important exercise that does not have to centre solely on our shows: we can do this through outreach programs with youth, workshops with children and their parents, and yes – even a unique art party, once a year, featuring the best in contemporary culture for our many patrons and supporters. Our mandate drives all of our choices here at The Power Plant and this fundraiser is key in allowing us to continue those important conversations at the intersection of art, culture, outreach, society and much more.

H: Contemporary art is a broad term. The term itself and/or its ethos is often misunderstood, parodied, or simply looked over. How would you define the term?

GV: In my mind contemporary art is the art of our time. It is the work that artists all over the globe to shed light on blind spots – perhaps one could say, the hidden and unseen aspects – in our ever-changing world and society. Contemporary art does not have one unique form. It is a multi-disciplinary practise and combines equally diverse sources and contexts that are current to our world. Contemporary art is both lyrical as well as disturbing. It is poetic while exposing the worst possible expressions of the human injustices of today and the past.

H: What would you say makes Canadian art exciting?

GV: In 2017, within the context of Canada’s Sesquicentennial, Canadian contemporary art is forced to break many barriers and establish a visual arts discourse that is as complex as the world in which we operate – within Canada and beyond. As a country of indigenous people and immigrants we are forced to take a closer look at our 150-year legacy. The best contemporary artists are not afraid to tackle important local and personal stories, whether they are current or whether they explore histories that go beyond 1867. These stories, often hidden, are key to understanding who we are as a country and how our stories and artworks are relevant within our country as well as within the rest of the world. The multidisciplinary nature of Canadian contemporary art is what makes our strength. Many of our artists are practicing simultaneously in Canada as well as abroad, confronting their work to the rest of the globe and connecting their practice across borders and topics.

H: You’ve spent a lot of time in Montreal and Paris, two centers of francophone culture. Had this influenced you in the way you think of and look at art? Or do cultural backgrounds and geography have little to do with way one approaches art?

I was born outside of Canada and this has always made me a citizen of the world. I was raised in Montreal and I studied and lived abroad for close to ten years. My time in Paris, where I could encounter various aspects of the world converging in this city on a daily basis, has been critical in building my approach towards the arts. I see no borders between people or disciplines and in my world I am constantly searching for artists that are able to expose universal themes that will connect with a local – local to Toronto, that is – perspective, national perspective as well as global perspective. The Power Plant is located in Toronto but it is also a national institution that is respected all over the globe. My past years in Quebec and France have given me the outlook and the curiosity to explore all the angles that the best artists bring to their work and present it to Toronto audiences, show its relevance to all of our perspectives and continue building on to our 30 year legacy.

H: You’ve been deeply involved in the art community for over two decades as a director, curator, publisher, teacher, etc. How have contemporary art and society’s relationship to it changed over time? And where do you see it going in the near future?

GV: Contemporary art is now on the forefront of society. The increase in the number of art fairs around the world, as well as Biennales is an indicator of a new role of contemporary art, whether as an investment, as a catalyst for change or as an expression of social innovation. Since the end of the Second World War we have seen a constant increase in biennales, arts programs and curatorial programs in universities. As a result, we are producing more artists than ever before and more curators. Art plays an important part in the economy of Canada and of Toronto. Arts institutions like The Power Plant have many roles within our society. We are a place that promotes and presents the work of contemporary living artists. Additionally, we also function at times as an active cultural centre or a forum – a place of ideas and debate that affects our society as a whole. The role of museums and cultural institutions has evolved and artists are more so on the forefront of socio-political change and action. This convergence between the areas of art and activism will certainly carry on into the future.

H: The Power Plant is dedicated to, among other things, showcasing emerging talent. Could you tell our readers about a few exciting artists you’ve come across recently?

GV: At The Power Plant we develop and showcase talents in both artists and curators. Through two fellowships sponsored by RBC and TD Bank we have been able to contribute to the next generation of curators. I am looking forward to seeing what our alumni Fellows like Clara Halpern, now at Oakville Galleries, and Adrienne Costantino, now at Lakeshore Arts, accomplish next in our arts community. In terms of Canadian artists, I am excited by many, but a shortlist includes Brenda Draney, Jen Aitken, Patrick Bernatchez, Jacynthe Carrier, Howie Tsui, Maria Hupfield, Dawit L. Petros, Hajra Waheed, Brendan Fernandes, Tony Romano, Chih-Chen Wang, Marvin Luvualu Antonio, and Kapwani Kiwanga – who we just presented in our Winter 2017 Exhibition – amongst others. We can see great diversity in their types of practice and the sources they draw from, but the strength of their work is the diversity of perspectives that they bring to our Canadian landscape. There are many more artists which makes this an exciting time for our field.

H: Are you working on any new creative programs for the Power Plant at the moment?

GV: Needless to say, we’re incredibly excited about Power Ball XIX on June 1, as we outdo ourselves year after year. It is as much part of our creative work as the exhibitions that we develop throughout the year. But what perhaps is most exciting is just that, the programs that we have upcoming after Power Ball XIX on June 1. They are simply the work that we do on a daily basis and that we’ve been doing for the past 30 years: presenting the work of the living artists of our time regardless of generations and provenance. I’m thrilled to be presenting the first major institutional exhibition of Ydessa Hendeles this summer. Opening with a free public party on June 23, this will be her first retrospective show in Canada, and as an important figure in Toronto’s contemporary art scene we are honoured to have her collaborate with us on this occasion. Following that, for the last exhibition season of our 30th Anniversary Year in 2017, in our Fall 2017 Season we’ll be presenting two solo show by Amalia Pica, from Argentina, and Sammy Baloji & Filip de Boeck, from Congo and Belgium respectively; along with a site-specific installation in our Fleck Clerestory by British artist, Michael Landy. Finally, to kick off 2018, visitors to our Winter 2018 Season in January will view solo shows by French-Algerian artist Kader Attia and Nigerian artist Emeka Ogboh.

H: Anything else you’d like to add.

GV: All I can say is we will continue to present the world in one place at The Power Plant, but further to that…you’ll just have to follow us and see!

We are constantly traveling the world to bring it back and present it within our gallery walls to all Toronto audiences. We are an institution where all are welcomed through our ALL YEAR, ALL FREE admission-free program thanks to BMO. We are so excited to continue the journey with our staff, our board of directors and our audiences that represent all that Toronto has to offer to the city and the world. We take seriously our responsibility to contribute to breaking the barriers that too often exist between contemporary art and its public. I invite everyone to join us on June 1 as well as throughout the year. We have programs for everyone and everyone is always welcome.

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Bars Around Town: Beer Break at Blood Brothers Brewery

Art work by Michelle Cheung for Novella Magazine

Blood Brothers Brewery Draft Room, 165 Geary Ave, Toronto

On one end of a long metal table encircling the brewery’s small draft room, a young man, in an orange cap and a grey v-neck, pocketed his copy of Philip Roth’s Goodbye, Columbus. He sipped on his tulip glass of beer and lamented to his two friends, ‘His writing is okay, but I find it too utilitarian.’ On the other end, the bar, where the bartender, in a red and black plaid shirt, sweated from moving boxes of bottled beers from the brewery in the back, pouring beers, and humming to Led Zepplin and Kiss. It was a windy afternoon, a bit chilly, though the sun was out and the four patio tables were fully occupied. On one, one woman nursed her baby while chatting to her two friends. With the garage door leading to the draft room open, the space was small but roomy. The crowd: young, healthy-looking individuals out to enjoy a beer before returning to a fulfilling passion project. Not that one could not get drunk at the Blood Brothers draft room: beers — predominantly ales — are all under six dollars for a 12oz tulip glass, and a flight of four 4oz is around ten, considerably more accommodating than the prices at various microbreweries around the city. Though if you are slow, you might have to move to a different spot as the draft room closes at nine. Some simply picked up a four-pack from a fridge by the wall and went on their ways. The short menu of snacks is lackluster, utilitarian, whipped up because of demand without much enthusiasm; but the two-dollar-pepperettes, ‘made fresh and locally,’ are surprisingly delicious and addictive, especially with Paradise Lost, a sweet sour ale brewed with sauvignon blanc grape juice. Around the corner from the brewery, between Dupont and Geary is a train track, wider, upon closer look, than one originally thinks it to be. It technically separates the bar further from the cooler, more hipster areas closer to Ossington and Bloor. Yet the draft room is not exactly a world apart, but just a rest stop on the way to one.

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