Novella Writers Pick Their Fictional Counterparts

From the outside, we may all look kooky and draped with issues like a Christmas tree, all bojangled and twisted. It takes a while to get to know someone: it’s a common refrain but its principle isn’t often used in daily interactions. It may take even longer if that you’re trying to get to know a group of kooky individuals working together. As it were, we are revamping our public relations games and thought it’d be best to try to show ourselves through relevant characters in our popular culture. This way you’d know us as actual people, the minds behind the paranormal voices on your screen. It’s nice to meet you too.

Drew Brown, Editor-in-Chief 

L to R Edina Monsoon, Carrie Bradshaw, Titus Andromedon

I was torn with having to pick my fictional character counterpart. Growing up gay and black, it was rare to see someone that you see yourself in on television. I chose three characters who I think make up parts of my personality. I can definitely relate to Edina Monsoon played by Jennifer Saunders on Absolutely Fabulous. I often find myself trying to balance my career and personal life. When I get around my close friends, the responsible self goes out the window and a crazy night ensues as it does in each episode of AbFab when Edina links up with Patsy.

It’s hard not to pick Carrie Bradshaw for sentimental reasons and for our love of designer shoes. Every Sunday night, I would watch Sex and the City with my besties Scotty aka Samantha and Max aka Charlotte. Each episode often resembled our New York City dating life. The Good, the Bad, and the Cosmopolitans.

Lastly, the only male character to make the list is Titus Andromedon played by the amazing Titus Burgess on The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. We both are not afraid to take fashion risks and we are both very funny (ok, Titus is funnier, but I make folks laugh too! lol).

Claire Ball, Editorial Contributor

I’m with Drew, picking a fictional character counterpart is incredibly difficult. But after a lot of debating with myself, I ultimately chose Samantha Jones from Sex and the City. Samantha and I are both brash, straightforward, unafraid of confrontation, and HIGHLY protective of our friends. One of her greatest and most relatable qualities is her loyalty to her friends. Her inability to have a filter is something I strongly identify with and, if you ask my friends, I bet you they’ll agree. She and I are not afraid of being outspoken and honest. Much like myself, she is strong, independent, and doesn’t need a relationship to make her happy.

Snigdha Koirala, Arts and Culture Contributor

Jane Villanueva from Jane the Virgin! Though I surprised myself by picking a non-book-related character as my counterpart, this was an easy choice. Jane, like me, is an overthinking control freak, with stubbornly determined dreams of being a writer. She navigates through life — through grad school and love and motherhood (a result of being accidentally artificially inseminated with her former crush’s sperm) — with her dual cultural identity as a Latina in America. And I, having grown up in a South Asian household in Toronto, find this exploration to be particularly resonant: it is honest and whole, never used as Jane’s defining characteristic, while still acknowledging its gravity in her identity.

Hoon, Managing Editor

I love Monsieur Gustave H. because he’s a veritable totem withstanding the inequities of the modern world hell-bent on destroying any semblance of human decency and social courtesies. His arsenal is one of L’air de Panache, a dose of narcissism, loyalty, poetry, and his confidence in the values of people and things he loves. He’s a man out of La Belle Époque and is caught in the quagmire of shifting cultures and geo-politics, and his values, as we now know, gradually decrease in relevance with time. Yet, he stubbornly holds onto his favored views, values, and objects and faces the literal and figurative firing squad. I was born in a time and place far from La Belle Époque and by no means share meals and beds with renown duchesses who are dynamite in the sack. But I often do sense that I’m not entirely in synch with the norms of today’s culture and that I’m very stubborn when it comes to my values. Also, I like to think that, were the circumstances to present themselves, I’d be as well-spoken and courageous in defending them.

Christopher Zaghi, Fashion Editor

My voice for fictional character definitely has to be the fashion icon and party monster Patsy Stone from Absolutely Fabulous, played by the lovely Joanna Lumley. Never before was there a woman so independent and empowered that the mere thought of an average life as a homemaker sends shivers down her spine. With her dominating and damn near overpowering sense of sexuality and a liver made of hardened steel, Patsy navigates the world of London’s elite fashion crowd with BFF Edina Monsoon as if it were a bunny slope. What’s interesting is how much of an underlying feminist air Patsy has about her. While other women would fear the backlash they’d get from the hard boozing and sexual escapades Patsy is known for, Patsy merely laughs it off. Showing the world that a woman should never fear to act the way a man does because it’s her life and no one else’s. What I truly like most about Pasty is her resilience with which she’d get into the most ridiculous of situations with Edina. While Eddy is constantly having borderline mental breakdowns over the shenanigans they’ve gotten themselves into, Patsy stands alongside, cigarette bin one hand, a glass of Bollinger in the other, and as cool as a cucumber., making her the oh-so-perfectly unapologetic fashion editor/all-around foul-mouthed badass champagne sipping queen of British TV.

A close second would have to be Katheryn Merteuil, played by Sarah Michelle Gellar from Cruel Intentions. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be the stunning yet unrelenting cold hearted Marcia ****ing Brady of the Upper East Side? There’s something about a villain who unapologetically takes whatever the hell they want that just ignites our deepest fantasies.

Adina Heisler, Contributor

I think that I am most like Susie Greene from Curb Your Enthusiasm, played by Susie Essman. Evidence? We are both curly haired Jewish women who swear too much and will not put up with any nonsense. Susie always speaks her mind and isn’t afraid to call out her friends and family when they step over the line or act rudely, such as when Larry David (played by Larry David) refused a tour of her beautiful new house! What kind of freak of f***ing nature refuses a house tour? The point is, Susie always will stand up for herself and what she believes in, but she will also always be willing to help out friends when it is needed.

However, I am not quite as negative as Susie is all the time, which is why I also think that I’m a bit like the Tenth Doctor from Doctor Who as played by David Tennant. Ten is really funny and kind to most everyone he meets, but also has a wonderfully sassy side that he brings out every now and again. And sure, he’s all smiles and converse sneakers most of time, but when it needs to get serious, you’ll find him at the front lines, sonic screwdriver in hand, saying “Allons-y!”

Helen Jacob, Contributor


There are two characters that, I’ve been repeatedly told, resemble me. One of them is Morticia from The Addams Family as in mortician…or death. She’s always seen in long gothic black gowns that match her raven black hair. Hobbies: cutting the buds off her roses so she can keep the stems, feeding her carnivorous plant Cleopatra, and strumming the samisen. Although unsettling, I get it. Maybe my naturally somber mood and daily all black uniform has something to do with it. Charles Addams, cartoonist and creator of The Addams family, describes her as “low-voiced, incisive and subtle, smiles are rare.” Yup. Sounds about right. Scariness aside, she is highly protective of her family and fiercely loyal; authentic and true to her core values — so I’ll take it.

Runner up to Morticia is Daria Morgendorferr from the animated dark comedy satire, Daria. It tells the story of a fictional suburban town through the lens of a misanthropic teenager. Honestly, I haven’t watched the show too much but from what I’m told about Daria’s jaded cynicism, she sounds pretty relatable.

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Natasha’s Guide to Road Trip Packing

In the movies and on Instagram, a road trip looks easy: just pack some stuff and hop in a car and go. Based on my consumption of such cinema classics as Easy Rider and Crossroads, I too was under the impression that road trips were all about spontaneity and the open highway.

They aren’t. Or at least they aren’t if you’re working on a budget of money and time. For our half United States/half Canada cross-country road trip, a friend and I booked all of our accommodations in advance, scheduled time off of work, and made checklists for what to bring.

Planning the route and accommodations was one thing, packing was another. I am by no means a light packer. I’m under the impression on every trip I go on that for some reason I’ll be changing outfits at least twice a day. That type of “I dunno, just bring it anyway” tomfoolery won’t fly on a road trip. We have a small car and half of it will be filled with camping gear. We need to economize, and since we’re camping for part of the trip, we’ll need outdoors-approved, weather-appropriate attire as well as the essentials for looking cute while in the cities.

Really, this should be titled “The Vain Millennial’s Guide to Packing for a Road Trip” as that’s exactly what it is.


The best travel advice I’ve ever heard is, “Bring half of what you think you need, and twice as much money.” As much as I’d like to bring my entire wardrobe with me, I can’t do that. I do, however, need different options for different weather possibilities. It’s always a good idea to check the long-term forecast of wherever you’re travelling to to get a sense of what you need. I’m travelling through North America in June, so I’ll have shorts and dresses, but I’ll also bring a rain jacket, jeans, and some warm sweatpants because you never know with Western Canada.

As far as footwear goes, it’s sneakers and boots for hiking. Again, you have to judge what you’ll be doing. I know I’ll be doing a lot of walking and hiking in the woods. I’ll only bring one pair of cute shoes for nights out. Maybe two. Three as a complete maximum.

When you’re packing apparel for a road trip, you always need to think about comfort. So much of your time will be spent sitting in a car. You’ll want to be able to stretch, to breathe and, in all honesty, to let your gut hang out a little bit. You won’t want to wear tight jeans or a body con dress with heels. Unless you’re at your most comfortable in that, in which case, go for it.

We live in an age of travelling via Instagram posts, and maybe many of you absolutely are not more content with having outfit options for a couple of pictures, but I unashamedly am. If you are with me and think about this kind of thing, you need to narrow it down. Bring only two or three nice pieces to wear for photographic moments or nights on the town. Because really, the majority of time you spend on the trip will be sitting in the car, stretching at roadside stops, and walking around cities.

Beauty + Skincare

The best and easiest option is this: don’t bring any makeup. Just don’t do it. Idealistic but not realistic. I’m a person who loves their makeup and I’m bringing it. The key is, again, to downsize. Really only bring the essentials, the holy grail products that you know won’t fail you. Now is not the time to try out that new eyeshadow palette or three different foundations that look promising.

As far as skincare goes, the most important is sunscreen. If you know you’re going to spend any amount of time outside, bring it. Also bug spray. Leave your fancy five-step night creams at home. Since I’ll have makeup and will be outdoors, it’s also a good idea to bring makeup wipes or micellar water, something you can use to clean your face up without running water, even just to get the grime from the day off. Same goes with any kind of cooling or refreshing spray. When you’re jumping between being outside and being in a climate controlled car, you’ll probably not be feeling so fresh by day four. The only other necessary beauty product to bring in my opinion is a dry shampoo because it will keep you sane in the chaos.


A portable phone charger. I cannot stress this enough. You won’t always be near somewhere with an outlet and if your phone dies while stranded on a roadside you’re perfectly set up to become a side character in a slasher flick. This is especially relevant if you plan on using your phone as a GPS.

Obviously, since the main event of a road trip is the driving, I’d recommend bringing something to pass the time. Even if you’re going with your best friend, I don’t know if anyone can talk for nine hours straight. Consider the following: music, audiobooks, podcasts, maybe even a game you can play while driving.

As I’m camping on my trip, there could be a whole other section for camping-related equipment, but it’s pretty standard what to bring: a tarp, tent, bed rolls, sleeping bags, flashlight, matches, water, and a cooler to bring food in. If you are going camping it’s also wise to bring some warmer clothes. Again, you never know.

My last piece of advice could be considered the holy grail of road trip necessities: Advil and motion sickness medication. I’m not playing around. Driving for hours on end can have you pretty messed up pretty quickly. You want to be awake, alert, and having fun on this trip, not lying down in the back seat with a cold compress to your head.

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A conversation with Robyn Clarke: Head of the National Ballet School’s Wardrobe and Costume Department.

Ballet has held the title of being the most poised and elegant, yet physically demanding style of dance for centuries now. Its grace and beauty are equally matched with a sense of determination and raw athleticism. This year, Toronto’s prestigious National Ballet School hosted the Assemble International, a prestigious and exciting event that brings 21 ballet schools from around the world to Toronto for a chance at experiencing one another’s curriculum. The most interesting and rewarding aspect of the event is an intermingling of international students under one roof, allowing for strong relationships and wonderfully beautiful collaborations to take place.

Recently, Novella had the chance of speaking with Robyn Clarke, head of the Canada’s National Ballet School wardrobe and costume department on just exactly what it means to be a ballet costume designer in a world hell bent on moving away from tradition.

Photos courtesy of Canada’s National Ballet School and Eighty Eight Agency

Christopher Zaghi: The first question I’d like to ask you is about the Assemble Internationale itself. The Assemble Internationale takes place every four years, can you tell Novella’s readers a bit more about the event itself?

Robyn Clarke: Our part in the Assemble is to prepare for all of the performances with international schools and NBS, so, they all arrive over the weekend and classes start on Sunday. Each brings two to eight students and they partake in classes and workshops. They also bring their own repertoire, and that’s what we’ve been working on for the last few days. AT the end of the week we’re having a choreographic workshop with returning NBS alumni, there are some pretty cool people on that list, and that’s going to be with a blended cast. SO international and NBS students.

CZ: I saw that there are 11 countries being represented at this year’s event. Do you find that different countries and schools place the importance of their wardrobes differently?

RC: No, I think that’s the nice thing about ballet is that it’s really similar. I mean we might have schools that do more things themselves, but wardrobe plays a very important role and they take care of it.

Photos courtesy of Canada’s National Ballet School and Eighty Eight Agency

CZ: Ballet Fashion has always popped up throughout the years. You have designers like Lacroix who are inspired by ballet. Recently bodysuits and leotards have become a very big thing in fashion. Why do you think that is?

RC: Personal opinion. I think it’s because leotards are pretty breathable girls like it that their shirts don’t ride up so it’s nice when they stay tucked in. And the nice thing about leotard is that you’re able to move in any way that you need to. I think that’s what brought it back. Also, it was kind of big in the 90’s.

CZ: Does designing costumes for ballet differ from high fashion design or haute couture design?

RC: I think so because at the end of the day functionality is the most important thing. If they can’t dance in it, they aren’t going to use it. So you’ve essentially just wasted your time. But beyond that, aesthetics are still very important, but functionality overall.

Photos courtesy of Canada’s National Ballet School and Eighty Eight Agency

CZ: What do you find most rewarding about costume design itself?

RC: It’s just really nice to see your work on stage and to see it working with dancers. One time, one of the dances here said to me “I really appreciate the work we’ve done together.” They talked about it being a collaboration being performer and costume, so for me, that was a really special moment. Knowing that work that I do helps them and that we work together to make what you see on stage possible.

CZ: Could you through a typical day of what you would do here at NBS?

RC: Sure, everyday kind of differs. Ever since I’ve started working here, it’s always been challenging in new and interesting ways. But usually, I’m just working on certain projects at certain times of the year. Sometimes I’m making tutus, sometimes I’m shopping, sometimes I’m designing, sometimes I’m making lists, sometimes I’m doing fittings, it just depends on the time of year. But for an average day in the fall, I’ll spend doing tutus. I’ll measure the students, and then I figure what we need to build, then I’ll order all the supplies.

Photos courtesy of Canada’s National Ballet School and Eighty Eight Agency

CZ: How much time generally goes into the construction of a costume?

RC: A really great way to answer that is with a practice tutu. It’s a half tutu, so it’s just the net and the knickers and the Basque which is the belt that attaches it to the waist. So that itself takes about 20 hours to build so you can just imagine a fully decorated costume, which can take 150 hours or more depending on the design.

CZ: Are most of the National Ballet school’s costumes made entirely by hand?

RC: It’s a blend of purchasing and designing. Often you can’t find exactly what you’re looking for in the size, colour, and quantity that you need. So often I do make a lot of our leotards and costumes.

Photos courtesy of Canada’s National Ballet School and Eighty Eight Agency

CZ: Do you think the ballet world has moved towards contemporary costume as opposed to historical costume?

RC: No, I think there’s a nice blend. This year we’ve seen a lot of nudes and mesh, a lot of mesh. Mesh T-shirts, mesh tank tops, mesh leotards, you name it, it’s in mesh.

CZ: Personally, what do you prefer, historic or contemporary?

RC: I feel like I like both. They both have their place. The shows are a perfect example of the blend. We had a lot of the schools doing classical works and the other schools doing new repertoire. So there’s a lot being stored in our wardrobe.

Photos courtesy of Canada’s National Ballet School and Eighty Eight Agency

CZ: Do you have any particularly favourite costumes in the wardrobe department?

RC: That’s a hard one. A few years ago we did a piece called chalkboard memories, which we’re doing again this year, the girls wear these kilts with nude leotards while the boys wear these kinds of grey uniform pants. There’s a couple that is the chalk couple, so they’re completely made of chalk. Their school uniforms are done in black with the chalk outline, which is really cool. I think that’s one of my favourites.

CZ: Do you think someone in the fashion industry could transition into the ballet world as a costume designer?

RC: Yes! A lot of them actually do.

Photos courtesy of Canada’s National Ballet School and Eighty Eight Agency

CZ: With major fashion houses like Carolina Herrera and Rodarte making costumes for the New York City ballet, do you think schools and dance companies will over towards designer costumes?

RC: Often the difference between schools and dance companies is that they have different funding structures, so never say never, but those costumes that the New York City Ballet have are pretty expensive in relation to things that are made in house.

CZ: Do you think it’s important to keep the detail-oriented and intensive design process of ballet costume design alive rather than looking for more cost effective methods?

RC: Absolutely. I think at the end of the day, performance costumes like tutus and tunics all look the same for a reason. I mean it’s years of development to make them look like that and once we kind of lose that detail and handcraft, they’ll be no getting it back.

Photos courtesy of Canada’s National Ballet School and Eighty Eight Agency

CZ: Do you have any advice for future costume designers that may read this article?

RC: I guess I’d say take every opportunity you can. Even if it’s not necessarily a well-paying gig, often just learning more about the body is totally worth it in the end. Making connections with choreographers and with dancers will really take you places.

Photos courtesy of Canada’s National Ballet School and Eighty Eight Agency

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Novella’s Summer Sangria Recipes

The sun is shining, the temperature has reached above 20 degrees celsius, and patio season has officially arrived! You know what that means? Sangria. Nothing quite goes hand in hand like patios and sangria. In case they aren’t already, sangria recipes need to be a part of your summer entertaining, immediately. With that said, I have officially dubbed the summer of 2017 the Summer of Sangria! So, for the days you want to indulge in a refreshing batch of the famous Spanish beverage without venturing to a patio, here are two simple sangria recipes to make at home!

Red Wine Sangria

Wine takes the center stage when it comes to sangria; it is the livelihood of the drink. To make a more traditional Spanish red sangria, choose a medium-bodied red wine that is dry and slightly fruity, like a merlot. If you want to make it truly authentic, use a real Spanish red wine like Tempranillo, Garnacha, or other Rioja wines. Just a reminder, the wine doesn’t have to be fancy and expensive to make good sangria!

  • 1 bottle of red wine
  • 1/4 cup of cherry brandy (you could also use rum)
  • 1/4 cup of orange liqueur (Cointreau)
  • 1 orange
  • Handfuls of raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries
  • 200 ml of orange juice or 1-3 tbsp of sugar or simple syrup (optional, depending on the desired level of sweetness)

Slice the orange and add berries to a pitcher. Add booze and wine and give everything a good stir. It’s sangria, don’t over think it! Tuck the pitcher into the fridge and leave for at least two hours to let all the flavours steep together and allow the contents to chill.

Instead of adding carbonation to the actual sangria pitcher, this sangria will more enjoyable if bubbles are added to top off your glass. The best way to serve sangria is over ice and topped with club soda, lemon or lime soda, or even sparkling water. Now relax and enjoy!

White Wine Sangria

Don’t fret! If you’re not a red wine person, you can still enjoy a variation of the Spanish favourite. In Spain it is also known as “sangria blanca.” Similar to the red, when choosing a white wine for sangria, you want to pick something that is dry, crisp, and unoaked. Sangria is supposed to gain sweetness from fruit or a touch of sugar, so picking a drier wine is always best. Pick something like a Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, dry Riesling, or a Portuguese wine like a Vinho Verde.

  • 1 bottle of white wine
  • 1/4 cup of triple sec
  • 1/4 peach schnapps
  • 1 orange
  • Handfuls of pineapple slices and strawberries
  • 170ml of pineapple juice or 1-3 tbsp of sugar or simple syrup (optional, depending on the desired level of sweetness)

Just like the red, mix everything together, let it stand in the fridge for as long as you can (at least a couple of hours), and serve over ice and dilute with bubbles of your choice!

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How To Turn Your Kitchen into a Coffeeshop

Do you love your coffee? Do you love your cool local coffeeshop? Is that love emptying your bank account? If you’re trying to save money on your daily coffee runs, or just trying to give your home a cool coffee shop aesthetic, here’s what to do:


For coffee, you can support local Toronto brands like Pilot Coffee Roasters, which offers direct trade coffee (similar to fair trade, ensuring that farmers have been paid fairly for their labour). Other Toronto-based roasters that offer direct trade include Hale Coffee and Reunion Island Coffee. Another Toronto-based brand to try is De Mello Palheta, who have house blends with fun names like Dancing Goats and Butterfly KissIf you want steamed milk, it can be as easy as simply heating the milk in a saucepan (but watch it carefully so the milk doesn’t burn), or even just microwaving it. If you want frothed milk, you can buy a frothing wand like from Amazon for relatively cheap.

Coffee Makers

A regular automatic drip coffee maker (if you don’t already have one) is a great investment, and you don’t necessarily need to get a super-fancy one. I would advise against paying more than $75 for one, depending on how big a pot you want to make in the morning. If you don’t mind the extra effort involved (and purchasing a coarser grind of coffee to go with it), using a french press can produce a more flavorful cup (not to mention, french presses are a bit cheaper than drip coffee makers). Instructions on how to use a french press can be found here. If you want espresso, you can use a moka pot (instructions on how to use them can be found here), or an AeroPress, which works much in the same way as a French Press, but uses a finer grind and produces a pretty different coffee. You can read about how to use an AeroPress here. Moka pots and AeroPresses are usually around the same price, so it’s really a question of taste preference, and which one you feel more comfortable using.


For decoration, I like to create an industrial, vintage vibe, like you’re walking through an old European cafe from a century ago (albeit with updated technology). First, you can get a hanging light (or two) such as this one from Amazon, and a wooden mug rack, like this one.

Be sure to add something to your walls. To continue the theme, I’d suggest impressionist art posters, or old-style maps. If you don’t mind getting a little cliché, you can pick up a poster depicting Van Gogh’s ‘The Café Terrace at Night,’ or something similar. I’d also suggest adding one of Lautrec’s paintings, like ‘Le Moulin Rouge.’ Another decor recommendation I have would be to dry out some flowers and keep them in your kitchen.


I’m typically pretty grumpy in the morning, so I like to have funny mugs to cheer me up. For example, since it’s never too early to fight the patriarchy, you can buy this Male Tears mug, available in three different sizes. Or, perhaps, you’d like a heat-changing mug that reflects how you feel before and after your first cup of coffee. You also may want to think of picking up some containers for milk and sugar. Such as this cute cow-shaped creameror, if you’re also feeling a little crabby, a crabby sugar jar. 

Happy Brewing!

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