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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Novella Team Pick the Best and Worst of 2016

Retrospection season is here. Memories with various emotional charges gather in the onset of serious cold, the holidays, and a vague, communal sense of closure. The purpose of such retrospection and lists is, perhaps, to see things in a clearer light. Or, even, to reimagine them in a better one. In an attempt to untangle this busy remembrance of what was, in many ways, a mournful year, the Novella team has surveyed the year in fashion, art, politics, and culture to come up with the Best and the Worst of 2016. With this, we say good riddance to the bad, farewell to the good, and ‘Hey, boo boo’ to the new year.

 – Drew Brown, Editor-in-Chief  –

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Solange

  Best 

Growing up in the shadow of an older sibling can be tough, but growing up and having Beyonce as your older sister is a whole other level. After releasing Sol-Angel and the Hadley St.Dreams and True EP, and becoming a fashion darling, Solange still struggled a bit to break out of the shadow of her sister. On September 30, 2016, she was no longer Beyonce’s little sister. She was an artist with a number one album A Seat at the Table.

Solange managed to not only deliver an amazing album, but also showcase her personal growth and make a musical statement on what’s happening in the world. Since its release, I have A Seat at the Table on repeat and it’s been one of the few good things to come out of 2016.

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Prince

  Worst 

I will be extremely happy when the clock strikes midnight and we can say goodbye to 2016. There were a plethora of worst moments to choose from. However, the death of Prince really hit me hard. Growing up, Prince made me feel that it was okay to be black and weird. I remember watching the video for his song Controversy where he wore a G-string, trench coat, and heels unapologetically and sang while playing his guitar. Prince defied the definitions of being black and of masculinity, and made my younger self accept being gay a little bit easier. I instantly became a fan for life and getting the chance to see the musical genius perform live left me speechless and made a huge impact on me.

 – Celia Fernandez, Fashion Features Editor –

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Best

‘I want to offer you a spot in my class’. How can 10 words be so powerful and make you feel like Santa Claus just gave you a blank check? Ever since Roger Tredre, the Course Leader for MA Fashion Communication at Central Saint Martins pronounced those words on September 29th, I’ve been living in a universe full of roses and unicorns. That moment is definitely now in my top 3 happiest moments in my life. This school has ALWAYS been a reference to me, not only because Alexander McQueen, John Galliano, Stella McCartney or Christopher Kane are on CSM’s alumni directory — you know, just a couple of people —, but more importantly for the talent and creativity that you sense by the time you get to 1 Granary Square.

After much thought and consideration, last June, I decided that I wanted to apply for the MA Fashion Communication – Fashion Journalism program. Although I was aware of how competitive this school was, you’ll never know if you don’t try, so I thought I should, at least, give it a shot. For two intense months I worked on my application, and the combination of hard work and luck paid off. Here I have to thank my dearest friends Sasha, Bojana and Gabrielle, and my husband Victor for their patience, edits, and honesty to tell me whenever my assignment sounded like a mid-school essay. Also, a big ‘thank you’ to the Novella team that has supported, accompanied, and helped me in getting to that universe of excitement where I live right now. This would have been, if not impossible, definitely very challenging without all of them.

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Worst

I have to say that I share with Drew the sameI-can’t-wait-for-2016-to-be-over feeling. Apart from getting accepted at Central Saint Martins, and other great moments I’ve had during 2016, I am not a huge fan of this year. If I had to pick a title for the last 12 months of my life, I would call it ‘It’s Time to Say Goodbye, but Why Now?’.  That is exactly how I feel. As happy as I am about going back to Europe, leaving Canada makes me feel very sad too. It’s that bittersweetness that one gets about something really good that has devastating side effects — like high heels, you love them and hate them SO MUCH at the same time. In less than three weeks, I will have to say goodbye to quite a few people that have been basically my family during the last two years, and as you can imagine, that sucks.

I hate saying goodbye and apparently my karma has had some issues with me lately and put me through the most painful ‘goodbye’ last March. After a heart surgery and 2 months at the ICU, my dad passed away. I have friends who have lost one of their parents before but you can NEVER EVER imagine how fu**ing painful this is till it happens to you. However, I believe that even these type of ‘situations’ have a positive side. During those two months of visiting my dad at the ICU every single day (whenever the doctors allowed me to be there), I realized that I am way stronger than I thought I was. Also, I’ve never admired and loved my mom and sister as much as I do right now. Before my dad passed away, I thought I was the strong one in the family but now I know I am not. I am just the most arrogant one who likes to play that nothing in life feels too overwhelming to me. But it does — hell yeah…! — and it’s okay. I’m glad I finally allowed myself to be vulnerable and am fine with that. So yes, that was definitely the worst part of this year for me but I have to tell you, 2016: Besides all the pain you put me through, and as much as I can’t wait for  2017 to start, I am not mad at you. You are just the worst pair of high heels I’ve ever worn.

– Isabel Mundigo-Moore, Fashion Editor

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Photo: Breakaway Experiences

Best

Though I was born and raised in Toronto, this year was the first proper year for me living in the city as an adult. Between university and time spent abroad, I somehow haven’t lived in the city as a grown up. So discovering Toronto through an adult-y lens was the best thing about 2016. I learned to love Kensington all over again, discovered new areas of the city to spend time in, and managed to enjoy time at some of the gazillion fantastic restaurants and bars the city has to offer. I had the chance to attend TIFF again for longer than one crammed day as I had done during university. And best of all, I had the chance to join the Novella team, enjoying weekly meetings at 401 Richmond (a heavenly place to conduct business), attending fashion events around the city, dancing at our legendary parties, and attending Toronto Fashion Week as a writer.

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Photo: Rex

Worst

Losing David Bowie at the start of the year was a great loss not only for music, art, and culture, but also for humanity. As people have been saying, he really might have been holding the universe together all along because since he’s left us, things have become a whole lot worse. It broke my heart that such a brilliant soul would no longer contribute his creations. Lucky for us all, as the legacy of artists go, his music will continue to nourish my heart forever, his songs permanently associated with the memories of when I first heard them. I inherited my love for Bowie from my family and will pass it on to mine as his unique magic will permeate all generations.

– Christopher Zaghi, Fashion Editor –

Menswear inspired looks at Gareth Pugh f/w 2016 | Photo: Alessandro Garofalo
Menswear inspired looks at Gareth Pugh f/w 2016 | Photo: Alessandro Garofalo

Best

My pick for the best of 2016 had to be  the gender breakthrough that happened in fashion this year. It’s been decades since fashion has been so open to merging and blurring the lines between genders. It’s almost as if a new renaissance is upon us, where gender no longer means what it used to. In 2016, we saw menswear collections storm down the runway clad in ruffles, sheer fabrics, dramatic silhouettes, and a general softness that hasn’t really been seen in mainstream menswear. In womenswear, masculinity found its home beside feminine softness. Runways were filled to the brim with menswear inspired military silhouettes, extreme 80’s proportions, and oversized slouchy pieces that begged the question, What is male and what is female? But that isn’t the best part about it. This modern gender renaissance represents a push towards leaving behind the notions on what makes us different, and embracing our self-expression. We no longer have to adhere to gender binaries; a man can be an interior designer and be embraced for it, and a woman can be a building contractor without being seen as less than she is. We can thank designers like Alessandro Michele at GucciGareth PughDenma Gvasalia at Balenciaga, and Christopher Bailey at Burberry for kick-starting the change that the fashion world has been craving for years.

Photo: Brendan Smialowski
Photo: Brendan Smialowski

Worst

It may come as a surprise to most people that my pick for the worst of 2016 is Hillary Clinton, the most influential woman of the year, but before you pass quick judgement on me or give up on reading this, I humbly ask you to read on, friend. I didn’t chose Hillary as my worst because of who she is. I chose Hillary Rodham Clinton because of what was done to her. 2016 was set to become one of the most ground breaking year for gender equality since the start of women’s rights movements around the world many decades ago. 2016 was supposed to be the year when a woman who devoted her entire life to building a political career would change the face of western politics forever. Instead, we saw the hopes and dreams of a woman, and an entire nation, shot down by a group of people who wanted nothing more than to defy change.

It broke my heart to know that a woman who spent decades building connections and a level of expertise in a field that has been dominated by men was forced to watch it all come crashing down as a man, who took up politics as a hobby only just a year ago, won the U.S. Presidential Election. All of the steps that women have taken throughout the years, all of the tears and triumphs that were seen in the fight for gender equality were almost single handedly erased by one man. That’s why I picked Hillary as my worst of 2016. Not because she was a woman running for one of the most important political positions in the world but because she was a woman betrayed. She is a woman who represents change and progress, a woman who met every challenge made against her with poise, a woman who strived to break barriers. Yet she had to watch an entire country turn against her to elect a man who will never be as qualified, or deserving, as she is.

– Jordan Dziewir, Contributing Writer –

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Image Credit: IMDB

Best

The films that make a lasting impression on me are ones that give me an insight into a type of person or life that initially seem completely removed from my own reality, while exploring themes and ideas that are universal; by the end, I feel that I have a greater sense of understanding of others. Moonlightthe new film by Barry Jenkins, has definitely stayed with me long after the credits as there are subtle moments in the performances that, at times, hit a raw nerve in me; they came as a surprise. And when a movie can do that, you know you’re going to want to see it again.

No, I did not grow up struggling with my sexuality while living in a slum in Miami with a crack-addicted mother. But jeopardizing one’s sense of self as a way to cope in a world that doesn’t seem to understand, or having people in one’s life who want to be role models despite their own questionable decisions are infinitely relatable themes. And here, they ring so true and are rendered with such heartbreaking honesty that it should be of no surprise that the movie has resonated so well with its audiences. Moments when the Juan (Mahershala Ali) struggles with his conflicting feelings of wanting to be a good father figure despite living a life he knows the young boy, Little (Alex R. Hibbert), should not approve of, were definitely difficult to watch for me. Seriously, give this man an Oscar. And subtleties in Trevante Rhodes’s performance showing how some people can easily bring you back to reliving past insecurities are very poignant. Three weeks after seeing it, scenes and conversations continue to replay in my mind. And at least once a week, I ask myself when I’ll have time to see it again.

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Image Credit: Jewel Samad/Getty Images

Worst

Look, I honestly hate being that person who brings politics into conversations — or articles — that will surely be well-to-do without such a squirmy subject matter, but I can’t deny that the result of U.S presidential election has been on my mind since November 8th. The day after the results came in, it seemed very clear to me that people were largely numb or confused by Hilary Clinton’s loss. How could the person who burdened this election cycle with such arrogant and hateful rhetoric — one that seemed to only prolong the divisiveness of the American political climate —, be declared the individual best suited to move the country in a positive way? Needless to say, when I woke up on November 9th and read the results online, I felt as though I woke up in a world that was slightly darker, more uncertain than the one I went to sleep in. And given how many others were similarly taken aback by the news as well, I can confidently say I wasn’t alone in that regard. So that’s why I think Donald Trump becoming the U.S. president-elect was the worst part of the year. It produced feelings of anxiety concerning the future of the relationship between U.S. and Canada. There now seems to be a looming question mark over the progression of race relations, women’s rights, and LGBTQ rights in America. But I think the worst is that it brought forth the realization that maybe we don’t know the world or the people around us as well as we like to think we do. A difficult feeling to digest whatever  your political leanings are.

– Sveta Soloveva, Contributing Writer –

Michael Gormley wearing "the Frontier tuque" and Tala Berkes celebrate their new fashion project at the pop-up and exhibition of 'the best world's tuque'. Photo by Sveta Soloveva
Michael Gormley wearing “the Frontier tuque” and Tala Berkes celebrate their new fashion project at the pop-up and exhibition of ‘the best world’s tuque’. Photo by Sveta Soloveva

Best

Besides Drake, TIFF and the CN tower, Toronto gets another international recognition: the Frontier Tuque. Frontier design studio created what they call “the world’s best tuque”. The simple but durable black tuque fits absolutely everyone and looks gorgeous no matter how many years you wear it. Made with cashmere, merino, and qiviut, it keeps you warm whether you are skating in the heart of downtown or snowboarding in the mountains. What’s more, the tuque doesn’t make you sweat if you are wearing it inside the office or subway. In October, two hundred of $200 a piece tuques were sold out within a few hours. Then, last month, at their pop-up shop, Frontier sold their last 20. The creators say they are going back into production to meet the growing demand.

Photo: cyberspaceandtime.com
Photo: cyberspaceandtime.com

Worst

I hear a lot of people still complaining about the results of the United States election. But as a journalist, I’m more concerned with another thing. It was very disappointing to see how mass media across the United States covered the election. ABC, CBSN, MSNBC and CNN were constantly referring to Clinton’s lead, and, as a result, Trump’s victory astonished them. Whether they relied on polls too much or were biased, the results show them in a bad light and signal that the integrity of our profession is in danger. I fully understand the complexity behind the coverage of the race but I think journalism shouldn’t be concerned with which of the candidates is better or worse. It is our responsibility to be impartial and to put our professionalism before our personal opinions.

– Helen Jacob, Contributing Writer –

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Leonardo DiCaprio

Best

Between the clowns, Brexit, and gorilla meme overkill, I don’t know if anyone’s forgoten that Leonardo Di Caprio FINALLY won an Oscar! And in a way, the Internet won. We could all finally breath…and then all the other stuff happened. Chin up though. If this is the best thing I can think of, 2017 can only get better. Here’s to realizing even more things!

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Safety Pin Movement

Worst

I know 2016 was just full of ugly but I think hate crimes top the list. How did we go backwards? Yes, the hike in hate crimes came post-election, “inspired” by certain individuals who shall not be named. But we’re better than that. People care about other people and, more than ever, we need to lift each other up.

– Hoon Ji, Managing Editor

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A close-up of the cover of Ninety-nine Stories of God by Joy Williams

Best

Joy Williams’s Ninety-Nine Stories of God was first published in 2013 as an e-book but received very little attention. But earlier this year, the ninety-nine often short, jarring, allusive, and never simple vignettes, concerned with interactions with the divine, were published by Tin House as a physical paper bound copy (You can hold ‘em!) to much critical praise. And I should add, to my embarrassingly audible moans and hiccups of gratitude in the middle of a crowded bookstore. I associate Williams’s voice with old images of a disaffected Sybil or Tiresias. She sees the contours of our actions that we miss as we are swept away in their momentum. Williams’s world is violent and full of vitriol, fools, false prophets, drunks, and the handicapped. Through them, we are told of the shapes of cruelty of our stupidity.

But she does not leave us there, helpless in the dark. Often, in the direst of her stories, songs of praise seem to be the most appropriate of responses. How she fills the most barren landscapes with a palpable need for loving is a glorious mystery. The book also features many canines.

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Flint, Michigan — photo by Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

Worst

Flint water crisis is not yet resolved. In October alone, more than 170 incidents of terrorism occurred across the world. Guantanamo is still open. A parallel was made between the Black Lives Matter movement and the KKK by someone with a legitimate and relatively popular media platform. Black face is still a thing. An anti-semite misogynist has the eager ears of a would-be despot. Still can’t remember the last time an Asian brother or sister got a lead role. Swastikas are back. Twitter is news. Romney ate with Donald — Young Garlic Soup with Thyme and Sautéed Frog Legs. Leonard Cohen, the poet, is dead. Everything is suddenly handcrafted. Did I mention, that the Flint water crisis is still going on?

As always, the end feels nigh and somewhere along the way, tired and eyes glazed over with desperation, I stopped reading the news and found inside the apathy I fear in others. And that’s the greatest disappointment.

– Claire Ball, Editorial Contributor

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(L to R: Olivia Armstrong, Tegan Versolatto, Amanda Weldon, Claire Ball, Alyssa Ball, and Amanda Biffis). Photo courtesy of Sheridan College.

Best

It may sound cheesy, but in a lot of way 2016 was a big year for me. After graduating from Western in 2014, and taking a year to myself to work and travel in Europe for six weeks, I finally made the decision to continue my education and enroll in a post-graduate program in the fall of 2015. My experience at Sheridan was something I will never forget. Growing up in a fairly small city, my interest in the media was never completely understood or easy to relate to. It wasn’t until I began my education at Sheridan that I really met people who had specifically similar interests and passions as me. It was a year filled with blood, sweat, and tears to say the least. I worked harder in those eight months than I did during my four years at Western. But I loved it.

I am proud to say that my best moment this year was graduating from the Journalism New Media program at Sheridan College, and finally beginning to figure out what I really want. I can’t wait to see what 2017 has in store.

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Brock Turner leaves the jail in San Jose, California. Photograph: Stephen Lam/Reuters

Worst

No one is saddened by the fact that 2016 is over. This year was pretty awful. Aside from getting my wisdom teeth out, Donald Trump becoming president, the death of Harambe, Rob Kardashian naming his child “Dream,” and Justin Bieber deleting his Instagram, there were so many legitimately terrible things that happened in the world this year.

On a serious note, one of the things that genuinely infuriated and saddened me the most was the Brock Turner case and trial. As a woman who went to university, and understands the importance of campus safety, I was appalled by the lack of remorse Turner seemed to feel, and how the media, and the judge continued to highlight Turner’s credentials as an Ivy league athlete. As if that should somehow excuse or allow leniency for his actions.

In addition to the horrendous lenient sentence from the judge, Turner went on to blame alcohol and college peer pressure as the pivotal moment that ruined his life, instead of the moment he decided to rape an unconscious woman behind a dumpster.

The best part: he was released after only serving half of his 6-month sentence.

– Liat Neuman, Fashion Contributor – 

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Best

NYFW 2016 was all about taking steps forward for positive body image. More plus size models walked down the catwalk, such as Sabina Karlsson, Alessandra Garcia-Lorido, Marquita Pring and Ashley Graham, who also introduced her new lingerie collection for the Canadian label, Addition Elle. Christian Siriano, Smart Glamour, and Tracy Reese were among the designers who increased their size range to offer their collections to plus size women. I think that it’s about time that the fashion industry, which has a lot of power and impact on our society, celebrated feminine beauty in all body types. I’m so excited about the industry’s diverse cast of models and non-models who will showcase its collections.

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Worst

As much as I love Vetements streetwear-inspired collection designed by Demna and Guram Gvasalia, I can’t understand the obsession with the DHL yellow shirt. The young Paris-based label showcased it at the opening look for its spring 2016 show, and from that point on, the T shirt became a major hit and sold out within a few weeks. Don’t get me wrong, the approach of bringing anti-fashion back to fashion is welcome and refreshing, but I don’t understand why people, and especially bloggers, stylists, and models, are willing to spend about $330 for a simple T-shirt in a flashy bright color, with a giant logo promoting a delivery company. Maybe I missed something but I prefer to get paid than to pay to become a walking commercial. Is it worth the price tag? Your call.