Shitty Men, and Other News

‘The Desperate Man’ — Gustave Courbet (1845)
Dan McCoy/NARA — Traffic on 6th Ave. near 42nd St.

Comedy in the Trump Age

Just about a year ago, while other comedians on the late-night scene, from Seth Meyers and John Oliver to Stephen Colbert and Samantha Bee spent the evening denouncing then-candidate/full-time racist hairball Donald Trump, who was in the throes of accusations of coziness with Vladimir Putin and Islamophobia and racism, one man had the courage to ask the really tough question: if he could ruffle Donald Trump’s hair.

I’m talking, of course, about the infamous segment on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, where Jimmy Fallon spent the interview asking the softest of softball questions, without a hint of pushing him on any issues or criticizing anything he ever said. The segment was widely criticized, with many suggesting Fallon was helping to humanize or normalize Trump.

What was the issue, exactly? After all, Stephen Colbert also had Trump on as a guest last year, and Seth Meyers had Kellyanne Conway on just eight months ago. And sure, Fallon asked some pretty tame questions, but he isn’t a journalist, and it’s not his job to ask the tough questions. Is he really to blame for trying to keep his show apolitical, to want mass appeal? Apparently, yes.

In the Trump era, it’s become increasingly clear that few people are interested in that kind of mass appeal. People want sharper comedy, comedians who aren’t afraid to be critical, to call out bullshit when they see it, to denounce hate. It’s no wonder that the more sharply political late night hosts, like Trevor Noah, Oliver, Bee, Colbert, and Meyers are getting ever-increasing audiences and attention.

Indeed, consider the fact that Colbert’s most popular segments on YouTube are monologues where he denounced or criticized Trump. Bee’s show, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee is almost dominated by Bee eviscerating Trump to shreds, perhaps most notably with her segment “Pussy Riot”, made shortly after that tape with Billy Bush came out. For six glorious minutes, Bee alternated between strained, venomous sarcasm and unsurprised fury, unleashing a badly-needed female perspective, noting: “We know this is shocking for most normal men, but every woman I know has had some entitled testosterone monster grab her like a human bowling ball.”

Not only that, but even the relatively apolitical Jimmy Kimmel got a moment in the sun during the height of the health care debate. After an emotional monologue where he discussed his newborn son’s heart condition, Kimmel begged Congress not to remove protections for those with pre-existing condition, pleading in a cracked voice, “If your baby is going to die, and it doesn’t have to, it shouldn’t matter how much money you make.”

And even more recently, as Trump refused to outright condemn white supremacists and Nazis in Charlottesville, late night hosts ranging from the less political James Corden to the more political Meyers  lined up to criticize his silence and condemn white supremacy in the strongest terms.

And in the world of standup comedy, the specials that have been more widely celebrated have recently been those that either dealt specifically with politics or the issues on the periphery, even if those jokes weren’t the main focus. Jen Kirkman discussed sexism and harassment in Just Keep Livin’?, Roy Wood, Jr discussed race and blackness in Father Figure, Hasan Minhaj discussed Islamophobia in Homecoming King, and Maz Jobrani discussed being an immigrant in the aptly named Immigrant.

Even here in Canada, comedy has taken an ever-sharper political edge. Just take the satirical site and now comedy show The Beaverton, which in addition to featuring video segments and articles mocking Trump and the alt-right, also isn’t shy about criticizing the Canadian alt-right, especially in their biting satire of the alt-right, heavy on racism and light on facts Canadian “news” site, The Rebel with their own spin, The Rebelton.

There are still plenty of (mostly straight, cis, white, male) comedians who don’t like this shift at all. Fallon, for his part, has been reluctant to change his show toward a more political tone. Obviously, that’s his prerogative. However, it’s worth noting that we aren’t living in an age when politics is business as usual. The United States’ president is a racist, a misogynist, and Islamaphobic. He’s in cahoots with white supremacists. He and his party don’t care about the effects of their actions, even when people’s lives are at stake. Health care? DACA? Climate change? Just some pieces in a cynical, spineless game. No offense to Jimmy Fallon, who I’m sure is a very nice guy, but it’s irresponsible to avoid this stuff altogether as though they’re just touchy political topics. Comedy has evolved to acknowledge that reality, whether or not all comedians want to get on board.

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2017 WTF Moments.. Part Deux

Art work by Michelle Cheung for Novella Magazine

We love to chew the fat here at Novella — bring up the most innocuous subject, like ice cream, for instance, and sooner or later the talk will switch over to our cultures and societies and politics. When we are good, we are the non-complacent civic minded, observant and vigilant (which makes sense since our team is a weird and awesome amalgam of minorities). We can also be the harpies of old, pecking at your ears about the latest disaster and stupefaction available in the great outdoors.

But what can you do when 2017 is so far a complete shit show without intermission? (And I don’t really see one coming our way anytime soon.) New disasters — as of this week, North Korea detonated its sixth nuclear bomb — rise and old ghosts — the Swastika is back in style for some — are turning out to be actually not plasma but living people. I forget where but I read (saw or heard) somewhere that Mark Twain said, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it sure does rhyme.” Fact check that for me.

The below list is one made of shits that have been on our minds for far longer than we’d like: they’ve caked on the walls and are now harder to clean. We’re sharing them with you so that you can commiserate, watch the shit dry.

Drew Brown, Editor-in-Chief

The fact that we are able to put together a second edition of WTF moments is proof that 2017 is not going as well as we hoped. Ann Coulter, right-wing media pundit everyone loves to hate, recently blamed Houston’s devastating storm on the LGBT community. Coulter tweeted “I don’t believe Hurricane Harvey is God’s punishment for Houston electing a lesbian mayor. But that is more credible than ‘climate change.'” It’s no secret that Ann is no supporter of the LGBT community, which is fine with us. I am not surprised that Ann is trying use LGBT community as a scapegoat but what is baffling is the fact that Republicans still think that Climate change is still some crazy thing liberals made up.

Hoon, Managing Editor

Trump recently pardoned Joe Arpaio of criminal contempt, good month and a half before the actual sentencing of the Arizona sheriff behind the notorious tent city, the modern American ‘concentration camp’ designed specifically for ‘illegal aliens’ and those suspected of being ‘illegal’. The baffling thing about the pardon is that it seems legal — despite challenges on the basis of the Fifth Amendment’s due process clause —, at least for now (cases are being made against its legality). The most sinister aspect of the pardon is that this may be Trump’s attempt to disarm Special Council Robert Mueller of his powers to subpoena and charge with criminal contempt — if Trump can pardon, say, an unwilling White House staff, who’s been subpoenaed by Mueller, of criminal contempt, Mueller is stripped of a necessary and important tool in his investigation. Trump is encroaching on the integrity of the Department of Justice and the judicial system at large.

Kimberley Drapack, Contributor 

Despite their horrible history with animal cruelty, SeaWorld has somehow topped itself. An orca whale named Kasatka recently died due to a bacterial infection. Kasatka is the third whale this year to die at SeaWorld. The nightmare began in January 2017 when the beloved Tilikum, from the documentary Blackfish, died without a confirmation from SeaWorld as to what it was that killed him. It is known that Tilikum was prone to bacterial infections, much like Kasatka. Global News reports that since 1961, at least 150 killer whales have been taken into captivity, and 127 of these orcas are now dead. Of those, 45 died at SeaWorld. Tilikum spent 33 years in captivity and died at age 36. In the wild, an orca whale has a much higher survival rate, usually living up to 80 to over 100 years old. It makes me wonder when they are going to shut down SeaWorld once and for all. A girl can dream.

Cara Fox, Contributor

So, the American evangelical-right got together for a tailgate party and decided to publish the stuff of every far-right Facebook status we have seen since 2002. Enter: The Nashville Statement. I don’t know what’s more WTF-worthy, the fact that there really is absolutely nothing newsworthy in the document or that James Dobson was able to climb out of his crypt to be the first to sign it. Congrats, American evangelicals behind this manifesto! You have successfully made your prejudice relevant for the twenty-first century by using words like “transgenderism” and “polyamory.” But oops, plot-twist! Guess who’s non-binary and asks to be called by a male pronoun? GOD!

Natasha Grodzinski, Contributor

So, it’s happened. We are in a time where facts are called fake and skewed opinion can be called fact simply because it is a belief. An unbelievable side effect from this has been the rebranding of Nazism. It had been, for a decades following the Second World War, a politically unifying statement to say “Nazis are bad.” That’s a safe one. You could probably say that at a party and have everyone agree. But then the “alt-right” came, who claim to be neither Neo-Nazis nor White Supremacists. Then Charlottesville happened, where protestors used Nazi salutes and old Nazi chants but Donald Trump said that there were “two sides” to the events there, and took his sweet time condemning the clear racism and Neo-Nazism. My question is this: are we doomed to repeat the past? Did we learn nothing from historic events in Europe to be able to recognize when something is bad and harmful to other people? Germany emphasizes how bad those historic events were in their schools, with facts. How are we in North America not able to do the same thing?

Adina Heisler, Contributor

Even if you don’t know a whole lot about politics or international affairs, you can probably recognize that, when dealing with a country like North Korea, it’s important for world leaders, particularly the President of the United States, to be calm, keep a level head, listen to advisors, and not act rashly. Thank goodness there’s a man in the White House who only loses his temper over important matters, like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s TV ratings. On August 8th, Trump warned North Korea that any provocations against the U.S. will be met with “fire and fury”. Luckily, he thought that through carefully, took advice from his military advisors…what’s that? He totally improvised it? He’s a spoiled tangerine child with no impulse control and has absolutely no clue what he’s doing? We’re all doomed? Ok, cool. He’s playing Russian Roulette (wink) with North Korea, but hey, at least he doesn’t have a private email server!

Christopher Zaghi, Fashion Editor

Having to watch Houston natives suffer through Hurricane Harvey’s full onslaught and its devastating aftermath was horrifying enough, but, of course, the U.S. has a bad habit of demanding sympathy for its affected people while attacking those whose intentions are to help out. Such was the case for queer actor and all around bad ass Ruby Rose, who posted on her twitter that she was planning on generously donating $10,000 to an LGBTQ community centre to help with the cost of providing care for Houston locals. However, some U.S. citizens felt that Ruby’s choice of donating to an LGBTQ community centre was highly insensitive and wrong. Ruby was hit with tweets that read like a witch hunt news letter, some people felt her choice didn’t take into account that “All Lives Matter” (Lol) while other’s felt the need to tell her that “it must be nice to be able to flaunt your money like that.” It seems that the many citizens in the United States think it’s more important to be humble about your wealth then donating a portion of it to flood victims. And it’s far sadder that even more US citizens think that LGBTQ community centres have body guards at the door making sure that ONLY queer people are lining up for help.

Snigdha Koirala, Contributor

Last week, Munroe Bergdorf — a black, queer, trans model, and DJ — was announced as the face of L’Oreal’s True Match campaign — the corporation’s attempt at centering diversity and social justice in its advertisements and operations. Three days later, after Bergdorf wrote a Facebook post in response to the events in Charlottesville (where a white-supremacist killed an anti-racist protestor), she was dropped by the company. In her post, Bergdorf writes the following: “Most of ya’ll [white people] don’t even realise or refuse to acknowledge that your existence, privilege and success as a race is built on the backs, blood and death of people of colour…Your entire existence is drenched in racism.” Because of Bergdorf’s comment that all white people are racist — meaning that they benefit  from the systematic racism found in all corners of society, and, as such, unless they actively work towards fighting this form of oppression, they end up perpetuating it — L’Oreal claimed that Berdorf’s post went against its values of “tolerance” and “diversity”. L’Oreal, a worldwide corporation with a history of alleged racist and discriminatory work environments, a corporation that, through its products and advertisements, has continuously prized white women over women of colour, is now crying lack of tolerance when faced with the angry, unfiltered, true words of a black woman. WTF indeed.

Meg Summers, Contributor

The fashion world has been increasingly inclusive and it’s about time. Magazine covers and runways finally celebrate models of different body types, races, sexual identities, and more. However, there still seems to be some flaws when a brand shows their ignorance towards wanting to appear inclusive while not actually doing so. This past July, Vogue featured Gigi Hadid and her boyfriend Zayn Malik in a cover story that deemed the couple to be ‘gender neutral’ in their fashion choices. This is simply because Gigi enjoys wearing her boyfriend’s shirts and jackets (so basically, if you are a girl who has ever needed an extra layer or run out of laundry, you are also gender neutral — who knew?!). With the number of models who belong to the LGBTQ community and ACTUALLY identify as gender neutral, this could have been a great opportunity to gain some insight into a truly different aspect of fashion. Instead, this has been a sad attempt by Vogue to look edgy while still clutching onto their celebrity status.

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WTF Wayhome, Ouch Osheaga: Let’s Discuss Cultural Appropriation

I think it’s important for people to check themselves. Is your speech, behaviour, attire, or accessories offensive in some way? If you’re unsure, the answer is probably, Yes.

I was really fortunate this summer and I was able to experience two major music festivals, the Wayhome Music & Arts Festival in Ore Medonte, just outside Barrie, Ontario, and the Osheaga Festival of Music and Art in Montreal, Quebec. Attending these two festivals affirmed my love for my fellow Canadians and the ways in which music can be used as medium to bring people together. I met so many amazing people during my time at these festivals, like-minded individuals from all over Canada (and other parts of the world) who were looking to enjoy their favorite artists and have a good time.

On the other hand, there was one really big issue that I couldn’t get past. Keep in mind, this wasn’t a one time occurrence but several instances in which I was extremely uncomfortable, and unable to understand why those around me didn’t share the same sentiments.

What really irked me throughout the festivals was the abundance of non-POC individuals donning culturally significant items such as bindis, headdresses, cornrows, dreadlocks, dashikis, warpaint, etc. I could go on forever.

WHAT IS CULTURAL APPROPRIATION? 

The definition of cultural appropriation is pretty simple: cultural appropriation is the use of a certain culture by members of another culture wherein the meaning or significance of these cultural ties are lost, misappropriated, and is disrespectful to the culture that it is originally from. Considering this, it’s pretty simple to understand that non-POC individuals, aka white people, are taking advantage of a culture when using it as a part of their costume at a music event.

Cultural appropriation is by no means a new concept, and, this far into the year 2017, I hoped to see changes from past years in which music festivals almost seemed as though they were breeding grounds for white dudes in cornrows and white girls in bindis. It saddens me that this is still a thing.

WHY DOES CULTURAL APPROPRIATION STILL HAVE A PLACE IN OUR FESTIVAL VENUES? 

This question has plagued me for the past few years. How has there been no reform to what people are allowed to wear at these festivals? More over, who perpetuates this trend or gives a “thumbs up” to these perpetrators before heading out the door?

There is a lot to be planned before heading to a festival, and a big part of that preparation is putting together an outfit and making accessory, hair, and makeup choices. Each year, I go through my overflowing closet in hopes of pairing together some makeshift ensemble that is cute and eye-catching and, most important, hasn’t been done before. While it may be hard to find that extra detail that will help make your look standout, I can assure you, it will not be found through the use of someone else’s culture. Do better.

From Alessandra Ambrosio‘s Instagram account. The post reads, “Becoming more inspired for @coachella with this amazing Native American headpiece @jacquieaiche #feathers #festival #coachella #foreveronvacation #inspiration #cocar”
From Kylie Jenner’s Instagram account
From Vanessa Hudgens’s Instagram account. The post reads, “Coachella life. Day 2 =) xx”

Social media often becomes oversaturated with the misuse of culture by the wrong demographic of individuals around festival season, (as seen above) so if the affirmation of a celebrity wearing such items becomes a confirmation for you to do the same if you are a non-POC, that is where we run into some trouble. One may ask, “if I see Kylie Jenner wearing such things, and she looks great, why can’t I?”

There is a long weighted history and discourse behind the argument that I am posing with this article, not all in which I can include. Instead, I am hoping to instead bring light to this topic, in the hopes that it sparks a greater debate between friends.

This is one of the ways that we can make a change.

WHAT DO MUSIC FESTIVALS LIKE WAYHOME AND OSHEAGA HAVE TO SAY ABOUT CULTURAL APPROPRIATION?

I did some research to see what I could dig up about the stance that certain festivals take on the issues I mentioned earlier. There was not a whole lot of information I could find, but, rather, a lot of great articles on the subject. Like I said earlier, I am not the first person to talk about this.

In the case of Wayhome and Osheaga, specifically, here is what I found. After scrolling through an “overview of festival rules” for Wayhome,  the only mention of clothing and/or accessory was through the bullet point stating:

  • No gang clothing and/or gang support shirts.

This bullet point appeared on the list twice. I am unclear as to what this is referring to or in what context Wayhome would qualify a shirt as “gang supporting,” but, nevertheless, I didn’t find another mention of clothing, accessory, or hairstyle. After scrolling further, I did find one more interesting bullet point, under the topic of “additional rules/regs”:

  • No confederate flags.

The fact that this was added to this list sends a red flag to me and really makes me interested in what event must have happened for the organizers to feel they must mention this. In Canada. In 2017. Either I am living in a fantasy world or there are bigger issues about what individuals are bringing to music festivals than I have ever imagined.

Osheaga on the other hand, was a little bit better. In 2015, the festival put a ban on the admittance of:

  • First Nations headdress and other feather headdresses

On their website, they specify that, “The First Nations Headdresses have a spiritual and cultural meaning in the native communities and to respect and honour their people, Osheaga asks fans and artists attending the festivals to not use this symbol as a fashion accessory.” 

This was really important. Osheaga was one of the first major music festivals to take a stand on cultural appropriation and to lend support to the Indigenous community of Canada by creating this rule.

SO… WHAT NOW? 

Here, my friends, we come to our final question: “What exactly can be done?” How would a music festival enforce these rules in practice? The fact is, it is impossible to police. There is no system that will be put in place that will not admit a white person because of a hairstyle or because they chose to wear a bindi.

This brings me full circle back to my frustration, and my understanding that the policing needs to begin within. As I mentioned at the beginning of this article: everyone needs to check themselves, and better yet, check your friends.

There is just no room for excuses. We all play our part, and as tough as a the world is, it’s important that your role in all of this is one that is as unproblematic as possible. There’s too much shit going on.

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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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