Saturday, April 23, 2011

King-size it!

That's right - a King-size Burger Bed
For the last couple weeks I have been so busy with Vancouver Fashion Week and making sure everything was on track for the next issue of Vancouver Fashion eZine, I feel like I've lost my sense of fun.  Today's article is just a chance to explore a little irony.  I woke up with everything king-size on my mind - now, now, get your mind out of the gutter :) -  so king-size it is.

It seems our society doesn't feel they get value for buck unless it's bigger and better.  This might be restaurant food or just a lowly pack of socks.  If you want an example of food you only have to watch the Food Network's Diners, Drive-ins and Dives with Guy Fieri.  Almost everything is twice what any normal person should eat in one sitting.  Costco is another example of excess.  Even with a family of five, we often can't consume the amount necessary to justify the purchase of some of the items - it's just too much. At least half would be thrown away.  And the term "Super-Size It" has become a cultural phenomenon.   So what exactly brought king-size to mind as I woke up this morning - again, get your mind out of the gutter?  It's the king-size bed.  There is a story attached to this over-the-top behemoth and how it made its way into our life as well as an attempt at irony.  But first, I think you need to read a blog I wrote in March called The Master Bedroom is the New Living Room -  It's the pre-quel for these thoughts.  That done?  Then it's time for part two.

My husband is 6'5" and has always bought into the idea of a king-size bed.  I NEVER wanted one.  We have an older home where the bedroom is not overly large, but I also feel it's an unnecessary waste.  So the battle of the sexes flowed back and forth.  When we first married, we did have a smaller bed to accommodate our apartment.  Then we inherited a waterbed from his mother that was Queen-size, so no argument there.  Eventually the waterbed needed replacement and here is where fate came down firmly on my husband's side.  I had a friend who was selling off furniture in preparation for a move and she had a King-size bed in her guest room to get rid of with brass headboard and sheets.  She offered it to us for only $200 if we came and picked it up.  How could we refuse such a great deal?  This time I knew the battle was lost, so I caved and the monster entered our home.

It has probably been 5 or 6 years now and I still stand by my decision that this bed is a waste of space and money.  Oh, there are probably a few of you sprawlers out there who wander around the bed at night, but I suspect most of us sleep pretty simply.  Glen goes to bed promptly at 10 p.m. every night and I wander in sometime after midnight.  Unless it is blazing hot outside - something that doesn't happen much in Vancouver - we sleep either curled up together or with our bodies touching.  Despite his height, my husband is not a BIG man, so doesn't really need a lot of room.  That said, my assumption was that when he finally had a larger bed he would use the space to stretch out his long limbs - to really sprawl in a way he hadn't been able to before. Nope, he sleeps like he's in a twin bed, hugging the edge.  What a waste!

So the ritual of the King-size bed is now firmly entrenched in our lives.  I come in the room, sit on the edge, lay down and then wiggle backward across the great expanse until I find his warm body to curl up with. He then spoons his warm body around me.  AAAHHH, the best part of the day for me!   I am usually either in the middle of the bed or slightly on his side by the time I reach my final resting place, and here I stay for the night. While we change positions often as we sleep, we never wander far from each other.  For those into math that means we only use half of the bed.  And for that, we lose  a great deal of space in our bedroom and pay a lot more for linens.  I have tried to ask him many times why he hugs the edge of the bed when he so desperately wanted a large one, but he has never been able to give me a good answer.

Okay - if you both sleep this way, perhaps a BIG bed is a good idea!
I still think this is a conspiracy.  You have the home builders who keep convincing us we don't really need a comfortable living room/dining room area to entertain in but absolutely need a giant master bedroom and bath.  Honestly - do you spend more time awake in your bedroom than in other areas of your house?  Then you have the furniture companies convincing us we need a bed so enormous that couples can hardly find each other.  I assume most couples sleep together because they want to, not because they have to. At least that's the case for me.  So it follows that they want to be able to sleep close together. Who needs a midnight safari hunt to locate your partner?   Lastly, you have those who create the linens, duvets and quilts.  I think this must be the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow as King-size items seems to cost more than twice as much as Queen-size.

In the end it always comes down to personal choice, but when couples don't agree it can be a problem.  After taking grief over the last several years for his sleeping habits, I think my husband has become more open to taking one step down to a Queen-size when we purchase our next bed.  The way he sleeps in one place all night, I guarantee you he won't notice the difference. 

'I got a king-sized bed. I don't know any kings, but if one came over, I guess he'd be comfortable.' - Comedian Mitch Hedberg:

Friday, April 22, 2011

VFW - Great surprises on the runway!

Before any fashion week, I try and look through the designers and check out websites for those I do not know.  There are still surprises that occur and those moments are always fun for me.  A show starts and suddenly, even though I am perhaps tired from several days of watching, the adrenalin starts to flow.  Here are four that caught my eye at Vancouver Fashion Week.

Photos by Dale Rollings
Having been on the scene for over 4 years now, it's not often I see a local designer I have never heard of - enter Pouneh Askarian.  I was instantly smitten and wanted to rip the red/grey coat in the far right photo above right off the model's back and run out the door.  A graduate of Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Richmond and the University of the Arts London in the UK, her label launched in Canada in 2007. Askarian’s design objective is minimalism and romance. Garments showcase a softer, more wearable silhouette while still having great style.  This collection was infused with a touch of the designer's Iranian heritage - in fact it was inspired by a small tribe in Iran called the "Ghashghai" - combined with the perfect silks, wonderful embroidery accents and a great colour palette that includes Lazuli blue, gold yellow, dark ruby, Indian orange and satin silver.  Colour is something woefully missing from the runway in this economically difficult time and kudos for Askarian for using it in such a powerful way. Her aim, " use the traditional elements in a modern life, for a modern woman who embraces different cultures and deigns, but yet wants to be modern and comfortable in her outfit." 

Photo by Peter Jensen -
Friday was my 3rd day of watching and I was beginning to fade.  When the final show of the night began, I was at a low ebb until the first model appeared on the runway.  Offered was a perfect pairing between Love's True Couture Boutique and Sova Design Millinery.  Love's True Couture is located in Aberdeen Centre in Richmond, B.C.  In looking at their website, they only mention clothing from all over the world, but what they presented on the runway was definitely vintage-inspired.  Soft, flirty, fun and feminine were the order of the day.  The range went from soft pastels to black, from solids to prints.  One particularly charming number was a lacy sheer beige shirt paired with short lace tap pants and a light fur vest.  The models were given the freedom to actually smile during this show which made it even more charming and brought a warm ambience to close the day.

Photos by Wayne Mah -
Based in Saskatoon, Sova Design Millinery ( is the brainchild of designer Sherri Hrycay.  It is no surprise that she lists Philip Treacy as one of her icons.  She was first encouraged to pursue millinery while working a mentorship with couture fashion designer Mite de Fontenay.  What followed were 2 important internships - first under Rose Corey, milliner to the late Queen Mother, and then with Lucy Till, an established milliner in the south of France.  Hrycay's design style is full of "Notalgic Flair," so the pairing with a vintage inspired line of garments was the perfect match.  Sova's V/W '11 collection was inspired by France, the movie 'The Kings Speech" and Gabrielle Chanel.  Cloche and bowler shapes dominate the line this season, but there were also small surprise silhouettes featured. Hats are constructed from thick, lush fur felt with accents such as petersham bows, exotic feathers, and stylized buckles and flowers.  Where should you wear a hat?  According to this designer, "Anywhere you take your head."

Photos by Dale Rollings
Seattle fashion designer Tanya Min Jee Ellis ( presented a sleek line of womens wear mainly in black.  I love this quote from her website, "Polished and raw.  Edges for miles..."  She has a degree in Fiber Arts from the University of Washington and began her fashion career as a stylist on the sales floor with a national brand.  After 5 years of working closely with clients, she decided to add fashion designer to her resume.  She chose to study at the New York Fashion Academy in Seattle and, after graduating, released her first collection in April 2009.  What she presented at Vancouver Fashion week was very modern and urban.  I think it will be a hit with young, professional women in particular.  What do you wear when it's time to take off that power suit?  Everything she offered on the runway.  The garments were form fitting, had great structure and expert detailing with a nice mix of pieces to fill out your wardrobe, including Ellis' own version of the always important little black dress.

Photos by Dale Rollings

Liuba Palanciuc ( was born and raised in Moldova and first graduated from fashion design school 22 years ago.  A move to the states in 2004 meant everything became new - culture, language, history, technology - and she realized it was time to refresh her knowledge. Now a graduate of the Art Institute of Seattle's Fashion Design program, she is ready to build her own clothing label that will eventually include shoes and accessories.  The collection shown at VFW was youthful and wearable, especially suitable in the workplace.  Jackets, pants and skirts had strong lines, were gently shaped to the body without being tight and sported interesting collars and shoulder details.  Solids dominated, but there were a few pattern fabrics in the mix as seen in the photos above.  Palanciuc strives to create look that is, "... practical and comfortable but elegant, luxurious and glamorous at the same time.

I want to take a break from fashion in my next couple of columns, but there will be some more highlights coming later in the month..

Sunday, April 17, 2011

VFW - Lace Embrace Atelier

Photography by Wayne Mah -

"Cultivate your curves - they may be dangerous, 

but they won't be avoided." - Mae West

There were several wonderful additions to the Vancouver Fashion Week line-up this year and one of my favourites was Lace Embrace Atelier.  I cannot remember how I heard about Melanie Talkington, the talented designer who creates these beautiful corsets, but she is still high on my list of interviews I want to do - I'm just looking for the right publication. 

I vividly remember the day I took my daughter to her store.  Miss D. grew very tall very quickly, so had that long lean look that led her to do some freelance modelling.  BUT, when she quit growing 4 inches a year, she gained a bone structure to suit her 6 foot height.  While she looked lean by street standards, she no longer had the super narrow skeleton required to fit a size 0, and at her height, I am glad.  However, she increasingly found it difficult to look at back stage photos from the fashion shows she walked in because in comparison to the other girls, she looked different.

Entering the boutique is like walking into a candy store for women and we both were entranced.  While she did try on a few different styles of corsets, for this first purchase we settled on the most versatile option - a waist cincher in black.  The waist cincher goes from just under the bust to the high hip.  It can be worn over lingerie as shown in the first photo at the top, over a dress, a wide variety of blouses combined with skirt/pant/legging or even with an amazing lace bra and panty for a super sexy look.

Designer Melanie Talkington on the runway at VFW
Miss D. turned to the mirror and smiled.  All I could say is, "Do you really wannt to look like an androgynous model or do you want to look like THIS!"  Her face said it all.  The only downside is she has had to use a bit of discretion at times in where she wears it. Even if just paired with a print halter top and pair of skinny jeans, the attention she gets while wearing her waist cincher is pretty incredible.

Talkington is a fashion design graduate who's early interest in corsets led her to amass rare texts on historical corsets and construction methods.  She also has an amazing collection of antique corsets.  To preserve their delicate nature, these are never worn.  Instead, she has created precise patterns for these beautiful Victoria, Edwardian and 18th century antique corsets.  "I create reproductions of corsets that can withstand wear and allow people to have fun and feel beautiful." Her antique corset collection was featured at the Delta Museum in 2002 and the Vancouver Museum in 2003. 

Talkington started LEA in 1998 and opened Lace Embrace Atelier in 2008.  "We love to lace women into our corsets and let them see themselves in a new light, find they are comfortable and experience the goddess within."   This designer is a favourite among true corset aficionados such as Dita von Teese, the Queen of Burlesque, and Cathie Jung, Guiness world record holder for the smallest waist.  Taking notice of her growing international status, Tyra Banks recently invited her to be interviewed on the show and she was commissioned to create the unique corsets seen in Sucker Punch, the movie just released by Warner Brothers.

What I love about Talkington's corset designs is that she not only supports the history of corsetry, but brings new and innovative designs to the table.  At Vancouver Fashion Week we saw corset dresses, striking patterns such as the black and white ensemble shown above - middle photo.  Another surprise was the black leather version with hoodie and long tails in back. This unusual leather creation as well as the stunning gold sequins corset are exact replicas of ones you see in Sucker Punch.

Lace Embrace's runway presentation included lots of Vegas style sparkle and showmanship.  The opening sequence set the tone when a model in a beautiful Patricia Fieldwalker silk gown sashayed down the runway followed by male model dressed to the nines.  He proceeded to intimately help her don her corset.  How do you follow that?  With models that could hold their own.  A bit of sex, sass, fun and flirtatiousness kept us all entranced. 

I can't tell you how many times over the next few days I was approached about these corsets and where to find them, but I wasn't surprised.  Corsets are no longer limited to the specialty market, but have stepped out of the shadows as a major addition to the fashion scene.  They are in celebration of women's curves - a return to an aesthetic that embraces all that is wonderful about the female figure.  They definitely made an impact on the guests and were an up beat and enjoyable way to open fashion week.

I hope Lace Embrace Atelier will be back next season - I'll be front row and centre.  In the meantime, a trip by Lace Embrace Atelier might be in order - this time for me.  Also, keep your eyes open for details on an upcoming June 19th event.  High Tea at the Hycroft will feature a historical fashion show and display as well as offerings by Ayala Perfumeries and Coco Nymph Chocolatiere. All proceeds to benefit the building of an Antique Corset Museum.

For more information please go to or pop by the Vancouver store at 219 E. 16th (just east of Main St.)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

VFW - Patricia Fieldwalker, Adagio Collection

Patricia Fieldwalker - what more can I say?  While locals may not have this name roll off the tip of their tongue instantly, she has sold in Bergdorf Goodman in NYC for over 30 years.  Her designs have rocked the runway in Paris and are sold internationally. The Adagio Collection is a favourite among Hollywood glitterati such as Julianna Margulies, Claudia Schiffer, Demi Moore, Michelle Pfeiffer and many, many more.  She also has a heart of gold.  Her presence at Vancouver Fashion Week was strongly enmeshed with a charity fundraiser for those affected by the earthquake in Japan.  Kudos!!! 

I had the privilege of interviewing Fieldwalker in April 2009 for Vancouver Fashion eZine (folded in April 2012) and for Raine Magazine in February 2012.  From first glimpse I was enchanted by her collection and during the interview began to feel our lives had some eerie parallels.  She started out as a mother of 3 who created a camisole to wear to an event.  I started out as a mother of 3 answering a Craigslist ad from a New York magazine.  The response to her initial garment built into a business that grew beyond her expectations.   That writing experience eventually led me to Vancouver Fashion eZine, which has exploded to the point where it has taken over my life.  She learnt as she went along - lessons easy and hard - and so did I.  When she next advertised a sample sale, I think I showed up at least twice, my daughter in tow.  I sported a beautiful black and white silk Kimono purchased at this sale to her VFW Wednesday night show and received compliments right, left and centre.  At VFW, the next day I was surprised when people continued to come up and mention the kimono.  It shows the power of purchasing a truly beautiful garment. 

What I think Fieldwalker does best is elegance. She takes beautiful silk, cuts it on the bias and creates garments that are flattering for women of all body types.  They drape softly around your body and feel amazing to touch.  Anything she does in black is probably a sell-out as black and elegance go hand-in-hand. Same for the deep, inky navy blue that graced the runway.  On Wednesday night I saw a 2-piece black silk lounge set (middle photo below) that I would happily wear out to any event with a few sparkly accessories. Despite the intense black, it felt effortless and floated around the model's figure as she walked.  A stunner!

Next is colour.  No one picks a better palette than Fieldwalker.  Bright and sunny corals, pinks that pop, jewel tones that glow, ebony black and midnight navy used either alone or in eye-catching prints are intuitively chosen each season. This designer also has a knack for combining solid colours or solids and prints - bright pink/orange, lavender/teal and coral/lavender. Her great selection of Kimonos show off the beautiful patterned fabric and great colour blocking particularly well.  Both short and long lengths are available and they are well suited to be worn to events - something I proved Wednesday.  Finishing touches of high-quality french lace in either a matching or contrast colour were scattered here and there through-out the collection.

Fun is the final element.  Short, flirty lingerie with lots of colour and personality caught my eye.  The prints in particular were versatile.  I could easily see them walk right out of the bedroom and into the sunlight - think sidewalk cafes, summer get-togethers or a warm tropical resort.  We only saw one example, but the Patricia Fieldwalker collection also has stretch lace undergarments that are some of the sexiest I have seen. They can be used simply as invisible undergarments or one can step it up a notch by having them peek out from low-neck tops or letting them be glimpsed through sheer blouses.

Left Photo Courtesy of Peter Jensen
I am now and always will be a fan of this talented designer.

The Patricia Fieldwalker collection - Adagio -  can be purchased in Vancouver at La Jolie Madame in Pacific Centre.  The designer also offers sample sales and a fall holiday event.

For more information such as location in other areas, or to be put on the mailing list, go to

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Virgin Sangria

With Vancouver Fashion Week in full swing, there will be a lot of fashion covered in upcoming blogs, so I wanted to sneak in a quick and easy recipe that I actually developed myself.

No one is a big drinker at our family functions - just the odd glass of wine, beer or sometimes Glen and his brother share a bit of quality single malt scotch - and a few do not drink at all.  With this family mix, plus the growing list of friends who have cut way back or stopped, I decided one day to experiment and see if I could create a virgin Sangria.  This recipe has come in handy several times in recent months and seems to be generally well received, so here it is.  Something bright, sparkly and with lots of flavour for those skipping the alcoholic kick of a traditional Sangria.

I assemble this either the night before for a mid-day brunch or in the morning for an evening meal. It needs time for the flavours to develop.

You will need -
Large Glass Pitcher (with all the citrus, I really recommend this)
White Grape Juice (Approx. 1.82 litres)
Pineapple Juice (Approx. 1/2 to 1 cup)
2 Large Oranges
2 Lemons
2 Limes
Gingerale (or white wine for a regular sangria)

Pour White Grape Juice in a large glass pitcher. Juice 1 orange, 1 lemon and 1 lime and add to the pitcher.  Take the remaining orange, lemon and lime and cut in half lengthwise and then cross-wise into thin slices.  Add the slices to the pitcher.  Add Pineapple Juice - this is a strong element so how much you add really depends on your taste.  I probably add somewhere around 3/4 cup, but usually just eye it by space available in the pitcher I have.  Gently give it a stir and place the pitcher in refrigerator.

Let sit for several hours or overnight.  I tend to take a mixing spoon and occasionally push the fruit down into the grape juice as it tends to float on the top.  This stirs up the concoction and seems to pull a bit more flavour out of the fruit slices.

When ready to serve, take a long mixing spoon, press it against the fruit in the pitcher to release little more juice and then give it a gentle stir.  Fill wine glasses about 2/3 full of the fruit mixture, add an ice cube (2 if small) and then top up with club soda.  If you want to be really fancy you can add a slice of fruit from the pitcher either in the drink or on the rim of the glass.

There you have it.  Full of flavour, light and refreshing Virgin Sangria a la Marilyn. :)  Hope you have a chance to give it a try.  Oh - and as always, don't be afraid to experiment.  I have seen recipes with strawberries, kiwi, apple and more.  Another great addition is fresh mint leaves!  This very citrus-y version just seems to hit the spot for me.

Note - all images are stock images.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

VFW - The International Element

Photo by Peter Jensen
Now in its 10th year, Vancouver Fashion Week's ( current season begins tonight with the opening gala.  One of the things that has really been a gift the last few seasons is the increasing presence of international designers.

This season there will be a full 16 representing the U.S., Europe and Asia.  With my limited travel funds focused more on vacations, this is a blessing.  It allows me exposure to artists with a totally different point of view.  I am still there to check out new local talent to be covered in upcoming issues of Vancouver Fashion eZine, but now that I write for a few magazines outside Canada, I also have the privilege of interviewing some of the international talent I see as well.  Here are a few that caught not only my eye, but the eye of publications I sent the list to.  And this doesn't even touch on the amazing Asian designers that will be gracing the runway this season.  That will need to be covered in another article.

Pauline Van Dongen - Amsterdam (  In looking at this talented designer's website it is obvious that she is an artist first and foremost.  Her art is expressed through fashion.  There is a hint of both sculpture and architecture in her garments and shoes.  I love seeing something out of the norm and this show promises to offer me all that and more.  This designer will be showing her Stereopsis collection on Sunday night at 7:30.

Mac Sam - New York ( Designer Mackenzie Sam is actually a former Vancouverite living in NYC and studying at F.I.T.  Still only 19, his design work shows a rising talent we're sure to be seeing for along time.  The Mac Sam website presents a line that is focused on edgy street fashions.  They are young, hip and oh so wearable. He is scheduled to hit the runway on Thursday at 6:30.

Rosalita McGee - Spain  (  What I love about checking out this designer's website is the vivid colours.  As much as I love wearing black, there are days I just need vibrant colours to generate energy and excitement and this designer offers that in spades.  Going through the photos on her website is like entering a candy store.  You can check out her show on Wednesday at 8 p.m.

Autobiographie - Paris (  Two designers collaborate on this strong line.  Both were born in Iran and are now living and working in Paris, but one spent her teen years right here in Vancouver, so there is  a local connection.  Their collection has a lot of structure in it along with some surprise detailing that show a hint of Paris as well as their heritage.  Look to see their line at 7 p.m. on Saturday.

Dawn Sharp - Los Angeles (  I am looking forward to seeing what she presents and how she styles it.  While this designer is vintage inspired, she normally works with more colour.  This current collection is inspired by "Shakers" and in checking out her website you see a very muted palette and down-home styling.  The Dawn Sharp show is Saturday at 8 p.m.

This is only a very small hint at what Vancouver will be offered this week at VFW.  If your time and/or wallet are on a budget and you can only out a few shows, I suggest you visit the designer's websites to see which interest you the most.  Tickets can be purchased here -

In previous years they have offered an all event pass, but I don't see it listed, so will ask tonight at the opening gala and update this blog if it is still available.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Steely Springham - "Why Not Me?"

Me and my Pal!
I met Steely on cold and rainy winter day in January 2010.  Popping into Avant Garde Hair Salon to pick up a CD of images from her after interviewing owner Jon Paul Holt, she discreetly asked how she could become involved with my magazine.  My short and and rather abrupt answer if I remember it right was - "I need a writer."  I don't think that was what she expected. but in true Steely fashion, took the door that was open and walked through it. 

She brought her experience as a songwriter to the table, adding a unique voice to the magazine.  More than that, she became a friend and mentor - someone who pushed me to think outside the box and banish negative thoughts.  One of the first mantras - "Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway!"  She was also the impetus, driving force and producer that made our first ever magazine launch a reality.  I will forever be grateful that she came into my life.

From the VFE launch which she produced

In January 2011, Steely let  me know she had to step down from the magazine for 6 months as she was pursuing a life-long goal - training for a figure competition.  First, I fell apart as I had come to rely on her support.  Then I listened to what she was saying and realized it's importance.  Next came the impetus to write her story, but it took until March for us to find time for the interview.  Between training, work and classes to certify as a personal trainer, her free time is minimal, but it was worth the wait.  I think her journey has a message for women everywhere.

Emceeing a JCI student fashion show.

Steely was born and raised in Edmonton, Alberta, and from childhood had a vivid imagination.  "My parents owned this really cool brass goblet that looked like something out of a  Shakespearean movie.  I used to take it to my room, set up my Barbies and pretend I was a priest."  Acting, musical theatre and sports filled her free time. In high school she lived and breathed volleyball.  Although she is only 5'4," she played HARD.  "I had a lot of bruises.  The joke was that I would sacrifice my body for the team."  Post high school things were not as simple. 

I love this photo because she looks ready to fly!

Never judge a book by it's cover. When Steely says she understands self-doubt, it comes from experience. It is hard to imagine looking at the composed, fit person we see today and discover in her past she struggled with self-image and a weight that yo-yo'd up and down. "I could lose 25-30 pounds in a month and gain 35 the next month. I didn't do drugs and rarely ever drank - food was my vice."  Post high school, she moved to Vancouver and explored university for awhile, but struggled to find the right direction.  In the meantime she worked as a waitress in a strip bar. "It was a great experience.  I learnt a lot about life, the world and street smarts.  It prepared me for when I later moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting and music."   The downside, while working in the bar she began putting on weight.

Photo shoot and modeling on the runway.
Two director/producers for the original Rambo movie frequently came into the bar on breaks and Steely befriended them - always having their coffee ready as soon as they walked in the door. Out of the blue, one of them encouraged her to audition for a part. “The role called for nudity and you had to audition in a swimsuit. I didn't even think about that. In a panic, I stayed up all night trying to memorize the lines.

I was waiting outside the audition room in a swimsuit that didn't fit and in walked a bartender from another bar - one who enjoyed taunting me about my weight - to audition for the same part. She starting laughing when she saw me.”  In embarrassment Steely panicked, forgot all the lines and completely froze in the audition.  She left without even putting her clothes back on feeling, “This was my BIG chance, my ONLY chance and I blew it. I don't deserve any other chances.”

Photos during her singing career

A trip to Los Angeles several years later opened new doors.  She had been living there for about 4 months and was about to throw in the towel, but was talked into doing a bikini contest. Since she didn't have the Pamela Anderson look of most of the contestants, Steely chose to focus on becoming extremely fit. For 11 weeks she worked with a trainer - eating, sleeping, working out, following all of his instructions to the letter and enjoying the discipline of it all. The outcome? She won.  However, there was a downside. The jealousy of fellow contestants and so call friends caused her to lose several and her response – food. 

It took two years to again lose the weight she gained after that contest. Acting jobs began to come in and she was signed to a record label where she earned 4 top 20 singles - 1 top ten. Through the process a valuable lesson hit home. “I realized I still looked at myself in a negative way. You can fix the outside, lose the weight and get in shape, but if you don't fix your perspective, it's going to be a constant battle for the rest of your life." She chose working out instead of food to deal with the stresses of life and surrounded herself with incredible friends that exuded positive energy.

Steely with her trainer - Nico

In 2008, Steely realized her career was not progressing the way she had hoped and chose to return to Vancouver.  At first she immersed herself in helping everyone else, keeping so busy there was no personal time.  Then came the realization that she needed to find time for her own goals.  "It's okay to be selfish as long as it's about becoming the best you can be.  Then you can be good to other people." 

One long term goal had always been to try training "AS IF" she was going to enter a figure competition.  "I'm fascinated by the metamorphosis of someone's body and respect the discipline it takes. I like the regiment of training and wanted to work on sculpting my body.  Just see where I could take it."  One day a local trainer, Nico De Feo, handed her an advertisement for his upcoming boot camp.  After checking out his credentials and asking a lot of questions, she felt she had finally found the right person to work with.  The message changed from 'I wish I could look like that' to 'Why not me?'  One surprise development, Nico pushed her to actually enter competition.

April 8th progress photo
Training is time consuming, at least 3-4 days per week.  Her injuries from earlier car accidents have to be worked around and a very strict diet is required.  But what Steely found the biggest hurdle to overcome is the mental challenge.  "The mental is what stops you from going to the gym or tells you it's okay to have that chocolate cake today.  It's that little devil that sits on your shoulder and says you can't, you won't, you're not good enough." 

The cost is also a burden.  Personal trainers charge by the hour and that rate can vary widely. Competition swimsuits can run up to $1500, but are absolutely essential.   "They can make or break you. The right suit can hide your flaws or make you look longer, taller."  Then there are competition entry fees that can cost hundreds of dollars. Finding sponsorship has become a necessary focus as she looks ahead to future competition goals, but to Steely, it is all worth it. From training has come a new found sense of strength and empowerment, the ability to no longer negatively compare herself to others and the satisfaction of realizing a long held dream.
I want to close with a personal quote from Steely's website - "Motivation is trying to make yourself go somewhere. Inspiration is being called to who you are.  I don't want to be motivated or to motivate, I want to be inspired and to inspire!"

To check out her progress, view training videos or enquire about sponsorship go to

Friday, April 8, 2011

AHHH - Bureaucracy

The best definition I found when I looked up the word bureaucracy is - "Excessively complicated administrative procedure.........."  What is that I hear - a resounding AMEN?!?!?!? 

While I prefer my main focus to be writing on interesting lives, my position as editor of a local magazine requires me to attend many functions.  They are wonderful opportunities to make new friends, network with individuals I have never met and support our local industries and charities.  It's a privilege.  

The one thing any event requires is an outline in place to handle all those who would like to attend.  This often falls under the label of Bureaucracy with a capital B.  Dealing with the bureaucracy, as it is ever evolving and different at each event, is NOT a privilege - it can be a total frustration. Why is it some wonderful, young volunteer always ends up on the front line trying to field all the questions, especially if a change to the protocol has been made?  I always feel this should be done by someone who has been involved with the organization for awhile.

The problem is that those attending are always a mish-mash representing a wide section of the local community and any attempt to put everyone in the same box is always a recipe for disaster. There are also numerous people who feel entitled and can become every producers nightmare - they expect a comp ticket although they offer nothing in return, they sneak into VIP seats, they make a lot of promises and don't deliver, etc.   

Let's take a fashion show as an example.  You have the designer's clients that spend big bucks, media that ranges from a writer covering the scene for a high-end publication like Flare, down to an up and coming blog writer who may end up with a loyal following and be a great asset in the future if you treat them right - who knows? You have might also have TV personalities and politicians, and then there are those that paid for the privilege of being there.  You have family and friends of the models, hair stylists, designers and more that feel they should be let in for various reasons.  How to balance all these interests and decide seating, comp tickets, etc., is every producer's nightmare.  And to be honest, there is no easy answer.

For me, I can handle anything for a couple of hours, but I flat out cannot commit to long hours and/or multiple days unless I have a seat to place myself in with a name on it and a decent view. I no longer have the time and energy to show up early and rush in to snag a seat. If you don't have one for me, I'm really not insulted, I just want to be informed ahead of time.  

You also have to accept the fact that it might mean I chose not to come.  That's honestly okay on my side. I understand the challenges of the industry and attend so many events that I don't worry about missing any one in particular.  However, if you want me there, then we have to come to an agreement.  Unfortunately, when I have to deal with a young volunteer, that can make me come across as a diva.  SIGH!

Over the last 6 months I have been thinking about this issue a lot and talking to many in the industry.  From this, some ideas have arisen and I will try and re-cap. Your feedback and opinion is always welcome and I wouldn't make any changes to your Bureaucracy unless you look at it from all angles first.

Comp/VIP Seats -This is an important one to figure out if your seating is limited. If you have lots of space - no worries.

1.  Who gives you money?  Advertisers, sponsors and clients always fall in this category and they should be treated well, period.  They are the reason you are here.
2.  What are they offering you?  For media, this means requiring them to provide coverage of the event and it should clear exactly what they are offering you for this privilege.  For industry professionals in other areas, it could mean using clothing in a published shoot, a buyer considering the designers showing or promotion in another way - perhaps a well known media personality who is photographed in the front row.
3.  Who supports you?  This could include the organizer's friends, family, etc. He/she shoulders the responsibility and has chosen to invite them.
4.  What are you offering?  It's important to be clear from the start what you are offering - a front row seat, a back row seat, standing in an enclosed area or a rush ticket.  It avoids confusion later and conflicts that your poor volunteer has to sort out. 
5.  Someone who is knowledgeable should be in charge of this touchy area.
6.  Family and friends of volunteers - especially models.  I get it. Your son/daughter is volunteering and you have to drive them and want to see them on stage.  Please realize if seating is limited, it's just not always possible. Consider it their job whether they get a paycheck or not.  Would you stay if they were working in a restaurant or office?  Sometimes you just have to sacrifice if you want to support your son/daughter in this industry. Most events are happy to let you in if they actually have space, so if they don't, please be accomodating.

How to handle VIP tickets - There is such a wide variety from event to event that this is can be a very frustrating process for everyone concerned.

1.  When you decide your protocol, clearly email it out to everyone affected by it.
2.  At multiple show events, if everyone is required to leave between shows, perhaps the VIP can check in when they arrive and be given a chair tag they place on their seat at the first show and return when they leave for the day.  That way you don't have VIP chairs marked for individuals that are not at every show and VIP's don't have to keep lining up and fighting for a new seat each time.
3.  Another idea I have always felt had merit was seating VIP's a full 30 minutes early to make it easy and unstressful.  If they aren't there in time, they go in with the general seating.  That said - this is would probably create a lot of drama, so I don't recommend it.  

Other Notes

1.  If there are changes to the schedule, announce the delay.  We actually all know that things happen.  You don't have to cover up or explain the reason, a simple, "Due to unfortunate circumstances, the show has been delayed until..."  Let's face it - Shit Happens occasionally and all you can do is keep everyone informed.  There is not a single producer in town that hasn't had an unexpected delay crop up at some point.
2.  If there is an unfortunate delay, don't leave people standing outside the venue.  Let them come in and sit down in seats at the regular time - we'd be less grumpy.  Most of us enjoy networking or we wouldn't be there, we just need to be comfortable. We can relax and visit until the show is ready to go.  For those of us wearing high heels - that standing can become a true pain! :)
3. Try not to ask a young volunteer to force those coming in to take seats very close to where models come out. Yes it makes sense from your side, but anyone who lines up early expects to pick a seat they feel provides a great view.  It's a thankless job - just ask any bus driving who asks passengers to move back.

I am utterly grateful to those who chose to take on the responsibilities, financial challenges and organizational chaos that putting on a great show involves.  My hats off to you.  These comments mostly designed to spark some creative thinking.  And again, do not take these as a solution to all your frustrations.  Unfortunately something  new and unexpected will always rear it's ugly head to challenge you. 

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Enigma of Skype

Okay - I have to admit I'm not 20, but I've moved into the Techno Age in a pretty major way. One thing I became enamoured of is Skype.  I had one son living in Ireland and a daughter living in Australia for a year.  While it was tough to organize a time to talk because of the different zones we were in, talk we did. In fact family get-togethers always included calls from both of the kids at different times.  We would place the lap-top in the centre of the gathering and everyone would get an update on how their travels were going. It made us all feel closer to them and gave us a sense that the world was just that little bit smaller.

Because I am a freelance writer with a limited budget, Skype has opened the door to me interviewing artists in other areas as no cost - a real plus.  I also didn't need to purchase a recorder for my phone to tape the calls.  An expense I just couldn't justify.  Skype interviews I have conducted include a Los Angeles fashion stylist, three designers in New York and a tap icon living in Toronto.  That chance to talk and interact with what is being said live, even though there are limitations, is a blessing.  Seeing the artist talk also brings an added dimension.  The article is stronger and has a better sense of the designer embedded in the words.  I just place my tape recorder on my computer's speaker and interview away.

There has been a major surprise, though. Never once in communicating with my kids in Ireland or Australia did I have a single problem on Skype.  The connection was great, even though they lived in meagre circumstances, and conversations went uninterrupted.  Since interviewing artists in Canada and the U.S. I have been shocked at the low quality of the Skype connection.  One of us keeps losing the audio and every time we have had to restart many times.  In one interview that was unusually poor, we had to leave the video off entirely to keep the connection to make any progress and still had to re-start three times.

Okay - I don't hate Skype, but when I have to restart 3 times, I understand the sentiment.

Which brings up the question, why is Skype better when you call someone on another continent than when you call someone in the North America????  I have tried an internet search to no avail, so here is your chance.  If you can answer this question and it has a solution, you have improved my future interviewing experience by 100% and will earn my undying appreciation.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Coming Out Story #3 - Noel B and Kevin J. (Told posthumously by Noel)

"My Coming Out" - in Noel's own words.

My name is Noel B.  I was born in the Bahamas to a Canadian mom and a Bahamian dad.  Being born bi-racial and bi-cultural now has it's benefits, but back in the 80's being a tan skin, curl haried, gay man in steel-town Hamilton, Ontario, wasn't easy.  From early on I had always felt different compared to my peers, both mentally and physically.  In elementary school I was dubbed 'The Brown Cow' based on my weight and ethnicity.  In  high school I searched for a way to be invisible which never usually worked because my voice could melt butter even back then.  Every time I spoke, I felt my voice exposed that I was gay. 

Finally, in the summer of 1996 I quite hiding who I was and at the age of 17 came out as a gay man.  That year I worked at a Catholic youth organized summer camp.  When a note I had passed to my BFF on the ride home was ripped out of her hands by a fellow counsellor, a buff, toned big mouth, I knew there was only one thing that I could do before I'd be outed at work the next day.  My mother had attended a PFLAG meeting months prior and decided to buy me my first Gay Pride t-shirt.  It was grey with purple letters that read "Love is Never Wrong" and had two male symbols on the chest.  That morning I put my t-shirt on, took a deep breath and decided to out myself.  I created a stir that day, but it helped me to realize when you're honest about who you are, you can receive the love you really want.
Coming out was a good decision.  Yes there were times along the way when I was scared and confused.  I'd been raised in a single parent family and at one time thought the male figure I was searching for was a dad.  Once I realized I loved men, I was glad that I had the support and encouragement of my mother and my sister.  My sister immediately hugged me, told me it would be alright and took me to my first day club.  When my mother moved our family to Vancouver, it brought me closer to the then-called GLC (Gay Lesbian Centre) on Davie Street (at Thurlow).  There I was able to make friend with young people like me.

One of those friends was a boy named Kevin J.  I'm sure my heart skipped a beat when we met.  He was very funny, with liquid blue eyes and short, dark hair.  We had an instant connection.  I painfully waited a few days before dialing his phone number.  Regrettably, an aggressive older woman rudely told me he wasn't in.  Two weeks passed before Kevin made it to another GLC meeting.  We were anxious to catch up and learn everything we could about one another.  I knew I was falling for him fast, which made what I heard next very hard.  Kevin was being verbally and emotionally abused by his mother, his classmates and bullies.  At home, his mother would call him 'child molester' and tell him to stay away from little children.  He then went on to explain how she'd torn up my phone number along with other personal possessions in his room.  At school, his locker was repeatedly vandalized.  He was often pushed and made fun of in the hallways with no interference by school staff.

A month passed, and although we had expressed our feelings for one another, we were still only able to see each other when he snuck away to our weekly meetings.  I had decided to skip a night at the GLC since I had been having fun at a friend's house party, a decision that still haunts me to this day.  A few days later I received a call that brought me to tears.  Kevin had found a rope and decided to hang himself from a set of monkey bars not far from his house.   Everyone who knew him was angry and in shock as we pieced together his last days.  The night I had decided to party rather than attend our meeting, he had come looking for me and had even waited to deliver a message to me.  I'll never know what that message was.  At his humble funeral service, our support group provided a gay presence.  The following GLC meetings had grief counsellors present to help us understand our feelings, to cope with our grief and to help us heal.

In Ken J.'s honour, I have chosen to share my story and what I knew of his - to help prevent anymore stories like these and to bring awareness and help to those in need.  Support groups and services, like the LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgendered) community in Vancouver help to save lives and develop a confidence in our identity.  I would encourage anybody with questions, or who is seeking acceptance, to reach out because help is there!

*My Note - Here are some links for those who want to access support in Vancouver.  Those in the know, please send me any other links you feel offer support to the community and I will post them -

Out in Schools -
PFLAG Canada -
Submitted by Brand T. -