First, the basics: TWA takes a group of volunteers to Haïti every May for a 12-day stay. It’s a pretty awesome story: John Callaghan (the one in orange, hiding his face), a high school teacher, started taking his students on trips to poor areas of Kingston, Jamaica to show them how differently some people live in different parts of the world. (My future children will absolutely receive similar privilege checks before they’re out of school.) When he retired from teaching he didn’t plan on continuing the trips; but by then some of his former students, who were college-aged or older, joined with Callaghan to form a registered charity and keep the tradition going. TWA has now travelled to Haïti 14 times. Check out their site to donate or learn more about them. Or, you know, keep reading.
So I was on my way home from an audition, and as per usual I was struggling to put it out of my mind. This is a wise thing to do after any tryout, audition, callback, interview, or go-see. Once you’ve done it, there’s no going back in time to change what you did or how you did it. Right?
Oh, except in your mind. And I am a master of torturing myself by dwelling on what’s already behind me, singing the shoulda-coulda-song even though I’m tired of hearing it. Maybe it’s because of my experience as an editor, which teaches that finding flaws is the vital first step to fixing them. Maybe it’s because I’m an emotional Pisces, so comfortable in my dreamworld (a place where I’ve already won enough Grammys and Oscars to put even my own vision boards to shame) that my worst fear is opening my eyes to a reality that doesn’t measure up. Maybe it’s because an actor or singer can always find another actor or singer to laugh and commiserate with over how badly and thoroughly “I just bombed that audition;” or maybe it’s easier to remember the things I did “wrong” than the things I did right.
It’s probably all of the above, but for now I’m focusing on that last point. And here’s a plot twist: I’m about to congratulate myself for things I’ve done imperfectly, because I got some unexpected rewards out of those so-called mistakes.
I remember auditioning for a short film called Home Away, and totally forgetting my lines at one point while the camera was rolling. Oops. I said the wrong words but still got the character’s intent across, booked the role and finally earned the third ACTRA credit I needed to become full union.
I competed in the Miss Teen Canada Scholarship pageant, with grand visions of bringing home the crown. Did I make the top ten? Nope. Did I cry? Yes (later, in the car). Funny how, even though there was no talent competition for this pageant, the director later asked me to sing something over the phone and invited me to perform at the Miss Teen/Mrs Michigan pageant that year. I happily accepted, and that was my first time performing outside of Canada.
It isn’t just about show biz, either. Last summer I picked up my phone, butterflies in my stomach on 100, called a guy I had met recently but really liked, and asked him out. I realize this isn’t a big deal for everybody, but for me it was huge! And he said no. And the Earth, I am glad to report, did not stop turning.
Listen, social media can make it look like other people are strolling down Easy Street while you’re struggling to just get out of bed. Be aware of the gap between perception and reality. Please be aware of the many discouraging moments we all have, and which most of us decline to document or share. I personally cringe every time I hear the word “lucky” applied to me (and it’s usually being said by someone whose knowledge of my life is limited to my Facebook wall), knowing that my “luck” is largely the result of effort and discipline. And pain. And time. And learning.
And dozens upon dozens of “unsuccessful” auditions.
Seriously, if you’re curious, here are a few: The Lion King; Degrassi; Les Misérables; Hemlock Grove; The Little Mermaid; Caroline, or Change; Dark Matter; Once on this Island; Copper; The Gift; Ruined; A Day Late and a Dollar Short; Little Shop of Horrors; The Next Step After-Show; 12 Monkeys; Beauty and the Beast; Universal Studios Japan; Honey Jam; Kinky Boots, Rogers TV; Carnival Cruise Lines; Disney Cruise Lines; Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines; the Raptors Dance Pak; plus a bunch of commercial auditions, song submissions, general auditions for theatres, etc.
When all is said and done, maybe I’ll always feel bad for awhile after an unsuccessful shot at something. But deep down inside I know that the regret of not taking a shot feels even worse and lasts even longer. So … here’s to … I guess, a lot more NOs, with hopefully a whole lot of YESes too.
Sometimes, quotes that go viral are bang on. Like this one:
So, full disclosure, spoiler alert, be warned! For this, my final Top Ten Tuesday (maybe ever . . . maybe just for the year 2014), I am choosing to focus only on my highlight reel. I encourage you to do the same as you reflect on that year that’s ending and the new one coming up. Here are 10 of my favourite memories from 2014 . . . they started out in chronological order but you’ll see why that didn’t last long. Enjoy!
1. DUBAI, AKA THE FIRST 5 MONTHS OF THE YEAR
This is not a copout, you guys. If I tried to count and categorize my favourite individual moments from my stay in Jebel Ali, I would never ever ever finish writing this. I mean, really, which was more memorable: fly boarding, or ascending the Burj Khalifa? Swimming in salt water, or strutting in heels? Organizing photoshoots, or creating videos? Shopping for new clothes or chopping new men?
2. FAM JAMS
And when I did come back? Family reunions galore! A roti picnic on my mom’s birthday, my cousin Derek’s wedding in Ottawa, a Thanksgiving feast in London, ON (with STUFFING!!! WHY was that so hard to find in Dubai???), reunions with cousins I rarely see even when I am home.
3. MEETING 5 NEW BABY COUSINS
Reunions are one thing; meeting and holding a new baby for the first time is, like, next-level awesome. And I was blessed with 5 (yep, 5) new baby cousins this year. In birth order: Carter, Amaya, Quinton, Iyla, Adalia.
4. GETTING BACK INTO AUDITIONING
And not just because I booked one or two roles! But the whole process, which used to feel really stressful to me, is getting more and more fun.
Shoutouts to the people booking the roles I didn’t =)
5. FRIEND-LY REUNIONS
Every coffee date or breakfast date or jerk chicken date with a friend I hadn’t seen in months and months was a heartbeat for me. I’m especially grateful for the CAMO Cruise, my reintroduction to Toronto’s fête society, where I cruised across Lake Ontario with good people and good music and good drinks (and okay food, lol) and thought to myself, “Man, do I love this city.” (Thanks, Nish!!!)
Likewise, the day after the Caribana parade, some friends and I went to a day party that gave me so much life I’ve run out of words for it. Amazing music (shoutouts to hometown hero DJ Starting from Scratch and DJ Dany Neville, from Dubai, who I finally met here in Toronto!), pretty venue, awesome people, new and old friends, randomly running into my cousin Kari . . . vibes. Loved it. (Thanks, Lincoln!)
And let me not forget the wedding of my homegirl Allison, who I’ve known since tenth grade, to the ultra-cool Derwyn . . . I’ll just leave this picture here because with words, I literally can’t.
6. CREATING MY OWN ROUTINE
Overseas, my routine was determined by my work hours and the times that the buffet was open. Here at home, it took me awhile to settle back in, and there are still some days that get crazy, but at least I have control over the first hour or so after I wake up and the last few minutes before I go to bed. Carving out time every day to read and write and express gratitude, and even to YouTube sermons, has made a huge difference. It might be the least exciting thing on this list, but it’s for sure going to be one of the most beneficial, long-term.
7. RELAUNCHING MY SIDE HUSTLE
Spending the first chunk of the year overseas, in some ways it was like an extended vacation. But to be honest, there were times when it felt a bit like exile. This was especially true when it came to my beauty/health/wellness business, and it was a relief to jump back in with my colleagues and my appointment lists, and some sweet new products, when I got back.
8. REALIZING THE POWER OF VISION BOARDS
You can read all about it here, but from here on out I will be even more mindful of how powerful these things are, as material declarations. I mean, really. Wow.
9. SHOOTING THE AALIYAH BIOPIC
What an experience! Everything about this for me, from the audition process to the backlash, was important and I’m grateful for every second. But what makes it onto this list, for me, is actually being on set for this project.
The environment and the goal and the people, especially the people, had me really really wishing that somehow I could have stayed on set longer. As in, I would have gone on set every day just to watch and be a part of it from behind the scenes (I did, actually, on one day). Thanks to everyone involved; much love!
Ah, my baby. For those of you who don’t know, I’m developing a new TV show called unSCENE and this year it grew from just a pilot episode to a pilot, the finale, plus several other episodes written, numerous meetings and pitch sessions, and now (shhh, this is insider info) possibly a casting change that will turn everything I’ve already written on its head.
Frustrating as it’s been sometimes to take care of this finicky, fussy, slow-growing project, I love it and I’m looking forward to sharing it with more of you.
And that . . . is a wrap. I have this policy where every year should be better than the year that just passed, so if you’ll excuse me, I have some work to do in advance of 2015!
It’s the evening of November 27th, 2014. I am reading a library book, editing a blog entry, messing around with lyrics for a new song, playing soca in my head, wondering why my back hurts on one side, and contemplating going to the kitchen to get a snack . . . all pretty much at the same time.
I was doing a lot of things at this time on last November 27th, too. I was at the Lester B Pearson International Airport and I was wondering what I had forgotten to pack, helping carry bags and musical instruments, joking around to keep myself from feeling nervous, celebrating the fact that the wind and snow outside had lost their power over me, taking pictures, saying goodbye to my parents, and forbidding myself to cry. I was about to leave home for my first overseas gig, to spend six months singing in Dubai.
It’s times like this that I realize, all over again, what a difference a year makes.
Here are some current-me updates, in case me-from-a-year-ago is interested. Since last November 27th, I have:
– completed the Dubai gig (153 shows done, and 52 songs written during downtime, but who’s counting?)
– met some great new and hopefully lifelong friends
– gained and lost weight
– gained and lost and gained hair length
– gained and lost a glorious Arabian tan
– developed and recovered (?) from crushes on numerous men from the UK
– tried fly boarding
– landed my first role in a feature film, gaining insight about myself and other people as I learned what it feels like to be the subject of criticism in the big wide world of social media
– been blessed by the arrivals of 5 (!) new baby cousins and joined several of my friends in welcoming their new babies too
– married off one of my dearest friends; this time a year ago she and her husband weren’t even engaged yet
– made lots of progress in the creation and development of a new TV series
– paid off a significant amount of my personal debt
– successfully relaunched my online beauty/health/wellness business, and found some new outlets for my skills as a writer/blogger and editor while continuing to create and go to auditions
That list looks pretty good to me! Heading into this American Thanksgiving weekend, I’m reminded again of how much I have to give thanks for in just the last year alone. Now, let’s see what other tricks 2014 has up its sleeve . . . =)
One of the nicest arguments I’ve ever been a part of occurred on set this summer, with a hairstylist and a makeup artist. This was a mature, respectful version of “my mom/dad is cooler than your mom/dad, nah nah nah boo boo!” So, for this month’s edition of Top Ten Tuesday, I’m listing the reasons why I will win this contest against anyone, anytime. With the omission of some of obvious gifts, like long fingers and specific words of wisdom and height (#irony), here is a list of things my parents gave me that prove they totally rock.
1. GOOD GENES
I definitely use great products, and I do my best to get reasonable amounts of sleep, and both of these habits help keep me youthful and fabulous. But honestly, I got some really good DNA too! The first thing people notice about my mother and father is how young they look.
I am eternally grateful to them for passing these genes on to their offspring, as evinced in the fact that someone canvassing me for a donation to TVO last weekend had to stop and ask if I’m 18 yet.
2. MUSICAL TALENT
Music runs in my veins on both sides. From my parents (a drummer and singer, and a flutist) to their parents and siblings and beyond, it’s in my DNA.
My maternal grandmother even released a cassette of her original Christmas-themed Calypso songs in the 1990s.
3. MUSICAL APPRECIATION
Nope, not a repeat of #2. I grew up on oldies. I wasn’t even allowed to decide what music I wanted to hear until I was a tween. Sure, I was last to learn any of the words to “Juicy” by Biggie Smalls, but I still know all the words to “Juicy Fruit” (which “Juicy” sampled).
4. EARLY AND FREQUENT EXPOSURE TO BOOKS
. . . lots of them!! I remember Mom pointing at the words in my storybooks as she read, guiding me to recognize the words instead of just hearing the sounds. I’m told that I started reading on my own at the age of 3, sounding out the word “Batman” on the back of a cereal box. Dad is forever tossing me books to read (y’know, like Roots when I was 12 years old).
Leaders are readers . . . I will always be a very proud Nerd Word!
My parents made sure I knew how to use the TTC even though most of my suburban neighbours didn’t. I started working at 15. I paid my way through university with awards and scholarships.
There have been times I’ve wished some of the above things weren’t the case, but overall I’m so grateful.
Man, I never even had a curfew.
My parents trusted not only me but their own parenting skills enough to trust that I would make good choices, for the most part. And, for the most part, I think they would agree that I did. Good job, Mom and Dad!
7. YOUNG PARENTS
. . . especially in the case of Mama Dukes, who chauffeured my friends and I to and from clubs starting back when I was 14. (Relax; these were all-ages events.) My parents had me during the year they turned 22, and I felt like they were so much more relevant to and understanding of my life as a young person than most of the parents of my friends, who were older.
I did want to start having children when I was in my super-early twenties too . . . ah well, can’t win ‘em all =)
8. THE TRAVEL BUG
Not only have my parents always encouraged me to travel, I sometimes get to travel with one of them, and sometimes they even foot the bill!
Ooooh, I am so glad I didn’t get parents of the “it’s a big bad scary world so stay home” variety.
9. THE BEST EXTENDED FAMILIES I COULD ASK FOR
I mean, did I win a birth lottery somehow??? I am SO blessed to be the daughter of my parents and the granddaughter of my grandparents, the niece of my aunts and uncles and the great-niece of my great-aunts and great-uncles, and the cousin of my cousins.
My only gripe about my family is that not a single one of them live even remotely near New York City. (Apparently a college professor who shares my surname is there, but we’ve never met, so . . .)
10. THE GET-OVER-IT GENE
Not that my life has been rocked by (m)any catastrophes, but one event which was painful and difficult to get over was the end of my parents’ marriage. People are constantly surprised at how well my mom and dad, who split up more than 20 years ago, get along with each other today. This was just one of the ways they taught me what to do with obstacles, challenges, “hurtful” events: get past, through, over, and/or around them.
I hope I can be half as amazing when it’s my turn to raise children. <3
So last weekend I ate lots of food, saw tons of relatives, and reflected on things that have happened for me between Thanksgiving 2013 and Thanksgiving 2014.
Like 2 super-exciting gigs, for example. I got to escape winter by singing in Dubai for 6 months, then I came home for the summer and filmed my first movie role playing the young Missy Elliott in Lifetime’s Aaliyah: Princess of R&B.
Of course there’s a silver lining in every cloud and a cloud for every silver lining. The Dubai experience was awesome, but being away from family and friends for that long can be tough. Playing the part of a pop culture icon in this major project is my biggest booking so far, but it didn’t come without a certain amount of . . . let’s call it . . . character-building. =)
Now this post isn’t going to count, characterize or rehash any negative comments from the world of social media. (Although I offer a sincere “Thank You” to all those who took the time to send me encouraging messages; more than I expected! Bless up.) Nope, I’m writing this to share something that helped me keep my head up when it would have been easier to get angry or defensive or sad.
Let’s take it back to high school for a minute. As a tenth-grader at Thornhill Secondary, I had my first taste of graphic design in a course which I think was called Computer Sciences, and one project really stuck with me. Our teacher instructed each of us to Photoshop our face onto the cover of a popular magazine.
I loved the idea, and I scanned a hard copy of VIBE that I’d bought on a recent trip to the States (it was hard to find in Canada at the time).
I’d never heard of a vision board or a dream board back then, but I kept a copy of this assignment. And I almost forgot about it until years later when the “controversy” arose about me portraying Missy Elliott. You cannot imagine how encouraging it was to find that 12-year-old piece of paper and hold it in my hand. It taught me 3 really important lessons.
1. THOUGHTS BECOME THINGS
Me designing this made-up cover, and keeping it, was my way of saying to God and the universe (long before I learned about the law of intention or self-fulfilling prophecies or anything like that) that I wanted fame and fortune and photographers. I still want to be a cover girl; I would love to do so in the world of music, but if it comes about through acting or some other form of expression, I’m fine with that as well. This taught me that making and using vision/dream boards is incredibly powerful as long as you’re putting the work in too. Mind what you wish for, because if you think it enough times, you’ll end up with it somehow.
2. NEVER GIVE UP
Notice, the time lapse between my magazine assignment and the headlines for this casting was 12 years. I originally thought I’d have a record deal around the time I finished high school — HA! It would have been so easy for me to trash this printout when I realized I was headed to university instead of being the next teen pop music queen, or any of the times I auditioned/applied/submitted for a role/gig/deal and didn’t get it. Now I understand that years or even decades can go by, but that doesn’t mean you won’t get what you’re going for. It might just mean you haven’t grown enough, or learned enough, or sacrificed enough yet.
Let’s say you set your ultimate goal 20 years ago and you’re not there yet. I don’t know when you’ll make it, but if you give up, I know you won’t ever make it. And it might be right around the corner. So keep going.
3. GOD HAS A GREAT SENSE OF HUMOUR
To be honest, my choosing that cover was a matter of convenience; it had nothing to do with Missy herself. Of course I’m a longtime fan; the woman is a legend! But it ended up as my backdrop simply because we were told to choose our favourite magazine (mine was definitely VIBE) and that was the hard copy I had to scan. Of course, the funny plot twist is that I went from replacing Missy’s face with my own to being the face of Missy in the movie. So the timeline looks like this:
June 2002 – I declare “I’m going to be on the cover of VIBE one day” by inserting my face onto VIBE’s cover and changing up the headlines to reflect my own interests and wishes.
Summer 2009 – VIBE goes out of print. I mope about my lost opportunity. Even the magazine’s later resurrection and reincarnations don’t make me feel much better. I sulk, but I keep working (duh).
June 2014 – I audition for and land the role of Missy Elliott in Lifetime’s biopic Aaliyah: Princess of R&B, and I keep an eye on social media as people speculate about the movie and about who will be playing the lead role. The majority of what I read confirms my suspicion that the public will be vocal about any casting choices they don’t like.
August 2014 – BlackFilm.com publishes a piece about the movie’s cast, announcing that I’m playing Missy. Figuring the cat’s out of the bag, I confirm via Facebook (where a bunch of people who know me are full of congratulations) and Twitter (where a bunch of people who don’t know me are full of something else). Remembering my 2002 DIY mag cover, I remind myself that I earned this role and that my job is to get up, dress up, show up, and play the part. I have an incredible time, working with amazing people — love and respect to Izaak, Alex, AJ, James, Brad, Etheline, Rose, Chris, Gisele, Joe, Michelle, Fast Eddie, and every single member of the cast and crew for making this experience as awesome as it was!
November 2014 – the movie comes out, and a new chapter begins.
I can’t wait to see what new things I’ll have to be grateful for by next Thanksgiving.
I first played mas in the Caribana parade in 2005, so this was my tenth anniversary year, and the explosion of Caribana-themed #tbt pics on Instagram this summer (even though calling something a throwback when it’s from two weeks ago is my newest online pet peeve) inspired me to rank my costumes so far. I’ve worn more than 10 Caribana/Carnival costumes, when you factor in things like band launches and promo events, but these are costumes that are (or were) mine.
There was some stiff competition . . . so let’s start at the bottom . . .
1. 2005 — NAME UNKNOWN
I legit don’t remember the name of the first section I played in, and I didn’t even get any good pictures of me in costume that year. My section was super-disorganized, and there’s no need for me to name the band because karma.
2. 2007 — FIRE DANCER
Fortunately my less-than-stellar experience the first time around didn’t discourage me, and by 2007 I was not only still playing mas, I was even *gasp* picking my own costume!
This was the first year I got the costume I wanted the most, instead of going along with cousins who were also in the parade (they played Sexy Clown and Lion Tamer). Carnival Nationz had a circus theme this year, and my Fire Dancer outfit was kinda hot!
3. 2010 — NAME FORGOTTEN
The only year aside from 2005 in which I did not play with Nationz was 2010. I don’t remember the theme, and if I was forced to guess I’d say the name of my section was Harmony (?), but this was a smaller band and I realized that I really like the big-huge-band-here-we-come experience much better.
4. 2014 — COHIBA
Bum feathers would have pushed this costume a little higher up on the scale, but I definitely felt like a bronze goddess in it! This year’s costume, Cohiba, from Nationz’s “Havana” theme.
The bra was super-duper comfortable, which was a nice surprise; I wasn’t blown away by the belt, though. I did love the body chain, which I ordered from China while in Dubai because I was so excited that I’d be back home for jump-up. =) (Unfortunately, after two days of wearing said chain in summer weather, one strand broke, the colour rubbed off and my neck and underarms got bumpy and itchy. Please, folks, be careful what you order online.)
5. 2008 — SEXTANT HORIZON
My single most enduring memory of the 2008 Caribana parade is being pelted with the angriest rain I’ve ever felt in my life, just before and while we were crossing the stage to be judged. But as our section leader Shawna said, smiling through the rain, “You can’t stop the sun!”
The joke is, the sun came out just AFTER we crossed the stage, drenched and freezing and with pieces of costumes falling off. Maybe our theme, “Pirates,” had conjured up some kind of sea storm on land. The belt, one of my fave things about this costume (simple yet elegant and with coverage), remained unscathed.
6. 2006 — XBALANQUE (MEXICO)
This was my first time playing mas with Carnival Nationz, and their theme was “La Copa Mundial” (the World Cup), presumably since Trinidad & Tobago were competing and Caribbeans all around the world were extra excited for them.
I would’ve been happy wearing this or the Spain section, since both were unique and beautiful, but I had a ball in this. All day long people were stopping my cousins and I to ask us “who made that costume?” Denise Chang Kit, thank you very much =)
7. 2009 — BUTTERFLY
This was the year Nationz chose the theme “In Full Bloom,” and there were lots of beautiful costumes to choose from. I decided to be extra and chose one that didn’t even have a section.
This was a heartbreaker because my Butterfly costume was incomplete — I had no wings. The wings weren’t made, or the wings weren’t fixed, or the wings were left at the camp — whatever the reason, I was one unhappy loyalty masquerader. I ended up crossing the stage with the Water Lily section and endured many curious stares as people wondered whether I’d made my own costume at home and then tried to sneak in. It was really pretty, and I liked the one-piece, but . . . sigh . . .
8. 2012 — SHANG DYNASTY
Another Denise Chang Kit original. The theme this year was “Empires.” I’d never liked the idea of playing mas in black, but a wicked costume is a wicked costume! And the embellished piece between the bra and the panty was worth every penny at $20.
9. 2011 — MERMAID
The theme for Nationz this year was “Mythical Creatures.” This headpiece gave me life and it still does! Yes, the costume is pretty, and yes, I loved the cute little jingling noises it made — but really, we all went nuts over the oversized feather mohawk in aqua blue and deep purple.
Mind you it hurt . . . my girls and I wore Dr Scholls strips on our foreheads and even with that I had to wad up some toilet paper . . . I felt the dent in my head for the rest of the weekend. But COME ON! Definitely an all-time fave.
10. 2013 — MANDARIN FISH
There will always be a place in my heart for a bra which is bejewelled within an inch of its life, an unconventionally shaped headpiece, surprising pops of colour, and a set of style-em-yourself body chains. So this costume wins it all. Hands down.
I remember how excited I got when the 2013 theme was announced. “The Reef,” oh man! It’s like Finding Nemo with a soca soundtrack!! Of course the costumes were going to be breathtaking and gorgeous!!! And while I’m still not sure how we came in second place that year, this costume is absolutely my favourite one.
Will it be topped in 2015? I guess time will tell . . .
Caribana weekend has come and gone and I refuse to dedicate this month’s Top Ten Tuesday to the mess that was the Grand Parade . . . partially because everyone else is blogging about it right now . . . and partially because I’d rather focus on positives than negatives.
However, various events from this weekend have led me to spend some time thinking about the best and worst parties I’ve attended, many of them occurring on a jump-up weekend in the past, and what sets apart the great from the good, and the bad from the truly terrible. See if you agree with any/all of these.
1. WHO YOU’RE WITH
I mean really. You can have an amazing time in a condemned haunted house if the company you’re keeping is cool; yet if you’re invited as a VIP guest to some awesome soirée but you don’t like the crowd, you’ll probably be wishing you were somewhere else.
Everybody’s got those friends who they would go anywhere with. Keep them at the top of your invite list.
2. WHERE YOU ARE
Even with the important “who” detail out of the way, the “where” is still important. Some people love clubs, while some of us are getting really tired of them. Some people love pool parties, while some people don’t want to spend an entire afternoon being afraid of getting wet.
Know your preference.
3. YOUR PURPOSE
You left your place and got dressed up (maybe; see #5) for a reason; that reason has to be in line with the party you’re going to! Example: I’ll get excited to go to a fête, but not to a bar. I don’t particularly like drinking, but I love soca, so that choice is obvious for me.
One of the best parties I can remember being at was a 90s jam at the Ram in the Rye, back when I was a student at Ryerson. DJ Starting from Scratch cemented his status as my favourite DJ (and reaffirmed it in #7) by playing nothing but 90s music. If I’d gone out hoping to do anything BUT dance to all those old-school jams, I would’ve been in the corner with a sour face.
4. YOUR TRIP THERE AND BACK
Ever get to a party exhausted because it was such a struggle to find parking, or you got lost, or something like that? Instant loss of fun points. This is why I stick to downtown events where, worst comes to worst, I can probably take a taxi or a streetcar there and back again. If you do like drinking, you’ll probably prefer partying where you aren’t the DD.
For me personally, one of my favourite things about living near Bathurst and Lake Shore Blvd is that I’m walking distance from the Caribana parade. No waiting for anybody; when I’m ready to leave, bye!!!
5. YOUR CLOTHING
How are you gonna have fun if you’re constantly sucking in your stomach or snagging your shirt or sweating too much? Personally I like parties which don’t require much clothing at all (lol), because this minimizes the amount of time I have to spend considering all these variables.
Which brings us to . . .
6. YOUR ACCESSORIES
Every female reading this has, at some point, suffered due to an unfortunate choice of footwear at a party. Shoe manufacturers seem to have discovered a way to make certain pumps feel deceptively comfortable in the store and around the house and for maybe the first 90 minutes when you finally debut them, and then suddenly your feet are burning like hell fire. Every male reading this has, at some point, shaken his head and wondered (silently, if he’s smart) why a female would do that to herself. I have been literally carried back to the car (thanks Kerron!). I have spent most of the night dancing from the waist up only, because my friend and I knew full well that if we left our seats, the other footsore females who were circling would make sure we never got to sit down again (shoutouts to Dawn Dai!). And on numerous occasions I have brought a pair of flat shoes in my purse in case the pain from the heels got too intense.
Shoes are a biggie, but there are other accessories that can seriously kill your vibe too. Like earrings that are too heavy to let you really dance. And hairpieces that threaten to separate from your head if you dance too hard. So choose your ENTIRE wardrobe carefully.
7. THE DJ
If there is a DJ. Because sometimes you want to go to a party where you can have an actual conversation; and sometimes you’re okay just hearing your friend’s iTunes playlist in the background. But when the DJ is legit, he or she has tremendous influence on whether you’re smiling or screwfacing.
I attended “Summer Breeze” this Caribana Sunday, which was a daytime rooftop party, and the DJs (the main ones were Toronto’s own DJ Starting from Scratch and DJ Dany Neville from Dubai) were so proper. Great mixing, good pacing, a wicked soca set in the middle of the event, and — praise Jesus — there was zero talking over the music. If you are a DJ who thinks I came out to hear you talk, you are sadly mistaken. And I know plenty of girls who get irritated by repeated exhortations to walk roun if yuh pussy tun up, for example. Even dudes get salty if you interrupt the music one too many times — why should their bubble get cut short because you like the sound of your own voice so much? It’s like someone with a megaphone walking in on a couple in a baby-making zone. Stop it.
8. THE PRICE POINT
This is a dealbreaker for a lot of folks; hey, it’s a tough economy. And yes, I do realize that charging admission helps to keep out some of the riffraff, usually. But I am so much more likely to buy an early-bird ticket for an event, or choose just one expensive party every few months and stay on the cheaper side for the rest, because let’s face it: some of the best parties I’ve ever gone to (like the 90s jam in #3, and a few wedding receptions, and even some high school dances back in the day) didn’t cost me a thing to get inside.
With that in mind, when someone is sweet enough to cover your cover for you, you’re automatically more likely to have fun; like when my homegirl Nish bought me a ticket to the 2014 Camo boat ride to welcome me home to Toronto. Love you girl!!!
9. THOSE PEOPLE (NOT YOUR PEOPLE, THE OTHER ONES)
If your crowd is all fun and friendly and everyone else in the venue is stush, sure, you can just ignore everyone else in the venue. But it really is more fun when a whole bunch of like-minded people get together, and by the time you leave, some have gone from strangers to friends.
Yes, I obviously like meeting new guys when I go out; my roster can usually use new names and faces! But I’ve even made great new girlfriends out at events, or reconnected with old ones. It really is about people getting together and having a good time.
Strangely enough, even though I’ve just spent all this time listing external factors, it comes down to you and your mindset. When I decide to let go of my insecurities, I have a great time. When I decide to live in the moment like I might never get to go to a party ever again, I have a great time. When I remember to laugh about (or at) painful shoes, unfriendly people, annoying DJs, inflated prices, my bestie who’s not there, or how long the lineup was, I have a great time.
After all, it isn’t my job to control everything; and if it were, I’d never be able to have fun. Here’s hoping I can remember that more often. And here’s hoping I see you at another fête, day party, or house jam sometime soon!
I’ve been home for a month now. I love home. I love travelling too. I’d love to go back to Dubai for next winter.
However, there are tons of other places I’d also love to visit, and that’s the topic for this month’s Top Ten Tuesday here at www.chattrisse.com . . .
Just because. The idea got lodged in my head while I was in university . . . I legit don’t even remember how . . . and it hasn’t gone away.
This is thanks to The Devil Wears Prada. My mom and I started planning a trip there once, but we ended up going to Costa Rica instead.
I am hoping I can find extremely chic clothing at a reasonable price, and that my French isn’t too Canadian.
3. St Lucia
Pretty much any gorgeous tropical destination is a win in my book. But it would be nice to catch the St Lucia Jazz Festival, go snorkelling or scuba diving and then drive through a volcano (faster getaway in case Mount So-and-So decides to heat up).
And since the St Lucians I’ve met are all awesome, I’m looking forward to meeting more of them!
Mom and I were once asked if we were Brazilian, and we were extremely flattered — maybe the genuine Brasilianas (did I do that right?) can teach me a thing or two when I get there!
Clearly I’m missing the party that is World Cup 2014, but hey, surely that means the airfare is about to drop. And speaking of the World Cup . . .
5. South Africa
I’ve been reading about freedom fighters since I was a kid, so naturally I want to see this place for myself. I do not, however, want to hear any vuvuzelas, please and thanks. My friend Shane, from Cape Town, has piqued my interest with his descriptions of safaris and beach house rentals, and malva pudding is like one of my favourite desserts now, so off I go!
Random fact: when I followed my dad’s lead and selected an African name, the first time around, I chose Zenzele, which is South African.
6. Way Up North
The aforementioned Shane wants to visit Canada in the winter (crazy man), since he’s never experienced bone-chilling cold before. I’m okay skipping the weather, but I do want to go somewhere far enough north to see the Northern Lights.
I would have caught them at summer camp one year except that the clouds conspired against me (just as they have for so many meteor showers); and watching Frozen recently reminded me of how much I want to see that beautiful sight for myself.
7. Trinidad Carnival
I see this as a different destination from Trinidad at any other time of year. I really wanted to be there for Carnival this year, since it fell on my birthday. But going during a year when it doesn’t (which is pretty much every year) will just mean stretching my birthday out over a matter of weeks.
Or months. I’m okay with that.
For the food. For some authentic tiramisu. For some amazing pasta. If I’m lucky, my friend Davide will be home when I go and he’ll cook me a huge meal . . .
he might even convince me to turn away from my usual fruity cocktails and enjoy some wine instead.
This got lodged in my head while I was visiting Mom in Abu Dhabi once, and shortly afterward I got very excited by the possibility of living there for a year while performing as Nala in The Lion King on stage there.
Neither that trip nor that role have happened for me yet, but both are still kicking around in my brain . . .
This entry is highly influenced by my recent stint in Dubai.
My bandmates both love Indonesia and couldn’t stop raving about it; if my three new Indonesian friends Adit and Rio and Oka are any indication of the general population, the country is full of amazingly friendly people; and Indonesia was strongly recommended, along with Singapore, by a GTAer I met during my final days there who’s been travelling for ten years.
Honorable mentions go to Sweden, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, the Maldives, Malta, and Monaco; and I’d love to take a coast-to-coast trip across Canada too.
Guess I better start packing. =)
Are any of these places on your bucket list too? Have you been to any of them already? Is there somewhere I didn’t name that you think I absolutely HAVE to visit?
June already! I’m almost back on Canadian soil (editing and posting this from inside an airport terminal actually), after spending half a year abroad. For this edition of Top Ten Tuesday, here are ten awesome memories and/or accomplishments from this stay in Dubai . . .
1. So much writing.
Beginning on Christmas Day 2013, I promised I would write every day. Even a single sentence, or a few words; some days this meant an entire song or three, and some days it meant several scenes of a TV episode. Sometime in April or May I got a little more strict with myself, so now I have to write a snippet or piece of a song, or a song idea, every day. Even on days when I’ve completed a song. Even on days when I’m totally focused on a script and don’t want to think about writing a song.
So, the final tally? 52 new songs and 3 new episodes of the series I’m working on. Plus, I’ve got about 11 pages of ideas to dip into the next time I think “now what can I write a song about?” Not bad at all.
2. So much sun.
What do you when it’s 50 degrees warmer where you are than it is back at home? You go to the beach.
3. So much singing.
Being onstage six nights a week and singing so many genres (pop, reggae, rock, country, soul, Motown, blues, calypso, jazz) is awesome training. Doing so without lyrics in front of you is great for your memorization skills. Doing so in heels has left my feet considerably uglier than they were six months ago . . . ah well, you can’t win em all.
Shoutouts to my incredible bandmates Jo (keys) and Julian (guitar), for allowing me to experience the awesomeness that is playing with live musicians — and alllllll the hilarity that goes along with it!
4. Friends from every corner of the globe.
Maybe not every single corner . . . but I now have people to welcome me in Italy, South Africa, Indonesia, Sweden, all over the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Russia, the Ukraine, Saudi Arabia, and of course here in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. And as eager as I am to get back home and hug all my people in Canada and the United States, it feels good to know that friendship transcends borders.
5. Fly boarding.
Hands-down the coolest single activity I’ve done since leaving home.
6. Loving on nature.
At home I can jog along Lake Ontario, and I’m frequently amused by the friendly (well, probably just hungry) squirrels in my neighbourhood, and there are some nice views of the sunset from my building before it’s hidden by condos. In Dubai, I’ve been bathing in the Gulf of Arabia, taking pictures of flowers and sandscapes and water views, and loving the sight (though not always the sound) of tons of birds — including obnoxious crows and shrill peacocks.
There are some really cool manmade wonders out there, obviously, but it’s also been really nice to just look at a seashell or a cliff and enjoy that.
I’ll do my best to explain this clearly and without offending anyone.
Opportunities are everywhere, and so are opportunity-seekers and opportunity-creators. But it seems to me that there is a greater sense of possibility in Dubai than at home; and it has nothing to do with money and everything to do with attitude. Both Toronto and Dubai are big, bustling cities with international populations and people at different socioeconomic levels . . . but they differ when it comes to the ratio of whiners to risk-takers. At home, I find a lot of people who feel that they’re stuck in a rut. In Dubai, I find a lot of people who are hustling, who are keeping it moving, who are creating some type of change instead of just complaining.
This is probably because roughly 80% of the people there are expats (not local to the area, they were born somewhere else), so they’ve already taken the step of leaving home, their physical comfort zone. Granted, many of the people I met were on vacation, but when I did meet someone who’a planning to stay for awhile I tended to notice a quiet confidence and certainty that they’ll be able to do what they came here to do. And if not then they can go somewhere else and try again. It’s all good.
8. Truly cherishing interaction with people from back home.
It will be such a treat to sit down and have a meal with family and friends again. Even if I don’t like the food, I have to sit on the floor, and no one says a single word for the duration of the meal.
I knew homesickness would be an issue for me; I’m glad that I came through without getting too emotional (for the most part), and I now fully understand what a musician friend of mine meant when he told me staying away for a month wasn’t enough; he wanted to be gone for long enough that he missed being home.
I’ll have to make sure I do this in Toronto/Ontario/Canada too! One of the best things about travelling is getting to know a new place. I don’t mean just the people and customs and laws, I mean the physical place. When you’re new to the UAE, you ask a lot of questions like “Why isn’t there any parking?” and “Can I take the Metro?” and some more unique ones too, like “Why isn’t there a street address?”
I’m very grateful to anyone who has ever printed and distributed a clearly marked map, and for numerous online forums where expats and travellers share tips. I’m also newly in love with Groupon (and similar sites like Kobonaty) for offering great deals in the area, making it that much easier to get out there and try a desert safari, or flyboarding, or a double-massage deal.
10. Discovering and developing new talents.
I’ve dusted off my photographer, videographer, and video editor hats, in addition to writing new episodes as mentioned above. I decided to share some of my insights in a 30-day art installation project via Instagram and Facebook/Twitter . . . (stay tuned to my YouTube channel for a video recap of that, plus a video recap of the whole Dubai trip) . . . and being genuinely touched and surprised by a bandmate’s comment that I’m “so visual,” I’ve been creating collages (as seen all over this blog) that are way better than those Instathings, and I even came up with my phoenix/mermaid photoshoot out of thin air.
Plus, I commissioned two newly designed dresses and had them made at a local tailor’s (and blogged all about it), and I’m really loving finding new ways to express myself visually!
So what’s next for me? A Top Ten Tuesday blog featuring the 10 best things about being back home?
Nah, too predictable.
See you next time