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  • All the Stars Reveal Themselves

    How acceptance and love validated my truth By Alessandra Capistrano Photo retrieved from Unsplash by Ryan Moreno, published on June 5, 2016. We had just received the firepit we ordered for our backyard — it was an unexpected surprise that broke up the monotony of my long days in lockdown that summer. Looking back, that firepit provided me with many wonderful memories; around it, I tried my first s'more. It also brought my family closer together. Every week, we would sit quietly in each other’s company and appreciate the beauty in doing absolutely nothing. While I look back quite fondly at those moments, there is one that will always remain a little more vivid than the rest. Because, beyond merely marking a moment in my history, this memory defined it — a milestone that truly set me free. I looked up at the sky. It could have been pitch black if not for the scattered collection of stars lighting up the night. I thought about how wonderful it is to be alive. “Existential nihilism,” I recall once reading. The realization that one’s existence on this earth is insignificant compared to the magnitude of the universe. The stars above reminded me of this. I drew my attention back to the crackling fire before me. It added an extra touch of comfort to the refreshing late-August breeze. It looked so alive. My dad told me he loved watching the fire because it was beautiful and free. I hadn’t felt free for a long time. *** Growing up in a traditional Catholic family and going to Catholic school my entire life, expectations were never explicitly said; they were understood. For a long time, I felt lost, confused and panicked. Like many people with my circumstances, I felt alone. I spent years suppressing my feelings and convincing myself that what I was experiencing was merely a phase. But deep down inside, I knew the truth — and that terrified me. When I finally left high school, I became a different person. I was always angry. With the world, with myself. With every inkling of intolerance or judgment I sensed, I felt personally attacked and compelled to put an end to it. Although I didn’t recognize it at the time, in those moments, it wasn’t only acceptance from others that I was searching for, it was also my own. *** Shortly after joining me and my dad around the fire, my mom turned in for the night. I looked back at her and noticed the expression on her face as she closed the slide door. She was smiling — the reassuring way only moms can — and gave me an inconspicuous thumbs up. I knew what she was telling me. My heart began to race. I wanted to do this. I needed to do this. I couldn’t bear to be plagued with this feeling any longer. I turned to my dad, staring into the fire. “Dad?” “Yeah?” “I’m gay.” The silence was loud. A moment passed and I couldn’t read his expression. I felt tears begin to swell in my eyes. I don’t usually cry, but when those words were finally out there, released into the universe, it felt like a profound mental and spiritual purging. But I knew it didn’t end there. The next words that would be said held the power to either comfort or completely ruin me. He turned to me, content, and told me that it was okay. He told me that he loses sleep over the things that matter; he wasn’t going to lose sleep over this. Whenever I find myself in moments of doubt or sadness, I think of what he said to me next, and hold onto his words tightly. “You’re still you, nothing has changed.” Relief flooded my body. A weight had been removed from my soul. Years of built-up fear, loneliness and uncertainty burned away before me. I put my head on my dad’s shoulder and sat in his embrace. In that moment under the midnight starlight, with the love and acceptance of my dad, I finally felt peace. I looked up at the stars and once again contemplated our existence. The universe is infinite and we are all such small specks in the grandeur of reality that exists. But in that moment, I decided that despite how insignificant my little existence may be, I was going to live it as fully as possible. I still had a long way to go in terms of accepting myself — there was no doubt about that. But I remember thinking despite how uncertain life will be, somehow everything was going to turn out okay. Like the crackling fire in front of me, I, too, deserved to burn bright and be free. This piece was published in New Wave's Spring 2022 Issue

  • Bitter(sticky)sweet

    Dripping with melancholy and a delectable craving, ice cream is the treat that’s more than mindlessly sweet By Annemarie Cutruzzola I find it oddly fascinating that ice cream is inherently a sad food and a happy food at the same time. In the three summers that I worked at an ice cream shop, I saw it all. Of course, there were plenty of happy families, overjoyed children and way too many cute couples. I’ll never forget the one couple who took their engagement photos right in our shop. What you didn’t see in the Instagram post is how they moved all the tables around to get the perfect backdrop, and how the lavender ice cream they were holding looked a lot better than it tasted. But there were also the strict parents who didn't let their kids get any of the fun toppings. There were the couples who physically fought to stop the other from paying, once to the point of ripping a bill; sweet on the surface but stubborn underneath. There was the family who came in after a funeral, their black clothes and sombre faces a stark contrast to the pink and white walls advertising flavours like “birthday bonanza.” Ice cream is the go-to prop in any rom-com with a breakup. The heartbroken girl is always sobbing her eyes out over a bucket of the stuff, her friends probably on their way over with more. But it’s also the first place parents take their kids when they win a soccer tournament or get straight B’s on their report cards. I’m the girl who was ecstatic that her first job was at the ice cream shop downtown, but who also found herself having her most therapeutic cries over a half litre in her kitchen at night. I realized that it wasn’t only the customers — I had my share of bittersweet moments fuelled by ice cream. It was the night after one of my first shifts, and I had tennis elbow from trying to scoop a particularly troublesome batch of ice cream. I was also starving from not having eaten for eight hours. So there I was, sitting alone in my kitchen close to midnight, balancing ice packs on my aching arms while trying to spoon cereal into my mouth. You can imagine how ridiculous that looked, and I just burst out laugh-crying at my own pathetic misery — all because of that damn birthday cake ice cream that was too frozen to scoop but everyone ordered anyway. While seemingly universally loved, if you look back on your own ice cream memories, maybe they weren’t as saccharine as you recall. Maybe it started with the freezer-burned taste of grocery store vanilla that you’ll always remember, the kind that comes in a two litre plastic tub your mom was always having to jam into the freezer. Then there was the first boy you went on a date with. You were too slow to offer to pay when you got to the cash register. He’s kissing you, but you’re thinking you’d rather be tasting the $9 worth of cookies and cream that’s melting in the cup, forming a moat around the tiny spoon. You should’ve known it wouldn’t work out the moment he ordered mint chocolate chip. There’s the last day of ninth grade with your friend, the heat of a new season sinking in with the rest of high school looming on the horizon. You got a special cone with sprinkles on it and a stamp card that promises your eighth order free. Amidst the laughter and gossip, you can’t help but wonder if she’ll still want to hang out with you in the fall. You never got your free ice cream. You didn’t want to go alone. My most bittersweet ice cream moment happened the day after everything changed. Predictable crisis: I was heartbroken after breaking my first heart. Unpredictable crisis: a global pandemic was just declared, and the world as I knew it was shutting down around me as I licked cheesecake ice cream off a spoon three storeys above the city. Nothing had sunk in yet, but I knew my life was going to be very different, very suddenly. I clung to the familiar that day, leading my best friend to the pink and white walls that stuck out from the rest of the eerily empty food court. I ordered all the same toppings that I loved at work. I could tell I didn’t make it, but this ice cream was still familiar, quite possibly the only thing that wasn’t changing. We talked for hours, long after our cups were emptied. The details of our conversation have melted away, but I remember the enveloping feeling of comfort at a time when I needed it most. Happy or sad, heartbroken or in love, ice cream is comfort and always will be for me. The years ahead would have their ice cream moments too. There was the first pandemic summer when an outing to the McDonald’s drive-thru was the highlight of my week, one perfect little moment of bliss with my vanilla cone and my feet up on the dashboard. There was the celebratory post-vaccine ice cream. And of course, when everything got to be too much, crying over a half litre in my kitchen at night. Now, when I pass by the ice cream shop I used to work at, there’s hardly any line, nevermind the one winding around the block that I used to tackle most weekends. Large plexiglass screens separate customers and employees, and the three perpetually sticky tables in the seating area are gone. It’s unsettling to think how much has changed in the few years since I worked there. On one hand, I like making minimum wage at home in sweatpants more than making minimum wage in a pink hat and apron. But I miss the constant surprise — something that’s rare to find surrounded by the same four walls, amidst the monotony of Zoom meetings. When that heavy glass door opened, I’d never know what to expect. In our five-minute interactions, I witnessed fleeting, one-note tableaus of our customers. I saw their curiosity and excitement to try a new flavour, but they were already out the door by the time their faces scrunched up. I heard snide comments directed at customers ordering a large cone, but I didn’t see how those remarks could echo for weeks in the minds of those they were carelessly lobbed at. And even though I saw their picturesque engagement announcement, there’s no way to know the fate of the couple with the lavender ice cream. Maybe I’m overanalyzing the complexities of this dessert, but I really think it’s the most two-faced treat. It’s a pleasure and a pity to eat, craved by insatiable sweet tooths and lonely hearts alike. It’s messy and sticky as much as it is sweet — just like me. This piece was published in New Wave's Spring 2022 Issue

  • How do we nurture our creativity?

    Creativity makes life joyful; community makes creativity possible By Akcinya Kootchin When I was young, creativity was a state of being. I loved art class, wrote short stories and danced. Yet as the years went on, I found myself dismissing my creativity. I didn’t think I was great at anything, so did I deserve to create anything at all? However, as my creativity waned, I was simultaneously making these amazing friends, all of whom were undeniably creative. So, when in the midst of a pandemic, school, work and endless responsibilities, my once inescapable creativity now seemed unattainable — but I knew where to look for inspiration. I don’t want to talk about creativity the way we do in school... What does creativity mean? How do you manage it? How do you make money? No disrespect; I am grateful for my education. But, what I want to know is how does creating make you feel like you’re alive? What inspires you? How do you move forward when it feels impossible? So I asked. And I’m going to tell you what I heard. First, let me introduce you to some friends of mine. Julia (she/her) is a musician who also finds creativity in painting, cooking and hair & makeup. Ifiok (she/her) is a writer, a self-described “amateur” photographer and decorator. Imani (she/her) is a painter, curator, writer, graphic designer, and recently she took up dancing. Before you get imposter syndrome (like me), let’s remember that I’m trying to move outside the capitalistic narrative of creativity. All these titles after their names? They aren’t all things they do for profit, or even their primary mediums. They're for joy, release and play. Today, we’ll be giving them all equal weight as we discuss creativity. What does creativity mean to you? When asked to define creativity, everyone called it some version of their “authentic expression.” Imani talked about the importance of reflecting on your experiences and your culture. Julia spoke about rooting creativity in your authentic self. And Ifiok? Ifiok reminded me that maybe “creativity is not as complex as society makes it to be.” How was her laptop made? Redesigning her apartment? Dressing for the day? She sees creativity in all that. And that's important. Because if you see creativity that way, then there isn’t so much pressure on how you choose to express yourself. When do you feel the most creative? There’s this story Julia told me. One time, she was creating music, and was in a really good place. You know when you just feel like everything is flowing? When you can look up and suddenly five hours have gone by, and you’re better for it, and you’ve created something... Everyone I talked to said they found they were most creative during that flow of time. But in this instance, Julia was flowing along, and then she hit a wall. She felt stuck. She realized that the sounds she was creating, and the direction the song was going in was new territory. She was scared to push herself. Because what would come out of her? What if it was a part of her she had never met before? But she took a breath and permitted herself to fail. And in doing so, she was able to push forward and create one of her favourite songs she’s ever written. It’s called No Warning, and will be on her debut album releasing in Summer 2022. What inspires you? Parents, strangers, friends, coworkers — inspiration has a human face. As a curator, Imani works to help increase the representation of Queer, Trans and BIPOC people in the arts industries. It is her community, and how her creativity can benefit her community, that inspires her. Ifiok told me about her relationship with her dad — one of her biggest inspirations. Like any human relationship, she told me, theirs has gone through phases. And each phase of their relationship has inspired a new wave of creativity. Julia told me that when she got bored of writing about her life, she turned outwards. She started going on intentional walks and observing the world around her. This inspired her to find new ways of storytelling. Like she told me, art is about capturing the human experience — not just her experience. How do you sustain your creative practice? Softly. Everyone I talked to sustains their creative practice with great care and self-compassion. They go for walks, they take breaks when they need to, they rest when they're tired. The women I spoke with showed great trust that their creativity would wait. And wait, apparently, it does... Ifiok's solution to burnout is to take part in “little acts of creativity.” When she isn’t writing, she brings creativity into her life through journaling, organizing, or taking photos. Julia practises “showing up for her creativity.” Like Ifiok, if she doesn’t want to make music, that’s fine. Yet last summer, when she lost her inspiration, she filled up an entire sketchbook instead. When I asked Imani this question, she talked about self-care, and sustaining yourself beyond your practice. But what surprised me was so simple. She told me that she trusts that her ideas are good. It is through that self-trust that she gets out of her own way, and allows her creative self to practice. How important is community to sustaining your creative practice? Ifiok’s creativity primarily exists in her inner world. But for Julia and Imani, community is integral to their creative practice. For Julia, her stories revolve around how soliciting others’ feedback pushes and grows her music. For Imani, community is “the most important thing.” She talked about how the curatorial and the creative world is rife with gatekeeping and creates barriers to access for many marginalized communities. Imani wants to “help break those barriers down and increase access to those spaces so that [communities are] represented within the art displayed in these spaces,” and so “people feel comfortable going into those spaces and engaging with the work, in a way that feels representative, or [that] they just feel comfortable, regardless of what’s being shown.” This goal is rooted in community. Imani also shared how being involved with activism and organizing in the city is inspiring. Particularly, seeing how activists and organizers connect with artistic practices. Like she told me — “everything is connected.” What do you do when you feel unmotivated? To summarize, when asked what they feel when they are unmotivated, their responses were very similar — cry, rest, spend time alone, talk to people, walk, run. You either do the work or you don’t. But regardless, you need to be kind to yourself and trust that the motivation will return when you (or it) is ready. What are your thoughts on hustle culture? I’m not going to lie — a vein of hypocrisy entered our conversations here. No one I talked to enjoys hustle culture. Imani talked about how capitalistic hustle culture drains people and degrades collaboration. Julia spoke about how she doesn’t believe that “art, acceptance, love, [or] play” exist in a rushed, standardized world. And yet, both of them were quick to admit they still fall into the trap of hustling. It was only Ifiok who could admit that she doesn’t overwork herself. Something, she says, she has grown to appreciate. Regardless, all our conversations on hustle culture boiled down to this idea that, yes, motivation and hard work are good, but is the framework that validates those traits one we should perpetuate? My final thoughts So now, it’s a cold Tuesday, and the sky is grey, and I am trying to summarize how I feel... I’d love to say that writing this provided me with divine inspiration, but that isn’t true. What happened was that writing this article proved I could write an article. While I sat, and asked insightful questions, and had deep conversations, I had already taken the most important step — I had started creating. And that’s what I would like to leave you with, reader. I would like to tell you (from the depths of my fears and insecurities) that all you need to do is start. Because I believe that anything — any misshapen, colour-clashing, discordant thing that we create — makes the world a warmer place. And if you get stuck, you can always remember this list of tips to nurture your creativity: You are a creative person (believe in yourself) Be curious and make a conscious effort to see the world as a beautiful place Find the silver linings Be compassionate (people are harsh on themselves even when they’re doing great work) Embrace uncertainty Let yourself learn and grow from bad situations The little acts of creativity are just as important as the big ones (Re)connect with yourself (remember what your inner child loved doing) If your creativity feels stagnant, it’s because you’re not nurturing it You are allowed to fail This piece was published in New Wave's Spring 2022 Issue

  • Home is where the heart is, but where is the heart?

    The word ‘foreign’ does not belong in my vocabulary By Madeline Liao Growing up, I always hated the word “foreigner.” I especially hated being called that in a place I considered home. As a first-generation immigrant, I have long battled with the concept of home and what the idea really means to me. I moved to Canada with my parents when I was six years old, leaving behind the rest of my family and the routines I knew as a young child in Taiwan. This chapter brought me new opportunities and experiences, but it also instilled a lot of self-doubt over the years. Spending your school years in a country different from what you and your family have known alters how people look at you. Some people fixate on your differences and build their opinion on you based on these assumptions. When we first settled in Canada, we lived in what was a predominantly white town at the time. The cultural landscape of Kelowna, B.C., has somewhat changed since then, but for many years I was the only Asian kid in my classes. I didn’t think much of it when I was young, but as I got older, I realized how it substantially influenced me and the way I felt about myself. The subtle racism, the weird looks at my school lunches, unintentional comments resembling othering (the act of treating someone as if they do not fit into societal norms) — those moments stuck to me like a leech. The worst part is, I didn’t realize the leech was there until it was almost too late. Feelings of internal racism and self-doubt made me involuntarily lose parts of myself. I began to tear away at bits of my heritage. From speaking less Mandarin, to hating the meals we ate at home, I lost aspects of myself that I am still trying to gain back. This further dissipated the definition of home in my brain; the more I was losing my grip on my cultural identity, the less I felt like I belonged anywhere. It wasn’t until high school that I truly regretted the decisions I made as a child. Sure, I was just a kid, but those choices I made continued to affect me as I grew older. I realized that I was letting my culture and ancestry slip away from me by neglecting those parts of myself, by being afraid of sharing my heritage with others. In hopes of fitting in, I actually fell more out of touch with myself. Initially, a small part of me felt that my home was back in Taiwan, where my family was. Although I just so happened to live in Canada now, that didn’t change how strongly I believed that Taiwan would be the same, exactly as I left it in 2008. When I would go back during summer vacations, it felt like I was going back to somewhere familiar. It felt like that sense of home I had been longing for. The presence of my family, the smell of familiar spices, and even the cheesy Taiwanese soap operas playing on the TV all made it seem like home. Yet that familiarity seemed to translate differently in other people’s eyes. To them, my family and strangers, I was an outsider — the foreign, English-speaking kid who was different. Although they never said it to my face, I could feel that kind of mentality from those around me. This shattered the idea of home I had so ingrained in myself and made me see the reality of it all, how I didn’t truly belong, but I didn’t understand why this was happening. I honestly still don’t fully understand why I was being viewed as different when I speak the language, am part of the culture and appreciate my heritage. Hell, I was born there. Why did people see me as a foreigner? Various memories have stuck with me, which have implicitly shaped my self-view and identity. At times my uncle would say, “She wouldn’t understand, she’s foreign,” to my mother like I wasn’t even in the room. Or that one time in Grade 2 when my teacher used me as an example to describe the word “alien” during our weekly spelling classes. While these comments may have been lighthearted and innocent, they still stand out in my memory and make me doubt my identity, even years after they happened. Foreign, alien, waiguoren (foreigner in Mandarin); I never liked these words. They made me feel strange, unincluded, isolated. Like I didn’t belong. This feeling manifested itself into a personal crisis — an internal debate between who I am and where I fit in. Many questions have popped up throughout my life. Why am I considered different by the people I identify with? Who am I if not the same as them? Am I anyone at all? These questions have stuck with me through the majority of my upbringing and still linger to this day. Sometimes I wonder if I’m just being oversensitive, but the idea of home has become such a jumble in my head that the word itself makes little sense. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, home is “The place (such as a house or apartment) where a person lives”. Does this really make sense to me? It seems so simple, just a place where you live. But the feeling of home, that feeling of solace and safety, is so much more than just a place — and that feeling was what I was chasing down as it continuously slipped out of my hands. As I got older, I continued to evaluate the idea of home. This internal conflict gradually became undramatized as I matured, which allowed me to step back and look at it from a more composed perspective. After spending my childhood in a state of self-hate, I eventually realized how important it is to hold on to your roots. Going back to Taiwan in the summers helped me stay connected to my family and culture. I took classes to better my reading and writing skills, and I continue to have conversations with my family to learn more about our history. In pandemic times, technology has definitely been a reliable friend. Staying connected through video chat and messaging has been a source of reassurance, and while it doesn’t beat actually being there, it is the next best thing. Meanwhile, my environment in Canada has become more diversified, especially after moving to Toronto for university. I’ve been able to find people I can connect with and feel a bit less “alien.” I am extremely fortunate to have a connection with both countries and be able to physically exist in each space. I have the privilege to learn, the privilege to gain back what I threw away in my childhood and the privilege of finding a definition of home. Above all, I have to acknowledge that I am a settler of colour on unceded Indigenous land, that I have the responsibility to listen to the voices of Indigenous peoples and recognize how to reduce the harm done by colonial policies. People often feel pressured to choose an identity that they have to carry with them for the rest of their existence. What they don’t tell you is that this identity can be multifaceted. In fact, it has to be, your identity is made up of all your life experiences, your ancestors’ experiences and every single thing that came before you. It is not just a box you check. This mindset is the same for the concept of home. It can be hard to find a sense of belonging as an immigrant child. The complicated labyrinth of finding yourself becomes entangled with even more questions and confusion. But while the experience can feel lonely, it is not limited to one person. It is important to understand that there are so many people who feel the same way and have had similar thoughts throughout their own unique experiences. I’m still trying to figure out what home means to me. But now, I am learning that this definition does not have to be set in stone, nor does it only have a single and final description. Home is widely interpreted as such a place-rooted word when in reality, it is a flexible concept that is different to every individual. Home doesn’t necessarily have to be a house or a place — it can be anything and everything. I’ve learned that home is family, friends, experiences, adventures; it is all the things that reside in you. The definition doesn’t have to be logical to everyone as long as it makes sense to you. So, maybe home can be two places at once. This piece was published in New Wave's Spring 2022 Issue

  • My Double-Sided Childhood: Growing Up Mixed

    Too Indian for the Caucasian people and too Caucasian for the Indian people By Saskia Wodarczak Growing up in and of itself is quite the process, full of new changes and obstacles, judgments and scrutiny. Especially if you’re growing up as a person who could easily be described as someone leading a double life, there is a lot of scrutiny towards not just you, but also your family (which is a real double hit). While that is absolutely fabulous and all, it personally took me more years than I’d care to admit to figure out how confusing and questioned it was, at the time, to be mixed. I’m German-Fijian and yes, it is true, a lot of people call a combination like that, “exotic.” Trust me; I’ve gotten that a lot, even in university, and it gets really old really quickly. Don’t get me wrong, growing up mixed race is not some great disadvantage. On the contrary, I think I got the best features from both my maternal and paternal side, though granted, I’d have loved to have my Oma’s blue eyes. What really struck me, however, is how lonely you feel, which I never realized throughout school. For a bit of context, I grew up in a Western Canadian city that is predominantly Caucasian with a large variety of Asian populations, so there was always a major diversity. I was talking to my mum about this, and she told me that when I started both preschool and then elementary school, she would go out of her way to befriend the only other Indian mum that there was so that she wouldn’t feel lonely, which shows that you don’t just have to be mixed race to feel like an outsider in a giant community. Circling back, mixed kids get to lead a life with two identities, which is not as glorious as that of Superman, but is perhaps one of the loneliest feelings I’ve experienced. Not to be dramatic, but it is a constant battle of fitting in with each side, when you know deep down, in reality, you never can. You will constantly feel like an outsider. To be blunt, I am too Indian for the Caucasian people and too Caucasian for the Indian people. I simply do not fit in anywhere. It took me so long to realize that I switch my identity depending on who I am with, which leads to identity crises and overthinking. Why do I feel like an outsider? Am I good enough for this side? Could you translate that for me? Do I fit in? Well now, no I don’t, because I don’t know the language. While yes, I am a member of both sides of my family, I am one hundred per cent still separate. For example, I was not taught Hindi or German, and the language barrier was, and still is to this day, a huge one. Growing up, I honestly thought there was something wrong with me, because I’d ping pong: dinner at my Nani’s meant that I’d have to have more Indian mannerisms and then lunch with Oma and Opa meant that I’d have to pump up the Caucasian mannerisms. It is important to note that I was never forced to or taught by my parents to be more of one than the other, it simply depended on who I was with, or where I was, what I was doing or talking about. Basically, it turned into a cycle. Even today, I’ll use more Indian mannerisms or reactions around my Indian friends, and more German mannerisms around my non-Indian friends. I’ve noticed it is easy to make friends when you have the aspect of race in common. Especially when I moved here to Toronto, I found that there were so many more people here that I could relate to since there’s a greater South Asian population, which, ironically, is the side I’m closer to because growing up, I interacted with that side of my family more. It’s funny though, people that I’ve met that are German know immediately that I’m at least part German, and most of my Indian friends in Toronto immediately knew that I am at least part Indian. Now, for my all-time favourite question: have I ever been prejudiced against or looked down upon for being mixed? The short answer: yes, absolutely. While it has always been so subtle, that little bit of prejudice is still there. It is as simple as comments about my skin tone, or that classic, “But you don’t really look Fijian/German, your features don’t really apply to either.” Even double-takes or those pinched looks at the Mandir when I’m introduced as my mother’s daughter. All of that simply screams to me that I don’t belong and that I’m an outsider. Yes, it has definitely taken me a very long time to understand that I need to buck up and accept that I won’t ever totally be part of one culture. But I have learned that I can use both to my utmost advantage; I’m incredibly cultured through the aspect of food, can so easily accept a wide range of diversity, and, as self-centred as this may seem, it is so rare that I judge someone because I understand how it feels to be on the receiving end. Growing up mixed taught me so much, and although exposed me to a lot at a young age, was one of the factors that really taught me that race is not something to be looked down upon for and that it is essential to practice acceptance, in any form, to make it in the world. This piece was published in New Wave's Spring 2022 Issue

  • The Resurgence of Indigenous Fashion Through Decolonial Love

    By: Stephanie Davoli Justine Woods on reclaiming her Aabitaawikwe identity through her relationship with land, life and love For many Indigenous artists, it’s nearly impossible to create — and to simply live — authentically and truthfully without acknowledging the realities of colonization. This is the case for Justine Woods, an Aabitaawikwe designer, garment artist, and creative scholar. Woods is a 2018 fashion design graduate from Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) and has a master’s degree in interdisciplinary art, media and design from OCAD University. She is presently back at TMU where she’s a PhD candidate in media and design innovation with a focus on Indigenous fashion practices. As a member of the Georgian Bay Métis community, and someone with a strong passion for art and design, Woods has spent countless hours examining the connection between her adoration for fashion and her Indigenous roots. A Love for Her Homeland “My work and research is entirely informed by how I move and live around the world with respect to my Indigeneity,” said Woods. “Spirituality, a relationship to the land that I come from and stories are essentially what inspires my work.” This worldview influenced Woods’ 2021 thesis exhibition for her master’s degree. For this collection, Woods created several garment and beadwork constructed pieces that centred around the “praxis of decolonial love.” “I wanted to look at relationships of love that exist between my body and the land, my body and non-human nations (like plants and animals), as well as the practices I was engaging in through the making, designing and wearing of these garments.” The creation of the collection involved countless hours of research, pattern drafting, stitching and sewing, as well as deep introspection into why she was creating each garment. “Everything was connected in relationship to one another to support my body as an Indigenous person, as I was engaging in cultural practices, in relation to the land where I come from,” shared Woods. “Every choice that I made in the design process was intentional and had a function.” The functionality element Woods describes can be seen in the ice fishing bib pants from her collection (pictured below). This piece in particular reminded Woods of fishing trips with her father and the love she has for her homeland. Sustainability and Spirituality The garment, sewn in double-faced wool and vegetable tanned deer hide, while lined with seed beads, also emphasizes Woods’ commitment to sustainable fashion design. “The majority of the materials I prefer to use in my work are land based. A lot of my pieces feature rawhide, deer skin, moose hide…,” said Woods. “Supporting the economic resurgence of other creators is also very important to me, which is why I always try to support Indigenous, independent bead sellers.” Sustainable garment creation is a natural practice for many Indigenous designers, according to a CBC article from last summer. Many scholars also point to Indigenous sustainable design practices as a guiding light for the future to combat the ever-worsening climate crisis. “The importance of connections to our land, and thinking about our impact, those values really inspire a different relationship and meaning with fashion,” said Taylor Brydges, a PhD in Canadian fashion and a current post-doctoral student at the University of Toronto Mississauga. Building Community Through Beading Circles Woods continues to share her Aabitaawikwe culture with others through the weekly beading circle gatherings she created at TMU in the beginning of 2019. Despite switching to a virtual experience due to the pandemic, the circle has only grown in popularity and has recently secured a partnership with Indigenous-owned company, Manitobah Mukluks. Through the 1867 Indian Act, many Indigenous gatherings, including beading circles, were banned in Canada until 1951. Today, beading circles are a celebration of the resistance of Indigenous Peoples. “Beading circles are an act of resurgence,” said Woods. “It’s a space where both Indigenous and non-Indigenous folks can form reciprocal, respectful relationships that contribute towards anti-colonial futures.” In addition to her design work, Woods is expanding her career into teaching. She is currently a graduate assistant and contract lecturer at TMU where she is creating an entirely new course that opens in the Winter 2022 semester titled “Indigenous Craft Practices”. Despite her many jobs, spreading the word of decolonization through the promotion of Indigenous love and values remains at the forefront of all Woods’ endeavours. She hopes that her work will one day help future generations have an easier time connecting and relating to their Indigeneity. “What makes Indigenous fashion so powerful is that it’s a visual stance that we’re still here and our culture is still flourishing even though, you know, they tried,” says Woods with a laugh. “Going forward it’s just that — continuing to piece together teachings, knowledge, and continuing to refuse.” This piece was published in New Wave's Spring 2022 Issue

  • Live Theatre Performance Makes a Stunning Return at TMU

    By Sara Romano and Dorsa Rahbar Designed and created by students, XMTC’s first live production in two years brought life to the lighthearted wit and modern themes we all needed. A non-binary delphi. A queen in an Anne Boleyn-style costume grinding on a shepherd impersonating an Amazon. A boastful king whose misogynistic ideals nearly destroy his kingdom. Head Over Heels is unlike any musical you’ve seen, brought to life by a cast and crew whose enthusiasm for the production radiates from the stage. It’s been nearly three years since theatre and musical productions took the stage live, in front of an audience. Sure, Zoom has allowed us to keep the momentum going with virtual performances, but that was at home. Forgotten was the hustle and bustle of theatre, from the roaring shouts of the production crew to the murmurs of the crowd, struck by anticipation and excitement. Yet, as we emerge from the pandemic, theatre is finally going back to normal. The X Musical Theatre Company (XMTC) is no exception, returning with an electric live and in-person performance for the first time since 2019. From the first belting note of The Go-Go’s “We Got The Beat,” the musical captures you in its upbeat and humorous grasp. The production follows the escapades of a royal family as they journey to save their kingdom from extinction, which was predicted by a sparkly “non-binary pearl” delphi who tosses forth a Pride flag every time a prophecy is fulfilled. It is a bright and lively musical that explores timely messages of self-love, self-expression and perseverance, setting out to bring change and seek justice. The genius of this production, brought to life by its talented cast, is how it rarely names the LGBTQ2S+ themes that it touches on, allowing them to simply exist within the witty Shakespearean-esque monologues and quips. “I think it’s really important to see people represented in a positive light, and not only through hardships,” says Grace Johnson, who played the exuberant and confident Pamela. She is viewed as vain, as she refuses to accept the proposals of her adoring suitors — but she soon discovers that she’s in love with her handmaiden. Beyond the themes, it’s just plain funny. The shepherd is mocked for his indecipherable rants while the king and queen cheat on each other with each other (it makes sense, trust us). A shrieking viceroy is forced to contend with the prophecies being fulfilled as his daughter embarks on — then halts — a journey to Lesbos. It’s truly a treat to watch the cast return to the stage with these ridiculous and joyous roles. The students who brought this magical play to life are part of XMTC, a fully student-run, student-managed production company based at X University, formerly known as Ryerson University*. While the company is unaffiliated with the school’s performance program, it is led by around 50 talented students who make up the show’s costume designers, cast, dancers and everything else. XMTC prepared for months, both virtually and in-person, navigating frequently-evolving safety protocols and finally getting approval to put on a live show. “We wanted to do something exciting, that’s silly and gets people engaged,” says Haylee Thompson, the director of Head Over Heels. “It’s been so long without performing, but we are so lucky and fortunate to get to present our show in person with an audience.” It’s safe to say that you can come for the music and clever jokes, but you should stay for the contagious enthusiasm brought on by the cast. The company’s first live theatre performance since 2019 captured the essence of modern production and will be just one of many thrilling performances they will continue to embark on. *X University, officially known as Ryerson University, is undergoing a renaming process to halt the perpetuation of its namesake’s racism and contribution to cultural genocide of Indigenous peoples in Canada. New Wave Zine is committed to honouring and respecting the land we operate on, and to uplift the words and art of First Nations, Métis and Inuit folks.

  • What did I do?

    “After all of these years, I’m still wondering” By Julia Sacco Instagram has a new feature where you can go back and look at your very first liked posts. It’s a bittersweet experience to look back at everything I loved at thirteen. I spent so much time trying to emulate the women that I saw. Every morning meticulously styling my hair, dragging my mom to Brandy Melville despite their questionable moral practices, and taking videos of bath bombs for no reason other than social acceptance. When going through these old posts, I noticed something. You had liked some of them too. You. You were trying to replicate exactly what I was. You, the one who seemed to find an issue with everything that I wore, the way that I spoke, and the way that I styled my hair. So what did I do wrong? What about me was so different? Was it the extra ten pounds that I had on you? The reason that my ringer tee fit slightly different than yours? Was it my face? Still awkwardly carrying baby fat that you somehow had shed? What about me doing the same thing as you, trying as hard as every other middle schooler, was so repulsive to everyone? I wish that I could go back to my younger self and tell her that I wasn’t so unlike you. But that wouldn’t make much of a difference, would it? Because after all of these years, I’m still wondering. I didn’t stop at the hair and the clothes. Yet still, I tried and tried and try. Now, as I look at my life I still feel the vehement rejection everywhere I turn. Friendships are a rarity, nobody seems to care for me as I care for them. I obsess over unfollows, each one a sting telling me that I’m still doing it all wrong, that it doesn’t matter if I like the same things that you do. I will always be wrong. What did I do to deserve this?

  • Paris Hilton and “The Nice Guys”

    By Kristyn Landry Emerald Fennell’s colourful film, Promising Young Woman, is not your typical feminist thriller. CW: "Promising Young Woman" contains harsh depictions of sexual assault, some of which are discussed in this review. Carey Mulligan’s character, Cassandra Thomas, is nearly unconscious as Neil, played by Christopher Mintz-Plasse, slides his hand between her legs and tells her, “You don’t wanna go home.” The film is Promising Young Woman, directed by Emerald Fennell. This is one of many scenes throughout the movie that brings discomfort and fury, but despite Cassie’s seemingly dazed state, she’s most definitely in control. Every week, Cassie goes out to a club pretending to be “too drunk to stand,” and waits for the inevitable “nice guys” to come and see if she’s okay, bring her home, and attempt to further intoxicate and sleep with her. It’s then that she ennacts her revenge, with a level-headed stare and their realization that she knew what they were doing all along. It had always been the dream of Cassie and her best friend, Nina, to become doctors. Yet now in her thirties and working at “a shitty coffee shop,” Cassie seeks revenge, not only on the many “nice guys” of the world, but also on those involved in an incident that occured in medical school, one that has haunted her days since. Following my first watch, I demanded that every single person I knew join me in my pain. It is not the only feminist-driven film to tackle issues of sexual assault, but it sets itself apart in its appealing aesthetic and stomach-twisting circumstances — horror wrapped in Cassie’s pastel dresses and colourful nail polish. Released at the end of 2020, it did not quite receive the traction it deserved. However, this film is truly special as it showed what can be done when corners aren’t cut and rape culture is recognized for what it is. *** Sometimes you watch a romance film and know that the guy who serendipitously bumps into the main character will fall in love with her. Other times you watch an action movie and know that it will end with the bad guy in handcuffs. This doesn’t happen in Promising Young Woman. Rather, Fennell continuously subverts the expectations of the audience by blinding us to the darker pretenses just before we are upon them — showing us what we want to see before revealing the truth to us. For a thriller, doom and gloom is far from the aesthetic. Instead, Cassie favours a very soft, bright wardrobe: pinks, reds, light blues, floral dresses, braids and bows. The setting itself is very sugar-coated as well, whether it’s the overtly pink of her parents’ home or a decoratively dreamy coffee shop. Everything about this film reflects your favourite rom-com — except when it doesn’t. The soundtrack consists of the DROELOE remix of Boys by Charlie XCX, a violin rendition of Britney Spears’ Toxic by Anthony Willis, the ever-powerful ballad, Angel of the Morning by Juice Newton, and probably the most 2000s pop song ever, Stars Are Blind by Paris Hilton. What this in turn does is manipulate our feelings and expectations as we’re watching the film. When we’re listening to “Boys,” with its upbeat tone and lyrics, we’re thrown off by the grinding hips of businessmen in the club, and not the ever-common montage of dancing young women. The Stars Are Blind scene takes an especially sharp turn into romance city, with Cassie and Ryan, played by Bo Burnham, dancing and singing in the middle of a pharmacy. Scenes like this are pleasant, fun and only bring us more shock when we’re ripped away and thrown back into the thriller Fennell had promised. The chosen casting is no exception to this theme. The film includes many well-known comedy stars: Adam Brody, Sam Richardson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Max Greenfield and other actors whose familiarity will initially fill audiences with a sense of comfort when seeing them on screen, whether your go-to watch is Superbad or New Girl. Our expectations, once again, unexpectedly work against us, as Fennell brings to screen the real world “nice guys,” only making the true nature of their character all the more appalling. This shows the audience not to trust in their expectations and that even in pleasing environments, with humorous interactions and a pastelled wardrobe, the danger is only charaded — not absent altogether. *** Promising Young Woman was not some big campaign for Fennell to exclusively hate on men and their part in violence against women. While much of Cassie’s revenge does centre on male perpetrators, the women in her life are also not safe from the retribution she seeks. “When you get that drunk, things happen. Don’t get blackout drunk all the time, and then expect people to be on your side when you have sex with someone you don’t want to,” says Madison, played by Alison Brie, while she and Cassie are out for lunch. Though this invitation from Cassie seemed like a light-hearted opportunity to catch up, it is quickly used to put Madison in the hot seat and confront her for not believing a classmate who came to her after being raped. Brie’s performance is chilling, perfectly capturing a superficial friend who may not have committed the assault herself, but was a bystander all the same. Cassie also takes the time to confront Dean Walker, the dean of her old college, a woman who didn’t work hard enough to convict a rapist after the victim went to her for help. Here’s an excerpt of their conversation: Dean Walker: “It’s so hard, but you know also if she was drinking, and maybe couldn’t remember everything…” Cassie: “So she shouldn’t have been drunk?” Dean Walker: “I’m not saying that, I —” Cassie: “Sorry, I don’t mean to sound critical, Dean Walker, I just want to be clear.” Dean Walker: “None of us want to admit when we’ve made ourselves vulnerable, when we’ve made a bad choice. And those choices, those mistakes can be so damaging. And really regrettable.” Cassie: “Regrettable?” Dean Walker: “Yes, I mean because what would you have me do? Ruin a young man’s life every time we get an accusation like this?” Addressing female bystanders’ role in rape culture seems criminally unique. Not only does Promising Young Woman recognize bystanders and other involved individuals apart from the rapist, but it also points a finger to the women who look the other way, surely giving the “women do no wrong” believers a rude awakening. *** Promising Young Woman is colourful, quirky, sweet — yet also heartbreaking, uncomfortable and rage-inducing at times. Escapist Movies, a YouTube channel dedicated to film reviews and analysis, describes it well: “Promising Young Woman is not a rape-revenge story…Promising Young Woman is a tragedy.” It is not the empowering tale of a woman seeking revenge on those who deserve it (though seeing her get retribution is very satisfying), but one of a woman facing grief, trauma and seemingly punishing herself for being unable to prevent it all. It is full of so much more than I can discuss in this non-spoiler reflection, and so incredibly worth the watch. Fennell never once promises a happy ending. She jerks her audience back and forth between laughter and heartache, enjoyment and disgust, like a dog with a new chew toy. She holds a pastel-tinted lens to today’s rape culture and still exploits it for what it harbours: the too-often ignored violence against women, the too-often disregarded claims and the too-often promising young men that are let off just for that fact.

  • top 10 movies to watch this summer

    Watch these movies to officially get into the summer spirit By Negin Khodayari The weather is finally starting to look appealing and I can’t help but shift into full "senioritis" gear and pretend like I’m already on summer vacation, burying my weight in gelato under the Italian sun and dancing my way around every Greek beach in search of my one true love. But, I do still have finals to submit and well, it’s mid-April, so I could use all the help I can get to forget my deadlines and start basking in the summer glory. I’ve compiled a list of movies that scream “SUMMER!” and I wanted to share them with you so we can all start romanticizing the next few months. Mamma Mia (IDEALLY The first, but why not both) photo Retrieved from IMDb I’m sure you’ve all heard of this one but you can’t blame me for putting it at the top of my list. A movie musical set in the Greek Islands to ABBA’s greatest hits starring Amanda Seyfried, Pierce Brosnan AND Meryl Streep. That’s it, that’s the pitch. Monte Carlo photo Retrieved from IMDb Three friends take on France one summer after saving up for the trip for months (sounds like a page out of my diary). Selena Gomez, Leighton Meester and Katie Cassidy’s characters could not have prepared for a more romantic, hectic and luxurious whirlwind. This movie is filled with all the European fantasy storylines you could think of, making it a must watch on my summer list. The Lizzie McGuire Movie photo Retrieved from IMDb “Sing to me Paolo!” Yes, that's right, this iconic line is from The Lizzie McGuire Movie, and the internet will never be the same. On a school trip to Rome, Hilary Duff’s most notable character, Lizzy McGuire, meets a young musician, Poalo, whose duet partner, Isabella, happens to look EXACTLY like her. If that doesn't sound intriguing, I don’t know what does. Under the Tuscan Sun photo Retrieved from IMDb I repeat: Under. The. Tuscan. SUN. This movie combines my two favourite things: Italy and warm weather. Who hasn't considered running away from their life in North America to take a long tour of Italy and impulsively buy a villa along the way? Well, for those of us who can’t afford that just yet, this movie will tie us over until we can. Eat, Pray, Love (This was inevitable) photo Retrieved from IMDb This movie follows Julia Roberts as she leaves the comfort of her home, career and former husband to embark on a journey of self-discovery in Italy, India and Bali. Eat, Pray, Love shows us different cultures, foods, rituals, languages, and how despite being from different places around the world, we can all learn from shared human experiences. Call Me By Your Name photo Retrieved from IMDb It’s the ‘80s in an Italian cottage country and you're biking around with a 17-year-old Timothée Chalamet during the beautiful summer days under the sun. This movie is vulnerable, honest, scandalous, and all tied together with beautiful scenery and breathtaking performances. Cheaper by the Dozen 2 photo Retrieved from IMDb Now, I’m not going to lie, my admiration for this movie may very well be tainted by my admiration for a young Tom Welling, but any movie with Steve Martin is worth a watch. This comedy takes you on a classic family cottage trip, but with 12 kids, so you can expect the storylines to get messy. Featuring a young Taylor Launter and Hilary Duff, this star-studded cast is hard to beat. Camp Rock 1 and 2 photo Retrieved from IMDb This was my favourite Disney musical series as a kid and I would be doing my younger self a disservice if I didn’t add it to the list. Despite some questionable lying, this group of musically ingenious high school students made me want to pick up an instrument and go to camp. I never did, but I did learn all the songs and sing along to Demi Lovato and the Jonas Brothers every time these movies were on TV. It's literally in the name, what screams summer louder than “CAMP.” High School Musical 2 photo Retrieved from IMDb I tried so hard not to add this one, but let’s be honest, no summer movie list is complete without the sequel of this ICONIC High School Musical. This classic follows the East High Wildcats on their summer vacation filled with glamor, friendship, heartbreak, drama… and let’s not forget impromptu performances on golf courses and in pools. Just watch it, you know you want to.

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