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JOHN LEGEND: We meet the man who’s more than just a musician

44 20



CEO of Tequila Tromba, talks tequila and what’s inside his home bar

32 FEELING ALIVE: Why Zark Fatah

traded his 14-hour workdays to focus on a more fulfilling endeavour

44 QUÉBÉCOIS CUISINE: Chef J. C. Poirier discusses his years in the business and how cooking has the power to bring people together

52 MORE THAN MOMS: Nikita Stanley and Aleks Jassem, founders of The Rebel Mama, give us the scoop on their new book


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Michelle Zerillo-Sosa Publisher/Editor-in-Chief

Believe In a world that is fast becoming soulless Be challenged to find your own soul Then make it selfless. When the television portrays only tragedy Be challenged to turn it off Spend your time working on your own humility. If you’re surrounded by people who are envious Be challenged to cull the herd around you Fill your life with those who bring joyousness. During the times you feel utterly hopeless Be challenged to claw your way out Understand that genuine happiness is timeless. Find your soul. Believe in yourself. Trust in your God. Love your family. Share your plenty. Lean when you need. Live out loud. Fernando Zerillo Love heartily. GrowDirector your humanity. Co-Founder/Creative Infect the world with your faith.

Who Are You?


ave you ever questioned your own name? Why did your parents choose the name they did — to honour a relative, or to express a wish for your future? Did their choice shape yourPublisher/Editor-in-Chief personality at all? Most of us, Michelle Zerillo-Sosa, probably, have wished at some point in our lives for a different given name. But what about your surname? Have you ever wanted to change it, like musician John Stephens did when he chose the stage name John Legend? We were struck by this man’s kindness and happy-go-lucky nature, regardless of his name. He spoke to us about his music, family life and the importance of getting involved with organizations that seek to improve sustainability and the criminal justice system in America. If you were to choose one word it ell, in the casetoofdescribe Yolandayourself, Gampp,what this would could be be? Would it be an adjective, either positive or negative, like successful a real possibility. If you’re not yet familiar with or obsessive? A noun her for awork, role you have, like mother, or a label you she is a multi-millionaire YouTube carry, like addict? baker (3.3 million subscribers, that is) … all Th is is how Melissa Valenticevic, a former drug addict, began her thanks to her incredible imagination. Thspeech is is a at woman who dreams up cakes Foundation, for a living — not keynote a fundraiser for the Vitanova a local traditionalcentre tieredfor shapes and recovery flavours,whose but cakes thatislook like rehabilitation addiction mission helping hotput dogs, apples, Her watermelons, flavours moving like the clients theirhuge livescandy back together. speech wasinincredible, red shattering velvet andthe chocolate cake …that Youdrug getaddiction the idea. andultimate full of hope, misconception of God, this ladysentences. has the With powerthe to proper tempt help, even andSweet mentalmother health issues are lifelong the can strongest-willed person her withstory her in cakes! Her belief is will that people change. We present the hopes that it anything is possible, and with the love and support of family empower you and illustrate that addiction is a disease, not a choice. andyou friends, thened highest levels role of success areplay attainable. Read Do feel defi by a certain that you in life? Th ere her story on page 38. are positives and negatives to this, according to Nikita Stanley and Speaking of belief, we all pray that our faith need never be Aleks Jassem, the authors of The Rebel Mama’s Handbook for (Cool) tested the way Paul De Lio’s is. Many of us go through life Moms. They wrote this book to offer hope to any new moms who feel without ever having to question why tragedies strike our lives or isolated and overwhelmed by a sense of losing their identity. Their the lives of others in the world. A few years back, we published takean onarticle how toabout navigate motherhood to fiIndremember the courage to trust the defi nition of isGod. asking the yourself. Be open-minded, compassionate and never judgmental of writer to pose this question to various religious leaders: “Where other mothers. was God in moments such as 9/11?” Given the recent state of





June/July 2019

— from The Wife by Iris Imeneo

natural disasters and extreme weather conditions, one could ask the same question now. In De Lio’s case, where was God when deadly bacteria infected his body, nearly taking his life and resulting theare amputation of both his legs? Perhapsinwe best defined by ourofvalues, our purpose and the In that article of the leadersthe contribution we years makeago, to one others — questioned not by thereligious car we drive, replied that God was in the fi remen going up the stairs to rescue an watch we wear or the designer bag we carry. Just ask Zark Fatah, the people in the towers. It’s a response that to this date gives meand entrepreneur who gave up his successful career in the restaurant comfort. Likewise, now, God is in the rescue workers bringing nightlife industry to pursue new passions. Seeking clarity and new relief to Puerto Rico, Mexico and Florida. And God was in the direction, he transformed his life. Now he wants to help others find doctors who fought to save Paul De Lio. He was with the family the same sense of fulfillment through his transformational travel and friends who prayed for De Lio’s life and later, for his recovery. company, The ALIVE Experience. Today, just a few months after his ordeal, De Lio is filled with Identityand is also informed whattowe desire and practise. positivity gratitude. He isbyready help others find ways toAn example for us all is Angelina Bonifacio, a sweet lady in her live with motivation. Dare I say, then, God also resides80s in whose De love for her beloved late husband, Lorenzo, compelled her to reach Lio’s heart. See his story on page 32. outOf to course, us for help publishing about aptly it’s possible youa book do not agreetheir withrelationship, my thoughts titled Th e Love Story. Her idea was simple: write a memoir to inspire on the whereabouts of God. We all know that one should not and teach young people aboutorlove and how practised daily, speak casually of politics religion, forit must thesebeare sensitive with selfl essness and as its cornerstones. topics (although thespiritual weatherhealth isn’t exactly a safe topic anymore, As weBut eachperhaps explore you our own sense of identity either). will be interested in and our what story makes about us who we are, let’s remember to approach each day with the Bahá’Í Faith, a relatively new religion with 5 compassion to 7 millionand adherentsItpractising If youact believe in the betterment of empathy. could startglobally. with a small of kindness toward yourself, the world, in unity, love and service,you youface might nd your placeyou like acknowledging the challenges andfithe progress here.made. Bahá’Í’s believe in equality of all sexes, races and creeds, have and inhope the harmony science religion. on page 74. We you enjoyofthis latest and edition of CityStory Life Magazine. InUntil this day and age, stay we could all and use more unity, and faith, next time, blessed a source oflove everything that isregardless good. of what form it takes. May you enjoy this edition of City Life Magazine. It, like life, is yours to experience and do with what you will.

Michelle Zerillo-Sosa Zerillo-Sosa Michelle Publisher/Editor-in-Chief Publisher/Editor-in-Chief

Fernando Zerillo Co-Founder/Creative Director

@citylifemag / @amorebagstoronto / @fernandozerillo @dolcetweets @amorebagstoronto

PUBLISHER/EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Michelle Zerillo-Sosa • DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS Angela Palmieri-Zerillo • ART D E PARTM E NT CO-FOUNDER / CREATIVE DIRECTOR Fernando Zerillo • SENIOR GRAPHIC DESIGNER Christina Ban SENIOR UI/UX DESIGNER Yena Yoo WEB DEVELOPER Jordan Carter JUNIOR UI/UX DESIGNER Nathan Chan E D ITO R IAL D E PARTM E NT FASHION & HOME DÉCOR EDITOR Michelle Zerillo-Sosa BEAUTY & WELLNESS EDITOR Angela Palmieri-Zerillo CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Cezar Greif, Rick Muller, Cece M. Scott, Josh Walker COPY EDITORS AND PROOFREADERS Jennifer D. Foster, Nina Hoeschele CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS Eric Ray Davidson, Carlos A. Pinto, Nicole Rodriguez SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGERS Adriana Parente, Jessica Spera

TOGETHER WE CAN Join us at our 4th Annual Gala on Thursday Sept. 19th, 2019 at The Terrace Banquet Centre in Vaughan to celebrate Waves of


Changes for Autism. Our foundation helps families by offering funding to support children who have been diagnosed with autism.




OFFICE ADMINISTRATOR Maria DiRico FRONT COVER John Legend / Photo by Eric Ray Davidson

City Life Magazine • Volume 17 • Issue 3 • June/July 2019 City Life Magazine is published bimonthly by Dolce Media Group, 111 Zenway Blvd., Suite 30, Vaughan, Ont., L4H 3H9 T: 905-264-6789 • F: 905-264-3787 • Subscribe online at or by calling 905-264-6789. City Life Magazine’s yearly subscription fee is $24. We accept Visa, MC & AMEX. Send cheque or money order to Dolce Media Group, 111 Zenway Blvd., Suite 30, Vaughan, Ont., L4H 3H9 Publication Mail Agreement No. 40026675 All rights reserved. Any reproduction is strictly prohibited without written consent from the publishers. DISTRIBUTION AND CIRCULATION City Life Magazine reaches 294,810 readers per issue through household distribution and event partnerships across Canada. City Life is also available to over 100 million digital consumers of Magzter Inc. and Issuu. Inquiries about where City Life Magazine is available for sale should be directed to Dolce Media Group: or 905-264-6789. ISSN 1206-1778 Next Issue: Aug/Sept 2019 The opinions expressed in City Life Magazine are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher or advertisers. Dolce Media Group does not assume liability for content. The material in this magazine is intended for information purposes only and is in no way intended to supersede professional advice. We are proud to be a Canadian company that has successfully published magazines for the past 23 years without any government funding or financial assistance of programs to cover editorial costs. It has all been possible thanks to the wonderful support of our readers and advertisers. ©2019 Dolce Media Group • • Printed in Canada @citylifetoronto


For more information about becoming a sponsor or to purchase tickets, contact June/July 2019



Celebrity chef and TV personality Giada De Laurentiis has collaborated with Lagostina to launch a premium cookware line focused on bringing back the great Sunday dinner.



From chandeliers that channel the solar system to pitchers inspired by the calla lily ower The Crown Flora Studio offers a combination of handcrafted accessories, terrariums and an authentic love for botanicals that come together as floral arrangements seen in some of Toronto’s most popular storefront.

Crafted by artisans well versed in the art of traditional beading, the Sophie Bug Brooch wants to bring a new appreciation to the harmlessness of creepy critters.

Prioritize craftsmanship and find the beauty in simplicity with a watch made with maple wood and a design that is more than 80 per cent biodegradable.

Get creative with colour with the Moment Stool from Nienkamper. The stools can be rearranged to fit your mood, transforming a stand-alone piece into an ottoman, bench or functional art piece.

Giving a new appreciation to overcast skies, this hand-painted light brings together a number of warm, bright LEDs.

Make a statement with an ottoman complete with white sheep fur, white leather trim and decorative nail studs.



June/July 2019

Whether it’s the eco-friendly paints or the huge variety of finishes, it should come as no surprise that Steeles Paint is Canada’s go-to paint store for industry professionals and independent homeowners alike.

Inspired by the power of simple shapes, the Phenomena Lamp is a testament to the idea that less is more.

Elevate your furniture’s impact and add a splash of colour with Anthropologie’s Tuva Knobs, made of iron and glass.

A Montreal native, Niko’s approach to art is one informed by her background in fashion, as well as the energy drawn from meditation and yoga.

Inspired by the beauty of the calla lily, a flower associated with feelings of purity and innocence, this pitcher is as architectural as it is delicate.

Throws are perfect for putting a finishing touch to a room, be it through the glamour of silk or the softness of faux fur.

Designed with enough room to hold multiple pieces of jewelry, this unicorn ring holder has a warm, metallic finish.

Who says extra storage can’t look good? Crafted from sheesham wood, native to the Punjab region of India, his modern sideboard is accented with metal details.

Make your living space feel like it’s flying with the goose feather lampshade from Trianon Design.

June/July 2019




Channel the cosmos with this modern chandelier, realized with a tri-tone mixture of dark bronze, chrome and satin brass.

Accented with gold, these heavyweight scissors are a stunning addition to any productive workspace.

Offering a rare opportunity to live among both contemporary design and natural beauty, south Woodbridge, Ont.’s condominiums and townhouses are set to open soon.

Light, strong and sturdy, this compact stepladder has the potential to add an essential, functional pop of colour to your kitchen.

This razor doesn’t just promise a close, smooth shave; with its natural maple handle, it will arrive original to you and only you.

This pair, available in both black and white, hangs on your door, introducing a playful way to hang your coats.



Add a mid-century staple to your living space with the Baylis Bench, complete with hairpin legs and a functional headrest.

June/July 2019















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Fact and fiction that deserve to be at the top of your to-read pile WRITTEN BY JOSH WALKER

3 2



7 6 1. Howard Stern Comes Again by Howard Stern Renowned radio and television personality Howard Stern brings together his favourite interviews, with appearances from Madonna, Bill Murray and Donald Trump. 2. Becoming by Michelle Obama As the former First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama is one with stories to tell. This memoir doesn’t disappoint, and offers an honest, witty and powerful account of her incredible life to date. 3. Washington Black by Esi Edugyan Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2018, Esi Edugyan’s Washington Black is a wellwritten tale that tackles topics of slavery and freedom.



June/July 2019

4. The Love Story by Angelina Bonifacio Published in-house by the team at Dolce Media Group, The Love Story is a tale of love letters, loyalty and hard work that wants to pass a memorable message down to future generations. 5. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo The work that led to her successful Netflix show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, Marie Kondo’s book outlines the revolutionary methods you can use to tidy and reorganize your home. 6. An Ocean of Minutes by Thea Lim An Ocean of Minutes, Thea Lim’s debut

8 novel, is a time-travel story focused on love, courage and the complexity of human relationships. 7. Girl, Stop Apologizing: A Shame-Free Plan for Embracing and Achieving Your Goals by Rachel Hollis Following her 2018 best seller, Girl, Wash Your Face, author, motivational speaker and entrepreneur Rachel Hollis’s new book is a wake-up call for women to start believing in themselves. 8. French Exit by Patrick deWitt Described as a “tragedy of manners,” French Exit is a witty dive into high society and follows a wealthy widow’s move from New York to Paris in the face of scandal.

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A TASTE FOR TEQUILA Eric Brass, CEO of Tequila Tromba, discusses a market thirsty for innovation and how he used tequila to offer a more refined drinking experience WRITTEN BY JOSH WALKER


t was when Eric Brass arrived back in Toronto after an exchange in Mexico with the Ivey Business School that he first noticed a growing gap in the tequila market. “Tequila was either about pounding your chest to show how much money you’re spending, or closing your eyes, plugging your nose and hoping for the best,” he says. “There had to be a better way and it had to be authentic, with 20


June/July 2019

a story and pedigree that was second to none.” The answer to that growing gap was Tequila Tromba, a brand born out of Mexico’s highlands and driven by an international team of experts that created a high-quality product available at an accessible price point. “We have a product, story and brand that resonate,” Brass continues. “We went around and shared our story and product with the

bartenders of Toronto, and they fell in love with it. We’ve built our brand from the ground up, creating relationships with people who love and care for craft spirits.” As a seasoned world traveller with a thorough understanding of the alcohol market, Brass is someone with useful advice for those wanting to create their own alcohol collections. As well as owning a sake that was a


Brass traded in his work in finance to pursue ambitions of launching Tequila Tromba

gift from a Japanese tequila maker, his liquor cabinet contains a bottle of 2005 Macallan whisky that was a gift from his mentor, friend and CEO of Edrington, as well as other personal mementos. “All products should be products you believe in and have a story that you can relate to your guests,” Brass says, sharing what he believes makes a successful home bar. “Try for brands that are independent and really care about the craft and quality of what they are doing.” He also advises to be “adventurous with mixes. The general rule of thumb is to stick to one base spirit, such as tequila or whisky. From there, the limits are endless for what can be created.” “Aside from the complexities, craft spirits require a level of artistry, dedication and perfectionism to get to a level where they are considered premium,” Brass finishes, talking about what drew him to the market. “I have a lot of respect for the distillers who meticulously craft their product. It’s a labour of love.” @tequilatromba


Tequila was either about pounding your chest to show how much money you’re spending, or closing your eyes, plugging your nose and hoping for the best. There had to be a better way

Top: Tequila Tromba is a product created from the highlands of Jalisco, Mexico Bottom: For Brass, a successful home bar is one filled with independent, craft-driven brands

June/July 2019




CHRISTIAN BOUTIQUE is the fashion destination shop in Toronto since 1974, carrying an array of Italian and French collections, such as this Philosophy di Lorenzo Serafini dress.

The style and statement pieces you need to see you through the summer

@christianboutique 1236 St. Clair Ave. W. 416-651-2931

Bimbi Earrings: Sweet and Petite Gioiamore Collection 18-karat yellow gold girl silhouette earrings, inlaid with white mother-of-pearl.

Finch Centre Jewellers: You are beautiful inside and out with Madani Rings’s INSIDE OUT collection. These avant-garde designs are sure to make a statement. Handcrafted in Canada and available in all price points. @finchcentrejewellers 905-264-6669

Necklace: Sweet and Petite Gioiamore Collection girl silhoutte 18-karat yellow gold pendant, inlaid with white mother-of-pearl. Customizable 18-inch rolò chain and personalized clasp with Bimbi logo. @bimbijewels

Not just gorgeous beachwear, BIKINI HAUS is proud to carry De Vesi — clear, hand-painted or custom made bags with your own design. To purchase, visit us in store and online. Bayview Village/Yorkville Village @bikinihaus 416-785-8805

NV Boutique: This beautiful floral dress is ideal for weddings, brunch and date night. Add a jean jacket for a casual feel or a heel and clutch for an evening look. With an assortment of denim, eye-catching cocktail dresses and fun work attire, NV Boutique is constantly on point with the season’s hottest looks. 9200 Weston Rd. Unit 8 (Longo’s Plaza), Woodbridge, Ont. 289-553-9200



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Life Story


The inspiring true story of one woman’s journey of plummeting to rock bottom and learning how to rise into a new life WRITTEN BY MELISSA VALENTICEVIC


f I gave you a blank piece of paper and I asked you to tell me who you are, what would you say? Would you tell me you’re a wife, a mother, a daughter? Would you tell me about your profession, your education or a passion or hobby you may have? The majority of us identify ourselves within the roles we hold in our own lives. Not often do we dig a little deeper to describe our character, our morals or our values. My name is Melissa. I’m 28 years old, and I’m here to share my story with you. I chose to open my story with speaking about roles, because with roles come stigma and expectation. This is something I’m sure everyone can relate to on some level. I’m a deep, honest and loving person. I’m a daughter, I’m a mother and I’m also a recovering addict. I have been living in recovery for almost three years now, and although I’m clean today, I know first-hand the stigma that comes with being a woman, specifically a mother, in both addiction and in recovery. It comes with a lot of pain, misunderstanding and judgment. As 24


June/July 2019

women, we are supposed to wear an invisible cape and handle all that life may throw at us with grace and with strength. As a woman, it is much harder to release ourselves from that stigma if or when we face trials and don’t make the best decisions. Oftentimes, the most judgment I’ve personally felt has been from other women, which is why I’m so grateful to be sharing my story today. Women supporting women is such a beautiful and empowering thing, and something our society sometimes lacks. Being open and vulnerable are testaments to my journey and the courage I have gained — the ability to overcome fear and completely share some of myself with others. I started experimenting with drugs and alcohol at around 11 or 12 years old. I grew up with a single mother who battled depression and other mental health issues. I witnessed my mom make several attempts at suicide during my childhood. This included physically fighting her to flush the bottle of pills she was trying to swallow, while she was screaming she wanted to die. It also included my coming home

in Grade 6 to find her hanging from a belt on our staircase. Thankfully, she was unsuccessful in these attempts and has since dealt with many of her own issues, but the feelings that arose within me from these events were feelings that would follow me for years to come. I didn’t understand why my mom would want to leave me. I felt unworthy of love and protection, and I began a pattern of minimizing significant events in my life. I started using marijuana and alcohol with friends, acting out in school and even bullying other classmates. I realized at a young age that negative behaviour got me the much-needed attention I felt I was lacking at home. At age 13, I met my first boyfriend. I didn’t realize the significance this would prove to be in my life. At the time, it was a great escape from the situation at home, and I felt cared about and important in someone else’s life. Although there were good times, the relationship turned toxic quite quickly. I was drinking, smoking and experimenting with prescription pills. In addition to the unhealthy coping mechanisms I was developing, the

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June/July 2019



relationship turned abusive. It started as emotional and verbal abuse, and by the time I was 16, I was being physically assaulted regularly. I was in complete denial of how bad things really were and would go to the ends of the Earth to protect him and our relationship, a common theme for abused women. I remember my family and friends questioning me about marks or bruises, and I always had some extravagant lie to tell. My aunt gave me a pamphlet once from a women’s shelter. When I opened it, it listed all the warning signs of an abusive relationship. I remember being able to check off every single item on that list, and yet, I tucked it away in my drawer and went about my day. By 18, I was using ecstasy, cocaine, [“magic”] mushrooms and alcohol as an escape from my reality. At age 20, I became pregnant and gave birth to my beautiful daughter — a blessing and a joy in my life. Things were good for a while, but a few months after she was born, the physical abuse escalated and seemed to get progressively worse. Being threatened and called names, being spit on, choked, slapped and punched were regular parts of my days. I found myself using drugs more often than ever before. My selfworth, self-esteem and any self-love I once had were completely destroyed. I wanted better for my daughter, as she didn’t deserve this, but the fear of leaving seemed to consume my soul, and so I stayed. At 22, I suffered a broken leg at the hands of my daughter’s father. I had emergency surgery and a steel rod put in my right leg. That was my breaking point. I could no longer put myself through this. I finally found the courage to leave. My daughter and I moved into our own apartment. I enrolled in college and was working two waitressing jobs. Things finally seemed to look brighter. The problem is, you can’t put a BandAid on emotional pain. You have to dig deep inside and heal yourself, and at that point, I was nowhere near ready. From the outside, things presented fine. But on the inside, I was that 12-year-old girl again, feeling unworthy of love and protection. I was so broken emotionally, the only solution I knew was using drugs. I had a difficult time 26


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adjusting to being a single mother and struggled with my identity and who I really was. I became a daily user quite quickly, and it didn’t take long for me to spiral out of control. I dropped out of school, lost both of my jobs and lost myself in an extremely destructive lifestyle. The only thing I cared about was getting high. I put myself and my daughter at risk. I lowered any standards I had for myself and disregarded any morals or values I once had — the consequences were coming for me.

When you take failing off the table, it’s incredible how resourceful you become By age 25, I had been arrested and charged several times due to drugs and alcohol. I destroyed relationships in my life, I broke trust and ignored all of my responsibilities. I lost my car, my driver’s licence and was evicted from my apartment. After multiple encounters with child services, I ultimately lost custody of my daughter. My life was falling apart, and the pain was overwhelming. But my only concern when I woke up every day was, “How am I getting high?” That’s what addiction does to people. It gives you a false sense of comfort, a false numbness that always wears off. They say people who suffer from addiction will find help when they truly want it — when they’re broken, when they’re beaten and they need to find a new way of life. I found a treatment centre in 2015 called Vitanova. When I entered its doors, I was filled with fear. I was lost, confused and completely out of touch with myself. I couldn’t envision a life without drugs, despite all the pain the drugs had caused me. That speaks

volumes to the power of addiction. I entered its day program, a 90-day commitment, five days a week. It is offered to both men and women, but since Vitanova is currently only a male residential facility, the program itself is dominated by men. For many women, this could be a deterrent, and due to the lengthy wait times at the majority of treatment centres, the difference between life and death. For me, the anticipation of healing among men, having to be honest and vulnerable with little female support aside from staff, was challenging. However, as I said, help is there for those who want it. I wanted it more than I’ve ever wanted anything, and so, the fight began. I gave myself a chance. I was open and honest. I learned about spirituality, I learned relapse prevention tools, I learned life skills, participated in weekly goal-setting groups and took an anger-management course. I also had weekly one-on-one sessions with my counsellor. I was making progress, but my early days in recovery were kind of like dancing the cha-cha: I would take three steps forward and three steps back. I struggled with acceptance and forgiveness. I struggled with being able to identify the basic emotions I was feeling. The pain of not having my daughter in my daily life, and understanding this was a direct result of my own actions, was more than I could handle. Despite my struggles to maintain my sobriety, the staff at Vitanova never gave up on me. It was clear a day program was no longer enough for me. I needed something Vitanova was unable to offer — I needed a residential treatment program. With the help, support and recommendation of my counsellor and the other staff, I was referred to another facility — a women’s treatment centre, where I would spend 30 days. Upon completion, I would return to Vitanova, and its day program would become my after-care plan. I went to a facility called Hope Place. It was a 12-step program designed specifically for women suffering from addiction and trauma. A common theme in women with addiction is a history of trauma or abuse. Every woman in that centre had some sort of abuse in her background, whether

verbal, physical, sexual or even emotional. You learn not to compare stories and simply understand that everyone deals with emotional pain differently and is affected in a different way. I had a difficult time identifying myself as an abused woman, but once I was able to accept the facts of my past and understand the impact it had on who I was inside, something changed. The growth I experienced in that house with those women was life changing. There’s something powerful about sharing the deepest and darkest parts of yourself with other women, women who understand your pain. They understand the stigma. They understand the judgment. I returned to Vitanova, as planned, and as a new person. I had this new zest for life and was ready to absorb everything recovery could offer me. Although I had just completed a 12-step program, Vitanova offers something different — its program resonated with me. It’s an approach that emphasizes many different aspects of recovery; there are layers to what is taught. Vitanova doesn’t preach its way is the only way, as I’ve experienced in other centres and other avenues of recovery. In my opinion, if Vitanova had a program designed for women that had its content taught in a female-oriented way, it would do amazing things. I am confident it would save so many lives and help so many women, their children and their families. I learned so many things during my time at Vitanova. I learned about the power of gratitude, the power of self-awareness and what it means to forgive and love yourself. Words can’t describe how grateful I am for all the beautiful gifts it has given me. Today, my life is so different. I have a positive outlook and am able to see the glass as half full. I respect myself and I’m a confident and capable human being. I have my own apartment, I’m reliable and dependable, and I am the general manager of a restaurant. I’m in a healthy and loving relationship and have learned you have to love yourself before you can love another. I have had so many amazing opportunities since healing myself. I’ve been given the opportunity to share my story with other addicts, speaking at treatment centres and bringing the message of hope. I’ve had the opportunity to speak at high schools and share with youth as a preventative measure that addiction does not discriminate. I’ve spoken at fundraisers and feel personal growth every time I share my story, no longer allowing it to have power over me. I have regular visits with my daughter, as some consequences will follow you for years to come. After a drawn-out court battle and despite all of the positive steps I have taken toward my future, my daughter is still not in my daily life. I’m confident in the fact that I’m a good role model for her and a display of strength and resilience. I am proud of who I am today; I am proud of who I’ve fought to become. I can only hope that when she grows up, she will see me for who I am. If all the pain I’ve been through, if all I’ve overcome stands for anything, it has to be for the opportunity to affect others with my truth. It has to be to help other women stand in their truth. Everyone deserves a second chance, especially a chance to get their lives back. The lives they were meant to live. The lives they deserve. | @vitanovafoundation


hen searching for the perfect gift for that very special occasion, value, quality and selection make the choice so much easier and satisfying. That’s why for 30 years so many discerning shoppers choose Desiree China & Gifts. Known for its’ quality of products, and the artistry and creativity in its’ designs, Desiree is Vaughan’s premiere destination for the widest selection of fine collectables, tabletop, dinnerware, general giftware, kitchen accessories and home décor. Featuring impeccable customer service and specialty services such as bridal registry and corporate gift selections, Desiree offers only the finest in global luxury brands. When you desire gifts of timeless design and quality, give the gift of Desiree.


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3590 Rutherford Rd., Unit 9, Vaughan, Ont. 905-850-2818 June/July 2019



real estate

SOLMAR DEVELOPMENT THE MAROTTA FAMILY’S VALUES AND TRAITS THAT HAVE LED TO BUSINESS SUCCESS The next generation reflects old-world traditions at one of Vaughan’s most respected developers



June/July 2019

From left: general manager Giuseppe Paolicelli, his wife Melissa and her sister Angela Marotta lead the skilled team at Solmar




s with special and successful family-owned and operated businesses, the quality, work ethic, character and integrity of the company are not by accident. Rather, these admired traits are often reflections of the family itself. Such is the case with the Marotta family of Vaughan and Niagara-onthe-Lake, Ont., owners of Solmar Development Corporation, one of the most admired and respected builders of luxury residential properties in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and founders and proprietors of Two Sisters Vineyards, one of Canada’s top wineries. Those traits began with the patriarch of the Marotta family, Benny Marotta. Benny grew up in postwar Italy and emigrated from Naples to Canada at just 18 years of age, settling in Vaughan (home to many Italians at the time), where he could connect with the Italian culture. “I saw a huge opportunity in what was offered to us as immigrants,” Benny said in a recent interview with City Life.“I came to the conclusion that when someone leaves behind his country, it should be with the desire and ambition to succeed not only financially, but also to raise a family, so they can be given a better future and opportunities as well. I also learned it takes time and patience to reach the success I have today.” Driven by a single purpose to succeed, Benny has more than achieved his goals. He and his wife, Louise, have two daughters, Angela and Melissa, who both work at Solmar. And 13 years ago, they founded the now awardwinning Two Sisters Vineyards in Niagara-on-the-Lake. The daughters’ business success in many ways reflects and is a product of the values and traits of their parents. “They taught us to look at life with a different perspective,” recalls Angela Marotta. “We grew up with an open mind and in a position where we really

understood people and their emotions — we’re very receptive to that. They taught us to look at life with a much broader perspective than most.” “They also taught us hard work and perseverance,” adds Melissa MarottaPaolicelli. “Set your mind on something and how you’re going to get there. Once we know what our goal is, we move forward to it. Just like Two Sisters Vineyards, focusing on a goal over these last years and moving toward it.” Hard work and perseverance were the benchmarks of Benny’s approach to his new life in Canada. Starting small 25

as it’s where we live and grew up, and we wanted to create landmarks.” Today, Solmar Developments is a diverse company with a wide portfolio of residential and commercial properties throughout the GTA and southern Ontario. Its residential holdings include grand estate manor homes, classic single detached homes, semis, townhomes and luxury highrise condominiums. The company’s properties are widely respected for their high quality, innovative designs and the pride of old-world craftsmanship in their exacting attention to detail. Solmar has always focused on customer care and personalized design. To that end, the company offers a design studio to provide future purchasers customized design decisions about their future homes by working alongside Solmar’s professional designing consultants. They also provide exceptional aftersales service, inspecting homes 30 days and one year after move-in dates, and provide warranties for up to seven years to add to homeowners’ peace of mind. “We respect and enjoy our customers, even having espresso with them. We’ll always maintain that human touch,” says Angela. Two Sisters Vineyards (started with Melissa and Angela’s father in 2006) is another example of the family’s work ethic, integrity and quality. The winery now produces the finest Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot from the beautiful and rich terroir of Niagara-on-the-Lake. The winery also features a restaurant serving authentic Italian cuisine from Marotta family recipes using food from local Niagara producers, whom the Marottas are proud to support. Two Sisters’ rise to the top of Canadian wineries is another testament to the lessons the sisters learned growing up about hard work and keeping a goal in sight. In 2018, Two Sisters was awarded the title of Best Performing Small Winery in Canada, and in 2017,

We’re proud of the community, as it’s where we live and grew up, and we wanted to create landmarks

— Angela Marotta

years ago by building luxury customer homes in select pockets of Toronto, such as Forest Hill and the Bridle Path, Benny then began to purchase small parcels of land on the outskirts of the GTA. Solmar then began to branch out and build communities, which grew into subdivisions and eventually highrise developments. Benny had the vision for the first high-rise condo in Vaughan, a novel thought at the time that condominium living could succeed in the land of 2,500-square-foot detached homes. Though initially opposed, he succeeded by developing the four-building Bellaria Residences. “We saw there was a need for condominium living in Vaughan,” says Angela. “We’re proud of the community,

June/July 2019



We respect and enjoy our customers, even having espresso with them. We’ll always maintain that human touch — Angela Marotta

Solmar’s craftsmanship, quality design and attention to detail are reflected in its Park Avenue Place condominium in Vaughan

it even hosted a day with Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest to celebrate the birthday of Ripa’s son. “Drinking wine is about the experience because of who you are drinking it with, the conversations you have. And we wanted to create a place to have that experience,” says Angela. “People feel very comfortable when they visit us, as it’s like our family home. It was a dream of our family to share this love we have of things you can 30


June/July 2019

enjoy in life. It’s very reflective of who we are as a family.” The Marotta family’s success has allowed them to give back and assist many causes, such as Humber River Hospital, Vaughan Hospice, SickKids, the Art Gallery of Ontario and Caledon Food Bank, among others. In 2018, they donated $1 million to Niagara College’s Achieving Dreams Campaign, and in recognition, the college named its new innovation complex the Marotta

Family Innovation Complex, which will support the growing competitiveness of Niagara’s agri-business sector. Two Sisters also donated to establish a bursary fund at the college. In every way, the quality values and traits of the Marotta family shine through and will continue to do so for many generations to come, by the home or by the glass. @solmardevelopmentcorp @SolmarHomes

BEYOND MEAT - Hailed as the future of protein, the Beyond Burger isn’t just completely plant-based, but looks, cooks and tastes just as good as the real thing. TWO SISTERS WINE - With an estate located at the northern tip of the Niagara River, Two Sisters produces wine that draws on the region’s soil, terroir and beautiful, idyllic surroundings.

PIZZAVILLE - Having been in the industry since 1963, it’s safe to say Pizzaville understands what goes in to making its stone-baked pizzas taste seriously good.

EAT. L VE. REPEAT. A selection so flavourful we can almost taste them WRITTEN BY JOSH WALKER

NEAL BROTHERS - Created by two brothers who began by making croutons in their mother’s kitchen 30 years ago, these snacks are the perfect balance of quality and taste.

SUMMER FRESH - Kidney beans, chickpeas, roasted garlic hummus, trail mix and flatbread all come together in this proteinpacked Bean Salad from Summer Fresh.

LA STRADA BAKERY - Creating everything from vegan peanut butter cookies to spinach and ricotta gnocchi, La Strada is a bakery worth making the trip for. PLANTA - Opened with a hunger to promote plant-based food focused on environmental sustainability, Planta serves a selection of delicious dishes without the need for animal products.

COFFEE CREAMER, CARAMEL The famous taste of Baileys has been translated to coffee creamers, richly made with real cream. June/July 2019




Surrounded by a life of extravagance, Zark Fatah, a successful businessman, realized that his seven-daya-week work habit was not providing him with the spiritual sustenance that he needed and craved. From those roots, the ALIVE experience was created WRITTEN BY CECE M. SCOTT INTERVIEW BY MICHELLE ZERILLO-SOSA



Zark Fatah, founder of the ALIVE Experience, shares his path to spiritual serenity


fter years of 14-hour workdays, seven days a week, renaissance man and visionary Zark Fatah chose to divest himself of his successful restaurant and nightclub ventures in order to actualize his true vision — one that encapsulates living life simply and to the fullest. Once known as a man around town, Fatah was named KA 32


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Magazine’s Best of Canada 2010 pick for best promoter and innovator. Today, however, what defines Fatah, founder of the ALIVE Experience, transformational travel experiences, is the healing, restorative power that can be found in vulnerability, empathy and compassion. The intention of the ALIVE Experience is to create transformation through experiential

learning. The context of the adventure activities is centred on how a person navigates through life, taking the focus off the attainment of material assets and centring it instead on living a wellbalanced, healthy life. Fatah’s message in a talk he gives entitled “How to Be a Successful Human” compares the fast-paced life of today’s world that leaves so



many spiritually bankrupt against the backdrop of giving back through positive life contributions. Q. What defines you as a person

today, compared to the person you were five years ago?

A. Less defines me today than ever before. I’ve learned to accept myself for who I am; whereas before, my car, my watch, my social status were how I defined my identity. Today, I am proud to be defined by my values, purpose and contribution to others. Q. What makes the ALIVE

Experience stand out when

compared to other travel adventure companies in the world?

A. The diversity of our programming and the curation of experiences are what make our trips truly unique. Our programming is designed with the intention of creating transformation through experiential learning. For example, teaching someone to surf isn’t about getting them up on the board, so they can enjoy the rush of the moment. We teach surfing from the context of how we choose to navigate through life. Like the strong ocean waves — some are big, and some are small. We can fight our way through them, or we can learn to take the waves one at a time 1

and flow and adjust with each one. You begin to understand the rhythm of the ocean, and when the time is right, you seize the opportunity and catch your wave. You can’t stop the waves in life, but you can learn how to ride them. Q. What would you say to someone who tells you they envy your courage and freedom?

A. I hear this quite often lately. My answer is that they, too, can enjoy the freedom I have as soon as they decide to let go of the things holding them back from living the life of their dreams. People hold on to things they think are so important and necessary. What they


1. The power of acceptance 2. Going outside the comfort zone 3. Sharing a mindful experience with ALIVE attendees


Today, I am proud to be defined by my values, purpose and contribution to others

June/July 2019



don’t realize is that many of the things they are holding on to are actually in the way of them having what they truly want. I closed [the restaurant] Blowfish and lost $1 million to live my dream. This is the price I chose to pay, and it’s the best decision I’ve ever made. Q. How do you define living life to the fullest?

A. What this means to me is waking up and feeling excited about who you are and what you do. It means having a dream or a vision for your future and taking the necessary steps to making it a reality. It also means being a contribution to others. There is nothing in life more fulfilling than knowing you have the ability to positively impact the people in your life. Lastly, it means having fun and enjoying the simple pleasures of life — laugh, dance, eat the dessert. Q. What makes you sad? A. I don’t like to see or hear about people suffering. I’ve lost a few friends this year to cancer, a drug overdose and suicide. I believe all of these deaths stemmed from mental health issues. Too many people bottle up what they’re dealing with, too scared or ashamed to share what’s really going on with them. Inevitably, these issues surface, and the repercussions can be fatal. The damage we’re causing to our planet, the way we treat our animals and how we’re polluting the oceans [also] make me very sad. I believe we are on a direct course to a major catastrophe due to people’s ignorance and others’ greed. We need to all take responsibility and educate ourselves on what’s happening and what we can do to help. Our planet can only withstand so much abuse and destruction before it equalizes itself, and we will be the ones to suffer the most. Q. What are some of the things you have learned about yourself and others since you embarked on this journey?

A. I’ve learned that I’m enough and that I make a difference for others. These past six months, living here in the jungle, have taught me a lot about myself. I understand what it means to be grounded now. I’ve learned being happy 34


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is actually quite easy, and we have the ability to choose this. We complicate our lives and set unnecessary expectations for ourselves, while in pursuit of the next possession, accomplishment or short-lived pleasurable jaunt. This robs us of our free time and happiness. Living a simple, calm life here in Costa Rica has shown me how little I need to have so much free time and happiness. Q. What is your definition of success?

A. Last year, I shared a talk at Haste and Hustle titled “How to Be a Successful Human.” I felt this was an important message to share with the audience of 2,500 millennials. I know many people who are considered to be very successful, both professionally and financially; however, they are completely bankrupt and failing in other important aspects of life. I define success by living a wellbalanced, healthy life. This means having deeply connected relationships, starting with the relationship you have with yourself. Accept and love who you are. Everything in life is so much easier when you do. Stay active, eat well, get your rest. Listen to your body and take care of it. Without health, you have nothing. Be adventurous and keep learning. Have fun and enjoy the simple things in life. Don’t stress and work yourself to an early death, worrying about getting rich and having a bigger car or house. All the things you sacrifice on your way to the top are the things you’ll wish you could have again. Give back, be a contribution to others. You will feel a deep feeling of gratitude and fulfillment that’s more meaningful than any possession, title or partner. These are some of the key elements I believe help you to be a successful human. Q. What are some mindful practices you share with people on the ALIVE Experience?

A. We start most days with a 60-minute yoga practice, followed by a 20-minute guided meditation. We also encourage people to take a digital detox and stay

off their devices as much as possible during the trip. It’s important for them to be present and disconnect from their busy lives back home, so they can reflect and reconnect with themselves. We also provide journals that are used throughout the trip that help our guests set some goals, document the knowledge they learn and create an accountability structure with other guests. The journal also helps them with continuing the morning and evening routines we teach them that involve expressing gratitude and setting daily intentions. Q. Meditation — what can you share with our readers about its importance and how it guides us on our destined path?

A. Starting your day with meditation helps set the tone of how your day is going to go. Rather than turning on your cellphone and staring at your screen right when you wake up, give yourself 20 minutes to be present and let your mind wake up at its own pace. This creates a calming sense of peace and bliss you can carry with you throughout the day. Meditation requires practice and is often misunderstood; however, once you get in the routine of starting your day with this 20-minute practice, it can truly change your life. You will develop greater clarity, you will feel grounded and calm. This will help with anxiety and stress, which is often how many people feel after they wake up and start getting bombarded with emails. Meditation allows us to connect to our higher consciousness and tune in to our own intuition. When we can quiet our minds and allow our true self to speak, we have access to what we have always known, but have forgotten along the way. Q. What are some transformations

you have witnessed in some of your guests?

A. I’ve had guests arrive in a state of anxiety, dealing with insomnia, and within a few days totally transform to a calm, relaxed state, sleeping with ease throughout the night. I’ve had a guest who [had previously] tried taking his own life tell me our trip reminded him what it felt like to be happy again and

that life can be beautiful. His words were, “This trip was a game-changer for me.” I’ve even had guests who have gone home and quit the job they dreaded, so they can finally move forward and start their own business. I love following up with all my guests months after to see how their lives have changed since the ALIVE Experience. It is so beautiful to hear them share how it’s positively impacted them all. Q. What are some life lessons you wish to teach people who join you on your journey?

A. The first and most important lesson is to love and accept yourself for who you are. We need to be forgiving of ourselves and trust we are where we are supposed to be on our journey. None of us are perfect, and we are all trying to figure out this thing called life. Secondly, assume you know nothing and be open-minded to trying new things. You are not going to transform your life being the same person you’ve already been. Be open and share, ask for help and offer your support. Life-changing transitions are hard as hell, and the only way to get through is with the loving support of people around you. There is great power in vulnerability, empathy and compassion. Integrity, this is often a word that feels forgotten. You must be fully committed to the change you want to make in your life if you want the results. This is going to require you to live and operate from a very high level of discipline and focus.

4 5

4. Completely unplugged 5. ALIVE attendees savour simple pleasures 6. ALIVE attendee learns how to flow into the waves



Q: What lesson or life philosophy have you learned from your dad?

A. I spent two weeks with my dad over Christmas. My parents came to visit me over the holidays. I never thought I would say this, but I am becoming more like my dad as I get older. I now understand why he likes his solitude and is so content living a simple life. My dad doesn’t try to be anything or anyone other than who he is. He fully accepts himself for who he is and takes full ownership of his human flaws. Q. What movie, book and song are your favourites?

A. I love What Dreams May Come with

Robin Williams. This movie beautifully tells the story that true love is eternal and that love can overcome anything, including darkness and death. I have so many books that I love. One I read recently that I really enjoyed is A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. This is one book I feel is absolutely essential for people to read. I believe we would be living on a different planet if this book were mandatory reading in schools.

Lately, I’ve been listening to “You and Me” from rose ave. by You+Me (Dallas Green and Pink). I’m in a new relationship with an amazing woman, and the lyrics of this song really resonate for me. It reminds me of what a partnership can be like. alive_experience zarkfatah June/July 2019



Legend has already won a total of 10 Grammys, as well as an Emmy, an Oscar and a Tony



June/July 2019







t the age of 26, John Stephens made a bold move: he reluctantly agreed to his friends’ suggestion. Right before releasing his debut album, he changed his name to John Legend. He had always known he would make it in the music industry. Still, this was taking an immense risk. The son of a factory worker and a parttime seamstress, he grew up in a small town in Ohio. After meeting

Kanye West through some friends, they started working together, and Legend released his debut album Get Lifted in 2004. Collaborations with Jay-Z, Alicia Keys and Lauryn Hill quickly followed. Legend won the Academy Award for Best Original Song and Golden Globe Award in 2015 for co-writing the song “Glory” from the film Selma. In 2018, Legend was cast in the title role in the live concert production of Jesus Christ Superstar. Has he attained legendary status? It could be a topic up for debate, but

one thing is certain: Legend is wellknown the world over, with YouTube views in the billions and 10 Grammy Awards to his name. His wife, Chrissy Teigen, is a star in her own right. A half-Thai model signed to IMG, she has appeared in numerous TV shows in America and has published several books. The two married in Lake Como, Italy, in 2013 and have two kids, a boy and a girl, born in 2018 and 2016, respectively. One might say it’s not hard after all the success he’s had, but there’s an air of tranquil optimism to Legend. He June/July 2019



arrives in a joyous mood and is easy to work with. His self-confidence is apparent, but he’s approachable and easy to talk to. We were eager to ask him both what annoys him and what gives him hope. BEGINNINGS Q. Happy (belated) birthday. How does it feel to be 40? A. It doesn’t feel that different. I feel the same as I did last year. But I did have an awesome party. Q. You grew up in the Midwest, then went to Philly. How did those places influence your music? Do you think you would’ve developed a different style if you came up in L.A. or NYC? A. My upbringing affected my music a lot. I grew up in the church and played a lot of gospel music. That certainly affected my music. I grew up in a family who really loved Motown, which of course is based in the Midwest, even though it was globally loved and appreciated. And then working in Philly certainly did it, too. I started working with a lot of writers and producers there. And working with The Roots over the years. Being in Philly at the time I was there was really influential because a lot of the neo-soul movement was developing and starting during the time I was in college. That definitely impacted me and influenced me. Q. What attracted you to music at such an early age (seven)? Most kids at that age are playing ball outside or Lego inside. A. I grew up in a musical house. Everybody loved music at my house. We had a piano, we had a drum kit. I went to church multiple times a week, where there was a lot of music. I was surrounded by music all my life. From a very young age, it was very clear I wanted to play something. I started taking piano lessons when I was four, and I haven’t stopped playing since. Sometimes it’s hard to get motivated to practise and do things that no one will ever see, but eventually, when you perform, it shows how much you practised. The performing part is fun: 38


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you get to connect with other people; you get to show how much you’ve worked. People don’t realize how much work you need to put in before the performance to do a good job. Q. Did your parents support your musical ambitions early on? A. Of course, they did. Absolutely they did. They always believed in me and supported me. Q. What were your influences developing as a pianist, as well as a singer and a songwriter? A. My main influence as a pianist was my grandmother. She taught me how to play gospel piano. More than any one individual, she influenced my style. As a singer, I think it just developed over the years listening to different artists. I listened to different artists such as Commissioned, The Winans, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Nina Simone, Nat King Cole. When I was a teenager coming up, we would sing a lot of new jack things such as Jodeci, Boyz II Men. A lot of those male groups were big at the time. So it’s been a range of things. Definitely Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye as far as songwriting and Donnny Hathaway, Al Green. Smokey Robinson, too. Q. I read that you got admitted to Harvard University, but chose not to go. Can you explain why? A. I got accepted to Penn, Harvard, Georgetown and Morehouse. Penn gave me a better finance rate offer, and I needed the money. Q. You did go to college, and what struck me is you graduated; whereas, many musicians will either try to be professional after high school or start college, but will drop out in the middle to pursue music. Was getting a degree important for you? A. It was important, but it wasn’t everything to me. It was important to finish. I just like to finish things that I start. That’s just a part of my personality. CAREER Q. At the beginning, you even had a

day job as a management consultant. How was it? A. It was fine. I learned a lot, I met a lot of great people. Some of my very best friends now are people I met during that time and worked with. But I knew what I really wanted to do. At night, after work, I would go home and write songs. I was recording with Kanye during the time I was working there. I knew what I really wanted to do, but it just took a while for it to come together. Q. Kanye West played a crucial role in your career launch. People know him as a performer and a rapper, but how is Kanye as a producer? What’s the biggest misconception about him? A. It’s interesting because he started his career as a producer, that’s when we were working together. And a lot of his struggles were to get people to realize he was also an artist. During that time we were working together, he was working on his demo as an artist, and I was working on mine. We were working together. He produced mine, and I wouldn’t be where I am with my music without the start he gave me. He has a lot of opinions. He wants it to be perfect. He’s a very engaged producer. When he’s producing, he gets very into it. He shows himself — it’s not an act. What people are seeing from him is him. Q. I love Wake Up!, your collaboration with The Roots. Are you planning to do more records like this in the future? A. I love doing that album, it’s one of the favourite albums I’ve done. I’m sure I will do more things like that in the future. Q. “All of Me” has more than one billion views on YouTube — 1.4 billion, I think. Do you follow this, the count? Can you explain it? Were you ever worried this success would label you as a “love song” guy, even though your body of work covers a whole range of topics? A. I’m aware of it. I’m grateful that so many people love the song and that it meant so much to so many people. It’s not the only measure of impact and the only measure of quality of the

Kanye West played a key role in the launch of Legend’s career, producing his early demos




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Legend is also a keen philanthropist and spends a lot of time contributing to organizations focused on sustainability and America’s criminal justice system



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song, but it’s pretty nice that so many people love the song and want to listen to it over and over. I get frustrated sometimes if I only get depicted as the “love song” guy because, obviously, my repertoire has more diversity than that, but I understand that a lot of people love my love songs. I’m grateful for that.

Q. If you had to choose one highlight in your career, what would it be and why? A. I think that moment winning the Oscar was amazing. The moment I won Best New Artist at the beginning of my career was amazing. The success of “All of Me” has been a defining moment, too.

Q. You’ve won an Emmy, Grammys, an Oscar and a Tony. What do these trophies mean to you, if anything? Does one mean more than the other? A. They do mean something. The Grammys were important, especially at the beginning of my career, when I won Best New Artist. It helped establish my career. I’ll never forget those. I think the Oscar was really huge because it was an opportunity to write and perform for the film Selma. The chance I got to speak and sing in front of the whole world when I won the award — it was pretty amazing.

Q. During our shoot, you were singing all the time between takes. Is singing your hobby, as well as your job? Do you sing a lot around the house? Do you have a specific routine to keep your voice in shape? A. Oh yeah. I sing all the time at home. I sing to my kids; it’s just part of my life. I do vocal exercises and warm up. When I’m on tour, I don’t drink. I drink lots of water, try to get a lot of rest. I don’t speak much during the day when I’m on tour.

Q. You’ve been in the entertainment industry for close to two decades. In your opinion, how do you think the industry has changed? Similarly, how do you think you’ve changed in those two decades? A. Streaming has changed things a lot. When I started out, people were still buying CDs. We were briefly worried about piracy, Napster and all that. That kind of disappeared, and legitimate streaming took over. It’s changed everything. People used to buy albums all the time, and now most people are listening through streaming services. They’re not buying a particular album, but just buying a subscription to a service. I think that’s changed the business to a degree, and I think the business has taken a while to catch up, but now we’re trying to really adjust to that. It makes us kinda rethink the model of how we release music. Do we focus on albums anymore, or do we release singles? More people are releasing EPs with just a few tracks, rather than a full album. A lot of people are finding their way in this new era. Personally, I haven’t changed that much. We’ve changed our marketing. But as a writer, as a creator, I don’t think I’ve changed.

Q. You’re a singer who works with a lot of rappers. You’re in a special position as someone surrounded by hip hop, but at the same time, you’re not a rapper. I’ve noticed the new generation doesn’t really distinguish between rappers and singers; they listen to both indistinctly. But I’m curious to know, as a musician, which part of rap do you relate to the most? Is it the rhythm, the flow, the lyrics? A. Nowadays, every rapper is singing, that’s why there’s the confusion. [Laughs.] When I was younger and growing up and going to clubs, my favourite rappers were people like Jay-Z and Biggie. I still like people who rap. I know every rapper is singing now, but I still enjoy the art of just rapping. I don’t mind that rappers sing, but I get a little bit bothered by hearing so much Auto-Tune on the radio now. It kinda bothers me a little bit. I don’t enjoy the sound of AutoTune as much as some others do. I like to just hear people rap like Jay-Z or Pusha T. Q. Can you tell us about your future musical plans? When can we expect your new album to be out? A. We don’t have a date or anything. I’m going to start working a lot in the next couple of months on new music,

and we’ll probably put something out by the end of the year. I wrote a few songs last year before I started the Christmas album, but then I had to shut it down for a few weeks. I have a few songs, but I’m going to work on some more, now that I have some time. Q. You’re the new voice of Google for its Google Assistant app. Can you explain how this came about? A. We’ve had quite a good relationship with Google. We’ve done a lot with them, with their phones, with Google Assistant. They asked me to be one of their voices, and I thought it would be fun. It was interesting. You have to do a lot of recording to be the voice of Google Assistant. It was quite a lot of fun. Q. So would you use Google Assistant yourself ? That could get very weird. A. No. It would be a little too weird. Q. Your company, Get Lifted, also produces movies. How involved are you in this? Do you approve every movie personally? A. Absolutely. At least, I read the script or the pitch and decide if I want to get involved. We don’t do anything significant without my approval. Anything we do, I want to make sure I’m into it. Personal Life Q. If you could go back in the past and change something in your life, what would it be? A. I don’t know that I would change much. Obviously, we make mistakes along the way, but everything I’ve done has led me to where I am. And I’m really happy with where I am now. Q. You and Chrissy have such a great, candid relationship with each other. What would you say are the secrets to having such a wonderful marriage like yours? A. I think, first of all, you have to be with someone you really love and you really have great chemistry with. Chris and I have great chemistry; we enjoy each other’s company. We enjoy being at home together and watching TV June/July 2019




In 2013, Legend married his wife Chrissy Teigen in Lake Como, Italy

on the couch. It starts with enjoying the company of the person you’re with and really respecting and loving that person. Then it’s important to communicate and support each other’s career and aspirations. I think we do all of that.

decide what they believe in and what they care about the most. I think the best artists are the ones who are honest with their fans, authentic with their fans. If you’re passionate about something, it’s great for you to share that with them.

Q. How do you think having two children has changed you? A. Another aspect of being a good partner is making sure you work together when it comes to child rearing. We really do work as a team together; we support each other, we help each other. It’s never just her doing it, or just me doing it. It’s both of us helping each other.

Q. You’re also a strong philanthropist. To what would you attribute your charitable and philanthropic nature? A. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve always felt that if you have a lot of success in life and a lot of influence, and you have the ability to help other people, you should.

Q. Obviously, you also change diapers. A. Yes, indeed. Q. In your new commercial with Pampers, there’s an underlying message of men also doing the dirty work, so to speak, in a marriage. I wanted to ask you, what else do you think men can do to help balance the gender scales in the world? A. One, we have to be as helpful as possible when it comes to kids. On a larger level, I think society has to do everything possible to help women when they want to get back to work. That means co-parenting. And on a broader level, making it easier with childcare when women want to get back to the workplace.

Today, Legend is a father of two and a firm believer in co-parenting

With an appreciation for good tailoring, Legend has also won an award naming him “Best Dressed”

Q. Recently, you won a Best Dressed award from a fashion magazine. Can you describe your style? A. My style is focused on a lot of good tailoring — well–made clothes. But because of who I am, I always want a little bit of a flair to everything I do. I love classics. I’d say I like mixing the flashy and the classics in the right kind of combination. Activism Q. You’ve never been afraid to make your opinions known. What advice would you give to others to also be unafraid of being themselves? A. I think everybody is not outspoken. It’s up to each artist, each person, to



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Q. What do you think is the most pressing issue the world needs to pay attention to right now? A. On a global level, I think climate change is probably the most important thing facing the world right now. There’s a lot individuals can do, but a lot of it, too, depends on governments and larger organizations doing the right things. What we need to do is put as much pressure as we can on them and put incentives in place for them to do the right thing. That’s probably the most pressing issue in the world. I think other issues such as poverty and income inequality are important. In America, a major issue I care about is the criminal justice system, and I spend a lot of time focusing on that, too. Q. Is that something you will work on more in 2019? A. Absolutely. We have an organization called Free America, and we will do a lot around that issue. Q. Sustainable development is important to you, and you’ve even worked with the Earth Institute on this. Can you explain what the stakes are? Does that also link up to your work to end poverty? A. Yes, I worked with the Earth Institute. I’ve helped to fundraise for other organizations that promote sustainable development. Honestly, that’s one of the biggest issues facing the world right now. There are a lot of organizations doing a lot around that. It’s important our governments are involved. It requires big changes,

systemic changes and responses to what’s really a global crisis.

Q. You’ve also said, “All men should be feminists. If men care about women’s rights, the world will be a better place.” There seem to be some resistance to this idea from a segment of the male population in America right now. A. Yes, I think there’s backlash. I don’t really understand it. I don’t understand what men think they have to lose by women doing well. Women are half of the population, and we should maximize everyone’s chances. Women are half of our brain power, half of everything. Why shouldn’t we make the most of all of our people, rather than just half of them? It feels silly to me that you would be against women having equal rights. It doesn’t mean men and women are exactly the same. It doesn’t mean there aren’t differences between men and women, but it means everyone should have the opportunity to live up to their fullest potential. There shouldn’t be any barriers when it comes to hiring, when it comes to education. Societies are better off when women are doing well. Every man has women in his life, whether it’s a wife, a mother, a sister or a daughter. How would you not want them to do well? Of course. And would you not want them to be in a world where they’re judged on the content of their characters and what their skill levels are and given opportunities just like your son would get? Q. It took a lot to be the only artist to appear in the Surviving R. Kelly




Q. Education is also another topic important for you, as you’ve donated a lot of money to your high school. Do you think it’s the key to solving some of America’s current problems? A. Oh, absolutely. I think our schools are far behind where they need to be. Overall, we’ve de-emphasized public education. We need to do a lot better. There are a lot of countries doing a lot better at public education than we are. It’s a major flaw in the American system that we don’t educate our kids better in terms of public education.

documentary. What made you decide to step out and let your voice be heard? A. I understand that everybody doesn’t want to be in every documentary, and some of these subjects are difficult to talk about, but for me, it was simple. My friend was directing it — someone I worked with quite a bit with on criminal justice reform and other issues. I was happy to do it as a favour to her. Also, a group of friends of mine have been working with the victims of rape in Chicago, including survivors of R. Kelly. They’ve been working in the Mute R. Kelly movement, where they protested outside of his concerts. I’ve seen their work, and I thought it was important to highlight the work they had been doing and highlight the voices of these young girls who had been abused. Q. Did you face some backlash? A. Yeah, I’ve seen some backlash. I’ve seen that some people on Twitter were defending R. Kelly, etc., etc. They were saying, “Why don’t you go after this and that other person?” trying to deflect, basically, instead of focusing on the issue that this man has been abusing girls for decades now and has gotten away with it. Q. You just released “Preach,” which is a politically themed song dealing with the current situation in America. The video is quite moving. Do you see yourself infusing your music with your activism and your political opinions in the near future? A. This has been a part of my work for most of my career. I’ve always believed that part of being an artist was using my platform to speak the truth about social and political issues. Nina Simone said it’s an artist’s duty to reflect the times, and Paul Robeson said we were gatekeepers of truth. I see myself as trying to carry on the tradition of artists like them and others. @johnlegend

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J. C. Poirier, Vancouver Magazine’s 2019 Chef of the Year, shares his love for food and the art of cooking with flair and history

CELEBRATING AUTHENTIC QUÉBÉCOIS CUISINE After 20 years in the restaurant business, chef J. C. Poirier credits being true to himself and his Québécois roots as the keys to his outsized success WRITTEN BY CECE M. SCOTT


or Jean-Christophe ( J.C.) Poirier, chef and owner of Vancouver’s St. Lawrence restaurant, food is defined by its ability and power to bring diverse segments of people together — a connection that is celebrated the world over. “Food culture is the No. 1 conversation in people’s lives,” says Poirier. “I cook to give pleasure, to



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initiate a closeness with people. It is only with true love that I can create a masterpiece.” Poirier, who spent his childhood in Saint-Jérôme, Que., began cooking at 11 years old, first for himself as an after-school snack, then for his family and friends. In fact, it was Poirier’s friends who encouraged him to make cooking his career. After attending

Montreal’s Riverside Park Cooking School, at the age of 19, Poirier began his first professional cooking job at Les Remparts in Old Montreal. “I chose to make it a classic French restaurant because I knew I needed to control the basis of cooking before I created or broke the rules,” Poirier says. After two years, Poirier, under the mentorship of Normand Laprise,


Exquisite entrée drizzled with authentic Québécois sauce

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To be successful, you need a real hunger for excellence; it is something that you put your heart into every day



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worked at Toqué! restaurant in Montreal, which he says is one of the best restaurants in Canada. Following a two-year stint learning about discipline and what it took to cook at an elite level, Poirier, then 25, decided to go to Vancouver, a feat in itself, as he didn’t speak a word of English. “I needed to get out of Montreal and try something new. I think travelling is an important part of a cook’s apprenticeship. It is important to experience different ingredients and philosophies — an opportunity to think out of the box. I planned to stay for a year, but 15 years later, I’m still here,” Poirier says with a laugh. “I also believe that it is important to go back home, bringing back with you the things that you have learned along the way. My way of going back home was to open the St. Lawrence.” After further travels through South America and Europe, Poirier and his


Mounds of French freshness

partner opened three restaurants: A window into Ask for Luigi, Pizzeria Farina and the creations that make St. Lawrence St. Lawrence. so authentically And while there is always flavourful some rich discussion around the difference between a chef and a cook, there is no doubt in Poirier’s mind which one he is. “I consider myself a cook first,” he says. “A chef, to me, is more of a position. My opinion is rooted in tradition and history, and that is why I choose classical cooking.” St. Lawrence, located in Vancouver’s Railtown (just east of the renowned Gastown neighbourhood), is a 42-seat establishment, with an ambiance that is completely immersed in the French experience. The menus and a complete French offerings wine list are all in French, with French music in the background heightening the mood. “It is like a French country home, very cozy,” Poirier says. “Clients feel like they have travelled somewhere else, that they are not in Vancouver. I think that is why people love it here so much.” Vancouver, known for its laidback lifestyle, is also known for its healthy grassroots fare, including sushi and an abundance of vegetables and juice cleansings. Poirier identified a niche within this market to promote Québécois cuisine to Vancouverites, a cuisine not readily available in this newage city. “It feels like a full circle; classic French food had become old, and people forgot about it, but it is coming back now. It is like the fashion industry — everything old is new again. French cuisine is new again,” Poirier says. “The St. Lawrence experience is festive. You come here to celebrate — it is like a party. It is not the kind of food you are going to eat every day.” What makes Poirier’s creativity in the kitchen singular among St. Lawrence diners describe the experience as cooks is his approach, both his being transported to another time, another place authenticity and his lack of needing to impress. “I go in different directions than other cooks. I study the work of great chefs with respect; I revisit history

and then I bring back those great dishes that have a history to them, and I make them my own,” he says. Pragmatic in his creativity, Poirier’s strategy is paying off handsomely. Named Restaurant of the Year for the second year running at Vancouver Magazine’s 30th Annual Restaurant Awards, St. Lawrence also won gold for Best Gastown restaurant and Best French restaurant. Poirier was also awarded Chef of the Year. The restaurant is listed as No. 5 on the 2019 ranking of Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants and No. 4 on enRoute magazine’s 2018 list of the nation’s Best New Restaurants. There are, of course, challenges for Poirier, for being a hugely popular No. 1 restaurant, including time away from his family: wife, Dara, and his two daughters, Aila, 6, and Florence, 2. The St. Lawrence menu, which changes biannually, is definitive of the Québécois cuisine: vol-auvent aux champignons, venison pie (the most Québécois item on the menu), choux pastry for ParisBrest, foie gras mousse with a red wine sauce, rabbit in mustard sauce, tarte au sucre (sugar pie), lemon tart flambé with Ricard Pastis and Poirier’s original rice pudding, which he describes as light and fluffy. “It is very popular — something very different that you can’t find anywhere [else] in the city,” he says. While Poirier considers success a collection of small things done very well, it is his commitment to excellence and perseverance that positions the restaurant at the top of Vancouverites’ list. “But mostly, it is loving what I do,” Poirier says. “I don’t treat cooking like it is work. To me, it is a hobby. My spine and my soul are enveloped in being a cook.” You can learn the art of cooking by attending one of Poirier’s cooking sessions in Italy. Visit for upcoming information. @stlawrencerestaurant June/July 2019





The future was bright for Joseph and Melissa Magnotta. Friends and lovers, they savoured luxurious trips to Saint-Tropez, exquisite meals and, on the horizon, the excitement of a new custom home, designed by Joseph — a home they hoped to fill with cherished children. And then came the worry and anxiety of a frightening diagnosis, and the couple�s lives were forever shattered WRITTEN BY CECE M. SCOTT



June/July 2019


he story of Joseph and Melissa Magnotta is a definitive narrative of love and friendship. And while it encompasses a journey that is rife with intense pain, fear, shock and denial, one that resulted in the much-too-early death of Joseph at the inconceivable age of 36, it is ultimately a story full of magnetic love, dedication and commitment. Joseph met his wife and soulmate, Melissa, when she was in Grade 10 and he was in Grade 13. “We kept in contact over the years, but it was not until my first semester at York University, where I was studying sociology and communications, that we began to date,” says Melissa. The couple, who dated for eight years, bought their first house together in August 2010, got engaged in June 2011 and were married in September 2012. “‘In sickness and in health, until death do us part.’ Little did we know at the time how soon those vows would become our reality,” Melissa says. For the first few years of their marriage, this successful young couple travelled extensively. Despite their shared Italian heritage, they developed a huge and intimate affinity for the South of France, travelling to the area four or five times in the six years they were married. “We spent many leisurely days and evenings around Saint-Tropez’s famous beach clubs, eating exquisite meals and sipping on Provence’s rosé wine. And even though Joseph was initially wary about flying, we ended up travelling there many times. We ultimately fell in love with the area, the luscious landscape, the laid-back culture,” Melissa says. “We had such good times together; we were on the same page with regards to so many things in life.” In fact, their 2017 trip to Saint-Tropez was the last one the couple would take together, before Joseph’s illness aggressively presented again. The descriptives this 33-year-old widow, vulnerable but strong, uses to describe her husband embrace a rich spectrum of positivity. She paints Joseph in a kaleidoscope of colours: he was authentic; a nonconformist; comfortable in his own skin. Brilliant, humble,


A widow at 33, Melissa Magnotta hopes to be reunited one day with Joseph, in an extraordinary place far beyond her wildest imagination

charismatic, with nothing to prove, with epithelioid hemangioendothelioma Joseph had an extensive vocabulary and (EHE), a rare vascular sarcoma cancer a writer’s way with words. He loved that affects one in a million. “Despite telling stories and pranking his family the complex and worrisome diagnosis, and friends — all with a loving, highwe had hope for Joseph to live a long spirited heart. “Joseph loved watching life,” Melissa says. “We were informed Jeopardy,” Melissa says, a warm smile that some EHE patients can live evident in her voice. “One day, before ‘decades and decades’ with this type my parents came over, Joseph watched of cancer, due to its slow-growing and an episode of the show and memorized indolent tendencies.” all of the answers. When my parents Joseph and Melissa, very much a arrived, the same episode was playing private couple, kept their shock, denial in the background. Joseph called out all and fear to themselves, choosing to the correct answers; my parents couldn’t share it with only the closest of family believe it. They knew he members and friends. was smart, but they didn’t “Joseph and I never realize I was married to a wanted to talk about Jeopardy champion. They the worst-case scenario,” had no idea that he had Melissa says. “We watched and memorized didn’t like to share our all of the correct answers fear with each other. before they’d arrived. He I had to be the voice kept the joke going for of reason and strength months.” for him.” All of these things, By March 2017, resonant in their Joseph’s disease was simplicity, made Joseph stable and no treatment easy to love. Wise beyond was required. His his years — there were condition was managed many who described by periodic CT scans him as an “old soul” — and a “watch-and-wait” Joseph, only in his midapproach, a common Joseph and Melissa's trip to Saint-Tropez, in the South of France 30s, was sought out often protocol for EHE for advice, which he patients. And while dispensed with empathy, compassion, couple, but Joseph, ever a positive spirit, 2017 came with its challenges, Joseph, kindness and an authenticity that made kept Melissa’s head above water, putting who nicknamed himself “Joe 2.0,” felt people feel good about themselves. His a positive spin on what they were going reinvigorated, like he had been granted belief in humankind was unshakeable; he through. “He kept telling me that we a new lease on life. “We looked at life had a strong underlying belief that each were going to be fine; that it was just completely differently; we evolved as a and every one of us is interconnected. not our time yet.” After another year of couple, enjoying the present moment “Joseph had a positive impact on even trying to conceive, the couple attended a without worrying too much about the the most random people,” Melissa fertility clinic in order to get some help future,” Melissa says. “We sold our first says. “That is his legacy — the positive conceiving. home, bought a lot in upper Forest Hill, impact he left on so many. He was also Suffering from what he thought was Ont., and set out to build our future knowledgeable about so many things, a sports hernia in his upper abdomen, home. Joseph, an architect at heart, including politics, history, geography, Joseph underwent an MRI in 2016. designed the house. He drew it both on current events, real estate and wine. You A follow-up CT scan showed a larger paper and on the computer. He made name it, he knew it. He had a brilliant issue. Joseph had a left pleural effusion, the architect’s job easy, with his keen eye mind and a way with words. Joseph was a left lower lobe lung entrapment and for detail and passion for the project.” rare in that he was both book smart and a 0.9-centimetre nodule on his right By the time 2018 rolled around, street smart.” lung. It was an alarming and frightening things seemed to be looking up. The In 2015, the couple, now married condition for someone so young. “Joseph couple felt there was a light at the end three years, were overjoyed that Melissa had no symptoms,” Melissa says. of the tunnel. Joseph (the middle son was pregnant, and the prospect of Over the next two months, after of Vaughan, Ont.’s Magnotta Winery’s adding a baby to their happiness had undergoing a battery of tests, scans founders, Rossana and the late Gabe) the couple soaring with joy. However, and biopsies, Dr. Penelope Bradbury, a was vice-president of sales at Magnotta after 12 weeks, Melissa miscarried. It medical oncologist at Princess Margaret and heavily involved in product was an extremely trying time for the Hospital in Toronto, diagnosed Joseph development. His disease had remained

He was not a part of the story. He was the story

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Joseph could have chosen anyone in the world, and he chose me. God brought us together, and our souls will always be fastened



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stable for a year and a half. However, in a routine scan that February, new, relatively small spots appeared in Joseph’s liver and peritoneal tissue. Even though it wasn’t uncommon for new spots to present with this type of cancer, Joseph’s doctor was surprised. In April, Joseph was admitted to hospital with unrelenting pain. The family was informed that the “slow-progressing” cancer was quickly becoming aggressive and hostile. Melissa, worried about putting undue stress on Joseph, informed her own doctor that she wanted to put her fertility treatments on hold. Although Joseph’s cancer had progressed, his doctors believed, that with the right treatment protocol, Joseph would be able to manage the progression and get back to his normal life. Pursuing any and all help, Melissa and Joseph travelled to New York to see one of the top sarcoma specialists at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. “We had high hopes. Joseph began showing a positive response to an oral drug taken twice daily. However, it was short lived. The disease took a final turn for the worst and unexpectedly claimed Joseph’s life on May 25, 2018, when he was only 36 years old,” Melissa says. On May 24, the night before he died, Joseph, a loquacious and eloquent man, told his wife, “I’m having a hard time speaking. Why can’t I find the words? I just want to feel better.” Melissa told Joseph there was nothing she wanted more than to see him well again, even if that meant trading places with him. “I told him that I loved him beyond measure,” she says, her sharp-edged sorrow raw and palpable. “It was the most terrifying moment of my life. I was crippled with fear and anxiety. I realized I couldn’t save him. He was in God’s hands. Joseph had fought so hard, he just couldn’t hang on anymore.” With the first anniversary of Joseph’s death on May 25, Melissa is doing her best to honour her husband’s legacy, his love of life, his positive energy and his plans for the future. Angry when he died, hurt and feeling disconnected, Melissa wondered what was going to carry her through the deepest, darkest alleys of her grief. In times of trouble, it had always been Joseph’s love — their love — that sustained her. After

reading spiritual books, books on grief, memoirs and listening to podcasts on grief, including Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations, Melissa turned back to God and her spiritual self. Evolving as a spiritual being was Melissa’s way back to connecting with Joseph. “Joseph could have chosen anyone in the world, and he chose me. God brought us together, and our souls will always be fastened,” she says. And while the huge plans and the spectacular trips are treasured memories, it is the ordinary moments in life that Melissa misses the most, including sharing meals at home and Joseph’s ever-constant laughter. “I miss his smell and seeing his number on my phone,” she says, turning to look fondly at one of the many photographs of Joseph placed throughout the house. “I miss hearing his footsteps just before he walked through the door. I miss the way he took off his shoes, positioning one of them slightly in front of the other; it was this little OCD thing he had. In fact, I still have a pair of Joseph’s shoes placed inside the front door, positioned just the way he would have put them. I miss the way Joseph looked at me. And I really miss hearing him call me ‘Boostie,’ a nickname he gave me years ago.” Currently, life for Melissa is filtered through a pale and dull lens. The colours have faded; they are not as vibrant without Joseph. “One day, I hope to see life in the beautiful and vibrant way I once saw it, when Joseph was here with me. He made life bright and beautiful,” she says. “Joseph taught me there are only a few constants in life. The things that are undeniable, limitless and indisputable. The one constant, the most powerful one for me, is love. Joseph taught me how to love in a capacity that I didn’t know was possible. And while I may not remember every conversation we had in the 15 years we shared together, I will always remember how Joseph made me feel,” Melissa says. “I don’t know anything for sure, but I do know that one day I will meet my husband again, in an extraordinary place far beyond my wildest imagination. Being Joseph’s wife was my biggest honour. He was not a part of the story, he was the story.”


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Fresh Thinking



June/July 2019



Founders of The Rebel Mama, Nikita Stanley and Aleks Jassem, are breaking down the stigma surrounding new moms, one page at a time WRITTEN BY JOSH WALKER


hen a book begins with a “common-sense disclaimer” promising that you’re about to receive a “shit-ton of advice about things related to pregnancy, childbirth, nutrition, and sleep habits, among other things,” and assures you that all information within the book is based upon genuine, real-life experience, you know you’re in for an experience. Released in 2018, The Rebel Mama’s Handbook For (Cool) Moms is a one-stop guide to early motherhood. Promising to be “the instruction manual you wish your kid(s) came with,” it was put together by an all-female team in Toronto and has already hit No. 1 on the Amazon bestseller list. As well as covering all of the topics listed above, it is split into other sections that explore siblings and finding time to get away, comes complete with a cocktail list and has been designed to empower women to look beyond rules imposed by society so they can be moms on their own terms. The idea itself was pioneered by Nikita Stanley and Aleks Jassem, two women who, after getting pregnant within weeks of each other, decided they wanted to break down the stigma that typically surrounds new moms. Before publishing their book, they decided to do this with a blog which, launched in 2014, quickly became a safe, welcoming space for those who held the same beliefs. “Very quickly, we realized that we had not been alone in our distaste for the status quo,” reads their blog. “This whole time, an entire generation was out there too – desperately searching for engaging content, meaningful community connections, and valuable online information sources.”

The Rebel Mama’s Handbook For (Cool) Moms covers everything from pregnancy to the first few years with children

Very quickly, we realized that, we had not been alone in our distaste for the status quo

According to 2018 statistics from Pew Research Center, more than a million millennials are becoming moms every year in the U.S. alone, with 1.2 million millennial women giving birth for the first time in 2016. With a new generation of moms comes inevitable change and a different way of thinking. The Rebel Mamas are at the forefront of that change. “There’s so much about the postpartum experience that people should warn you about, but don’t,” continues another page on the blog. “Here’s all the good, bad, and disgusting information that your mom/your friends should have told you but didn’t.” Their support doesn’t just stop with their blog and book, though. The pair have set up a closed, invite-only Facebook group called REBEL MAMAS. Positioned with a reminder that “there is more than one formula for a healthy family dynamic and more than one kind of woman who can be a good mom,” it’s a group that brings people together to create a community where women support other women in a way that’s raw and real. While there is an application process and fee to join the group, a portion is donated to relevant charities and organizations, and members receive perks such as giveaways, discount codes and meet-ups. At the time of writing, proceeds are going to The New Mom Project, a Toronto-based organization that provides basic baby necessities to families in need. With content being added to the Rebel Mamas regularly and with their book continuing to make an impact in Canada and beyond, it seems Stanley and Jassem aren’t just resonating with women around the world, but are also only getting started. June/July 2019






Q. How did you two meet, and what were some of the qualities you admired in each other? A. We met on a packed dance floor in Toronto sometime around 2007, and the party has just kept on going since. Over a decade (and three kids between us) later, we still haven’t forgotten how to have a good time. Q. Why do you think women struggle with feelings of guilt when it comes to leaving their kids, even if it’s for a short while? A. Women struggle with this because it’s something society arbitrarily imposes on us and us alone. But the good thing is, we all get to decide whether to adhere to it or not. We choose not. Women should never feel guilty for stepping away from their family to regain their sense of self. In fact, the best thing we can do for our families is give them a happy, fulfilled version of ourselves. Q. Where did the idea for the book come from? A. We wanted to show women that they can do motherhood on their own terms. There are so many rules society imposes on women in general and moms specifically, but we’re here to remind everyone that outdated rules can (and should) change.   54


June/July 2019

Nikita Stanley and Aleks Jassem started The Rebel Mama to redefine what it means to be a new mom

Q. What do you consider uncool? A. To us, there’s nothing more offputting than a mother being judgmental or unkind toward another mother. We’re here to make kindness and empathy cool. Q. What is your go-to snack for kids? A. Bananas. They even come with sustainable packaging. Q. “Who’s the Boss” is one of the chapters in your book. What do you do as parents to ensure you remain the boss in your household? A. We want our kids to understand that we are there to create boundaries for them to keep them safe.  That’s our job as parents. We set clear rules and expectations, and hold our kids to them. We do our best to choose our battles and give our kids autonomy where we can.  Q. What is the one thing you hope to teach your kids as they grow up? A. That whoever they are is enough. They should never feel like they need to pretend to be someone they’re not. We want our kids to celebrate their authenticity, and we challenge ourselves to be a good example of that.  Q. List some of the items you have

in your fridge now, compared to what you had in your fridge prior to having kids. A. We have very little food in the fridge now in comparison to pre-kids. We are the only women in houses full of men. Supplies get depleted fast. Q. What is on your playlist now? A. It’s a bit of a mixed bag, but it keeps us chill through the chaos: Drake (of course. Raptors are in the FINALS, BABY.) Solange Childish Gambino Nina Simone Rolling Stones Queen (Stanley's kids are obsessed) Prince Bob Marley Q. What makes you feel confident? A. We feel the best when we’re in great company, who we can just fully relax with and enjoy.  A great vintage outfit and a slight suntan never hurt anyone, either. The book is available at Chapters Indigo and Amazon, as well as select boutiques across Toronto. @therebelmama



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Designed by architects Peter van Assche and Mathijs Cremers of bureau SLA and ZakenMaker respectively, the Oosterwold Co-living Complex began when artist Frode Bolhuis decided to act on a dream of wanting to live and work alternatively


ituated in the rural area of Oosterwold, Almere, just outside Amsterdam, the project is centred around a 100-metre-long building and has successfully turned a onehectare potato field into a community of like-minded individuals. It comes complete with nine different homes, vegetable garden and idyllic forest surroundings. While the idea itself was one proposed by Bolhuis, the limited budget meant that involving other people 56


June/July 2019

who shared his vision and approach to living was a must. It would ultimately be cheaper to build several residences at the same time and, before long, the artist was able to bring together eight friends and get the project in motion. In terms of design, the exterior has been designed by van Assche and Cremers but the interior was left open to the tastes of the families who would be living there. The architects presented it to them as a shell in which residents could do with their allocated 160 square metres as they pleased, and so, if they

wanted to introduce an artist’s studio or large living room, they were free to do so. The position of the space has left ample room for a community garden and the facade has been designed to give its inhabitants huge freedom of choice. In order to ensure the building had the highest insulation within budget the architects employed techniques to get the most out of common building materials, such as filling the separating walls with cellulose after installation. It has also, to allow for the introduction of waterpipes, a sewage system and other




While the architects were responsible for the design of the building’s exterior, those living in these nine dwellings were free to structure the interiors around their individual tastes and needs

necessities, been lifted, and designed as if floating off the ground. The final product isn’t just an architectural feat but proves that, even with a tight budget and the tastes of nine different clients to contend with, a community can be created. Since its completion, the project has been named winner of the Frame Awards 2019 in the Co-Living Complex of the Year category and was rewarded with an honourable mention from the Architecture Prize Almere.

June/July 2019




Book the BB Glow and RECEIVE 20% off all Eminence products


City Life is determined to keep you informed when it comes to all things beauty, health and wellness in our city. Get a deeper look into some of Vaughan’s health experts. If you would like to be featured in the next beauty and wellness guide, contact us at

Gianna Ugolini, master facialist and co-owner of G.C. & Co. Salon & Med Spa



ianna of GC & Co. Salon & Med Spa is thrilled to be the first facialist in Vaughan, Ontario to bring you the hottest antiaging trend in South Korea and Europe. “The BB Glow.” This treatment will make your skin look smooth and radiant without wearing foundation. The majority of us have an uneven skin tone due to aging, hormones, UV rays and stress all of which impact the vibrancy of our skin. This Health Canada approved serum is Infused into the skin using Non-Invasive Microneedling Technology. It safely provides instant and gradual lightening for age spots, sun spots and discolouration caused by acne, providing light coverage to camouflage all your skin’s imperfections for up to 6 months. Loaded with antioxidants that fight damage caused by free radicals and safe for all skin types, but best of all it is FREE of kojic acid, arbutin, hydroquinone, mineral oils, magnesium aluminum silicate, talc, iron oxides and comedogenic substances (which can cause acne). Each treatment involves a deep cleanse, a lightening/ brightening peel, light extractions, microdermabrasion, Gianna’s signature contour massage, lymphatic drainage, infusion of brightening serum using microneedling followed by infusion of BB Glow serum using microneedling. Visit @gianna_gcandco for demo videos and more information.

G.C. & Co. Salon & Med Spa 6175 Hwy 7, Unit 7, Woodbridge, Ont. 416-527-1023 | @gianna_gcandco 58


June/July 2019


Melissa Piazza, owner of My Beautique Inc.



e’ve all heard that true beauty is more than skin deep. With over seven years in the cosmetic industry, Melissa Piazza started My Beautique Inc. to create a welcoming and safe space for women to feel pampered, nurtured and beautiful. Our services are offered by highly trained and certified professionals whose goal is to enhance your beauty from the inside out. Melissa answers some of her most commonly asked questions about her services. 1. What is an “organic tan”? My Beautique uses all-natural SunnaTan for spray-tanning, ensuring customers receive a health-conscious, eco-friendly tan. Our spray-tanning experience can be customized to your skin type, tone and preference, ensuring a natural, rich tan every time, leaving your skin feeling hydrated and looking luminous. 2. What kind of micro-needling do you provide? My Beautique only uses Certified Medical-Grade Equipment for this non-surgical facial treatment. Our trained professionals use The eDermaStamp® by Dermaroller®, as it is licensed by Health Canada. This method stimulates healthy cell regeneration in precision-targeted areas. It effectively reduces wrinkles, tightens and thickens the skin, and most impressively fills and smooths scars. 3. Will eyelash extensions damage my natural eyelashes? Our technique protects your natural lashes because the application is done lash by lash, using a special adhesive that is exclusively reserved for lash extensions. Eyelash extensions are available in individual synthetic strands at various lengths, thicknesses and curls, providing you with longer, thicker, luscious and natural-looking eyelashes.

My Beautique Inc. 185 Trowers Rd., Unit 3, Woodbridge, Ont. 416-399-6388 | @mybeautiqueinc

Angela Martino, founder of Neece Electrolysis



hen Angela Martino was 15, a hormone imbalance caused what she describes as “an excessive amount of hair on my face,” which led to embarrassment and low self-esteem. But Martino found a solution that helped her through it. “I started electrolysis treatments, which raised my self-confidence and put me on a journey to help others going through the same difficulty,” she says. Today, Martino, the founder of Neece Electrolysis, has become a certified laser technician and electrologist. Electrolysis is the only FDA-approved permanent hair removal system that has the ability to target all skin and hair types, delivering effective results for both men and women. 1. Is electrolysis permanent? Electrolysis is the only permanent method of hair removal recognized and approved by the FDA. 2. How many electrolysis treatments are required to obtain permanent hair removal? The number of sessions will vary from person to person. Call Angela for a personal consultation to learn more. 3. How do you decide between electrolysis and laser hair removal? Electrolysis can remove both light and dark hair. Laser hair removal treats dark hair. Angela will meet with you and advise you on what method is best.

Neece Electrolysis 9B-80 Carlauren Rd., Woodbridge, Ont. 905-856-8808 | @neecelectrolysis June/July 2019




Mary, Director of Dash Beauty Academy

Jessica Linardi, owner of Natural Lash



sing the highest-quality lashes, Jessica Linardi specializes in natural to dramatic lash designs while maintaining the health of your natural lash. Natural Lash offers classic, hybrid and volume eyelash extensions, lash lifting and tinting, mink eyelash strip applications, eyelash workshops and eyelash accessories and apparel. 1. What are eyelash extensions? Eyelash extensions are individual synthetic or mink lashes adhered one by one to your existing eyelashes. They are almost weightless, and they feel and look completely natural. Eyelash design choices range from a completely naturallooking enhancement to a sassier, sexy look or the ultimate glamorous look. 2. Will your natural lashes be damaged? The biggest myth is that lash extensions ruin your own lashes. If applied correctly and with the proper products they are safe and do not ruin the health of your natural lashes. 3. How long does it take to apply lash extensions? Applying a full set of lashes takes up to two hours, and they can be maintained year-round with touch-ups recommended every three to four weeks.

647-472-4253 | @natural_lash 60


June/July 2019

Andrew Chan, Osteopathic Manual Practitioner, Registered Holistic Nutrition, Co-Founder & CEO



ne of Woodbridge’s leading physiotherapy clinics in Vaughan with a unique therapeutic approach tailored for our individual clients. Our Paramedical Health Professionals think outside the box when it comes to your health. 1. What type of services do we provide? Osteopathy, physiotherapy, naturopathy, acupuncture, massage therapy, cupping and BioFlex Laser Therapy. We also offer PostureScreen analysis as a FREE service for all current clients and their children under the age of 18. 2. Why choose us? ISOMATIC Health is an accredited business with the Better Business Bureau and has a 5-star rating on Google. Our team takes the time to really listen to your concerns and discuss them to design a treatment plan with all the services we have to help you get better. Mention that you’ve seen this feature and you will receive 20% OFF our initial session.



t is said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so why not take matters into your own hands? Dash Beauty Academy, a division of Dash Beauty Bar, in Vaughan, Ont., offers Certificate Beauty Training in Makeup Artistry, Bridal Hair Design, Eyelash Extensions, Eyebrow Microblading, Expert Brow Shaping and Waxing. Dash is expanding its training division with more new and exciting courses coming soon! Industry professionals teach all courses at Dash Beauty Academy using only the finest products and tools in their training, including the Make Up For Ever line. As a private facility, Dash Beauty Academy offers training with a small teacher-student ratio that warrants individual attention, unlike the larger classes available in colleges. In addition, Dash Beauty Academy provides ongoing support to its students after graduation, with reference and employment assistance. “We’re always happy to hear [our] students are doing very well,” says Mary Centorame, owner and professional makeup artist. With five-star MENTION “CITY reviews from its students, LIFE AD” AND and success stories of people RECEIVE gaining their dream jobs, Dash Beauty Academy is where ANY COURSE you can learn how to build it beautiful.

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ICCO On May 23, the 2019 ICCO (Italian Chamber of Commerce of Ontario) Air Canada Business Excellence Awards were held at the Liberty Grand Entertainment Complex in Toronto. For the past 17 years, the most outstanding and innovative leaders in the business, scientific, academic and cultural communities have been highlighted. The impact and incredible achievements these individuals and businesses have effected, have resulted in significant changes on the economic landscape of Ontario.


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1. Patrick Pelliccione, Hon. Michael A. Tibollo, ambassador of Italy to Canada Claudio Taffuri, Tony Altomare 2. Agostino and Dominique Pierro, Jenny Coco, Anthony Rossi 3. Corrado Paina, ICCO’s executive director 4. MP Francesco Sorbara, Susana Petti 5. Patrick Pelliccione, Fausto Gaudio, Dr. Giovanna Marotta, Tony Altomare 6. Tony Altomare, Daniela Carcasole, Clara Angotti, Patrick Pelliccione 7. Tony Altomare, Francesco Policaro, Nello Altomare, Patrick Pelliccione 8. Joseph Gulizia, Janet Zuccarini, Elisa Citterio 9. Graham and Leila Anderson, Irina Koleva 10. Tony Altomare, Consiglio Di Nino, Sam Ciccolini, Chris Bratty, Toni Varone, Andrea Merluzzi, Patrick Pelliccione



June/July 2019









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1. Ciccolini, Guglietti and friends 2. Steven Andreetta and Friends 3. Vicky, Vanessa, Ida, Rocco, Eugenia

13TH ANNUAL VILLA CHARITIES GIRO Steeped in tradition, Villa Charities’s 13th Annual Giro Cycling Fundraiser tested cyclists’ endurance on three scenic routes through Vaughan, Kleinburg and King City, Ont. Riders at the May 26 event, were treated to a variety of Italian snacks and a hot lunch featuring Italian favourites. The Giro ride raises the necessary funds needed to enhance quality of life for seniors in their long-term care facilities.

June/July 2019






This year’s Pink Ribbon Event marked the seventh from The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation. Taking place in April of this year in the City of Vaughan, Ont., the event featured dinner, a dance and a private auction. The evening didn’t just build on the $92,600 already raised by the organization, but it also went directly toward breakthrough cancer research, compassionate patient care and education.




1. A few of the ladies who are breast cancer survivors except for Patrizia 2. Franco (co-president) and Patrizia Bentenuto (president & cancer patient) of the Pink Ribbon Event Fundraiser (PRE) 3. Patrizia (of PRE) with Ildina Galati-Ferrante, president of the Fight the Fight, Find the Cure – Adrenal Cancer and their committee, Fundraisers supporting Fundraisers 4. From left: Joe Palleschi, Patricia Renzone, Lisa Agostino, Karen D’Antimo, Patrizia Bentenuto, Franco Bentenuto, Mary Cinquemani, Carmela Corrado, Grace Sammarco and Luciano Bentenuto


1 3




At the beginning of May, Lioness Women’s Club hosted the VIP Posh Purple Party. The night featured live music, food and a packed program of speakers who included the likes of Ann Kaplan, CEO and president of iFinance Canada Inc. All proceeds from the event were donated to Canadian Women’s Foundation, an organization dedicated to empowering women suffering from violence and poverty to move to a life filled with confidence and leadership.

1. Models, Viktoriia Sorokopud, Carina Podcoritov, Jane Katkova-Brown, Olga Von Dehn, Ekaterina Orlova 2. Lilia Ankundinova, Oksana Prihodko, Alona Davelman, Gala Mirey, Elena Roudakova, models 3. Joyce Ann Farris, Tanya Chernova, Paula Giovannozzi 4. Ann Kaplan Mulholland



June/July 2019




RIDE FOR HEALTH On June 2, the Mackenzie Health Foundation hosted its 5th Ride for Health. Taking place annually, the event had participants ride through the York Region and raised a record-breaking $350,000, bringing the total to $1 million since the event’s beginnings in 2015. The funds raised will be used to better equip the future Mackenzie Vaughan Hospital, as well as enhancing care at Mackenzie Richmond Hill Hospital. “The enthusiasm and generosity of our community helps us bring the best possible care close to home for all the families of today and tomorrow, when they need us most,” said Ingrid Perry, president and CEO 3 of Mackenzie Health Foundation. 3

1. From right to left: Italo Lunardo, Domenic Gurreri - Ride for Health Co-Chair, Robert Fallone along with riding participants. 2. Ride for Health Committee – Moris Pilla, Robert Zanetti, Kaitlyn Beloff, Mark Roccatani, Romina Monaco, Diane Gentili, Dr. Robert Madronich, Andrew Iacobelli, Michael Iacovelli, Domenic Gurreri, Carlo DeGasperis, Ingrid Perry, Frank Ciccolini, Steve Gobatto, John Lettieri 3. Ride for Health Co-Chairs Domenic Gurreri and Mark Roccatani with top female fundraiser Lee Zanetti



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The fashion, fitness and lifestyle products that deserve your attention this summer, straight from our editor to you WRITTEN BY JOSH WALKER



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trainers, which which feature feature haptic haptic print print trainers, for for durability durability and and stability, stability, and and flflywire ywire technology for for aa better better fifit. t. technology 5. Nike Nike Men’s Men’s Metcon Metcon 4 4 Training Training 5. Shoes Shoes -- Gear Gear up up with with the the Metcon Metcon 4 4

say to to someone, someone, say say it it with with the the Love Love say Script Script balloon, balloon, fifinished nished in in aa stunning stunning rose gold. gold. rose 4. Fitbit Fitbit Versa Versa Lite Lite Edition Edition -- The The 4. latest latest addition addition to to the the Fitbit Fitbit Versa Versa family family features sleep, sleep, activity activity and and heart heart rate rate features tracking tracking as as well well as as aa four-day four-day battery battery life and and an an easy easy one-button one-button design. design. life 3. Northstar Northstar Balloons Balloons Love Love Script Script 3. Balloon Balloon -- If If you’ve you’ve got got something something to to

1. 1. Halston Halston Pre-Fall Pre-Fall 2019 2019 -- Lose Lose yourself in in pieces pieces inspired inspired by by neutral neutral yourself palettes, weightless weightless volume volume and and the the palettes, feeling feeling of of aa warm warm breeze breeze against against your your skin. skin. 2. 2. FACUNDO FACUNDO Rum Rum Collection Collection -- A A collection of of premium premium rums rums sourced sourced collection from from the the Bacardi Bacardi family’s family’s private private reserves, perfect perfect for for the the refi refined ned palate. palate. reserves,


June/July 2019





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7. Zara Contrasting Block Colour Polo - Confident colour blocks and front button details combine in this polo shirt from Zara’s new collection. 8. Love Stories Swimclub x H&M - H&M has collaborated with Dutch brand Love Stories on a swimwear collection brimming with candy-coated colours and romantic prints. 9. Indigo Super Soft Scarf - Complete your outfit with a scarf designed with a luxurious soft weave to guarantee a feeling much like being wrapped in your favourite blanket. 10. H&M Sleep Mask - With faux fur additions and a floral print design, falling asleep never looked so good. 11. Zara Metallic Wide Heeled Platform Sandals - Step into summer with these gold-coloured platform sandals, complete with a circular buckle at the ankle. 12. Ciao Bella Pizza Ovens - Bring the flavour of Italy a little closer to home with the Ciao Bella Pizza Oven, perfect for impressing dinner party guests. 13. Indigo Paper Refillable Zip Journal - Both practical and personal, this refillable zip journal is ideal for keeping your notes safe and secure. 14. The iRobot Roomba i7+ - Take cleaning to a whole new level of convenience with a robot vacuum that automatically empties its bin between uses.


SUMMER IS IN FULL SWING At Steeles Paint, we admit it, we are obsessed with colour matching. Come see what paint colours have sprung!

For all your paint and decorating needs, visit our 20,000 square foot superstore. Consultations available in-store or in-home. Call for details. 68

CITY LIFE MAGAZINE June/July 2019Ave. 4190 Steeles

W., Woodbridge, Ont. | 905-850-4040 |

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City Life Magazine - June/July 2019