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Editor/Publisher KAMRAN ZAIDI Associate Editor PRIYA KUMAR Art Layout Coordinator DANYL GENECIRAN Fashion Assistant LIZ GUBER Travel Contributor ROBIN ESROCK Correspondent/In-house Photographer SIJAL REHMANE Social Media Manager ERUM ZEHRA Health & Wellness Contributor ROXANNA KASSAM KARA Features Contributor SUMMUN JAFRI Pop Culture Contributor PRIYANKA RAJ, PARVEEN SINGH Marketing Assistant BONNIE MENDEZ PIZON Subscription Inquiries: Please to go http://shemagazine.ca/subscribe To Contact SHE Canada: Write to SHE Canada, 1999 Avenue Rd, Toronto ON, M5M 4A5 Or firstname.lastname@example.org, Facebook: SHECanada
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IN EVERY ISSUE: STYLE SCOOP 10 HE 66 HE Said, SHE Said Valentine’s Day gift Ideas for HIM SHE CARES 72 IDRF Plan Canada SHE DEBATES 76 The Blood Garment Paradox HEALTH/WELLNESS 80 Are you Supermarket Savvy? ON THE ROAD 84 Slowboat down the Mekong BEAUTY 88 Tria: Rejuvenating Laser review Vasanti Cosmetics: Meeting the Skincare Needs of South Asian Women Everywhere DESI GIRL PROBLEMS 93 QUOTE/UNQUOTE 102 Famous quotes on Love FEATURES FASHION CENTRAL 18 Soigne K: the Upper East Side’s first taste of Indian fashion Paria Shirvani: Fashion’s Next Generation Pavlyn Boutique is Canada’s online fashion fix Amrapali x Manish Arora Sentaler Coats keep us warm and stylish COVER STORY 28 Noureen DeWulf: Comedy’s New “It” GIrl GAME CHANGERS 44 Business: Indra Nooyi Sport: Sania Mirza Politics: Tulsi Gabbard Photography: Prabuddha Dasgupta Disney: Princess Jasmine Music: MIA Modeling: Yasmeen Ghauri Film: Madhuri Dixit Fashion: Narendra Kumar SOUTH ASIA 34 Pantene Bridal Couture Week 2012 Miss Supermodel THE ARTS 60 Spoke Word, Poet Sheniz Janmohammed Owais Lightwala and making a difference through theatre arts at home and abroad Kalamkaar: Furniture as Art Book Review: Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil RESTAURANT REVIEW 76 Blowfish Restaurant and Sake Bar AROUND TOWN 70 Margherita Missoni meet and greet at Holt Renfrew for OrphanAid Africa SHE CANADA 5
hen we decided to put the wheels in motion for SHE Canada’s launch, there was much research to be done on you, our reader. The following questions continuously danced above our heads in the months leading up to our inaugural issue: Who are you? What do you do for a living? How old are you? And most importantly, how do you identify with your roots? We aimed to put out a magazine that identifies the items, people and lifestyle choices that you most relate to and have an interest in reading about. For this, our fifth issue, we have settled on the South Asian Game Changers of the world. What do we mean by the term Game Changer? They are the individuals that have changed what it is to be South Asian in their particular fields.
EDITOR S.M. Kamran Zaidi
Politics have played a major role in international debate this past year with the US election. Incidentally, the state of Hawaii also elected the first Hindu to Congress in the history of the United States—although not South Asian in origin, Tulsi Gabbard will bring with her the values and customs common among those from the subcontinent. Keep an eye out for tennis champion Sania Mirza who is not only India’s first woman to win a Grand Slam at Wimbledon, but also broke down social barriers by marrying a Pakistani cricketer of equal fame. Finally, we take a journey back to a simpler time—specifically a time when Disney movies reigned supreme. Chances are, if you’re a South Asian woman in your twenties there was no Disney Princess you identified with more than Jasmine. Did you know that not only was she the first identifiable Muslim Disney Princess, but also the first of non-European ethnicity? Her introduction in 1992 added some much needed diversity to The Magic Kingdom’s royal court, paving the way for other exotic heroines including Pocahontas, Mulan and Tiana. Finally, I cannot conclude this note without mentioning our trail-blazing cover girl, Noureen DeWulf. Having launched her career almost a decade ago, with her first project going on to win an Academy Award, DeWulf has created a niche for herself in Hollywood starring opposite some of the biggest names in the industry. Currently, you can find her on CTV’s Anger Management, (a.k.a. Charlie Sheen’s post-Two and a Half Men comeback) playing Lacey, a bombshell LA girl suffering from a violent case of road rage. Needless to say, the budding comedienne is the series’ scene-stealer. After going through this issue, I hope you realize that as South Asians we have what it takes to make it in any field. Although it goes without saying that we have already conquered the worlds of science, mathematics and technology, arts and sports are still our oyster. If you take anything from this issue, I hope it is the inspiration to pursue whatever it is you’re most passionate about in life.
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WHAT GOES ON IN THE SHE OFFICE Ever wonder what it’s like to work at the fastpaced, creative office of a fashion/lifestyle magazine? From free swag to tight deadlines to thrilling photo shoots, visit our website http:// shemagazine.ca for a peek into SHE headquarters and behind-the-scenes of our fashion shoots. It’s just like The Devil Wears Prada, except everyone’s much nicer!
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“What are the three things you absolutely cannot live without?”
Assosiate Editor Uggs, milk chocolate and my pets, Whistler and Kela.
Features Contributor My Smartphone, reruns of The Office and black eyeliner.
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Fashion Assistant I could not imagine a world without funny cat videos on the internet, black tea with milk and vintage clothing.
Pop Culture Contributor My music (whether on a cell phone/mp3 player), buffets, my glasses.
Travel Contributor My alarm clock, without it, I’d sleep all morning, and I never, ever trust a hotel wake-up call. My Macbook, on which I write, edit and watch videos, listen to music, and keep in touch with the world. My attitude: no matter what’s going on, I know everything is going to be fine, because it is always is.
Layout Coordinator Phone, wallet and car keys. I feel naked without them.
Editors’ Notes: December/January 2012 Issue High Tea During the British Raj: Shalwar Kameez with gold and turquoise beading on model Reena by Alia K. A Winter’s Tale: Coats by Sentaler, for more information see page 26.
Most of the time when I look through a magazine I flip through the pages and just look for the clothing pieces and sometimes a story or two. SHE Magazine has sparked my curiosity to learn about different cultures, and for the first time, I actually wanted to read all the articles. Erin I found the piece “Maintaining a Healthy South Asian Diet” (November 2012) puzzling. The author suggests veggies in dessert (avocado in pudding, zucchini in cake) yet does not provide detailed recipes to achieve this healthy balance. And let’s face it, dessert is meant to be an indulgence, eating kale in my chocolate would likely ruin the dish. Everything in moderation, right? Nausheen
Your feature on MAWI was an accessory lover’s dream come true. The necklaces are so beautiful and innovative, and your Q & A was very interesting. I’ll definitely be saving up to buy a MAWI piece. Anum The Diwali fashion page was stunning! No other magazine offers such a comprehensive dose of South Asian fashion. I’m also pleased that designers such as Chanel and Marchesa are taking inspiration from our rich culture. Priyanka I enjoyed “In Search of Great Chai” (November 2012) and learning about Toronto’s Desi food history. I do wish that you wrote not just about one beverage, but about the food at Indian Rice Factory as well. Amit
As a Jain, I’m always disappointed when I see the glorification of leather and fur in fashion, both of which were featured in your issue. Animals suffer for our frivolity, and I hope to see more animal/eco-friendly options featured in future issues. Anonymous Your monthly beauty picks didn’t feature a single item under $20! As a frugal-minded girl, I’d appreciate some expert input on the drugstore products that work as well as the high-end ones. Anonymous You have no idea how excited I was to see my favorite singer on your cover! I loved reading about Nadia Ali’s story, its nice to know that she’s such a cool, down-to-earth girl. Anonymous We’d love to hear from you! Please send us your questions, comments and criticisms to firstname.lastname@example.org SHE CANADA 9
Whether you’re celebrating Valentine’s or Gal-entine’s Day, these prêt-à-porter looks will turn heads wherever you go. In a good way, of course!
Lanvin Embellished Clutch $2350
Red Valentino Ruffle Dress $178 Mason Leather Sheath Dress $782
Valentino Strapless Wool Blend Twill Jumpsuit $670
Alexander McQueen Lace-Up Snake Sandals $2075
Rag & Bone Tuxedo Jacket $535
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Alexander McQueen Cherry Trompe L’oeil Panel Mini Dress $1700
Lanvin Draped Maxi Skirt $4260
Lover Serpent Dress $1050
Valentino Patent Leather Bow Clutch $995
Lanvin Knotted Dress $801
Charlotte Olympia Love Me Heart Appliqué Suede Pumps $1450
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Spring/Summer is synonymous with nautical stripes, colour blocking and fresh floral prints. Optimism is usually the subliminal message as the trees and flowers burst into bloom after the long and gloomy winter. According to the SS13 runways, this year is breaking the mold. The never-ending chill is carrying into the subsequent seasons as we see black and white making a return for the mild-weathered months. Here is the breakdown of the Spring/Summer 2013 runways from New York, London, Paris and Milan into the colourful and not-socolourful trends this season!
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DRIES VAN NOTEN
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ADIDAS by Stella McCartney Leggings $140
February might mark the end of the winter season, but the ski slopes are bustling well into March, especially high in the mountains of Whistler Blackcomb! You may feel the need to bundle up, but thereâ€™s no need to sacrifice looking great while trying to keep warm. Check out these picks that strike the fine balance between practicality and style.
ADIDAS by Stella McCartney Ski Jacket $500
Calvin Klein Collection Jacket $1695
ROXY Goggles $69.95
James Perse Cashmere Cardigan $201 Lucas Hugh Performance T Shirt $195
Karl Donoghue Ear Muffs $160
Mulberry Tiger Intarsia Angoria Blend Beanie $250
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ROXY Ally BTX Pixel Snowboard $459
Acne Shorts $230
Bird by Juicy Couture Kaftan Dress $57
Euginea Kim Straw Hat $165
This month universities and colleges across Canada celebrate Reading Week— we don’t know about you, but reading was not what we celebrated at our schools. Whether heading to the beaches of Mexico or to Ultra Music Festival in Miami to catch all the latest DJs, one can never be too prepared which is why we’ve put together this killer collection of pieces screaming for some fun-in-the-sun.
Missoni Bandeau Bikini $305
Thierry Lasry Sunglasses $400
ROXY Tunic $44 Current Elliott Shorts $159
The Row Sunglasses $395
Totem Salvaged Tote $300
Miu Miu Floral Appliqué Bikini $410
K Jacques St Tropez Sandals $262
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SECRETS TO THE SUCCESS OF ASPIRING ACTORS AND MODELS BY LIZ GUBER
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or dreamers with stars in their eyes, the path to becoming a successful model or actor can seem daunting. Without proper guidance and training, going at it alone can often result in disappointment and frustration. Enter MAX Agency—one of Toronto’s best known model and talent management companies. Under the guidance of their experienced team, the path to success becomes much easier to navigate. SHE had the pleasure of sitting down with MAX model Angela Dudler, to hear all about her experience under the Agency. Dudler’s journey started like that of so many others before her. She was discovered on the street in Toronto when a scout “came up to me asking if I was a model. She was very friendly and asked me to give her some information. I didn’t really hope for a call or anything but a couple weeks later I got a call from an agent asking me to come in.” MAX instantly saw potential in Dudler and offered her a spot as a model on their roster. Part of what makes MAX Agency so vital to newcomers to the acting and modeling industry is the training and mentorship provided to their talent free of charge, which Dudler found “extremely generous” adding “the classes didn’t only help me with how to behave during auditions but they also gave me lots of confidence, which is very important as a model.” MAX Agency places its talent with an extremely wide spectrum of companies such as Nike, CBC, GM, Coca Cola, Sony, McDonald’s , Hugo Boss, TD Canada Trust, L’Oreal and Motorola, and shortly after signing with MAX, Dudler was part of a fashion show with designer Baby Steinberg. “The atmosphere was amazing and it was so much fun being part of it.” The future is looking bright for Angela Dudler, who is hopeful that with MAX Agency’s help she will book more auditions and jobs. “I realized how much fun [modeling] is and how confident I suddenly became which is clearly visible on the pictures. I also hope to stay with MAX Agency because I feel well represented by them.” MAX Agency is located at 2063 Yonge Street, Suite #202, Toronto Ontario, M4S 2A2 | 416-482-5392 | email@example.com SHE CANADA 17
THE UPPER EAST SIDE’S FIRST TASTE OF INDIAN FASHION
BY PRIYA KUMAR
oigne Kothari moved from Mumbai to New York City for love. Having grown up and trained in fashion design in India, she quickly realized there was something absent from The Big Apple’s expansive fashion scene, namely, access to “the vibrancy and intricacy of design, quality and craftsmanship that is possessed by many Indian designers.” Armed with a degree from the renowned Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) and a good understanding of retail trends both locally and back in the old country, Kothari ventured into a brave new world of fashion retail by bringing some of the most celebrated Indian labels directly to the backyards (better yet, stoops) of the world’s most influential tastemakers. Had I not experienced the effervescence of Mumbai’s fashion scene for myself, I wouldn’t believe it. India is now globally renowned for its high-end, multi-brand concept stores. Inspired by what Armani has done at its flagships around the world, this type of fashion retail aims to be a one-stop-shop for all things luxury. Revolutionary concept stores including Colaba’s Bombay Electric, New Delhi’s Ogaan and now Manhattan’s Soigne K, offer clientele well crafted, intricately designed and, more often than not, one-off pieces that they won’t have the misfortune of seeing anyone else in during “the season.” I recently had a chance to chat with Soigne Kothari, founder and owner of Soigne K., about the launch of the groundbreaking boutique and how she anticipates offering New Yorkers an alternative to generic high-end fashion. “I realized that New York is THE place to be a launching pad for such a unique concept given its amalgamation of different cultures. The New Yorker is always looking for something different and unique given the jetsetter lifestyle,” Kothari says of the thought 18 SHE CANADA
process behind opening Soigne K. Soigne, which means polished in French, could not be a more appropriate title for the Madison Avenue boutique. Carefully curated to include only the most coveted labels out of India, Kothari’s unique buying aesthetic is evident throughout the space. Being based in New York City, I had to know about her buying process. She tells me, “Each season I draw inspiration from a different era of India’s history and our rich Indian cultural heritage, places, people and trends. When I visit temples, stately homes or Indian palaces I am always absorbing the craftsmanship of the architecture of ancient India.” She speaks almost poetically; “Lines are fluid as well fierce like the waves in the ocean. I then sit with my designers and convey my vision for the upcoming season fusing the look from their current collection with mine and have each piece with the one ‘wow factor’ that is synonymous with Soigne K.” “Her designers” she refers to are a part of the cherry-picked cohort that make up the new generation of India’s international
couturiers that include Manish Arora, Rajesh Pratap Singh, Rohit Bal and of course Hollywood favourite Falguni & Shane Peacock. Besides the lovely imported garments carried at Soigne K., Kothari also designs an in-house jewellery line with which she hopes to aid in the preservation of South Asia’s centuries-old jewellery design tradition. “I draw inspiration from the jewellery that had been worn by the Maharanis and Maharajas of India. I then sit with my women artisans in rural India and collaborate with them while at the same time incorporating their traditional jewellery making techniques,” Kothari explains. “This not only helps the artisan achieve self-reliance but also contribute to preserving traditional techniques that have been handed down through generations.” Kothari sees a bright future for South Asian fashion internationally. “Indian designers are bursting on to the scenes of fashion all over the world. India for centuries has been known as the land of Maharajas and their grandeur. Their legacy has been kept alive through our Indian designers that draw inspiration from their
clothes and jewels.” Making reference to larger designer houses like Chanel and Marchesa, Kothari continues, “International couture fashion houses have started to take notice of the rich Indian heritage and craftsmanship. They are boldly using Indian motifs on a wide range of clothing, accessories and stationary. Fashion Shows are being themed around Indian influence and are being accessorized with touches of India. The richness of heritage [and] mythology with the vibrant use of colours are finding loyal patrons not only among the Indian community overseas but also international customers. India’s craftsmanship is like a hidden treasure trove that is yet to be discovered; once opened it will be addictive and will take the world by a storm.” Refusing to mince Kothari’s words, I could not have said it better myself. Soigne K. is at 717 Madison Avenue (near 63rd Street) in New York City; (212) 486-2890.
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LIZ GUBER visits Paria Shirvani, an up-and-coming Toronto-based designer making pieces with modern cuts and fabrics for a new class of consumers recent report released by Greenpeace titled “Toxic Threads: The Big Fashion Stitch Up” revealed shocking levels of toxicity in the fibres of the fast fashion garments (i.e. product from Forever 21, GAP and H&M). Chemicals banned in North America, but not in countries where the cheap garments are produced, reveal harmful, sometimes even carcinogenic or hormone disrupting properties. If that’s not enough to make you think twice about heading to the mall to load up on peplum tops (only to be relegated to the depths of our closets a season later), perhaps a trip to Paria Shirvani’s downtown Toronto studio just might do the trick. Paria Shirvani is by no means an environmentalist; she is however, a part of the growing movement of local, conscious designers who care about resurrecting dying notions of quality and artistry. Born in Iran, Shirvani’s family came to Canada in the 1980s, opening up endless opportunities for Paria and her two sisters. Shirvani fell in love with fashion in high school, where she was in charge of the costumes for school plays. A George Brown college alum, she honed in on her understading of garment production at Joe Fresh—a vocation considered to be a dream job for many fashion school graduates. “I have always been passionate about the construction of clothing and, from a young
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age, have enjoyed the process of piecing materials together to create a garment.” After three years of working for the Canadian mega-brand, Shirvani left the job to start her own label, describing the transition as “seamless and intuitive”, adding “I was ready to branch off and create a line that embodied my personal aesthetic and allowed me the opportunity to have full creative control.” Shirvani’s first collection, titled Zephyr, is the designer’s brave venture to independence. As the well thought out and carefully edited collection hangs on a rack before me, with its colour palette limited to dove grey, dusty nude and bone it displays the kind of mature restraint and effortless cool that begs comparisons to Alexander Wang and Isabel Marant. The collection also displays silhouettes varying from sharply tailored to fluidly draped—design elements generally mastered by only the most seasoned of designers. Being a fan of dressed-up sweatpants and moth-like colour palettes, I’m an instant fan, vowing to make the asymmetrical jersey skirt a part of my wardrobe come spring. Shirvani describes her dream customer as someone who “likes comfort without the compromise to design and aesthetic. She has a strong sense of her own style and is able to merchandise her wardrobe into effortless chic.” The items in the collection reflect a modern sensibility, yet also boast a seasonless appeal, the styles will stay fresh and
Shirvani’s approach is very grassroots; she sources fabric from Montreal— noting that there is a lack of quality wholesale textiles in Toronto—drapes the silhouettes and drafts the patterns herself, and then cuts the fabric and makes the muslins (sample garments made from cheaper fabric that act as mockups). The sewing of the garments is then contracted out. “The process is more hands on and there is high control over quality, building a garment that is made to last.” The entire line is produced in Toronto, making it part of a burgeoning industry of homegrown labels. Zephyr was revealed to the public this past fall at OZ Studios, a contemporary setting that was well suited for the young designer, as it allowed for complete control of the production and instant feedback from the audience. “It was terrific. I could respond to questions and do on-the-spot interviews while the collection was on display in front of them.” Paria Shirvani’s clothes are sure to be snatched-up and styled to the nines by fashionphiles, once they are able to get their hands on them that is. Upcoming pop-up shops around downtown Toronto are in the works for this year. Shirvani also has plans to make everything available online. Next up for Shirvani: her first-ever Fall collection. Although she didn’t reveal any details about her plans, something tells me to expect more expert tailoring, interesting angles and a deliberate lack of print. Standing in the designer’s small, very neat space really makes one think. Two sewing machines, one table, rolls of fabric in a corner and some illustrations leaning against a wall, all in a space no bigger than 300 square feet—this is where the entire collection of fresh, inspiring readyto-wear is born. I peek at the price tag of one item, noting that it is on par with similar pieces at ZARA, convincing me to think twice before indulging in fast fashion again.
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Pavlyn Boutique has changed the game for Canadian style-seekers. As opposed to shopping from US-based e-retailers, Pavlyn offers a local alternative source to the hottest looks, straight off the red carpet. ASHLEY KYRON discovers what led to Maria Litvintseva and Anna Petrov‘s entrepreneurial spirit and what they hope Canada will get out of Pavlyn’s presence on the Net.
Living in Canada has its perks: four full seasons, boundless natural resources and of course poutine. It’s hard to complain really, but when it comes to comparing the fashion retail scene with our neighbours to the south, we always come up slightly short changed. As we press on into a new era of shopping where the internet is proving to be the busiest mall of them all, we cannot help but be irked by the fact that those impossible to get Isabel Marant hightop wedges come with a $45 shipping fee in addition to another 15% of duties. Cash on delivery. It almost takes away from the elation we should be feeling for making such a deep investment in footwear. Wouldn’t it just be easier if there were a Canadian answer to Gilt Group (that cuts the guilt out of the final price tag of this month’s hottest celebrity endorsed accessory)? We discovered that the answer to this frustrating conundrum was right under our noses all along—Pavlyn Boutique (http://www. pavlyn.com). The website reflects exactly what our generation is looking for in an online retailer. Besides offering up some of the hottest pieces from New York City, London and Paris, the items are also accompanied by a celebrity rocking the piece in their own unique style. I sat down to meet Maria Litvintseva and Anna Petrov, the girls behind Pavlyn, to discuss what led them to starting the site. Petrov and Litvintseva began Pavlyn knowing there was a void in the marketplace. The 27-year-old duo surprisingly had no 22 SHE CANADA
background in fashion but instead attended top business programs at Laurier and York University respectively. “We have always had a passion for celebrity style and been into shopping, trends and especially celebrity watching,” says Petrov. Armed with a close-knit friendship that spanned the past decade, they were keen on starting a business together but wanted it to be in a field they were equally passionate about. Fashion always came naturally to the two, so beginning there was a good start. Modern Family’s Sarah Hyland in Contrarian.
As a user of the site, I have to make one thing clear: this isn’t your average e-commerce portal. Besides peddling the hottest, hard-tofind pieces, it also has a very user-friendly layout that rivals Style. com or WhoWhatWear. The editorial touch is the secret to what sets Pavlyn apart from the competition. “The editorial concept came from a lot of what is happening in the industry right now. A clothing website [has become a place to get] fashion style advice,
with a blog feel and a bit of celebrity gossip. People want to know what the celebrities are wearing and they want to know the trends,” explains Petrov. “You can’t just have a website and be like, ‘Here are the clothes – now shop!’ They want to see the whole look put together and in terms of celebrity style.” Petrov took us back to when she was growing up, “I would see all the great fashion that the celebrities were wearing, but wasn’t available in Canada. And when I would watch shows like The Hills and Keeping up with the Kardashians I would always want to know what they were wearing in the episodes but it was always so hard for me to find out and that’s why we wanted to go in the direction of celebrity style.” With so much competition both online and off, coming up with the right name can be the trickiest part about starting your business. With a name like Pavlyn, it’s hard to get lost in the crowd.
Litvintseva says, “We both come from a Russian background and we wanted something that’s kind of relevant to who we are. Also the word Pavlyn signifies the celebrity of all [birds].” Petrov continues, “Pavlyn means a beautiful, ritzy bird and that’s the idea we were going for. And we also like the way it sounds—it’s a pretty word.” Originally, the two wanted to open a boutique but as they worked on a business plan, it became evident that online shopping is huge in the States but severely lacking in Canada. Thus, the girls decided why limit themselves to just sales in Toronto when they could sell to clientele across the country? Better yet, the world. Pavlyn also ships internationally. So being budding entrepreneurs in the fashion scene, what are their latest fashion obsessions? Litvintseva jumped right in, “I love my new Eyes Wide Open skirt, in fuchsia pink. The skirt has two cut outs, like slits that go up really high, made from sheer material with a mini underskirt. I wore it to Toronto Fashion Week and was well complimented on the statement piece. It must be my favorite item right now” As she looked at Petrov, Litvintseva continued on to talk about her favorite piece “I don’t know what is yours? Maybe your black leather tights? You are kind of in love with them.” Petrov agrees with Litvintseva and goes on to tell us how “black leather tights are all I am wearing at the moment because they are so versatile, you can wear them with anything – a dressy blazer or a casual t-shirt.” As the interview with Petrov and Litvintseva neared the end, I asked them about their overall impression of their online store thus far. “We look at it as if were solving a problem for millions of girls across Canada to be able to find those celebrity-worn items. The girls in Whitby or a small town in Edmonton don’t have the Queen Street or Bay and Bloor Streets that we have in Toronto, so now they can, with a click of a button, have the dress that Reese Witherspoon was wearing.” To Petrov and Litvintseva, fashion should not just be accessible to people in the US but to everyone that wants it; they are living proof that two heads are better at problem solving than one. Be sure to visit Pavlyn Boutique at http://www.pavlyn.com
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When the biggest name in South Asian jewellery collaborates with India’s hottest fashion export, one takes note—then proceeds to Amrapali’s nearest location to reap the fruit of this once-in-a-lifetime alliance Manish Arora has come to be known in the West as a creative visionary. His work is so distinct, it boasts the patronage of many of the world’s preeminent trendsetters including Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Katy Perry, M.I.A. and Lady Gaga. His collaboration with Amrapali could thus, not be more appropriate. As the most respected name in jewellery in India, Amrapali has been creating luxury collections using the finest precious and semi-precious stones and metals for clientele that include the likes of royalty, celebrities and industrialists.
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Fast forward to Paris Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2013. Amrapali X Manish Arora debuts at Arora’s runway show. The pieces complement the jewellery designs printed on the kurtas, mesh leggings and even rompers creating a surreal, in-your-face result typical of Arora’s work. This project has been on-going since May 2012 and includes a wide range of necklaces, earrings, bangles, cuffs, rings and hair accessories. The pieces are inspired by the decadence of Indian royalty with antique Meenakari jewellery from Amrapali’s archives in mind. Coupled with contemporary elements including a pastel colour palette and 18K gold plating with stone and crystal settings, these pieces obliterate the barrier between Eastern and Western fashion. Whether you call the bejeweled headpieces diadems or maang tikkas, there is one thing everyone can agree upon; Amrapali’s timelessness crossed with Manish Arora’s trail-blazing ingenuity are sure to make this capsule collection one not soon to be forgotten.
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BY PRIYA KUMAR
BOJANA SENTALER is the name behind the exquisite outerwear brand Sentaler. She has scoured the world over for the warmest, most luxurious textiles with which to create her pieces. Organic in origin, her Fall/Winter 2012 collection is primarily alpaca in fibre that make up the set of womenâ€™s coats, capes, shawls and scarves. Alpaca is amongst the worldâ€™s warmest fibre due to its thermal properties created by microscopic air pockets that also prevent pilling and matting. 26 SHE CANADA
Last month, SHE shot two pieces from this extravagant collection and the response we received was overwhelming. The contemporary cuts, subtle seams, unique hood designs and exquisite finishes including custom corozo buttons make a statement without sacrificing warmth in the process.
Sentaler, Wrap Coat with Hooded Collar, $940, Available for Purchase at www.sentaler.com Model: Julia (Elite)
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Noureen DeWulf has been scene stealing in Hollywood for only a handful of years now. Yet, she’s played opposite some of the biggest names in comedy including Matthew McConnaughey (Ghosts of Girlfriend’s Past), Jennifer Lopez (The Back-up Plan), Hugh Grant (American Dreamz) and most recently Charlie Sheen (CTV’s Anger Management). PRIYA KUMAR catches up with DeWulf in L.A. to find out what it takes to be comedy’s next big thing.
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We all have that friend. Admit it—you do too. She’s that loquacious chatterbox that will even pick-up her phone at dinner and is always the loudest voice at a party. Actually, she’s rarely seen not talking. You know what else she does, don’t you? She offers up her thoughts blow-by-blow in a movie theater during the blockbuster film you’ve been dying to see. It’s annoying, but sometimes she’ll say something that will strike a chord. For me, it was when she and I went to see The Back-up Plan starring Jennifer Lopez. The movie was forgettable at best, but during one of the opening sequences when J-Lo was discussing her “backup plan” with a sassy coworker, my friend leaned across two theater seats and said out loud, as opposed to whispered, “That actress is from Pune!” I looked back at the screen and recall being surprised at this assertion. Daphne, the character in question, was obviously supposed to be non-descript, albeit exotic, Caucasian, but I digress. After a bit of research, I discovered she was hilariously portrayed by Noureen DeWulf, 28, who has made so many appearances in A-list movies, TV shows and comedy specials, it’s hard to believe at the time I didn’t know she was South Asian.
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OSCAR TO A GOOD START Born in Georgia, DeWulf ’s surname is not one you’d expect of a girl whose parents are from the middle of Maharashtra, India. In fact, her name stuck after marrying in her earlier in life when she was just launching her career. A Boston University graduate, DeWulf got her first big break when she was cast as the lead for the short feature West Bank Story—a musical-comedy loosely based on West Side Story. Like the name suggests, it tells the tale of the romance between Fatima, a Palestinian falafel shop cashier (DeWulf) and David, an Israeli solider whose family owns a rival falafel shop. Although based on an ominous, age-old conflict, the film still manages to be funny. After premiering at Sundance and working the film festival circuit around the world, the short went on to win an Academy Award in 2007 for Best Live Action Short Film. “I had just moved to LA,” DeWulf tells me about being cast for the role, “and I submitted my own photo for the job. The director called me in and I went and auditioned. It was one of the first auditions that I’d ever been to. I went for several auditions, he kept calling me back and I sang and danced and did a bunch of stuff. I [got the role and] shot the movie. The Oscar definitely will always be a high point but it didn’t really affect my work too much, although it is such an honour. It didn’t come until three years [after filming], but when it did it was pretty amazing.” DeWulf went on to land a pilot on the WB called Mindy & Brenda. If it seems almost too coincidental that another IndianAmerican actress would be cast as a girl named Mindy, that’s because it isn’t. Mindy & Brenda was written by Mindy Kaling and her best friend Brenda Withers, about their early-twenty-something lives in New York City. In her bestselling biography Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), Kaling makes mention of her disappointment with the producers’ decision to cast another girl in the eponymous role. Although, the series was eventually not picked-up, both Kaling and DeWulf both went onto bigger and better things. ON A PERSONAL NOTE A little known fact about DeWulf is that she is married to iconic Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller. The pair married back in 2011, making them one of the most high profile couples in sport. When I spoke with DeWulf
back in November 2012, I couldn’t help but ask about her thoughts on the NHL lockout. “I just hope that there’s a quick resolve. I think players should be able to play, and fans should be able to watch,” she says. “It’s a great sport, and it already struggles to be popular [in the States], so I just hope that it doesn’t go on too much longer. I know that my husband wants to play.” Despite being one half of such a well-known couple, DeWulf has never let it define her career. As an actress, she is recognized as an on-screen chameleon. Comparing her in the role of Fatima to that of Melanie, Matthew McConnaughey’s sharp assistant/ghost of the present in Ghosts of Girlfriends Past to Shazzy, the Middle Eastern Valley Girl from X-Factor spoof American Dreamz, one would be hard pressed to find some commonality except for Noureen herself. To prepare for such a rainbow of characters, she certainly goes above and beyond to research each and every role. “I just think about the characters a lot,” she says. “I think about what they would do and how they would be, and I try to work on that by myself a lot before I go and read for the director. After I get the job then I talk to wardrobe and hair/ makeup. They have their own opinions. I try to incorporate that all together with my character that way.” DeWulf ’s current role as Lacey on Anger Management is, without a doubt, her most high profile to date. Given the media storm surrounding Charlie Sheen’s departure from Two and a Half Men, fans and critics alike waited in anticipation for Sheen’s triumphant return to television last summer; they were not left disappointed. Anger Management was so well received that after its first 10-episode season, FX (its parent network in the States) renewed the series for 90 more episodes. To be signed to such an acclaimed series for an extended period is no small feat. About the role of Lacey, Dewulf says she is, “probably my favourite character I’ve ever played. I don’t feel like I’m closest to her [in comparison to past roles], but she’s
definitely the wildest character I’ve gotten to play.” It’s uncanny how well suited the role is to DeWulf— Lacey is a member of an anger management support group lead by a therapist played by Sheen. She attends these sessions to deal with her road rage and quickly becomes the series eye-candy. Lacey’s charm is a result of both well-timed jokes and her expressive demeanor, not to mention DeWulf ’s ability to make Lacey the most loveable and hateable character in the series. About being appropriately cast as the show sex kitten, DeWulf humbly admits, “They definitely didn’t write it for me. It’s a character I’ve been trying to do for a long time. I’ve been trying to get this character out. I think it fits in that regard, but I went and auditioned for it against several hundred actresses.” Obviously we couldn’t discuss Anger Management without touching on Charlie Sheen. “I really enjoy working with him; he’s very eccentric and interesting and as far as sitcoms go, he’s one of the great sitcom actors. He’s really great to work with,” she says with a hint of nonchalance. “I am a fan. He’s really established himself as a TV comedy guy.” Sheen incidentally was also the highest paid actor in television history, netting $1.8 million per episode of Two and a Half Men. He carried his star power onto the set of Anger Management, resulting in the series premiere boasting a viewership of 5.74 million—an all time record high for cable television. Starring opposite an actor of such legendary proportions speaks volumes about DeWulf ’s career and future as a leading lady in Hollywood. At the moment, DeWulf is working on a film starring Amy Poehler, Paul Rudd and Ed Helms called They Think Together. “I play Paul Rudd’s assistant Melanie, who I [also] played in Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. [She’s] the archetype of the assistant rather than the actual assistant, so it’s really funny.” Until now, just about every project attached to DeWulf ’s name has proven to be a hit. One wouldn’t expect any less of an actress whose freshman effort garnered top honours by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Anger Management is on CTV on Tuesday 9/8 Central and is scheduled to start its second season on January 17th on FX in the US.
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BUSINESS GAME CHANGER
By Summun Jafri
What does it mean to be the most powerful woman in the business world? Just ask Indra Nooyi. As the current Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo, the second largest food and beverage company on the planet, she is behind the $66 billion revenue generated in 2011. Besides achieving, maintaining and propelling PepsiCo as the most profitable food and beverage company in North America, Nooyi is also testament to what South Asian women in North America are capable of accomplishing. Over the past several years, Indra Nooyi has earned spots on both Forbes and Fortune Magazine’s lists of the most powerful women in the world. From 2006 to 2010, she was consecutively ranked as Fortune’s number one “Most Powerful Woman in Business.” Her story is not unlike those of millions of South Asian immigrants to the West, with the exception of finding herself at the helm of one of the world’s most renowned brands. Nooyi was born in Chennai (then known as Madras), Tamil Nadu, India. In 1976, she earned her first MBA at the esteemed Indian Institute of Management. With a couple of years of work experience under her belt, in 1980 she earned a second Masters in Public and Private Management from Yale University. “It was unheard of for a good, conservative, South Indian Brahmin girl to do this,” Nooyi explained in the Financial Times. At that time, such a decision spelled trouble for young women in regards to their marriage prospects. However, it 44 SHE CANADA
was through much determination and perseverance that she made it through her first few years in America. She even recalls wearing a sari to some of her first job interviews as a Yale graduate, because at the time she had yet to buy a suit. Nooyi began her career in India, where she worked for Johnson & Johnson as a Brand Manager. Upon graduating from Yale, she landed her first job in the States at Boston Consulting Group, followed by positions in Strategy at Motorola and Asea Brown Boveri. Since joining PepsiCo in 1994, she has taken on various roles in the company. In 2006 she was named CEO. She has achieved great success in the areas of global finance, strategy, and restructuring under PepsiCo and has also guided the transformational mergers and acquisitions of brands such as Tropicana and Quaker Oats. She currently resides in Greenwich, Connecticut with her husband Raj and two daughters, Tara, 19, and Preetha, 28. In 2012, Nooyi was number three on the
Forbes “World’s 20 Most Powerful Moms” list. Nooyi has been famously quoted for saying “I’m a mother first, then a CEO, then a wife.” She recognizes that it’s a tough balancing act, and to take it on successfully, a woman must play many different roles. Like so many women struggling to balance a career with family, she can relate to the added responsibilities of being an Indian daughter-in-law, as she acknowledges the duties of cooking and caretaking, which are most often dropped onto the woman of the household. In an interview with Greenwich Magazine, her advice regarding how best to balance a career with a family is to “marry the right guy!” Now in her fifties, Nooyi shows no signs of slowing down. She is also a Successor Trustee at Yale University, a board member for both The Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and the World Economic Forum. She was also appointed to the U.S-India CEO Forum by the Obama Administration. Just like the movie starring Sarah Jessica Parker muses, “I don’t know how she does it!”
SPORTS GAME CHANGER
By Summun Jafri
Professional tennis player Sania Mirza is at the top of her game. Having reached professional heights of unprecedented proportions in tennis, she’s certainly not your typical South Asian success story. Instead, she’s opened a world of possibilities for South Asian women, proving that we too, can succeed as professional athletes.
I can’t help but recall the movie Bend it like Beckham when researching tennis great Sania Mirza. Growing up, I always felt there was a serious lack of South Asian women to look up to and connect with in sport. When Beckham hit theaters in 2002, the character Jess (short for Jesminder, of course) created an entirely new type of heroine to idolize. The character was unlike any typical Bollywood starlet, and a welcome change. Her image was one that wasn’t based primarily on her appearance, including a lifestyle that was more relatable for girls in the Western world. She struggled with convincing her family that Indian girls could become professional athletes too. This movie was the first I’d seen that portrayed a South Asian woman breaking the mold of what was expected of her. What Mirza has done is fill the void for Jess’ real-life equivalent.
recognition of her accomplishments in sport, and in 2006 with the honour of a Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award in India.
Aside from her tennis career, Sania is perhaps best recognized as the wife of 30-year-old Pakistani Cricket captain Shoaib Malik. The couples’ Islamic nikkah ceremony was performed on April 12, 2010. The paperwork was followed by receptions in both Malik’s native Punjab, Pakistan and Mirza’s native Hyderabad, India. When asked if marriage has affected her career at all, Mirza says that her husband has helped her become more patient, as patience is an important quality as an athlete.
Mirza, 26, was born in Mumbai, where she began playing tennis at the age of six. Her father, a sports journalist, was and still is her trainer. Her professional tennis career began in 2003, and since then she has become India’s highest ranked female tennis player. She is the first Indian to win a Women’s Tennis Association title, and the third to win a Grand Slam (in this case, for Mixed Doubles with Mahesh Bhupathi at Wimbledon in 2012). She most recently won the 2012 French Open Mixed Doubles event, in addition to her 2009 Australian Open Mixed Doubles win, and her 2003 Wimbledon Girl’s Doubles Grand Slam. She also participated in the London 2012 Olympic tennis games. She most recently competed in the 2013 Australian Open with partner Bob Bryan, one half of the famed Bryan brothers from the States.
Unfortunately, being one of today’s most high-profile IndianPakistani couples hasn’t spared them from discrimination for trying to burry the archaic feud between the countries. India’s right wing nationalist party BJP was quoted asking Mirza to “reconsider” the marriage (to a Pakistani), an opinion similar to politician Bal Thackeray’s editorial stating that “Sania will not remain Indian.” Meanwhile centrist parties on both sides of the border either remained neutral or congratulatory. While a picture of Mirza was burnt on the streets amidst this news, the couple gained plenty of support as well. The Pakistan Cricket board and former Miss Pakistan World Ayesha Gilani gave the couple their well wishes, in addition to plenty of support exhibited by the Pakistani and Indian public. Political opinion on this marriage stems from wider issues regarding the culture, egos and history of the relationship between the two countries. The happy couple demonstrates a valuable lesson – that Indians and Pakistanis can live in unison after all. In fact on a lighter note, according to India Today, the couple will be contestants in the fifth season of India’s hit television show Nach Baliye in 2013 (India’s equivalent to Dancing with the Stars). The two are undoubtedly the athletic power couple of South Asia; they currently reside in Dubai, U.A.E.
In 2005 she made it onto TIME Magazine’s list of Asia’s Heroes, and was even on the cover of TIME’s South Asia edition. The Economic Times, an Indian daily business newspaper, featured Mirza in the 2010 edition of ’33 Women Who Made India Proud’. The Indian government has recognized Mirza in 2004 with the Arjun Award in
Years away from turning 30, Mirza is the most accomplished female athlete to emerge from India. She has proven to be an inspiration to young women, as even she has recognized that it’s not easy for the new generation of South Asians to break out of traditional expectations of becoming doctors, lawyers and engineers.
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POLITICS GAME CHANGER
By Priya Kumar
In early November as Hawaiian voters extended President Obama’s stay in the White House by four years, they also elected a new Congresswoman for the sunny island state. Tulsi Gabbard, 31, was an ideal candidate if there ever was one—not only at the age of 21 was she the youngest legislator ever elected to office in the state of Hawaii, but as an army veteran, she served twice in the Middle East under the Hawaii National Guard Unit. She also happens to be the very first Hindu-American to enter Congress. When she is sworn in January she will take the oath over the Bhagavad Gita. A strict vegetarian, Gabbard began to embrace her religion in her teens and has made provisions for it in her life ever since. Despite being blessed with the looks of the next big Bollywood starlet, she’s in fact not South Asian. When we spoke to her she said, “I am a practicing Hindu, but my ethnic heritage is Pacific Islander. I have no Indian/South Asian ethnic connection.” Her father is half-Caucasian, half-Samoan and her mother is Caucasian and a practicing Hindu. Her religion has recently come to the forefront, not only for setting a precedent for Hindu-Americans, but also because her opponent Republican K. Crowley had the audacity to state her religion “was incompatible with the Constitution.” Gabbard made a valid point to The Huffington Post about the situation stating, “It is stunning that some people in Congress would so arrogantly thumb their nose at the Bill of Rights. When I volunteered to put my life on the line in defense of our country, no one asked me what my religion was.” Born in American Samoa, Gabbard moved to Hawaii with her family at the age of two. Thoroughly Hawaiian, she started her email to us with a friendly “Aloha.” However, as a member of Congress, she hopes to utilize her religious leanings to strengthen ties between the US and India. “It is clear that there needs to be a closer working relationship between the United States and India. How can we have a close relationship if decisionmakers in Washington know very little, if 46 SHE CANADA
anything, about the religious beliefs, values, and practices of India’s 800 million Hindus?” she said to The Huffington Post. In fact, other South Asian-Americans already in Washington such as Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (R) and South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley (R) both converted to Christianity from Hinduism and Sikhism respectively. Although Haley has kept close ties with her Indian roots, Jindal has distanced himself from his ethnic ancestry and has even been called uncomfortable in his own skin. Perhaps the disparity in behaviors is a classic case of bipartisan boundary lines; the Democratic Party is known for its acceptance of diversity including religion, race and, increasingly, sexual orientation. On the contrary, the GOP tends to live up to their acronym “Good, Ol’ Party”. It’s no surprise Obama’s campaign slogan simply read “FORWARD.” It’s because of politicos like Gabbard, who insist their differences be recognized, there will be more diversity in the US Government and, as a result, a better understanding of other races, cultures and religions other than the countless denominations of Christianity that currently reign supreme in Washington.
PHOTOGRAPHY GAME CHANGER
By Priyanka Raj
“His work was a game changer” -Atul Kasbekar, The Hindustan Times pon Prabuddha Dasgupta’s death, Sushmita Sen tweeted she never had felt beautiful until she sat for a photoshoot with the famed photographer. Similar messages of condolences, in the form of tweets, Facebook posts and blogs, poured in from former subjects, wellwishers and fans alike. However, all of these messages had one thing in common—that Prabuddha Dasgupta was one of the best photographers to come out of India. It is not surprising Dasgupta hailed from a family of artists; his father was a well-known sculptor. Planning on becoming a historian, he later landed a copy-editing job, before becoming a self-taught photographer. However, it was a single photograph of Feroze Gujral, for a Suneet Varma fashion shoot that cemented his career as a photographer. This photograph won Dasgupta the 1991 Yves Saint Laurent Grant for photography. The ‘90s brought Dasgupta much commercial success, capturing iconic images for ad campaigns. The earliest was a risqué shoot for Kama Sutra condoms. William Mazzarella noted in his book, Shoveling Smoke: Advertising and Globalization in Contemporary India, that company officials wanted the ads to be “erotic, without crossing that line of accepted social decency”, zeroing in on Dasgupta for the job. The company tried to sway Dasgupta into making the shots more “Western” and “stylized” by pulling out pictures from Western magazines. He maintained that he didn’t want a full commercial shoot resulting in glossy colourful images, but rather one in his trademark black and white, unusual for advertisements at the time. Dasgupta differentiated himself from other fashion photographers, who typically had a legion of assistants and photography accessories. Instead of staging a photo-shoot with music or using complicated equipment, his philosophy was to “let the shot happen”. He even surprised company executives who met him at the airport because he had so little luggage and equipment. His next major commercial shoot was for Tuff Shoes, featuring Milind Soman and Madhu Sapre, both nude with a python wrapped around them. This advertisement sparked protest from women’s groups, resulting in legal woes for the photographer. But not surprisingly, when asked in a later interview if he’d take that shot again, he quickly said “yes”. While his commercial work garnered attention, he admitted to feeling straddled between the commercial and art worlds. He loved the discipline of commercial photography, and was able to pursue personal projects as a result. By pursuing both commercial and personal artistic photography, he revealed that he never had the chance to become bored of either. One such passionate project was his collection of nude pictures of urban Indian women, published as a book by Viking Press in 1996, titled Women. Dasgupta had these photos on hand and never intended to publish them. However, when the possibility of compiling
them for a book was raised, he went to each model for her permission to publish the book. However, all refused. He then approached them with the idea of having portraits of their faces, separate from the body shots, to which they agreed. Dasgupta’s role as a mentor was evident from the outpouring of condolences from his protégés upon his death. Many famous Indian photographers, such as Dabboo Rattani, Atul Kasbekar and Bharat Sikka, commented in the press about the impact Dasgupta had on their careers. They were joined by models, stylists and journalists, all of whom were inspired by his work. Arjun Bhasin, noted Indian stylist who recently designed costumes for Ang Lee’s Life of Pi, first met Dasgupta on the set of Mira Nair’s film Kama Sutra. “I took him some images that I had shot for his opinion,” recalls Arjun. “Prabuddha responded, ‘You have an eye,’ and I blushed in appreciation. Over the years he became a close friend, colleague and mentor. He was helpful, supportive, and encouraged me to continue to shoot.” Dasgupta leaves a legacy of photographs which will no doubt be cherished for ages. However, as a legacy, perhaps Mira Nair described him best at his memorial, as an artistic activist who pushed boundaries, in a gentle manner. He was a game changer for Indian photography, not because he looked for controversy, but rather, because he looked for the perfect shot.
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CARTOON GAME CHANGER
Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest Disney Princess of them all? We did an extremely scientific poll at the SHE Canada office and Princess Jasmine took the title by a landslide. PRIYA KUMAR discovers as the first ethnic Disney Princess created by the Mouse, she in reality stood for so much more than yet another pretty face
As Aladdin hit theaters 1992, I recall as a judicious 8-year-old, not being entirely happy with Disney’s decision to revamp the tale based on Aladdin and his Magic Lamp from One Thousand and One Nights. Having been so familiar with the fairytale myself, I wondered what an American rendition of the story would bring to the table, and more importantly what Badroulabdour would look like after the Disney Princess treatment. Succeeding The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin was the third installment of a series of movies known as the Disney Renaissance—a period that brought public interest back to Disney with the release of annual, big-budget animated films based on fairytales. Ultimately, the ensemble of characters from Aladdin would be the Studio’s first ethnic endeavor, preceding both Pocahontas and Mulan. Finally after catching the film’s opening matinee in late Fall 1992, I overwhelmingly approved of the latest induction into the Pantheon of Disney Princesses and proceeded to purchase Jasmine Barbie Dolls for all of my friends’ birthdays that year. Apparently my reaction to the film was not unique; the House of Mouse did not create another royal princess for 17 years until Tiana in The Princess & The Frog in 2009. Jasmine was certainly a hard act to follow. Conceptualized in a pre-9/11 world, the character’s animators were not quite as concerned with ethnic and cultural sensitivities as one might expect in the creation of a Muslim princess. Besides changing Badroulbadour’s name to the more relatable Jasmine—a name that so happened to be very popular in the early ‘90s—they also eliminated the fact that the
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original character was written to be incredibly vain and spoiled. Believing these flaws would make Jasmine unlikable, Disney only maintained her predicament to find a suitor in Aladdin. It was veteran Disney animator Mark Henn who was behind the physical character development of Princess Jasmine. He initially was inspired by a guest to Walt Disney World in Orlando who had long, flowing black hair and wanted to incorporate the feature into Jasmine, but had quite a bit of trouble conceiving her face. After extensively researching celebrities of the day and trying out different features, he was still at a loss. It was not until he looked into his own wallet to find a graduation photo of his younger sister Beth Allen that things began to fall into place. It was she who eventually became the inspiration behind Jasmine and ultimately the envy of every little girl who ever loved Disney. Other elements of Jasmine quickly came together once the face was decided upon. Her harem-pant ensemble was selected to be blue to represent the colour of water—the rarest and most valued substance found in the desert. The character of Aladdin was eventually re-sketched to better match Jasmine’s beauty and have their romance be believable. Although initially Aladdin was written to be only 13-years-old, he was later made 18 with Tom Cruise rumoured to be the inspiration for his face. Jasmine thus influenced the end-result of the film’s hero.
The concept of Jasmine escaping the palace in the middle of the night, cloaking herself in a brown hijab closely mirrors the plot of the 1953 Audrey Hepburn classic Roman Holiday. Hepburn plays the jaded Princess Ann, from a non-descript European country on a visit to Rome. Her escape from the Embassy, followed by her falling in love with an American journalist, leading to their running through the streets of Rome from her bodyguards is cartooned in the Disney flick. In fact, Roman Holiday is said to have inspired every Disney film since Sleeping Beauty. Similar to the animation of Sleeping Beauty being influenced by medieval tapestries, Disney Art Director Bill Perkins wanted to incorporate Arabic art and scripture into the characters of Aladdin. Jasmine’s palace was inspired by the Taj Mahal in Agra, evident in the fictionalized name given to her kingdom, Agrabah. Jasmine’s clothes, jewellery, hair and eyes were created to complement the curves of her palace, while staying true to what one might expect to see in Arab royalty. Jasmine is far from your cookie cutter Disney Princess. Besides fighting for what she believes in, she is also the only Princess to marry a commoner of her choosing, perhaps making her the first “Princess Charming” in that she pulls Aladdin out of poverty. She represents the fight for civil rights, the end of archaic law and the pursuit of ultimate happiness, allowing each of her impressionable fans to learn something new about human nature and that anyone of any ethnicity can be a Princess.
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MUSIC GAME CHANGER
By Priya Kumar
he first time I heard a track by M.I.A. was 7 summers ago in 2005— her video for “Galang” had rightfully made its way into MuchMoreMusic’s regular adult contemporary rotation. It was a time that pre-dated the reality show’s pervasive takeover, when music networks still played music, albeit dominated by the Pussycat Dolls and pre-meltdown Britney Spears. The very fact that this Sri Lankan sprite had the audacity to wear her signature oversized tie-dye zip-ups against a background of retro airbrushed murals spoke volumes about what set her apart from the status quo. The music industry labeled her unique sound something between hip-hop and dance with little else to go off of as reference for this obviously novel genre M.I.A. pioneered. 50 SHE CANADA
MUSIC GAME CHANGER
Born in London in the mid-‘70s to Sri Lankan Tamil parents, Mathangi Arulpragasm went by her nickname Maya. Her father Arular was an engineer, activist and poet who moved the family back to Sri Lanka when she was just a small child. Sri Lanka was, at the time, ravaged by a fiercely violent civil war between the Tamil Hindu minority seeking independence from a nation also home to a Sinhalese Buddhist majority. Arular soon became a voice in the Tamil independence movement, dodging the Sri Lankan authorities throughout M.I.A.’s childhood. However, he was also at odds with the infamous Tamil Tigers— who were known to attack all Sri Lankans, Sinhalese and Tamils alike, in addition to recruiting child soldiers. Arular steered clear of these rebels, knowing the destruction they were capable of. Life in Sri Lanka was precarious—Maya’s elementary school was even attacked and burned to the ground. She recalls having to run to the English school next door to hide from rebel forces. Her father would disappear for long periods of time fighting for the cause of independence. After a brief move to Chennai, India, the family once again returned to the UK under refugee status. Her mother landed a seamstress position with the British Royal Family, foreshadowing the influence her daughter Maya would have on fashion later in life. Although given the tough time Maya faced growing up, she excelled in the arts as a young adult. By the time she graduated from art school at the renowned Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in her mid-twenties, she began to go by M.I.A. creatively. The acronym stood for both “missing in action” and her name, Maya—it also paid homage to Acton, the suburb of London in which she grew up. It was through her success in the art world, she was eventually introduced to a sequencing drum machine that ultimately led to her interest in music. After putting together a demo recording with only six songs that included a heavily remixed club mash-up of “Galang,” M.I.A. solidified herself as the next big thing on the Indie music scene. She did not even do an official release, nor perform a single show before her tracks caught on over the Internet and went viral. This brushfire of popularity led to her signing her first real record deal with XL Recordings—they officially released “Galang” with a video directed by M.I.A. herself. Her smash hit “Sunshowers” soon followed in 2004. The following year, when I first stumbled upon her work, she released her album “Arular”—named for her father. What sets M.I.A. apart from her contemporaries, beside her tracks’ infectious backbeat, is her ability to keep her music socially relevant. Her song lyrics describe the plights of Tamils, AfricanAmericans and Palestinians in addition to the struggles of her own tumultuous childhood. Her sophomore album “Kala,” named for her mother, was both a critical and commercial success. The album boasted A-list collaborations with the likes of Timbaland and Blaqstarr and was branded album of the year by several top music
publications including Rolling Stone and Blender. “Kala” also included her most known song to date,“Paper Planes,” which is actually about the trouble she’s had with visas to the States. It was also featured on the soundtracks of Pineapple Express, Michael Moore’s Capitalism: A Love Story and most famously, the Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire thus introducing M.I.A. to a whole new audience. Two albums later, she signed to Jay-Z’s label Roc Nation in May 2012. This followed a highly publicized featured appearance on the Super Bowl XLVI with Madonna for “Give Me All Your Luvin.” She was caught gesturing profanity on camera, resulting in profuse apologies from NBC and the NFL, particularly because the episode was so soon after Janet Jackson’s infamous “wardrobe malfunction,” an incident which set the two organizations back almost $8 million in fines. Even Madonna spoke out against M.I.A. in this case stating her action was, “Out of place” at the Superbowl. To be able to set Madonna off is only further proof of M.I.A.’s refusal to conform to what mainstream music expects of her. Politically, perhaps the most curious move on M.I.A.’s part has been the use of tiger imagery in her branding, music videos and web presence. Her activist father avoided the Tamil Tigers, yet M.I.A. has chosen to align herself with the radical group. She once said in a New York Times Magazine cover story titled “M.I.A.’s Agitprop Pop,” “I don’t want to make the same music, sing about the same stuff, talk about the same things. If that makes me a terrorist, then I’m a terrorist.” While the music industry has welcomed M.I.A.’s rebel-witha-cause façade, political analysts have raise eyebrows. In the same New York Times Magazine article, Ahilan Kadirgamar at the Sri Lanka Democracy Forum explained, “People in exile tend to be more nationalistic, and Maya took a very simplistic explanation of the problems between Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese government and the Tamils. It’s very unfair when you condemn one side of this conflict. The Tigers were killing people, and the government was killing people. It was a brutal war, and M.I.A. had a role in putting the Tigers on the map. She doesn’t seem to know the complexity of what these groups do.” What these groups, including the Tamil Tigers, do is massacre Sinhalese villages with a terrorist agenda. The Sinhalese government thus retaliates with similar measures on Tamil villages, continuing a vicious cycle of violence in Sri Lanka’s already fragile political climate. Regardless of her political positioning, in an industry where image is everything, M.I.A. has gone from the darling of the hipster movement to making activism chic. Her music has opened her vast audience to what she has to say about the unjust state of the world. It would just be preferable, given her powerful position as a political mouthpiece in a bubblegum pop world, that she backs the cause of an alliance less into the rape and pillage of an entire nation. SHE CANADA 51
MODEL GAME CHANGER
By Priya Kumar
here are a thousand girls who could be doing my job,” the Canada-born, modeling legend Yasmeen Ghauri once said. Although fashion world would beg to differ, her modesty is a reflection of her Pakistani-Canadian heritage. Born to a Pakistani father and German mother, Ghauri had a strict upbringing and was discouraged from entering the modeling industry. “My father is an Imam which is an Islamic priest. Muslims aren’t supposed to dance. You’re not really supposed to show your skin. You’re supposed to be covered, you’re supposed to be modest. And all these things are completely the opposite of what I’m doing now,” she said in an interview with E! back in the ‘90s. “My father was not really happy with me modeling. [According to him] I’m putting him in jeopardy of going to hell. It’s very dramatic.” Strict parenting aside, the Montrealer had a less-than-idyllic youth. Much of her time in grade school was spent being teased and tormented for her remarkable proportions. As a result, Ghauri chose to associate with older neighbourhood kids, causing her to mature quicker than peers her own age. By the age of 17, Ghauri was discovered by Joseph Del Tortoon, a Montreal-based hairstylist. She was working behind the counter at a local McDonald’s at the time. Although voted employee of the month, the fashion world had other plans in store for her.
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Contrary to what she believes, the secret to her success has been her exotic PakistaniGerman look. She entered the fashion world at a time when designers were looking for more than the average Californian blonde. She got her start with a Montreal-based agency in 1990 and soon moved to New York City— the epicenter of the fashion world—to model for Versace (top right image). Her naturally dark features and expressive personality were immediately noticed by the insiders across the industry. She spent most of the mid-nineties pounding the runways of Milan, Paris and New York in addition to appearing on the covers of Elle, Shape, Marie Claire, German and Italian Vogue, although it was her appearance on the highly coveted Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition—a cover that has also propelled the careers of Tyra Banks and Heidi Klum among countless others—that really turned heads. Even famed photographer Patrick
Demarchelier, who photographed her for the cover of Vogue Italia, once called Ghauri his favourite subject.
She became the face of Chanel and Jil Sander at the beginning of her career and later Hermés and Lanvin. Her luxury brand clientele read like the stockist list at Barneys—Anne Klein, Bruno Magli, Christian Dior Haute Couture, Escada, Etinne Aigner, Gianfranco Ferre, Gianni Versace Couture, Givenchy Organza perfume, Laura Biagiotti, Sonia Rykiel, and Valentino. To top it off, she was also a regular in Victoria’s Secret’s campaigns—a massive coup for any supermodel. Rumours of her retirement began to swirl in June of 1996 when she pulled out of a major Yves Saint-Laurent runway show. There was some truth to these whispers—she ultimately did take time off to pursue a business degree before marrying Financier Ralph Bernstein.
When contacted for comment, her representation told us she is no longer active in the industry and wishes not to be approached with any media requests. Although disappointing, it reflects how Ghauri deals with her fame and fortune. Her favourite expression is, “You can’t take it with you.” Apparently she didn’t— despite having been one of the world’s top supermodels, she has since elected to shun the spotlight and is now far removed from the hustle and bustle of the industry that made her a household name. Although Ghauri rebelled against her father’s wishes earlier in life, she now shares some of his philosophies. Keenly involved with charity and assisting those less fortunate than she, Ghauri is active in fundraising for Breast Cancer initiatives and saving Germany’s Black Forest. Today she raises her children Maya and Victor far away from the life she once knew and although now a dedicated mom, her legacy as a top ethnic supermodel is far from being forgotten.
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FILM GAME CHANGER
By Parveen Singh “You can’t have a wedding without a Madhuri song or dance!” I remember saying to my best friend, while we were planning her wedding in the summer. I wouldn’t call myself obsessed or even a fanatic, but it’s a fact, just like the sky is blue. And I know millions of others would agree.
Madhuri Dixit, a.k.a the Julia Roberts of Bollywood, is one of the few leading ladies in Indian Cinema who has established herself as a legendary starlet. With her captivating beauty, grace, screen presence and incredible talent for dance, she has been capturing the hearts of millions for over 25 years. Growing up, I was mesmerized by Dixit. I wish I could tell you how many times I saw her films and imitated her moves and expressions. I remember practicing “Channe Ke Khet Mein,” endlessly until I got the moves down pat, but let’s face it, I lacked that certain oomph that Dixit has. I can honestly say that my passion for dance began with her. And that ladies and gentlemen, is the Dixit affect. So naturally when the chance to write about her presented itself, I jumped at the opportunity. Trained as a kathak dancer, Dixit never dreamed of the bright lights of Bollywood. Instead, she pragmatically wanted to be a microbiologist. However, at the age of 17, a family friend who knew the Barjatiya family of Rajshri Productions, suggested she try out
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for their new movie, which required a fresh new face. Dixit, went to the audition and won the role. In 1984, Abodh was released. And even though it didn’t set any box-office records, it was a valuable learning experience that introduced Dixit into the world of acting. After consecutive flops, Dixit would finally have a breakthrough in 1988, as Mohini in Tezaab. The movie starred Anil Kapoor and it would be the first of many unforgettable films the pair would do together. It also marked the beginning of her association with renowned choreographer Saroj Khan, with the song “Ek Do Teen.” The success of the movie and “Ek Do Teen” made Dixit a household name. Dixit would follow up the success of Tezaab with the hits Ram Lakhan, Prem Pratigyaa, Tridev and Parinda. And even though, she played small parts in the male dominated movies, Tridev and Parinda, she managed to be a scene-stealer with her enormous screen presence. Then, in the early ‘90s came superstardom for Dixit. In 1990, she starred in Dil with Aamir Khan and Saajan
with Salman Khan and Sanjay Dutt. Both movies were the highest grossing films for that year and she won her first Filmfare Award for Best Actress with her performance in Dil. She followed up with Beta, where she played a woman married to an illiterate man and Khalnayak, as the fiery police woman, Ganga. And let’s not forget, these two movies included the songs that cemented Dixit as the Dancing Queen forever- “Dhak Dhak Karne Laga” from Beta and “Choli Ke Peeche Kya Hai” from Khalnayak. “Dhak Dhak” is considered to be the most sensual dance in Hindi Cinema history, whereas the dance moves of “Choli Ke Peeche Kya Hai,” raised many eyebrows, as they were considered too risqué for the times.
They say that imitation is the best form of flattery, so in 2003 when the movie Main Madhuri Dixit Bana Chahti Hoon (I want to be Madhuri Dixit) released, there could not have been a greater compliment to Dixit’s accomplishments. It starred actress Antara Mali, as a young girl who dreams of becoming a star just like her idol Madhuri Dixit one day.
It was however in 1994 when Dixit starred in one of Bollywood’s most celebrated blockbusters, Hum Aapke Hain Koun, a musical love story opposite Salman Khan. Her performance as the vibrant Nisha brought her many accolades and a third Filmfare Best Actress Award. She was also nominated that same year for her role of a woman seeking revenge for her husband’s murder, against her crazy admirer in Anjaam, where she was paired with Shahrukh Khan for the first time. She would end the ‘90s with two more runaway hits, Raja and Dil Toh Pagal Hai.
So what’s next for the Bollywood legend? This year, Dixit and her family moved back to India to pursue new projects and opportunities. She is also set to begin work on two new movies, Dedh Ishqiya, a sequel to Ishqiya and Gulab Gang. Her return to India is the latest volume in the epic that is Madhuri Dixit’s formidable career.
In 2011, Dixit embarked into the world of television by becoming a judge on Jhalak Dikhla Jaa, India’s answer to Dancing with the Stars. The show is a huge hit and she recently completed her second season.
In 1999, Dixit decided to take a new journey in her life. It is one that many actresses prolong for fear that it will end their careers early- marriage! Dixit has never been an actress surrounded by scandal. Besides a brief relationship with Sanjay Dutt in the early ‘90s, she has kept her personal and professional lives separate. On October 17th, 1999 Madhuri Dixit tied the knot with Dr. Shriram Madhav Nene, a cardiovascular surgeon from Denver, Colorado. The couple was introduced through family and instantly hit it off. After marriage, Dixit decided to move to the US, where she lived for nearly a decade and began a family. She continued to work but was more selective about her film choices, which led to her powerful woman-centric performances in Pukar, Lajja and Devdas. After Devdas in 2002, Dixit would return to the screen after a five-year hiatus in 2007 with Aaja Nachle. Although the film didn’t fare well at the box office, the title song became hugely popular and fans were happy to have the Queen Bee back.
By Priya Kumar
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Fashion Editor PRIYA KUMAR Assistant Stylist MILENA RASKOVIC Photographer ROHAN SHRESTHA Hair/Makeup CHIQUE SALON & SPA, MUMBAI Models DEEPTI GUJRAL, ARYAN VAID
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he first time I met Narendra Kumar, he was dressed in chaiwallah attire serving the sweet milky concoction to the front row of his Fall/Winter 2010 Lakmé Fashion Week show at Mumbai’s exclusive riding club, Tote on the Turf. Almost overshadowing the eclectic collection itself, the theme of the show paid homage to a Mumbai where kitsch meets couture. It was the first show I can recall seeing the runway stylized as a set—in this case, a train, symbolic of the expansive railway system that runs throughout India’s fashion and film capital. Something that stood out to me about Kumar, was his down-to-earth willingness to interact with the crowd doing a job that would have most likely been assigned to an Intern. After all, Kumar is without a doubt one of the most recognizable names in South Asian fashion today. Kumar began his career in the early ‘90s. A member of the first ever National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) graduating class, he paved the way for a new cohort of contemporary designers to emerge from India. Fresh out of college, he landed his first gig designing for Ensemble— India’s first luxury boutique.
Asian sartorialists. Boldly playing with structured pants, dresses and skirts, he introduced silhouettes to a region of the world still deeply entrenched in the design traditions of the past. His pieces include vastly different textiles quilted together in such a way that iridescent metallic satin plays effortlessly off of graphic prints on silk to create the perfect bodycon mini-dress of the future. In 2011, Kumar broke into South Asia’s bridal market. Unarguably the most powerful niche in the subcontinent’s fashion industry, a designer has not truly conquered the country without having a presence in this market. His first effort in 2011 did not go unnoticed—his contemporary touch was seen throughout the collection including ombré dying and geometric draping coupled with ancient Indian craftsmanship techniques such as appliqué, zardozi and chikkan embellishments.
Kumar’s pioneering efforts in Indian fashion caught the eye of international editorial heavyweights. So much so that in 1996 he was approached to be the founding Editor of ELLE Magazine’s Indian edition. In a region of the world that had not yet been fully recognized by international tastemakers, the launch of ELLE was a step in the right direction. After several years at the helm of the fashion editorial icon, Kumar remained involved in the publishing world by later becoming the Consulting Fashion Editor for Verve Magazine. However, it’s his career as a designer that has truly earned him the title of fashion industry game changer. For years he has served as a fashion consultant to many mass-market brands including Raymonds, Reid & Taylor, Wills Sports and Levi’s. Although such a concept is commonplace in the Western world with fast fashion like H&M, Zara and Forever 21 teaming up with fashion greats including Missoni, Karl Lagerfeld and Jimmy Choo, the democracy of luxury is still a long way off in South Asia. What we consider inexpensive in the West is still a luxury in the old country. That being said, Kumar taking the reigns of such labels was a huge step into the future for garment retail—his vision of what South Asians want in their wardrobes will be omnipresent for decades to come. In 2008 Kumar took the plunge every designer dreams of—he launched his eponymous label “Narendra Kumar” with flagship stores in both Mumbai and New Delhi. His designs brought a whole new concept of contemporary fusion fashion to South
Nari, as he is fondly known by friends, once gave me some sound advice about achieving one’s career goals. He stood by the fact that besides knowing what it is you want out of your career, you must be willing to persevere in whatever it is you do. Once over coming the early years of drudgework, it will pay off in the end. Nari would know better than anyone—from the countless honours he receives from esteemed panels internationally (he is currently India’s brand ambassador to SwissAir) and the speaking positions he has taken up at NIFT year-after-year—what it is newbies to the fashion industry need to make it. The conviction with which he dispenses his pearls of wisdom is hard to forget in itself, but knowing it comes from a source of true self-made success is what really made his words stick.
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A writer and poet whose warmth is exceeded only by her sincerity, Toronto’s very own Sheniz Janmohammed is a very busy lady. She was nice enough to lend SIJAL REHMANE her time on a Wednesday afternoon to discuss her career aspirations
quick email questionnaire may have sufficed but, admittedly, it was personal curiosity that urged me to arrange a meeting with this poet. Not just any poet, but one who has made a name for herself in the Toronto spoken-word scene while always maintaining a sense of her cultural identity, namely, her South Asian ancestry. Why wouldn’t anyone want to hang out with her? It was over vegan fare on Bloor West that Sheniz Janmohammed told me that her roots could be traced back to India, although she is a born and raised Torontonian. Janmohammed completed her undergrad in World Religion and English at the University of Toronto, where she discovered the wonders of spoken word poetry at the open mic evenings that took place just up the street from where she lived. The venue gave her a place to share her own words. Sheniz has been writing her own performance pieces since high school, when she found the material provided by her drama teachers was not up to par with her standards. What better way to overcome that than to come up with one’s own material? While she was not privy to the spoken word at the time, her experience at U of T served her well in this regard and by her second year, Sheniz had formed Ignite Poets— an initiative aimed at bringing together spoken word artists to share their words in a more scripted format than most spoken-word events allow. “I was seeing a lot of open mics and I wasn’t seeing a lot of integration between poets’ works and I wanted to create an actual scripted show instead of having just one poet go up and then another poet go up and that was kind of it… What I’m trying to do is combine poetry, spoken word, and music all into a series. So, imagine having a qawwali musician and a spoken word artist doing something together. It’s that intersection that I’m interested in. “For my first show, which was at El Mocambo, what I did was get all these poets to submit their poems and then I linked them all together so that one would flow into the other, and then we had rehearsals which was kind of weird for a spoken word event.”
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After the first event, Sheniz was hooked. Shortly thereafter, she was asked by a Kenyan poet to support his poetry movement in Kenya. This saw Sheniz planning the entire event from Toronto. “I had no idea what the poets would be like, nothing. I just had complete faith in it, showed up, and it was amazing. There’s so much talent in Kenya. It was an awesome experience.”
Ignite Poets is an initiative that includes “individual poets who do their own thing, and come together if asked.” Most recently, Sheniz organized the first of the Sufi Poet Series for Ignite in early November, where several poets came together to honour and celebrate the Sufi Rabi’a of Basra. With this series, Janmohammed aims to “take Sufi poets in history and revive them through new poets. So, how do spoken word artists interpret Mirza Ghalib or other old Sufi poets? They don’t necessarily have to be Sufi to do that, so I wanted that universal message to be there and that’s how I started the series.”
At present, Sheniz is teaching spoken word for the Forced Marriage Project, an initiative of the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario (SALCO), in an eight-week seminar. She is also working on the follow-up to her first book Bleeding Light, a collection of English Ghazals following a woman’s journey through the night. January of 2012 saw Janmohammed making a trip to the Jaipur Literature Festival—one of the largest and most renowned literature festivals in Asia— where she was invited to speak at the five-day event that takes place at a palace in India. You can also catch another Ignite spoken-word event this March in Toronto.
Her interest in Sufism lies in the universality of it. “I think because I was brought up in the Islamic faith, it’s always what you’re inherently drawn to. For me, the initial appeal lay there, and the universality of it kept me exploring further—just the fact that lots of Sufis were considered heretics. If you look at the lives of Sufi poets or saints, they were always opposing, they were never stagnant, they were always challenging and questioning, and a lot of that was seen as heresy. Troublemakers!”
Clearly, Janmohammed has got a lot on her plate. Proving a force to be reckoned with on the spoken-word scene, and her events even being featured on the popular Toronto event site BlogTO, she shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. It’s not everyday in our modern world that one can truly call themself a professional poet, yet Janmohammed has done just that.
Sheniz’s own work, while never limited to anything too specific, is often inspired by “injustices that are happening in the world. That seems to be my focus, or what I’m drawn to talk about.”
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KALAMKAAR: OLD WORLD
CHARM WITH A CONTEMPORARY STYLE SENSIBILITY
Located just off the Don Valley Parkway on Queen Street East, SIJAL REHMANE visits Kalamkaar and discovers how it has been adding a South Asian touch to Toronto homes with their high-quality, solid wood furniture since 2006 Run by Karachi native Zahid Hak, Kalamkaar prides itself on reviving the art of Pakistani craftsmanship, by proudly flaunting the tagline, Furniture as Art. “We wanted to show people that the craftsmanship we bring from South Asia is amazing, it’s out of this world,” he explains. Indeed, a quick stroll through his store is a testament to this, with fine examples of technique, artistry and splendor exuding from every corner of the showroom. Highly intricate and detailed inlays make an appearance on almost all of the pieces, with Hak’s masterful woodwork found in abundance.
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“In this part of the world, people are getting more attuned to fast food, fast furniture, that kind of thing. The difference [in Kalamkaar products] is that you can pass it on through generations.” Hak attributes this to the high quality of the wood used to build Kalamkaar creations. “The wood we use is farm wood. We farm our wood for almost 10-15 years.” He stops to emphasize that they do not cut the forests in India and Pakistan. “We are an environmentally conscious and friendly company, and wish to preserve [the forests in India and Pakistan]. We farm our own wood [and by doing so, this also helps us] guarantee the quality of our product.”
Hak takes great pride in this particular aspect of his work, asserting that it would not be too much of a stretch to call him the unofficial cultural ambassador of Pakistan. “I am showing [Canadians] what we do— the culture, the art! These things matter a lot.”
In the six years since opening the Toronto flagship, Kalamkaar has managed to tap into many segments of the interior design market, boasting clientele of varying cultural backgrounds, with an appeal that speaks to “anyone who has an association with hand-crafted, one-of-a-kind pieces.” He points out that the furniture is not entirely ethnic and always maintains a modern touch and strives for the ever-popular ‘fusion’ feel, with wares’ elements of the East and West blending nicely. “So it’s a mélange and collage of furniture because we really just want to give a fresh vibe to an interior.” Many of the pieces at Kalamkaar pay homage to different eras in South Asian history. One piece that stood out in particular was a striking royal blue diwaan sofa that blatantly hearkens the decadence of the subcontinent’s Mughal era. Fabrics used to upholster the pieces are always of the finest quality, with raw silk and jamawaar— a silk and cotton blend— ubiquitous throughout the space. Kalamkaar has also taken it upon itself to showcase the works of emerging South Asian artists. Hak feels it is of great importance to bring sub-continental art to the North American public, and invites both new and established South Asian artists to display their works. “For young artists who have just entered the market, I usually give my walls for free as a community service… on the whole, we try to bring something positive to the South Asian community.”
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Owais Lightwala, 22, is breaking down cultural barriers in Toronto’s theater scene. Besides being Associate Producer at Why Not Theater, the player is a young renaissance man of the stage. LIZ GUBER discusses his career with him over a cup of tea in North York and discovers the importance of one’s roots in any career I’ve kept Owais Lightwala’s story in my bag of editorial tricks for quite some time now. After a friend informed me of his rising influence on the Toronto theatre scene, I knew I had to write about him and his delightful take on life, both onstage and off. We meet for morning tea, both being rather fanatical about the beverage, and the conversation becomes a free flow of anecdotes and banter, with the interviewer/interviewee roles switching without us noticing. I knew prior to the meeting that Owais had a worldly upbringing, and he shared the details with me, “I was born in hustling and bustling Karachi, Pakistan. I lived there for about six months after my birth, at which point I decided to make the move.” He adds with sarcasm, “I thought about it long and hard and I just didn’t think that it was a good place to grow up and so I made the move to Dubai.” At fourteen Owais arrived to Canada, where he started high school, where he found himself “bored out of [his] mind” explaining, “I didn’t have anything to do, and I was looking for something to kill time with. So I went and I tried everything. I didn’t make it onto the soccer team, I didn’t have enough money to do karate, the student council was very polite and said I was too young.” Then along came the drama club, and as they say, the rest is history. The saying goes “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again.” The phrase was taken literally by Lightwala, who was denied a part in the school play on his first attempt, undeterred, he settled for selling tickets for the play. “I did that the first year, and the second time I auditioned again and I didn’t get the part, and this time they said, ‘do you want to run the lights for the show?’ and the next thing you know, I fell in love with the world of theatre tech.” Following what Lightwala admits was a less than stellar on-stage debut, he allowed his unwavering love of theatre take him to York University, much to his parents’ chagrin. Anyone who has ever dealt with even a shred of parental disapproval can identify with Lightwala’s experiences of a father who routinely asks, “When are you going to bring home a real pay cheque?” Lightwala adds, “my parents were mortified, they spent a year railing and wailing and banging their heads against anything they could find.” Shrugging he goes on to say “that’s just the way it goes.” 64 SHE CANADA
Lightwala has been hard at work proving his parents wrong, starting with Soulpepper’s Youth Mentorship program, where a handful of youth are placed in a “six week long intensive program where young people explore and create art” Lightwala goes on to describe the program as “ a fantastic thing to do to young people, to have that kind of stimulation.” Over the course of a leadership program taking place the following year, Lightwala and a handful of other aspiring theatre novices banded together and formed their own troupe. The eclectic ensemble of young people came together, and without a solid plan or even a preliminary script, applied to the Paprika Festival, a popular theatre festival for youth. “We had no play, we were improvising the entire thing. We wanted to see if we could get in, and we did! We did really well, actually! We wrote a play and by some miracle we put it on. That earned us a spot at the Fringe Festival.” Earning a coveted spot at Toronto’s Fringe Festival is an impressive feat. The festival, being one of the largest in North America, attracts over 90,000 patrons, and is unique in that all proceeds from ticket sales go toward the actors, producers and directors. The Fringe takes place at theatre venues sprawled across the city, as well as more adventurous locations such as parking garages and lingerie shops, including the Bathurst Street Theatre where I had the opportunity to see Lightwala and company’s delightful collage of vignettes, most of them circling around the theme of young infatuation, titled The Hurt is Astounding. It was also Lightwala’s first pay cheque as a producer.
Toronto Star singled the play out as one of the festival’s hottest shows, and NOW Magazine added further accolades; “With strong acting, well-defined characters, a cohesive script and intricate lighting, this show is an impressive Fringe debut by a talented, young collective.” Following the runaway success of The Hurt is Astounding, Paprika was eager to have the ensemble back, offering to make them a Resident Company, along with mentorship and funding. As it sometimes happens to the young and the mildly egotistical, the group “got drunk off of our own success” and at the end of their residency, they came out with a play Lighwala is not ashamed to label a disaster. “At the time I blocked it right out of my memory, you feel very protective of anything that you do, especially when it’s out there and people can criticize it. My ego was hurt a little bit. In the long run, I learned what not to do, and it was in a safe environment, there was nothing to lose. We moved on.” And what did moving on mean for Lightwala? Producing a series of plays with legendary Bollywood actor Naseeruddin Shah, aptly titled Beyond Bollywood. “Beyond Bollywood was a mini series of two plays, one in English and one in Hindi, [performed] at Why Not Theatre.” The two plays, Dear Liar and Ismat Apa Ke Naam, were both sold out shows, and received critical acclaim. Dear Liar was adapted from the passionate correspondence of playwright George Bernard Shaw and Mrs. Patrick Stella Campbell, a famous actress of the time, who inspired the character of Eliza Doolittle in Pygmalion. The lauded Ismat Apa Ke Naam was based around a collection of short stories by Ismat Chughtai whose strong feminist ideology made her one of India’s most beloved, successful and controversial poets. The duality of East and West is evident in all facets of Lightwala’s life. I’m impressed by his knowledge of the Bombay television industry, “Out of 30 days in a month they work 28 days, they’ll be shooting in the morning, it will get edited in the afternoon and it will air that night, it’s that crazy. It’s a fascinating world.” When asked if he would ever consider a Bollywood cross-over he answers, “it’s not my calling.” Lightwala does have aspirations of someday making a difference, through theatre and the arts, in his native Pakistan. “There are stories to be told there, there is so much richness and vitality and culture and history and so much going on, in a way there’s a texture. That’s where they need art the most.” For now, Lightwala is happy to be working in his beloved field, and his upcoming projects include directing a Canadian Stage production under acclaimed director Daniel Brooks. Be it abroad or right here in Toronto, Lightwala’s mission statement is clear “A lot of good art, unfortunately needs to be recognized by people who have four years of art school, and I think that’s not the kind of work I want to do. I want to do the kind of work that people with no arts background, like my parents, could look at and really understand and appreciate.”
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I’m getting pretty serious with the guy I’ve been dating for over a year now. We’re both desi and we have an understanding that we would both like to be married in the near future. My only concern is the fact that he lives what feels like a million miles away in Ottawa, Ontario. I’m from Toronto and the last thing I want to do is leave this city, but he’s hell-bent on staying in Ottawa for at least the next 5 years. Should I have to move to be with him? HE Said The answer is simple, either one of you moves, or you break up. If you do end up compromising and moving to Ottawa, make him promise to re-locate in a few years, or when you two decided to have kids. Have you ever been to Ottawa? Make a few weekend visits, you might find it to be a nice place to live. SHE Said Perhaps the reason there have been so many romantic comedies based around this common conundrum, (most recently The Five Year Engagement) is because it’s a universally relatable problem. The only way to get what you want in this case, then, would be to stand your ground and hope that the more time spent apart will make your boyfriend realize that you are worth moving to Toronto for. The man I just recently started seeing is sending me majorly mixed signals and I don’t know what they mean! We’ve only been out a few times but he’s indicated that he would like things to get serious and thinks we should get engaged within the year. The problem is, we e-mail and text back and forth but he barely has time to call or see me. I don’t understand how he expects this relationship to progress so quickly if he can’t even put in the time! HE Said: Does this guy have any legitimate reasons to be extremely busy? Unless he’s an Emergency Room doctor or constantly
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traveling, he should be able to make time for the people he thinks are important. He might just be leading you on. I say break up with him and find someone who DOES have time for you. SHE Said: If he’s acting aloof and hard-to-get, then beat him at his own game. Stop being the first to call or text. Let him ask you on the next date or be the one to initiate the conversation. If that doesn’t work, and he lets the relationship deteriorate, let that be the sign that he is, sadly, just not that into you. I recently landed my dream job in the marketing industry after years of working hard and doing other odd jobs. When I told my friend who is also in the industry, I expected him to be happy for me. Instead he didn’t say much and has chosen to ignore the subject since. Why is my friend acting like this? HE Said: Perhaps your friend feels that you weren’t qualified for the job to begin with, and is having a hard time accepting what he thinks is unfair. On the opposite end of the spectrum, he could also see you as a threat in his own career, as you’ve mentioned that you two are in the same industry. SHE Said: Try to think back to the last time one of your friends shared their good news with you. Sure, you were very happy, but you were also just a little bit jealous. Most of us are good at concealing any hidden feelings of envy, but maybe your friend isn’t one of those people. Perhaps he got used to you always working odd jobs, and it made him feel slightly superior, now you two are even, and that could be a hard thing for him to come to terms with. He’ll get used to this change eventually, just try not to mention your new job for a little while.
TOMS Sunglasses $139
It’s so easy to be a girl on Valentine’s Day. There isn’t a girl in the world who wouldn’t like a dozen long-stem roses, a box of truffles or a cute, stuffed animal. But what about for him? Technology changes so quickly and what is it that men really like when it comes to fashion? This month SHE has you covered. Here are some of the hottest products out this February that any fashion forward, techsavvy guy would be thrilled to receive.
DARK KNIGHT TRILOGY $52.99
EAU DE LACOSTE $62 NIKE+ Fuelband $149
SAMSUNG CHROMEBOOK $249
BEATS BY DR. DRE PILL $199
ROOTS GRETZKY DUFFLE PRINCE LEATHER BAG $388
H&M JUMPER $49.95
IPAD MINI from $329
JOHN VARVATOS FOR CONVERSE $125
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By Priya Kumar There is no shortage of culinary gems in Toronto. Visitors to our fine city are always in awe of the depth and breadth of choice available, while us locals take the whole scene for granted. However, on a very special occasion, it’s worth indulging. Recently, I had the opportunity to do so at Blowfish Restaurant and Sake Bar. The landmark upscale fusion eatery is far from new to downtown foodies. Founded in 2003, its King Street location is housed in a beautiful, historical bank building at the corner of Bathurst Street— the place to be any night of the week. Blowfish provides ambience unlike any other Japanese restaurant in the city. Designed by architect Johnson Chou, the space has infused the old with new using modern materials on the walls balanced by oaky finishes. The overall ambiance of the space is high-energy and aesthetically contemporary, but let’s not forget we haven’t even gotten to the food. 68 SHE CANADA
Executive Chef G. Q. Pan has successfully combined Japanese and Pan-Asian cuisine to suit European and North American taste buds and let me be the first (or n hundredth) food critic to say he’s done it seamlessly. Known for their “Blowfish Giant Ebi Shooters” (a sushi cornet role with a mélange of exotic Japanese fare placed in a shot glass for effect), the menu is both inventive in its presentation and daring in ingredient combination. Into gourmet Mexican? Try their Tuna Taco (diced tuna, negi, frieze, daikon sprout and Japanese tartar served in a crispy wonton taco). For the herbivore types there is the Goji Berry Greens (baby greens, gobo, tofu, lotus root, snap peas, Asian pear, pine nuts and goji berry; tossed in kombu orange vinaigrette), a salad to die for. And how could we forget the sushi? My favourite has to be the Truffle Albacore roll (spicy albacore tuna paste, tiger shrimp and avocado; topped with a garlic chip and truffle oil drizzle.
The occasion I visited Blowfish in particular was my late twenty-something birthday a few weeks ago—a DJ was on hand spinning some old school hip-hop/EDM mash-ups, including tracks by our November cover girl Nadia Ali. Tak, one of the partners, went above and beyond for me and my party of 6 by seating us at the best corner table and bringing by birthday favours like the most divine Flourless Chocolate Torte (topped with coconut mousse and spiced orange Chantilly cream) I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting. The experience was unforgettable and I can’t urge our readers enough to experience it for themselves. Blowfish is fusion in every sense of the word; it strikes the fine balance between contemporary and classic, exotic and local to give every palate, whether adventurous or fastidious, the best dining experience possible. Blowfish; 668 King Street West, 416 860 0606; $72/head on average SHE CANADA 69
IF (STUFFED) ANIMALS COULD TALK By Liz Guber
On an early November evening, MARGHERITA MISSONI graced Toronto with her presence. What ensued was a frenzy of photographers, fans and designer stuffed animals “I have never seen so many beautiful people in one room” was the exact sentiment I shared with SHE’s Associate Editor via text message as soon as I walked into Holt Renfrew’s second floor event space. The evening’s guest of honour was none other than Margherita Maccapani Missoni, scion of one of Italy’s most celebrated luxury labels. Her presence at Holt’s Bloor Street flagship resulted in an impressive turn out of the city’s most stylish and influential people. Arriving in my usual style—that being early—I opted to wander around the luxury department store’s first floor, pausing briefly to take in some of the merchandise. Continuing in my aimless trajectory, I was met at the entrance by the aforementioned beautiful people coming through Holt’s gleaming glass doors. I decided to tag along behind them,
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assuming (correctly so) that the stiletto-clad, glittering ladies were headed to the same place I was. It was only when one of women immediately commanded the attention of the entire room that I realized that on the escalator ride up to the event I was standing directly behind none other than the fashion heiress herself. In an instant all eyes were on the lady of the evening, the air seemed to leave the room, with quiet murmurs filling it instead. Her freshly cut hair into a sculpted bob complimented Missoni’s porcelain skin and crimson lips perfectly. She donned a knit skirt from her family’s eponymous label and as soon as she took off her embroidered Proenza Schouler jacket, revealing her top to be completely backless, the crowd erupted in a harmonized gasp.
A visit to Toronto by a member of Italian fashion royalty isn’t an everyday occurrence. Missoni, a newlywed having married race car driver Eugenio Amos at a gypsy-inspired wedding this past summer, arrived with good reason— to promote her latest collaboration with Holt Renfrew in support of Orphan Aid Africa. Together the two fashion powerhouses designed a pair of adorable stuffed animals, a bear and an elephant, in the signature Missoni print. Missoni started volunteering with the organization nine years ago, going on to become the president of Orphan Aid Africa’s Italian chapter. The charity benefits vulnerable children and their families in Ghana, West Africa, caring for orphans and working to reunite children with their lost families. Proceeds from the stuffed animal sales will go toward helping this cause. “To see the changes and impact we have made to better the lives of children is incredible and rewarding,” Missoni told press at the event.
pledge of their love for the label. Missoni took her time signing each one, personalizing the box with hearts and messages of cheer. She didn’t shy away from a single photo, her radiance and warm glow was made all the more endearing when contrasted with the blank expressions and nervous demeanors of the Holt Renfrew staff. The number of people in attendance easily reached the hundreds, but things remained calm and civilized, with plenty of macarons and hot chocolate to comfort those excitedly waiting for their moment to meet THE Margherita Missoni. I remained on the sidelines, a vantage point that allowed me to witness dozens of delightful exchanges between Missoni and her fans.
“To see the changes and impact we have made to better the lives of children is incredible and rewarding,”
It was then time for eager fans to get their stuffed animals signed by their creator. A few people wore Missoni scarves as a
With a $50 price tag, the bear and elephant duo launched just in time for the holiday shopping season, but the charitable work done by Orphan Aid Africa and Margherita Missoni will far outlast any fashion fad. SHE CANADA 71
SIJAL REHMANE talks exclusively with IDRF’s youngest board member, Seema Rizvi, about the important work the organization carries out in their quest to battle poverty and famine the world over, and how important and easy it is for you to join the movement.
he International Development and Relief Foundation (IDRF) is a Canadian registered, charitable organization, with its roots dating back to 1984 when three concerned Canadians came together to form the International Refugee and Relief Program (IRRP) to help rehabilitate war refugees from around the world. These three men— Dr. Fuad Sahin, Muin Muinuddin, and Ebrahim Sayed— soon realized that fighting the symptoms of poverty, famine, and conflict does not go quite as far as attacking the root causes of these issues. It was in 1986 that the organization officially renamed itself to include the pivotal word “Development” in its moniker, and made it their mission to “help people organize themselves to work collectively for their own economic betterment,” board member Seema Rizvi tells us. Operating out of Toronto and Calgary, IDRF adheres to a vision of a more just world, by providing the means of sustainability and dignity to those most in need. Rizvi tells us that their projects cover many sectors, including “education, emergency relief, environment, water & sanitation, gender empowerment, healthcare, infrastructure/housing and livelihood development. To date, IDRF has implemented development and relief projects in over 32 countries and/or territories in South and Southeast Asia, Africa, the Americas, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Canada.” With a focus as broad as theirs, IDRF relies heavily on fundraising events and dedicated volunteers. “Volunteers are the backbone of our organisation and we are always excited to have new participation!” says Rizvi. Additionally she says, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) plays a pivotal role in many of IDRF’s initiatives. “IDRF has implemented long term development projects in certain countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh where every dollar contributed for that 72 SHE CANADA
project, is doubled by CIDA… IDRF’s long standing relationship with CIDA demonstrates the high degree of confidence that CIDA has in IDRF’s ability to deliver effective, accountable and reliable projects in different parts of the world.” IDRF also receives considerable support from what they call local and international “partnerships” whereby any business or individual hoping to get involved and make a difference in the lives of others can do so simply by “planning their own creative events or activities that could help raise awareness about the work IDRF does and raise funds for causes dear to them.” Rizvi highlights that “it is with this support that [IDRF has] been able to provide help to those in need in remote regions of the world…Most of our projects are initiated by our local partners who understand the challenges and opportunities of the particular context they are living and working in. They have the ability to respond directly to the needs of the people, allowing IDRF to implement projects that ensure long-term sustainability for the local community.” Rizvi also reminds us that IDRF is constantly on the lookout for new partnerships, encouraging everyone, “children, teenagers, college and university students, young professionals to get involved and plan your own fun event and partner with IDRF!” What better way to give back to the community? In November, IDRF held its Gala Dinner, where CBC’s foreign correspondent Nahlah Ayed delivered a rousing talk on her experiences travelling through the Middle East as a correspondent and also conducted a book signing. While the dinner is simply a general fundraiser, IDRF also hosts a Golf Tournament in July, with the proceeds allotted to a specific project each year. For more information on the work IDRF does, and to find out how you can get involved, visit their website at http://www.idrf.ca/
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By Summun Jafri
Founded by Plan International, Because I am a Girl is a global initiative aimed at changing the future for girls around the world by lifting them out of poverty through the promotion of gender equality and human rights. As a result, the ripple effect created by this endeavour to educate and protect a girl in an impoverished part of the world, will ultimately benefit her whole family and community f you’re ever in the downtown Toronto area, chances are you have come across volunteers campaigning for Plan’s Because I am a Girl. They are often seen out at main intersections in the city creating awareness for the cause. Although street campaigns such as this one are perceived as nuisances, let me assure you, this one’s worth the small investment of your time. Because I am a Girl is not a small initiative; it’s an international social movement created by Plan International to empower females of all ages to fight for their rights as human beings. The goal is to give girls the most basic human rights that many of us in the first world take for granted. By creating sustainable projects in developing countries, girls can gain access to clean water, food, healthcare, education, financial security and protection from violence and exploitation. Their motto “Invest in a girl and she’ll change the world” speaks volumes about what the initiative does. The awareness and funds this project generates are used to directly change the lives of young girls, the communities they are brought up in and ultimately the world’s perceptions of them. This campaign helps us unveil many truths, as underprivileged girls affect more than just their own well-being. The economic loss in countries that do not level the playing field for girls and boys is an estimated $92 billion. In a survey done in India, 60% of children interviewed agreed that if resources are scarce, it’s better to educate a boy than a girl. Among other problems that this initiative is trying to alleviate in addition to education are those of child brides (some as young as twelve), HIV infections, genital mutilation, and sexual violence and exploitation.
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This year, Because I am a Girl welcomed Indian actress Freida Pinto on board to take part in global initiatives to help girls and strengthen communities. Given her role in the Academy Award winning Slumdog Millionaire, there could not be a better advocate for the cause. Over the summer, Pinto traveled to Sierra Leone in Africa as Because I am a Girl’s ambassador to witness the initiative first hand. On the website’s blog she mentions that she was asked by a journalist in Sierra Leone what hope she can give these girls to which she said: “To be very honest, these girls have given me hope.” She has expressed her amazement with the sincerity of the organization’s work, and mentioned always wanting to be involved in some way. Once in Sierra Leone she said that the strength of people there made her realize that she couldn’t be weak, regardless of what information or situations she encountered. In an interview she did following her return with Parade Magazine, she highlighted the importance of education. In order to affect change in the community as a whole, and “to have the parents understand why these girls should stay in school and not get married at 14,” they must be rightfully educated. On the other hand, we, sitting across the world have a different role to fulfill. “You watch and read about some of these troubled countries but the firsthand experience is an eye opener. Things are so much deeper, richer and you uncover layers of stories beyond what you watch on news channels or read in books.” Pinto’s words emphasize a point that she and the organization cannot stress enough: the need for our own education. Although not all of us may have the resources to help these communities in person, the more we educate others and ourselves on these topics, the more of a difference we can make.
Who is Plan? Plan was founded over seventy years ago and has been ranked among the top ten international development agencies in the world by reputation, size, and scope. They visualize a world where children can realize their full potential in societies that respect peopleâ€™s rights and dignity. Their mission is to achieve lasting improvements in the quality of life of vulnerable children in developing countries by enabling them and their families to meet basic needs and to increase their ability to participate in and benefit from their societies. They have worked in communities in fifty different countries by emphasizing community engagement and ownership they are able to work on eight technical areas: Education, Economic Security, Water and Sanitation, Health, Sexual Health (including HIV), Emergencies, Protection, and Child Participation. For more information on these causes and to learn more about how you can contribute, visit the following websites: http://www.planusa.org/ http://becauseiamagirl.ca/
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THE BLOOD angladesh has become the leading exporter of garments in South Asia. In fact, it is second to only China internationally. Although Bangladesh is a fairly recent addition to the garment and textile industry, having only been in the game for about thirty-five years, its factories suffer from some of the deadliest working conditions the world has ever known. From 2006 to present, over 300 workers have been killed. On November 27th, 2012, tragedy struck again when a serious factory fire engulfed a Western mass-market apparel manufacturer and claimed the lives of an additional 112 factory workers. When Associated Press reporters passed through Tazreen Fashions Ltd. in late November, mere days after a blaze ripped through the multi-story factory, only strewn remnants of women’s nightgowns and children’s shorts hinted at what the edifice used to be. Tazreen is operated by factory owner Delwar Hossain. Respected by his workers, Hossain would hear their requests out on wage increases and improved working conditions. When several complained about the harsh treatment by upper management, it was the managers that were dismissed as opposed to the workers. Ultimately it was not Hossain who was charged in the deaths of his employees. The fire originated on the first floor of the complex. Workers are coming out with statements about the stairwells being blocked with stacks of fabric and yarn, impeding their escape efforts. Reports are also emerging that the deaths were caused directly by three managers who locked the only escape route for these workers to flee the fire. Had there been an accessible fire
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escape, the death toll would have been drastically reduced. Of those who perished, 53 were burned beyond identification and received anonymous burials. Although the three managers have been arrested for their roles in the deadly fire, many say a larger, more ominous force was at play. Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has stated she believes arson was involved. Police have yet to rule out sabotage. Investigators also quickly discovered Tazreen’s clientele included the who’s who of Western fast fashion. Wal-Mart, Disney, Dickies and Sears made up only a handful of major brands found in the factory’s roster of clientele. Given the sheer size of these brands, their manufacturing methods have been known to be dubious at times and their buying practices called unsustainable. Wal-Mart has been called out in their “ethical sourcing” reports to downplay labour hours and the minimum age of the garment factory workers. In this case, each brand has attempted to distance itself from the disaster by saying in its own words that Tazreen was not authorized to be producing their garments. Wal-Mart was even aware of the poor working conditions at the factory and as a result, claims to have pulled their business over a year ago. “A supplier subcontracted work to this factory without authorization and in direct violation of our policies,” stated a Wal-Mart press release on the situation. “Today, we have terminated the relationship with that supplier. The fact that this occurred is extremely troubling to us, and we will continue to work across the apparel industry to improve fire safety education and training in Bangladesh.”
We also reached out to the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association and they had the following to say: “(BGMEA) will disburse compensation to the relatives of the workers killed in a fire at Tazreen Fashions. Preliminarily, every family of the deceased will get nearly Tk 6 lakh ($7,317 CAD) each. The relatives of the deceased will collect the cheques from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. The prime minister, BGMEA and some donors have contributed to the fund.” In last month’s issue of SHE, we reported on Hasina’s involvement in ousting Nobel Peace Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus from his position as the head of Grameen Bank, the micro-lending bank that assists the most impoverished in Bangladesh. New York Times suggested she made this move out of jealousy of his Prize and global recognition. Going back to the issue at hand, is it really in the best interests of the victims to receive a cheque passed through a character of such questionable moral fibre? Although it doesn’t lessen the tragedy to question Hasina’s involvement, it’s certainly worth raising an eyebrow. Tazreen employs 1,400 workers—70% of whom are women from the Northern regions of Bangladesh, the most impoverished part of the country. Over 3000 factory workers pushing for change in the industry held protests across Dhaka in the days following the blaze. Although traffic was disrupted and property pelted with rocks, there were no reports of injuries. A petition on Change.org has been circulated under a factory worker named Lovely. Lovely had been working at a factory in Dhaka at the age of 11 when a fire broke out and left her with serious injuries. She is calling for mass-market apparel retailers such as Wal-Mart, H&M and GAP to make a conscious effort toward educating factory workers with “a real fire safety program that will save the lives of the companies’ sweatshop workers.”
To show your support for Lovely’s cause visit: https://www.change.org/petitions/walmart-h-m-gap-join-fire-safety-program-fix-deathtrap-factories Change.org hopes to draw the attention of fast fashions’ head honchos in a bid for improved working conditions for the lowest but most critical component of these retailers’ supply chains. -Reporting by Priya Kumar SHE CANADA 77
September Lodge, Village Way, Little Chalfont, Buckinghamshire, HP7 9PU Tel +44(0) 1494 762 063 firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.ladyfatemahtrust.org UK Reg Charity No: 1072270
Thank you for answering the call of the Orphans and the cries of thirst emanating from Iraq in places like Kerbala, Najaf, Basra, Al Kurt, Baghdad and across to Iran where Iraqi & Afghan orphans are to be found. Your response shows the words of Imam Jaffer Sadiq (a.s.) saying â€œEveryday is Ashura, every land is Kerbalaâ€?, ring true today as when they were spoken and will continue to do so to the end of time. We pray that Allah puts you in the proximity of the Holy Prophet in Jannah for responding to the Prophets to care for the Orphans. To see what other worthy causes you can contribute towards to make a real difference to the lives of those who are less fortunate than us, all around the world, please visit: www.ladyfatemahtrust.org
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These young eyes were witness to the atrocities that befell the residents of Kerbala and live their lives emotionally scarred and often without one or both parents. As a result of several wars and years of summary execution under Saddamâ€™s tyrannical rule, millions of innocent lives were denied the love and care of their parents. If our children have a rough day we read them a bedtime story to lull them into sleep. But these children would fall asleep alone only to be woken up to the sound of gunfire and exploding bombs to be instantly reminded that they had lost their father or mother or worse still, both. These young minds must have wondered if this was how they will live the rest of their lives as once again they realise that their loved ones are gone forever.
Your concern and support will restore some hope for their future. You can reach out to an orphan in Kerbala today and change a life for the better. The Lady Fatemah (A.S.) Charitable Trust has worked in Kerbala for over 10 years and has overseen several such projects. By signing the Gift Aid Form you are assured that for every $1.59 dollars donated up to $2.03 is actually received by the needy with no deductions made for administration or any other associated cost.
The Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) highly recommended caring for the orphaned child and you can answer the cry of such a child by offering them some comfort in their traumatic lives. At a cost of just $24 dollars per month (less than $1 a day) you can ensure that the child is housed (preferably with close family) educated, clothed and fed.
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aybe I should go for the low-fat version. But wait - it has too much sodium. The high fibre kind? Nix that, I see trans fat on the label. Hmmm…perhaps I’ll stick with this one, it has no artificial colours…” This is the internal dialogue I run through every time I visit the grocery store. Being a former processed food marketer and a dedicated label reader, I know that the array of products on the shelves can be dizzying. If I don’t catch myself, I can spend half an hour paralyzed in front of the spaghetti sauce. The truth is, the supermarket has become a battleground of competing claims and labels all shouting to get your attention; you practically need your Ph. D. in Nutrition just to decipher them all. And as South Asians, we need to make especially healthy choices since we’re more likely to have high blood pressure and diabetes, not to mention that we’re at a greater risk of heart disease and stroke. So how can you make better choices? Luckily, I’ve done the work for you. Here are some claims to watch out for next time you hit the supermarket aisles: MULTIGRAIN Multigrain sounds a lot healthier than plain old white flour, but the truth is, it’s probably not. This claim just means that the product contains more than one type of grain, but it doesn’t tell you how much. So it could be mostly white flour, with a few oats thrown in. Check the label; if the product doesn’t contain much fibre, then think of ‘Multigrain’ as more of a flavour than a health benefit.
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MADE WITH WHOLE WHEAT This claim is often found on packages of crackers, bread and pastas, but it doesn’t tell you how much whole wheat is in the product. In fact, the first ingredient may still be white flour, with a little bit of whole wheat thrown in for colour. It’s much better to look for something that’s made with 100% whole wheat or whole grains. REDUCED FAT This is a tricky one. Less fat is good, right? The answer is, it depends. All things being equal, yes, less fat is good. But remember: fat delivers flavour. If the manufacturer removes fat from a product, they still have to make it taste good – so they may add sugar or salt in to replace the lost flavour, and other chemicals to mimic the role of the fat. The best thing to do is to compare the original and reduced-fat versions and choose the one with the simplest ingredient list. SOURCE OF ENERGY This claim is a bit dicey. Energy is measured in calories, and all food is made up of calories. So absolutely all food is a source of energy. This claim isn’t telling you anything about how healthy (or unhealthy!) the product is.
Now that you know some of the Sneaky Peters you should be watching for in the supermarket, here are some tips to make sure that you too don’t get lost in the spaghetti sauce aisle. Below are my top strategies to cut down on that label-reading time and help you make healthy choices:
Shop the perimeter first.
Visit the ‘unsexy’ aisles next.
Be extra vigilant in the ‘flashy’ aisles.
Use technology to help you.
The perimeter (outside edge) of the grocery store is where all the fresh food is like fruits, vegetables and dairy. Shopping here first means you’re less likely to splurge on processed foods, which are often way more calorie-dense and full of unnecessary ingredients. Remember the frozen section too – frozen peas, okra or spinach are great to throw into a quick weeknight curry. The ‘unsexy’ sections - beans, bulk nuts, grains, canned goods – may not look pretty, but are usually a better bet nutritionally. The products here are not as heavily marketed, so they often contain less claims and simpler ingredient lists. Be sure to stock up on South Asian staples like lentils, chickpeas and canned tomatoes. If you can’t read every label, then concentrate on the aisles with lots of bright colours, slick packaging and inviting displays, like cereal, yogurt and granola bars. These are likely the ones where manufacturers make the most money and the ones that contain the most processed ingredients.
A good way to tell if an aisle is flashy is to remember if you’ve seen a TV commercial for it lately. If companies are investing in TV ads, you can bet they’re investing a lot of dollars to appeal to consumers. Apps like Fooducate, which assigns a nutritional grade and highlights important info about each of the items in its huge product database, can help you make decisions. Though it’s an American app and often Canadian product formulations will differ, it can at least give you an idea of where the product falls on the healthy/unhealthy spectrum. This may sound intimidating, but trust me – after a few trips to the supermarket, you’ll be shopping like a pro. And then you can offer some sage advice to that poor soul still stuck in the spaghetti sauce aisle. Roxanna Kassam Kara is a former processed food marketer who runs WholesomeHedonist.com, a blog that debunks supermarket claims and helps consumers navigate the aisles. You can follow her at on Twitter at @ WholesmHedonist. SHE CANADA 81
BY PRIYA KUMAR
isiting India and bored of the regular Delhi, Mumbai, Goa circuit? One can make only so many visits to the Taj Mahal in Agra, so why not try something new? With tourism to India at an all time high, there are hundreds of hidden gems off the beaten path. Beyond Vineyard Resort in Nasik (a four hour drive from Mumbai) is just one such discovery we at SHE have made—one need not be a wine connoisseur to enjoy the luxuries this retreat has to offer. 82 SHE CANADA
Sula Vineyards is renowned the world over for its fine wines. However, since its founding in 2000, Sula’s brand extension has gone far beyond the bottled variety. Today Sula is proud to have its name on an eponymous music festival titled Sulafest (a.k.a. South Asia’s answer to Coachella) and more recently, a luxury boutique resort in the center of its vineyards appropriately titled Beyond.
Having visited Beyond during Sulafest last year, I recall being taken aback by the beauty of the property. Situated on top of some of the most fertile land in South Asia, the 32-room luxury lodging overlooks two inviting infinity pools reflecting the sprawling vineyards situated around the lodging. Strangely enough, the bathroom was the standout feature of the room for me. The sink and shower are the striking waterfall varieties that, aside from functionality, are just really cool to look at. As many travellers know, the bathroom speaks volumes about the quality of a hotel in South Asia.
Whether staying in a Standard Room or indulging in a Private Villa with a breathtaking view of the lake, Beyond offers a completely unique experience for those seeking a weekend getaway from the city. Besides the welcome quiet the country offers, visitors to the Resort can enjoy a leisurely bike ride on the winding country roads or simply sitting out in the sun while feasting on the local cuisine available at Café Rose on the property itself. Packages for a night at Beyond start at a mere $100 and include a delicious breakfast and a tour of the vineyards. SHE CANADA 83
Slowboat down the Mekong By Robin Esrock
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etween rats scurrying across the floor, the demonic chanting, loud gongs and animal squeals, it was no wonder I had a tough time falling asleep. After seven hours on a narrow, coffin-shaped wooden slowboat, the last thing I needed was a ritual cow slaughter, taking place right outside my window. I would have got up to investigate this cultural ceremony in the sleepy village of Pakbang, but rats were attacking my backpack, and leaving the mosquito net would be a bad idea, because they would gnaw on me next. There are pockets of luxury and comfort in Laos, but I remember this night far better than any night at a five star resort. The infamous two-day slowboat down the Mekong River is truly a grand adventure. Hard wooden seats, a deafening engine, constant stops to pick up villagers, and yet the glorious views of the jungle, mountains and tribal settlements left my senses tingling. As the late afternoon sun set behind the mountains, the jungle buzzed with life. Locals in wooden boats waved from their traditional fishing boats, and we gently drifted along water that, late in the afternoon, took on the colour and texture of mercury. We passed a Buddhist cave carved deep into a rock face, giggling half-naked kids playing in the sand banks, steep cliffs and lush green thicket. Just about anyone can put up with rats, ritual slaughter, and splinters in their butt when this is the reward. A landlocked country bordering Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, China and Cambodia, Laos has a proud communist government, but is the poorest country in Southeast Asia. It’s also one of the best-kept secrets of Southeast Asia – beautiful, friendly, and impossibly cheap. The local currency, the kip, is handled in large bundles and shopping bags, allowing even backpackers to feel the flush of cash. Fortunately, credit cards have slowly made their way to some of the more popular tourist hotspots, such as Luang Prabang. This is where I gratefully departed the slowboat, ready to explore the country’s second largest city. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Luang Prabang is surrounded by stunning temples, leafy neighbourhoods, orange-robed monks and very welcoming locals. It also has one of the world’s best night markets, and while the variety of
artisan items on display are impressive, the peaceful tranquility is more so. No yelling or screaming, no tugging at the sleeves or wild hustle – just locals sitting alongside their stall, enjoying the passing traffic of foreigners. There is something tangibly beautiful about the people of Laos, most clearly evident when you see children playing in the streets. Their greeting of “sabadee!” is yelled out with such enthusiasm it cannot help but bring a smile to your face. Having explored Luang Prabang’s sparkling Buddhist temples, I almost lost my breakfast on the rollercoaster drive to Vangvieng, a small village that has quickly become a traveller favourite. Vangvieng’s primary attraction is the hiring of rubber doughnut-shaped tubes to gently float down the adjacent Mekong river, stopping at makeshift riverfront bars with wooden swings and jumps. The clean, refreshing water meanders through incredible mountain scenery, while downtempo and reggae music echoes from the bars. At one point I joined a local family on their picnic, who took great pride in offering me a coconut leaf filled with their homemade vegetable curry. It was the kind of warm, authentic moment I’ll remember for the rest of my life. “So Robin, is this top ten day?” asked Minesh, an English traveller on a tube floating nearby mine. We had met several months, and several countries ago, and enjoyed rating the quality of each travel day. “A top three day!” I replied, thinking back on my many adventures. I wondered how long it might take before the genuinely friendly Laotians become like their Thai neighbours, who seemed more genuinely interested in separating the baht from my wallet? As word spreads and more tourists arrive, improving the economy and hopefully some of the worst roads I’ve seen anywhere, I wonder if the Laos government will get past its notorious corruption and truly develop the country’s potential as one of the best places to visit in southeast Asia. Rats, rituals, rickety boats and all. Vancouver-based Robin Esrock is the co-host of the OLN/CityTV series Word Travels. You can follow his adventures at www.robinesrock.com SHE CANADA 85
Besides being one of the most recognizable names in talent representation, MAX Agency is also a onestop shop for all of your promotional needs. Whether putting together a fashion show, print advertisement or marketing campaign, MAX has you covered for a fraction of the cost of an ad agency. MAX also has access to an extensive roster of art directors, choreographers, photographers, make-up artists and hair stylists available to complete your project from start to finish. Regardless of the size of the project budget, we are available to you.
2063 Yonge Street, Suite #202, Toronto, Ontario M4S 2A2 tel: 416-482-5392 | fax: 416-482-4109 | email@example.com 86 SHE CANADA
Are you a new actor/model looking for a head start in your aspired career? Talent Shop Academy can open doors of learning and opportunity for you. Are you a seasoned actor/model? Talent Shop Academy can make sure you are getting the right training, preparation and representation. The insight you will gain as our student will give an incredible boost to your acting career. Our classes are taught by industry professionals who can transform amateur actors into stellar performers.
Talent Shop Academy 1999 Avenue Road, Suite 202 Toronto, Ontario M4M 4A5 Tel: (416) 644-7790 Fax: (416) 482-4109 Email:firstname.lastname@example.org SHE CANADA 87
By Priya Kumar
Being South Asian, I was blessed with oily, acne prone skin. During the two years I spent living in Mumbai as an adult, my skin was on its absolute worst behavior. As a result, I was left with deep, rolling acne scars primarily on my right cheek. No amount of foundation, concealer or powder I would use was enough to smooth the skin out so I initially turned to the non-invasive, in-office cosmetic procedure, fractionated laser treatment. Popular amongst the wellheeled and high profile, the fractionated laser effectively resurfaces the top layer of the skin. The downside of the treatment is having to go back in every month to achieve maximum results and with a price tag of up to $1000 a session it isn’t always practical. Given my busy schedule, the most inconvenient thing about the procedure was having to put aside two hours of my day to go into the clinic, have the topical numbing cream applied and then wait 45 minutes for it to set in before sitting for the laser treatment itself. None of it was worth the hassle! Enter the Tria Skin Rejuvenating Laser. I was familiar with Tria, having used other products by the brand. I was also aware of their break-through, take home systems that have changed the cosmetic procedure game. The Skin Rejuvenating Laser treats multiple signs of aging including wrinkles, age spots and textural irregularities (the last one is written all over my face, literally) all from the privacy of your own home, for a mere fraction of the cost. Here’s how it works: The Skin Rejuvenating Laser passes microscopic laser beams into the skin to stimulate the body’s own natural renewal process, regenerating cells and producing new collagen. I wasn’t sure what to expect when using it for the first time, but when I passed it over the said problem right cheek, it felt like receiving thousands of microscopic pinpricks in succession. It wasn’t comfortable per se, but the sensation was very similar to what I felt during an in-office laser procedure (good thing). The user manual recommends treating the skin before bedtime to let redness subside before morning. The feeling left behind after the procedure on the lowest setting is comparable to a light sunburn. Verdict: After using the Tria Skin Rejuvenating Laser for only a week I began to notice a marked difference in the surface of my skin. The pockmarks were clearly leveling out and the discolouration from recent blemishes looked dramatically faded, especially around the edges—again this was within a week. By the end of the 8 weeks, my skin looked like it belonged to someone else. Not only did it behave throughout the 8 weeks of treatment (no breakouts, little redness), but all the insecurities I had about my uneven skin from acne scarring vanished. It was difficult to remember what it was like prior to treating it with Tria. Bottom Line: This is not a product you want to miss. The Health Canadaapproved system can be used on the entire face and definitely will result in a significant improvement in the over texture of your skin. The Tria Skin Rejuvenating Laser is available at triabeauty.ca for $495
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Which products should you be carrying around with you at all times? Here are SHE’s picks for the month of February. Keeping in mind the most romantic time of year, these beauty essentials will take you from the office to date night without missing a beat.
1. Volum’ Express the Rocket Blackest Black $9.99 2. Lady Gaga Fame Black Fluid $39.00 3. Even Better Makeup SPF 15 $33.00 4. Eye Wonder Vasanti $42.00
5. Garnier Body Intensive 7 Days Soothing Gel-Cream $7.99 (400 mL) 5
6. MAC Glamour Daze Collection $47.50 ea. 7. Maybelline Vivids $9.99 ea.
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MEETING THE SKINCARE NEEDS OF SOUTH ASIAN WOMEN EVERYWHERE By Priya Kumar
South Asian women are renowned for their beauty consciousness. In fact, major cities such as Lahore and Mumbai boast a shocking number of beauty parlours per capita even in the most impoverished of areas. With the ever-pervasive demand for beauty maintenance, doesn’t it go without saying that South Asian skin requires different treatment than what is already offered by the plethora French and American skincare lines saturating the beauty industry? Vasanti Cosmetics has recognized this void in the marketplace, primarily in due part to the founders’ own experiences with pre-existing products. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Pinki Gosal, CoFounder and Director of Product Development on creating Vasanti and the difference it has made for South Asian women shopping for products that bring out the best in their skin. Vasanti caters to diverse skin types, thus filling a void in the industry—how was this need identified and did the brand come about? I suppose everything starts when you have a personal need and can’t find a solution. Being South Asian myself, I was searching for something to conceal my dark under eye circles and a foundation to match my complexion. Exhausted by the search, and not finding the right shade that matched, I knew I had to create it! Everything was too ashy, too light or even darker than my skin tone that completely made my skin look dull and like I was wearing makeup. [Founders Mona Patel (CEO), Priti Patel (Director of Marketing) and myself] started working on a few products and slowly built the line to include all skin tones and now have over 120 different products. In Vasanti’s early days, how did you initially get the brand off the ground? We started with a few products at the beginning and continued year after year to build the brand. We were patient and worked to develop a brand that was relevant to the customer at a time when the industry was oversaturated. We did a lot of research and surveying of many different women with different skin tones, ages and races to understand what the consumer was still looking for and what was important to them in their buying decisions. They wanted great quality product at reasonable prices with shades that worked well with their skin tones. 90 SHE CANADA
Launching a cosmetics line isn’t like opening a boutique or becoming an apparel designer. Where is Vasanti created and how did it receive clearance safety-wise? We work with a few labs in Canada that have gone through cosmetic audits for GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) and meet all regulations for developing and manufacturing cosmetics. We use the finest raw materials available for our formulations and work with the leading suppliers in this area to provide the end consumer the best quality product. We also work closely with packaging suppliers and engineers to enhance the performance of our products through application techniques and packaging to showcase the formula. How did Vasanti Cosmetics ultimately get picked up by large retailers such as Shoppers Drug Mart? Timing is everything; each retailer was a different story. One retailer heard about us through word of mouth and once they saw the line and the quality of the products they were excited to roll us out. Another saw the market need and did a test run of our brand in a handful of stores to see how we would perform. We have been very fortunate that our products speak for themselves. Tell me about the difference between South Asian skin and Caucasian skin. It’s not so much the difference of ethnicity of the skin but rather the undertones that the skin has. Skin tone can vary from yellow, pink to red undertones. Therefore, we have developed our foundations and concealer to address this broad spectrum and will match the skin for flawless coverage, no matter the undertone. We understand that no matter what ethnicity you are you can fall anywhere in that spectrum of fair to dark.
What are some useful tips about caring for South Asian skin? Always ensure you bring out the glow in your skin. An even complexion gives the appearance of a more youthful glow. You can do this through your skincare regime and choosing the right foundation. Make sure you never go too dark on your foundation products, as this will make your complexion look dull. Always match the skin tone and work on getting an even coverage all over that matches your neck. What are three products you recommend every woman carry in their purses at all times? Vasanti Tinted Lip Balm; a favourite of our customers, it is the perfect lip balm that adds colour and evens your natural lip tone and hydrates giving the lips a fuller, plumper look. You should also carry Vasanti Face Base Oil-Free powder foundation for touch-ups, as it will never look cakey and is the perfect product to brighten your skin tone. Last but not least, is Mascara. Start the day with one coat and add a second coat for dramatic lashes that transforms your look from day to night. What is the best sort of foundation/concealer to use on acne-prone skin? Before applying foundation or concealer, you should start with the right skincare. Use Vasanti’s Brighten Up! 4 to 5 times a week that will help with acne-prone skin and over time will reveal brighter looking skin. Because acne-prone skin can lead to dry skin, you will want to use an oil-free and hydrating foundation. Our Liquid Cover Up is a hydrating concealer and foundation-in-one. The hydrating properties will be great on blemishes that are drying out and will not accentuate the dry areas but will conceal and create a veil overtop. Finish off by setting with Vasanti’s Face Base and you will have even natural coverage. What colours are hot for dusky skin this Spring? There is a strong Egyptian inspiration for Spring 2013. The eye makeup is iridescent Jewel tones, like our Eye Shadow Duos in Buckingham Palace and Mount Rushmore and Shimmer Powder
in Twilight. Also aqua tones and precious stones with teals are hot for the eyes like Vasanti’s Lake Louise eye shadow duo and Electric Ocean shimmer powder. The lips and cheeks are in nudes and apricot shades like Aruba, Luxembourg, Baltic Lipshine and blush in Andes and Sun Peached Glow Bronzer. The eyes lined with black and other jewel tones like rich blue. What’s currently the best selling Vasanti product? Vasanti’s EYE WONDER - Triple Action Peptide Eye Cream that targets under eye dark circles, puffiness and wrinkles. It is a product that we cannot keep on the shelves because it WORKS! A close second is the Brighten Up! - Enzymatic Face Rejuvenator that dramatically improves your skin’s texture to reveal softer, brighter and younger looking skin! It brightens with powerful papaya enzymes to give radiance, exfoliates with dermatologist grade micro-crystals and gently cleanses with aloe vera, coconut and panthenol [the alcohol analog of vitamin B5]. It is a favourite among our online bloggers. Last but not least is our Liquid Cover Up Oil-Free Foundation and Concealer-in-one, which offers incredible coverage, a feather light finish and radiant glow in a oneof-a-kind liquid foundation. It hydrates and brightens for flawless looking skin and works on all skin types and tones. Are there any new products we can look forward to this spring? We will be launching an incredible eye primer that will extend the wear of your eye shadow without creasing or fading. Also you can expect lots of new shades in our tinted lip balm formula. Finally we will be launching a universal brow wax and powder duo that will keep your brows perfectly in place and groomed. Personally, I’m thrilled to see a line of cosmetics that is born and bred Canadian that caters to South Asian skin. Clearly the success of Vasanti is testament to the power of South Asian Canadian needs; by beginning with something as simple as beauty, Vasanti has identified the niche in the broad spectrum of Canadian ethnic demographics. Hopefully other industries including fashion, gastronomy and entertainment will soon follow suit.
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By Jeet Thayil Penguin Books, 304 Pages $16.72 at Chapters and Indigo
BOOK REVIEW Review By Priya Kumar
“Bombay, which obliterated its history by changing its name and surgically altering its face, is the hero or heroin of this story.” So begins the journey into Thayil Jeet’s Mumbai—but the reader must make note of how the word heroin is spelled, as it foreshadows the demise of each and every character we meet in Narcopolis’ pages. Set primarily in the 70s and 80s and ending in 2004, Jeet tells a raw story of the underbelly of India’s most bustling metropolis through the eyes of an anonymous narrator. It is through his troubled eyes that we meet a motley crew of walking contradictions including Rashid, the staunch Muslim owner of the opium den on Shuklaji Street where the majority of the story unfolds, Dimple/Zeenat— the at times fragile eunuchcum-prostitute—and Rumi, a hammer wielding sociopath and perhaps one of the most disturbing characters in the book. The narrative opens with one sentence that runs on for six pages—a true feat in itself—but manages to set the tone for the rest of the book. Each character’s life story reads as though it is floating out of the pages like smoke from a pipe, ultimately blending with the ones that came before it, standing in stark contrast to what one might expect to come out of the city of dreams, glamour and home of Bollywood. They are sad, poetic and desperate and display a complete lack of self-control. Not unlike Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, Narcopolis is set to a background of historical events including the ongoing Hindu/Muslim riots that displace some of the characters while bringing others closer together. One unforgettable chapter sees Jamal, Rashid’s 6-year-old son, being stopped by police who hold him against his will. Seeing Dimple in the distance, he tells them she is his “ma”—as she is dressed as a Christian at the time—and they let him go, thus saving his life. It is the first time anyone in Rashid’s family acknowledges Dimple, who lives on the half landing between the opium den and family’s apartment. Another real-life parallel between Midnight’s Children and Narcopolis is their recognition by the Man Booker Prize jury. Rushdie won the prize back in the early eighties, while Jeet was shortlisted with four other finalists this year. Such achievement is a far cry from Jeet’s real-life inspiration for the desperate story that chronicles addiction and the destruction of characters succumbing to ‘chemical’ (or heroin as we know it). According to London’s The Guardian, Jeet struggled with alcohol and drug addiction for twenty years of his life and was no stranger to opium dens like Rashid’s.
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But, just like Rome, Bombay rebuilds itself from the rubble left behind by these street urchins into Mumbai as we know it. The story closes with Rashid’s now adult son Jamal at a hot Juhu nightclub—perhaps Trilogy in the Sea Princess Hotel which I myself am familiar—with his older fiancé taking part in the new, ex-pat invaded, word class metropolis. The reader is meant to see the mirrored change in both the city and narrator by the end. Even the writing becomes less lucid in flow to the point that it feels like a completely different book altogether. Mumbai went from an imperial port, to the desolate, crime riddled pile of rubble that serves as the backdrop for the introduction of the ensemble of characters to the shiny, dynamic and wealthy city it is today. The story ends exactly as it begins: with the word “Bombay.”
As a Muslim, I have abstained from drinking alcohol my entire life. I still find it challenging at times, to be sober and living among a very ethnically diverse group of friends in Toronto (all of my friends drink). I want to be social but the peer pressure and certain social situations can be hard to handle at times. Should I stop hanging around people that drink or is it normal to have an occasional drink to be social? Sober in the City Dear Sober, Growing up can be tough, especially in a world where peer acceptance is everything. Believe it or not, I have Western friends who choose to abstain from alcohol, as well. Some of them say it’s to keep themselves focused on their careers while others claim it’s to be as healthy as they can be. In fact, here at SHE we recently interviewed an A-list Hollywood celebrity who hasn’t had a drink in over a year. Why? Simply because with the speed life is moving at these days, why get bogged down by something that’s all in your head to begin with? To answer your question, you should do neither. Unless your friends make you feel downright uncomfortable with the amount of alcohol they are consuming, there is no reason you should feel out of place. Replace that fancy Cosmopolitan with its virgin equivalent, or better yet, energy drinks come in every colour of the rainbow! There’s no need for anyone to question what’s in your glass. You definitely need not feel the pressure to drink once in a while to be social. The fact that you abstain from alcohol for religious and cultural reasons is a part of who you are—it’s a display of strong will and character. For that, we applaud you! Perhaps the problem isn’t alcohol at all. As you get older, bars and clubs just become less exciting than they were when we were in university. You might want to try trading the club for other in-depth cultural experiences like an art gallery opening or quaint bistros that specialize in anything but alcohol (bubble tea and dessert come to mind). Regardless of what you decide, know that standing up for who you are is important when you’re in your early twenties—you will never regret not trying alcohol under the pressure of your peers, but you will certainly regret forsaking your values simply to fit in with the crowd.
Help! I haven’t been out of school for that long and I am still looking to find a permanent full-time job. I am working but its to gain work experience, therefore I am on a major budget. The problem is, I’m having a hard time budgeting for what is important versus what is fun. I have a few weddings coming up, for which I need to buy new outfits, jewellery, and shoes. Plus, I want to be able to go out on the weekends and that requires spending on food, drinks, parking and your outfit for the evening. I don’t want to become one of those people who can’t go out or do anything fun because money is tight. How do can I balance going out with being frugal? 99 Problems but a bad boss ain’t one Dear 99 Problems, This is a tough one. Firstly, I applaud your effort to gain work experience in the field of your choice. It’s a competitive world out there and expecting a plum, well-paid job straight out of school with almost no experience is unrealistic. Here at SHE we have many young ladies in your position. For this reason, we only require Interns to come into the office two days a week. The idea behind this part-time work is to allow for enough time to work parttime in retail, food service or other projects that pay (at least some of) the bills. Look for work experience like this that is flexible. This brings us to the pricey costs of weddings—I don’t know about you, but for some reason my friends love to get married in other cities and countries. This means that not only do I have to deal with the prohibitive costs of a new wardrobe and gift for the bride and groom, but there is also the hefty price tag on getting there to consider. In order to budget all of this in (even WITH a full time job), I’m forced to recycle my wedding outfits. In a world of Facebook, this is not ideal. I understand that. But if you have several outfits ready to go for different functions and plan a little ahead to make sure no one you know would have seen a particular piece (in person, that is), you’ll be okay. And I can assure you one thing; no one will be looking at you anyways! It’s all about the bride—which is a good thing in this case. In regards to going out, here is my recommendation: Do things that cost less unless it’s a really special occasion. Staying home with friends and watching movies or playing board games come to mind. Going out to eat definitely adds up and isn’t always worth the cost, so as long as you can budget what it
is you’re able to spend I promise making the decision to go out or stay home will be much easier in the future. Okay, so I’m in my late twenties and most of my friends are either married, engaged or in a relationship. I am one of the few single ones in the group. This doesn’t particularly bother me, except for when it comes to planning trips together. My friends want to go away on a fun trip, but it has turned into more of a “couples” thing, which at this point is obviously not my scene. I’m worried about backing out because it’s not like me to miss out on any chance to get away. How do I tell my friends that I would rather not go in a way that doesn’t make them pity me or make me sound childish? Single in the City Dear Single, I completely understand your apprehension about being viewed as the eternal Carrie Bradshaw, but without making light of your feelings, I truly believe you by all means should go on this trip! Sure your friends are in relationships, but that’s not going to prevent you from potentially meeting the love of your life on vacation. I’ll tell you what will prevent the chance of this happening—staying home in cold, snowy Canada by yourself! I have several single girlfriends who enjoy the thrill of possibility so much, they travel to remote destinations of the world by themselves just for the adventure of it all. This is not what I’m suggesting you do—instead, you have an entourage of friends with you to prevent loneliness, so you’re already bound to have a decent time. While I cannot expect you to listen to my advice, I will also answer the question at hand. Vacations are not cheap. In fact, many people have a savings account just for travel due to the insane expenses that can be incurred from flight ticket taxes alone. By telling your friends that you simply cannot afford to get away this year, in this economy, nobody will blink an eye at your backing out. That way, you’ll have more money to spend on your single life at home. Sound like I’m being patronizing? Well I am. Go on the trip. You have nothing to lose but your single-dom.
Email us your Brown Girl Problems to email@example.com SHE CANADA 93
“QUOTE/UNQUOTE” On Love
“A love story is not about those who lost their heart but about those who find that sullen inhabitant who, when it is stumbled upon, means the body can fool no one, can fool nothing—not the wisdom of sleep or the habit of social graces. It is a consuming of oneself and the past.” “Love is the strongest force the world possesses and yet it is the humblest imaginable.”
MICHAEL ONDAATJE, THE ENGLISH PATIENT
“I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.” MARILYN MONROE
“You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.” DR. SEUSS
94 SHE CANADA
“Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don’t know how to replenish its source. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of illness and wounds; it dies of weariness, of witherings, of tarnishings.” ANAÏS NIN
SHE CANADA 95
96 SHE CANADA