Meet 7 Canadian Change Makers
Meet seven Canadian women who offer different ways of seeing – and changing – the world.
by : ELLE Canada- Aug 17th, 2020
Reitmans tapped seven women to talk about important topics like inclusivity and diversity. The major Canadian retailer called on public personalities from across the country whose messages are powerful enough to inspire change. Through their stories, they show us how overcoming obstacles can make us stronger and that our experiences and differences make us who we are.
1. Jully Black
Similarly, singer-songwriter Jully Black strives to connect with her fans. “I try to be as authentic as possible with the public,” she says. “I surrender to my own story. I believe there is strength at the core of each of our stories; it’s a privilege to be able to tell them in the hope that they can help free others. When you think of it, it’s an extremely powerful thing to share.”
2. Brooke Lynn Hytes
Speaking of style, nothing could be more spectacular than the outfits donned by Brooke Lynn Hytes, the first Canadian drag queen to compete on American reality-TV show RuPaul’s Drag Race. “I’m the queen of the North!” she says. She’s clearly proud—and with good reason. “People mistakenly think it’s easy to be a drag queen. What they may not know is that, as an artist, I do everything myself—from my clothes, makeup and hair to my choreography. Getting good results takes a lot of work.” Brooke Lynn is happy about being chosen by Reitmans to be an ambassador. “It shows how much the company values diversity. I feel honoured to be surrounded by such inspiring women, and I hope my message will help contribute to the movement, which aims to promote the importance—now more than ever—of inclusivity for everyone.”
3. Louise Green
Sharing is the biggest motivation for many Reitmans ambassadors, including Louise Green. She created the Big Fit Girl movement, which aims to recognize body diversity in sports and encourage women to be more active regardless of their size. “Unfortunately, it is still all too common for the media to promote the idea that you have to be tall and skinny to stay fit and healthy,” she says. To her, the “seeing is believing” concept is crucial in fighting this notion. “If you never see curvy women playing sports, it’s easy to assume that they just don’t. The wider the diversity in models, the more women will be inspired to get moving. Right now, many of them don’t feel compelled to partake in physical activity because they don’t see women who look like them engaging in sports.”
4. Michelle Salt
As for snowboarder Michelle Salt, her fight was with how she perceived herself. In 2011, she lost most of her right leg after a serious motorcycle accident. Despite the numerous challenges she faced, Michelle told her loved ones from her hospital bed that she was going to become a Paralympic athlete. Less than three years later, she competed in the Sochi Paralympic Winter Games in Russia, racing down the slopes on her snowboard and achieving podium-level performances. Today, she continues to inspire others through her tenacity. “It wasn’t always easy,” she admits, “but I’m proud of how far I’ve come.” Michelle is also proud of her prosthesis now and hides it a lot less than she used to. “After my accident, all I wanted was a prosthesis that looked like my other leg. With time, I realized that my amputated leg is part of me, and I started adding stylish sleeves—I have more than 20. I feel like myself when I wear them, and they’re great conversation pieces!”
5. Esi Edugyan
For Esi Edugyan, striving for inclusivity involves learning about others – especially through fiction. The Albertan novelist, who is a two-time winner of the Giller Prize, a prestigious literary award, firmly believes that her stories draw their strength from readers’ openness to discovering voices that haven’t always been heard. “As a reader, it helps you embrace different ways of seeing the world,” she says.
6. Arianna Lauren
Arianna Lauren, a young Indigenous woman whose company, Quw’utsun’ Made, makes health and beauty products inspired by ancestral knowledge, says she felt moved by the opportunity to choose an organization that would benefit from the campaign. “Urban Native Youth Association is a Vancouver-based organization that supports Indigenous youth in their projects,” she explains. “The money raised will therefore go toward helping youngsters from the region. It was important to me to choose an organization that has a major local impact.”
7. Ariane Moffatt
Ariane Moffatt is a singer-songwriter who embraces diversity one song at a time. “For an artist, promoting inclusivity means expressing your uniqueness in an unapologetic way,” she says. “Both in sorrow and in joy, you have to do what it takes to be comfortable with yourself and in sync with what you’re projecting.”
Reitmans’ REALLY YOU CAMPAIGN
This was the very intention behind the launch of his new social platform Reitmans’ Beyond Looks, which promotes inclusivity and diversity. For several years now, through very tangible initiatives – including offering clothes in a wide array of sizes and adopting a no-retouching policy for its promotional photos – Reitmans has made it easier for women to feel like themselves.
This approach is perfectly aligned with Ariane Moffatt’s values. “There is an important social momentum right now – we have to strike the iron while it’s hot!” she says. “We need to project more images of people who are different because there are as many [different types of] models as there are human beings. And we have to cast a light on the people our society has tried to keep hidden for too long. I want to celebrate this publicly because, in a way, I personally embody both sexual and body diversity. Even though my path hasn’t always been as easy as it seems, these days I’m doing quite well.”
As part of Reitmans’ 2020 inclusivity campaign, the seven ambassadors each chose a T-shirt design that reflects their message. The retailer will donate $10,000 from sales of the tees to charities chosen by each of the ambassadors.
The seven organizations are as unique as the ambassadors themselves, promoting seven distinct messages of diversity and inclusivity. And at the centre of it all is Reitmans, a company that is well established in these communities and values initiatives that help build a better world – one T-shirt at a time.
T-Shirts That Are Both Inspired and inspiring
Reitmans’ seven ambassadors rose to the challenge of portraying inclusivity and diversity on their T-shirts. Through vibrant colours and moving words, each tee carries a strong message. Light and fun, Ariane Moffatt promotes inclusivity simply with an image. “To me, Mathilde Corbeil’s tender illustration embodies sisterhood and a form of empathy,” she says. “Yes, we all have our differences, but why not embrace them?”
Jully Black opted for a tee on which you can complete the phrase I am… in a blank square. “Because words define us,” she says. “If I say I am nothing, I give those words power. It’s up to you to choose how to define yourself.”
Esi Edugyan says she had trouble coming up with a quote that was short enough to fit on a T-shirt. She ended up finding the perfect words in her latest book, Washington Black: “Nothing is possible until it is made so.”
Lastly, Arianna Lauren’s T-shirt teaches us about Indigenous culture. The Vancouver Island-born entrepreneur chose to illustrate two very important plants in her community that she now uses in her products: cedar and Nootka rose. “Cedar grows abundantly here, and we use it for its anti-inflammatory properties,” she says. “And I love the scent of the Nootka rose.”
Needless to say, it will be hard to choose one of these inspiring T-shirts.
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