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Women of the week: ILana Tarutina

Music has always been a big part of ILana Tarutina’s life. She started singing in choirs at the age of 8, then started taking private vocal lessons and piano lessons at the Royal Conservatory of Music. With the knowledge gained from this, she started composing and creating tracks.

“By the age of 14 I was writing my own songs and at 16 I got my first set of music production equipment and started dabbling with arranging and beat making,” she says.

Now, she owns ILE Records, a company that offers songwriting, composition, production, recording and mixing.
“I’m proud of myself for building my production studio from scratch,“ she says.

As a female producer, she is an oddity in her field. She is quick to recognize this fact, yet remains hopeful for change.
“Unfortunately in my industry, men still heavily dominate the role of a music producer. I’m sure that will change within time, as there are more and more female producers on the rise.”

Despite this amazing accomplishment, she is still incredibly humble and is quick to recognize that she is not a perfect fit for everyone.
“As far as me producing for other artists goes, it’s all about what the artist is looking for, sometimes I may be a good fit sometimes someone else may be a better fit. I know what I bring to the table, I know my sound and production styles and I am aware that it doesn’t suit everybody.”

Although her producing venture has been a success, she hasn’t given up on her writing, and cites that her goal “is to write great songs, be it for me or other artists.”

And, yes, she is still a singer—and an original one at that.

“I’ve been told that I have a unique sound, perhaps it’s because I use original sounds in my production, perhaps it’s because when I sing I have a Russian accent!”

As a female producer with a unique sound, it is safe to say that ILana Tarutina is one of a kind. She is also a fighter, which is why she made it in her industry.

“Anybody entering the music industry has to be resilient,” she says. “Expect lots of pit falls and disappointments and forget overnight success. To make it in every industry requires lots of determination and hard work, in music industry that is especially true since it’s 1000 times more competitive than other industries. A song can be an overnight hit, but the legwork to make that song can be years.”

Sound advice from someone who has spent her entire life in the field.

10 questions with Barbie Jo Bontemps

Barbie Jo Bontemps isn’t a name you might recognize just yet, but probably one you should jot down and put in with your takeout menus, because this bitch delivers the good stuff so regularly you’d think her name was Papa John’s.

A fiery redhead (most days) with a sassy streak and a love for island beats, she’s been making waves on Church Street with her charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent.

Right now she is one of the rising stars showcased on Sunday nights as a part of this summer’s Crews and Tangos Drag Race, bumping shoulders with village favourites Heroine Marks, Daytona Bitch, and Ivory Towers.

Last night was Week 3 of the competition and Barb found herself in the bottom two up for elimination and worked her way back into the judge’s good books with a riveting rendition of Madonna’s Like a Virgin.

We caught of with Barbie Jo, or BJ as she’s known to fans and lovers, for ten questions about drag, music, dance, and style.

TRAV: What inspired you to try drag for the first time?

BJ: I used to live with a bunch of party animals and we used to have awesome theme parties (insert Mean Girls quote). For Halloween, however, my roommate Amanda and I decided to do our opposite-sex-white-trash-alter-egos. I had such a good time expressing myself from a different perspective I did it a couple more times. Then I heard about Sharon Needles and got RuPaul obsessed. I learned what professional drag make-up looked like and I became increasingly obsessed with painting my own face. It’s a slippery slope from that point on, and here I am in Crews & Tangos Drag Race — pwning n00bs.

 

TRAV: Is there any specific type of music that really gets you going?

BJ: I love most music. My favourite radio program is Dos Mundos on CIUT FM, every Wednesday at 6pm you can hear serious Latin/electronic fusion beats bumpin’ from my apartment. I really love dancehall music though — I know, you’re thinking: “This white-boy, gay, drag queen likes DANCEHALL!??!” Yes, yes I do! I just love how the riddims make my body want to move. I love anything Caribbean or Spanish related mostly. Basically, I was born in the wrong country.

 

TRAV: What song have you picked as your personal summer anthem this year?

BJ: It’s a tough call for me… I’ll pick three!
“Live it up” – J Lo feat. Pitbull
“Ooh la la” – Britney Spears
“Same Love” – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis — just because this is a real conscious ting!

 

TRAV: What is your most embarrassing drag moment?

BJ: Oh my. I’ve had so many. If you know me, you know I’m a giant klutz. Probably my most embarrassing drag moment was when I hosted Gay Trivia at O’Grady’s for my darling friend and sister Gina Hamilton. I was on the microphone at the front of the bar running my jokes. I remember I made a particularly crappy joke and as I was backing up nervously I caught my heel on the cord and careened backward into the wall. I finally landed on top of the speaker. Thankfully the majority of the people in the room were my friends and we just laughed about it.

 

TRAV: You’re a redhead, why do you think there are relatively few redheaded drag queens?

BJ: I am not sure! You know, I have branched out since my earlier days. Outside of the redhead family I now own: purple, turquoise, hot pink & black, electric blue & black, etc. The list, in just six months, is so long. I guess there are such few redheaded drag queens because they can’t pull it off? Maybe they’re afraid of losing their souls? Maybe they’re just not as skanky as I am. It’s really hard to tell.

TRAV: If you could spend the night with any celebrity, living or dead, who would it be and why?

BJ: Spend the night? You mean, like, they’ll sleepover? No, I don’t do that. Get it and get out.
Totes jokes, yo. I guess I’d pick Tahmoh Penikett. He was Helo on Battlestar Galactica and he’s Canadian. Tall and a total dream boat. I could say a couple more things about him, but I’ll let the readers do some research. I bet he’s packin’ some serious heat. Meoooow.

 

TRAV: Who are your top three Toronto drag influences & idols?

BJ: Drag idols/favourite performer, hmm, it’s so hard to choose here in Toronto! There are so many talented professionals. Each drag queen, like each person or set of fingerprints is totally unique. Though I am a total softy for certain queens. I’m choosing four. Deal with it. I adore the fiery and fierce performances of Vitality Black. If you haven’t seen this queen’s tricks go see them! As for pure elegance personified — it’s Farra N Hyte all the way. Careful though, bitch has bite. If you like large-scale, supremely choreographed, audio/visual spectacles: Sofonda Cox is your girl. Don’t be givin’ her no tequila, though. And my fourth (’cause I have to) — is Devine Darlin. Beautiful, intelligent, and sickeningly talented she sets the stage ablaze.

Honourable Mentions: Tynomi Banks (Let’s have a vogue off), Scarlett Bobo (That knee slide? Shoot me.), Nancy Bocock (I love when you eat an entire Deep and Delicious cake on stage). If you weren’t mentioned #sorryboutit.

 

TRAV: How did it feel to be in the bottom set last night?

BJ: Horrendous! I did not feel that Nancy [Bocock] and I deserved to be there. We worked really hard on our numbers and we practiced our staging for 3 days in a row. We painted each other beautifully — I even painted her better than myself. I honestly wanted to cry. I put so much effort and thought into what I do, that it doesn’t feel good to be the bottom. In that case at least. But, I untucked my nuts (figuratively) and demolished the Lipsync for Your Livelihood. I definitely wasn’t going home. No way no how.

 

TRAV: What is more important to a drag queen, confidence or talent?

BJ: That’s an odd question. Talent as a queen can mean a lot of different things: comedic talent, dance talent, make-up talent, quick wit, etc. And as we all know, or hopefully know, confidence is a key to success. Ultimately, I’d have to say confidence is most important. If you can’t sell what you’re doing, ain’t nobody gonna be buyin’ it.

 

TRAV: Where do you see your drag future taking you?

BJ: No idea. I’d like to keep doing it! At least maybe get paid to do it once and a while so I can continue to afford the make-up, hair, and, costumes. It’s something I’d like to explore in different ways. I’d love for drag to become more prevalent in our city. For it to be something accepted by all communities as a legitimate form of performance. I’m definitely going to be bringing some live singing to the stage at some point – just gotta get my Toni voice back. Most importantly, I hope my relationship with drag continues to be enjoyable and fun! It’s a great sisterhood and I love being part of it.

Viva la drag! Viva la Beej!

 

Come out and support BJ and discover Toronto’s latest cohort of drag talent this summer on Sundays at 9p.m. at Crews and Tangos!

 

You can follow Travis on Twitter at @TravMyers and find Barbie Jo on Instagram as @BJBontemps lurking under the hashtag #trannyfaggot and on Facebook as Barbie Jo Bontemps. Additional photo credit: Angelica B.

WATCH: Bedroom turned into princess paradise while roommate is away

When Tom, aka Redditor Twoverend, was overseas for two months his housemates set to work changing his normal, drab bachelor bedroom into something a little more pink.

All his buddies set to work transforming every aspect of his bedroom from what a regular guys might enjoy to something more fit for a 7-year-old princess loving girl might enjoy. Their rationale being that since he is English he loves the monarchy, and their duty was to get to work setting up a new fairy princess kingdom for him to arrive home to.

Complete with imitation crown moulding, collages of photoshopped princess photos of Tom, paintings of fairies, and pink lace as far as the eye can see it is safe to say their mission was a success.

Watch the video for Tom’s reaction upon returning from his trip at 1:30 in the morning.

Below are some photos of the transformation.

Check out Tom’s full photo album here.

 

Follow Travis on Twitter at @TravMyers.

Win tickets to see Bon Jovi!

Are you living on a prayer that you’ll get to see Bon Jovi live in concert? Well, after criss-crossing the globe on his Because We Can tour he’s coming back to Toronto and Women’s Post has a pair of tickets to give way to a lucky reader. Put on your copy of What About Now, book off November 1st,  then enter our contest today.

Contest Rules & Regulations:
Contestants must reside in Canada (excluding Quebec) to be eligible to win
Contestants must be 18 or older
Contestants are eligible to enter 1x daily (further entries will not be counted)
Contest closes on Friday, June 28th, at 2 p.m.

CONTEST CLOSED

WATCH: New video spoofs controversy over mixed race Cheerios family

A few weeks back there was a controversy over the new Cheerios ad featuring a biracial family. The controversy? Um, apparently some people think that biracial families either simply don’t exist or shouldn’t be allowed to be shown on TV.

Just a second while I check my calendar. Yep, still 2013. I was worried I’d slipped back to the 1600s there for a minute.

While to most of us it might not seem like a big deal to see a family with various skin tones of eye shapes enjoying breakfast, to some racist trolls it was enough to force Cheerios to shut off commenting on the YouTube video because of all the hateful remarks.

As someone who has a beautiful family where skin colour doesn’t matter (and nieces, nephews, sisters, brothers, parents, and brother-in-laws are all loved for who they are, not what they look like) I am proud of Cheerios for taking a stand by admitting the obvious: that mixed race families exist and they also eat.

Check out this hilarious spoof video that takes the “haters” to task and takes things up a notch with a twist ending we’re still waiting too see in a breakfast cereal commercial.

 

Follow Travis on Twitter at @TravMyers.

RECIPE: Chickpea tacos!

There’s a good chance your first thought when you hear of chickpea tacos is “Ew, who’d want to eat that?” But trust me on this. They are amazing.

What you need:

  • 1 can of chickpeas
  • 1 package of taco spice
  • 1 clove of garlic (minced)
  • Dash of lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon of water
  • Vegetable oil or extra virgin olive oil (how much is up to you)
  • Hard taco shells (blue corn if possible)
  • taco fixings (lettuce, onion, tomato, salsa, cheese, sour cream, guacamole)

Take a can of chickpeas, rinse them, then put them in a bowl.  Evenly coat the chickpeas with the taco spice, garlic, lime juice, water and oil. Bake them for 20 minutes. Cook the taco shells for 10 minutes.

Take them out of the oven, add your fixings.

I actually found these because I said chickpea to someone in an e-mail. Gmail picked up the word (as it scans your e-mails for keywords and directs ads at you based on these) and promoted a recipe link to me. For the record, this recipe is the only reason I am okay with Gmail reading my mail.

 

Women of the week: Sandra Dawes

One look at the Twitter feed of Sandra Dawes says it all. The stream of inspirational mantras reflect the bubbly, inspirational personality of this motivated and focused professional life coach just as much as the glimmer of hope and inspiration that comes through in her smile. Sandra Dawes is a woman who has a brain for business and a compassionate heart for her clients.

Sandra, born in Toronto and currently calling Mississauga home, has been at the helm of Embrace Your Destiny life coaching since November 2009 and hasn’t stopped looking onward and upward since then, even finding inspiration in the tragic passing of her father.

“After my dad died I thought that life would never be the same – and it hasn’t been, but not in the negative way I had originally thought. I’ve become more self-aware and confident about the person that I am and what I can accomplish,” she explains on the topic of how far she has come to be the woman she is today.

“I never thought I would enjoy speaking to large groups of people, yet now I enjoy doing talks where I can share my experiences and the tools that I use to overcome many of life’s obstacles,” says Sandra, showing us that she certainly has learned the secrets to self-improvement and betterment within herself and is anxious to share her story with others.

By opening herself up to the power of possibility she has taken her life’s adventure across the globe and back. “Life has definitely taken me to some interesting places,” says Sandra. “Both in my journey of self-discovery and literally, I have been able to visit places such as Europe, Central America, and the Caribbean.”

For Sandra Dawes balancing her life is important, and with family, friends, and one furry critter at her side it all seems to fall into place. “My partner is also an entrepreneur, which is great because he is the one who encouraged me to start my own business, and he understand the ups and downs that come with being self-employed,” she explains. “I also have a 7-year-old dog who is a great teacher on how to enjoy the simple things in life.”

As a woman in the business world she certainly has seen both sides of the coin. “I believe that women connect on a level that goes beyond the bottom line,” she says in regards to the unique position women hold as entrepreneurs. “We are more heart-centred about the relationships we build, even on a business level. I think this type of relationship allows for more focus on cooperation rather than competition as we look to encourage one another.”

She’s even seen a changing landscape for women like herself she entered the entrepreneurial world. “I believe that more women are stepping outside the comfort of a nine-to-five job and follow their dreams.”

“I do believe that it is possible for women to have it all when they aspire for greatness,” she says in regards to her own achievements so far and the fabric of support in her life that has helped her dreams become reality. “The key is to recognise that we can’t do it alone and it is okay to ask for help, whether it is from friends, family, or industry colleagues.”

As for her own business, Embrace Your Destiny, she’s confident that she has the perfect edge to help you unlock all of your potential. “I believe that I am able to use the experiences and what I’ve gained from my own journey to help others achieve their goals and realise their dreams,” she tells us.

“I go beyond just being an accountability partner and challenge my clients to really step out of their comfort zones and shift their mindset. We can be our own worst enemy or our own biggest cheerleader. I help my clients to question the beliefs they have that tell them what they want isn’t possible and help them reframe those beliefs so that they can that they realise that they really can live the life they’ve always wanted and that they deserve it!”

Sandra has one bit of advice to give to every woman. “Listen to your intuition and don’t overthink or over-analyse things too much,” she says. “If you’re looking for an excuse not to follow your dreams, you will find one.”

 

Follow Sandra Dawes on Twitter at @SandraDawes, and visit Embrace Your Destiny online at www.embraceurdestiny.com.

Politics in Toronto: Not broken, maybe bent, but certainly cracked

Quite a few people in the Twitterverse and beyond were shocked today by the transit video we released.

It was created by our publisher (and tireless transit advocate) Sarah Thomson who took to Facebook last night to announce that Women’s Post had “the video” and it would be appearing on Women’s Post’s website today at noon.

Supporters of transit initiatives in Toronto and those who see Sarah tick by in their Facebook and Twitter feeds regularly were familiar with the video she was talking about – a video where she sings a cover of Pink’s Just Give Me a Reason with lyrics re-written to showcase Toronto’s issues with securing reliable transit for the city and asking Torontonians to do what they can to support the Big Move.

A little bit silly? Of course. A conversation we need to be having? Definitely.

The video opens with a smoke filled room and a character holding a pipe before a segue into shots of Toronto’s congested streets and regular people holding cards asking for help in relieving transit stresses and commuter problems in our fair city. The message is clear: we need to move past the haze of drug scandals that have Toronto politics in a vice grip and get back to reality. Our city and the people in it are stuck immobile by distraction after distraction and are suffering the consequences of inaction on a daily basis.

What happened next couldn’t have driven the point home any better. Overnight Toronto’s hashtags and feeds jumped to the collective conclusion that the video going up today was of Rob Ford smoking crack.

Their shock came when the video turned out to be a song about transit.

My shock came in the immediate aftermath of the video going live. The message left in our comments, on Twitter, and on YouTube was that this was a waste of time, we need to get back to “real” issues about Rob Ford’s reckless personal life.

My shock was that a scandal plagued mayor has so thoroughly damaged the civic and political landscape of Toronto to the point where the people of Toronto can’t even clearly see that the most pressing issue to us right now, to our children, and to our future as a viable world-class city isn’t what people at City Hall have in their pipes, it is what their circus of distraction is preventing us from becoming.

This week boring machines began working on the largest transit project Toronto has seen in half a century. Unfortunately, the number of people tuned into stories about the Eglinton LRT pales in comparison to the number of people tuning in daily to see an elected official deny, dodge, and destroy politics at City Hall.

My suggestion to my fellow Torontonians is to take a cue from Sarah’s video. Wave the smoke out of your face and move on. Focus on what is important, do everything you can to make City Hall, Queen’s Park, and Parliament Hill work for you by speaking out about transit, urban development, bike lanes, the Gardiner, and everything else that is currently being ignored by the Mayor’s office. While we can waste time arguing over what kind of dust coats the Mayor’s desk it is quite clear that it isn’t being used at all for the municipal issues that need to be addressed.

Taking a stand on the problems faced by Torontonians instead of the demons faced by Toronto’s mayor is the only way we can step forward into the future.

The politics of Toronto aren’t broken, perhaps bent, but certainly cracked. What we need to do now is fill that crack with our voices. Our next big move as a city shouldn’t be into the depths of crack houses, it should be into the communities that need accessible transit, stitching together the tapestry of our city with busses, light rail, subways, proper highways, and bike lanes.

Together we can make it work.

 

You can follow Travis on Twitter at @TravMyers.

Toronto’s not broken just bent

Amid the scandal and smoke that swirls around city hall it is good to know there are some people and organizations in Toronto who push forward to tackle the real issues holding back our city. Credit should be given to organizations like the Toronto Transit Alliance for the work they are doing to educate and inform Toronto area residents of the need to come together and build a great city.

 

Be sure to follow Women’s Post on Twitter at @WomensPost.