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Woman of the Week: Dr. Nadine Wong

Life is certainly not black and white for Dr. Nadine Wong. Ever since she was a little girl growing up on the island of Jamaica, she knew that creativity was a natural aspect of her life. Wong is now she the CEO of the Alabaster Wellness Clinic in Pickering, Ontario and the creator of the Alabaster Beauty Ointment, a job that combines creativity and out-of-the-box thinking with years of study.  But how did a little girl from Jamaica get here?

While other girls were playing with plastic barbies, Wong could make toys out of things she found in her own backyard, including mango seeds. She would meticulously dye each seed and hair a different colour using Kool-Aid and host her own ‘mango beauty pageant.’

Life was never boring as she grew up in a multi-ethnic household with a grandfather from China mixed with her strong Afro-Caribbean heritage. She admired the work of her mother, who was a renowned chef that cooked for the likes of Bob Marley. At a young age, she was fortunate enough to be well-travelled, often taking family vacations to North America where she observed the changes in culture. She knew that eventually one day this place would be her home.

When her family finally moved to Toronto, the transition was difficult— “the saying, come live with me and come stay with me are two different things.” Wong remarked. Travelling on vacation was one thing, but integrating yourself into the culture and school system was a different story, which is an all-too familiar feeling for any immigrant.

While dealing with the differences in the school system, as well as suffering from dyslexia, Wong also experienced her first taste of racism from her community. Many people around her could not understand why a black girl could have the surname Wong and why she understood Mandarin and the intricacies of Chinese food.

“I was a woman of culture walking the hallways of school where I could understand the white rock or the Jamaican classic. People would often ask, where are you from, I’ve never met anyone like you?”

This uniqueness and drive helped Wong to really understand her true self  “I am not going to say I was an ‘A’ student, I struggled, I struggled because the system is only created in black and white and if you’re creative like myself, who sees in green, purple and pink, it’s just going to be a challenge.”

After a negative shift in her life where, under the influence of friends, she didn’t take school as seriously. Her father stepped in and told her she was a young woman of fashion and style, so why not explore something with cosmetology.

Wong enrolled in Marvel Beauty School for hairdressing, but something was still off. Wong saw how things were supposed to be and not what they were. She began to think about the dynamics of the hair and scalp and why exactly black hair was so different from other ethnicities. Eventually, Wong was accepted into Dudley University in North Carolina to understand ethnic hair care and obtained her Doctorate in Cosmetology from Dillard University and another Doctorate in Trichology in Alabama. Once she obtained her doctorate, Dr. Wong came back to Toronto where she was recognized as the first certified trichologist the city.

With her new knowledge and fresh ideas, Dr. Wong shared her thoughts with the black hair community, addressing issues such as alopecia, often caused from braiding. She now understood the science behind the selection of hair treatments and products, and this drive led her to the formation of her own clinic, the Alabaster Wellness Clinic.  There, she could provide a different approach to hair issues, more than a hairdresser can answer. Dr. Wong began to focus on issues dealing with hair loss and thinning, not just in the black community, but for everyone.

“I am a visual person, so I would sometimes sit and watch women, walking into a beauty salon and they would come with one mood and leave in another mood.”

The observation led Wong to consider why women have a change in mindset when it comes to temporary body alterations such as a hair style. Wong returned to school once again, to understand the human body and the dynamic of behaviour. Wong explored natural medicine and her so called “ah-ha” moment came when she realized the importance of minerals and food science affecting the human body.

It dawned on her that human beings have one thing in common. Despite our cultural background, we all use the same cosmetics— shampoos, perfumes and hygienic products. Through the study of food science, Dr. Wong now treats her clients by addressing issues that affect the body internally. The clinic can identify possibly causes or issues that are already affecting patients. Using a hair mineral analysis, where a small sample of your hair is tested, Wong can design a custom beauty program and wellness plan for her clients.

“Even if you have the best medicine and beauty products, if your minerals are low, at the end of the day your body will never be harmonized.”

Dr. Wong has come to the conclusion that every human body is different and that everything stems from the core of your body. The unity of health and wellness is one unit and it doesn’t come in parts. The products that the Alabaster Clinic offers are not cosmetic brands, but they are beauty ointments, infused with minerals made to penetrate the dermis of your skin. The key to health is absorption so products like the Pumpkin Body Butter, Oat Facial Cleanser or the Alabaster Beauty Ointment, all contain natural ingredients based on a patients needs.

Looking back, Dr. Wong has realized that her creative nature as a child continues today as an adult.

“When you look at science, you have to look at things through the lens of a child, because as adults we analyze everything.”

For more information and to keep up with all that Dr. Wong has to offer, visit alabasterwellness.com

A touch of pink: women-only co-working spaces expanding in Toronto

If you are looking for a chic and modern co-working space, you are in luck. Toronto has added another women’s-only co-working space in the heart of the city. This multi-use space offers female entrepreneurs a place to connect, network, communicate, and help each other build up their brand. This concept is used in other cities like New York, where the offices almost become a retreat for women with the addition of several amenities. The space is supposed to represent the total opposite of a ‘frat-boy’ dominated office space with a fridge full of beer and beer pong.

The hope is that a feminine environment will help women feel comfortable, motivated, and productive. This idea has developed over the last two years, starting with little pop-up spaces at conferences and conventions that were inviting women. Shelley Zells is the founder of The Girls Lounge, a global pop-up space that offers a professional working environment with a chic ambience. The lounges have several pop-up locations in different countries each month.

The Wing in New York City is another popular co-working space that is exclusive to women. A recent study from Indiana University shows that women feel less pressured in a women’s-only environment. The study also concluded that women suffer from higher levels of cortisol in male dominated workspaces and are more likely to socially isolate themselves. The Wing does require membership, which starts at $215/ month. The membership for these places vary and can cost between $100-$700 monthly, although some places offer hourly or day passes.

The Wing New York

These spaces have become a warm and welcoming space for like-minded women to interact and work on their skills while networking. Places like The Wing are popular because of its design layout, which is very chic and clean, with just the perfect touch of millennial pink. There is a special lactation room for mothers and a beauty bar that offers makeup or fresh blowouts.

“The Parlor” The Wing NYC

Some co-working spaces are described as “boutique spaces” and offer various amenities ranging from beauty to wellness. Toronto joins the list of other big US cities/states that have female friendly co-working boutique spaces, including New York, St Louis, Phoenix, Southern California, and Washington D.C.

The most recent Toronto space opened on Sept 18 and is called Make Lemonade on Adelaide St. West. Make Lemonade is all about offering a beautiful office space to help women feel more productive than they would if they were just living out of a coffee shop. The belief behind Make Lemonade is that you can make any situation sweet no matter how sour. The concept of women-only also comes from the saying “empowered women empower women.” by artist and educator, Jenna Kutcher. The aim is to encourage women to get the job done, but to also be empowered along the way with cute and artsy motivational messages that are playful and simply pretty.

Make Lemonade- Toronto

The aesthetic of Make Lemonade is pleasing with tones of pink and yellow, and they offer $25 drop-in passes or full membership rates where you can even get your own office for $500/month, which includes 24/7 access with your own personal key. Women-only co-working spaces are slowly growing in Toronto and Make Lemonade joins other places like Shecosystem on Bloor Street West that offers wellness packages in addition to co-working.

 

What are your thoughts on women-only co-working spaces?

 

5 ways to spring clean your social media

The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and the snow has finally melted down into the depths of the soil, making the grass green again. Life is good! And while you may take this new form of life as a way to begin spring cleaning, there are a few other things you may want to consider. For example, although the clutter in your closet needs immediate attention, so does your virtual presence. Millions of people don’t have access to your closet like they do with your Facebook album, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”. So, take time this season and clean your social media platforms using these few friendly tips!


1. Get to know thyself 

Before you start cleaning anything, you have to determine what exactly is out there with your name on it. Sometimes, things slip. To prevent this from happening, it is important to stalk yourself. Do what you would do when a potential bae rolls around; put the FBI and CIA to shame. Because once you think about the countless selfies that provide evidence of your 2007 eyebrows, there will be no stopping you. No one wants to be reminded of those monstrosities. Especially your potential bae. So, do a quick Google search of yourself and see if anything suspicious arises. Finding the source of any unwanted videos, blogs, and even awkward, tone-deaf comments you’ve left on any public postings can help eliminate any kind of future embarrassment. Employers, curious bees, your future fans (just in case your modelling career actually takes off one day) don’t need access to all that old information. Because you’re better than that now. Vigilant and woke with the brows of a goddess. Remember that.

2. Unfriend, Unsubscribe, and Unfollow

Yes, she’s a great woman, but your second cousin’s roommate is not exactly the type of friend that should be popping up on your newsfeed. If you haven’t spoken to someone since bell bottoms were in fashion, it’s time to part ways with them. It just wasn’t meant to be. Mindless scrolling through your social media accounts should bring pleasure into your life. Follow accounts that can help you learn something. Whether they’re news sources that provide up to date info on current events or blogs that push content on subjects you’re passionate about, social media can prove to be quite the learning experience – if you so choose it to be. Remove the girl who always seems to be on vacation wearing skimpy outfits with a body you can never seem to attain. And although her life may seem fun, yours will be too – without her. Do the same for your Twitter and Instagram accounts. Unfollow anyone that causes extreme rolling of the eyes, and noises that showcase distress and utter annoyance. No one needs that sort of negativity in their lives!

3. Put your junk in the trunk 

Trunk, trash – you get the point. The added stress that comes at the checkout counter during your shopping spree is when the retailer asks you for an email address. You know what comes next; emails after emails about upcoming sales and promotions, including new arrivals. It floods your inbox, but empties out your bank account. Don’t forget the countless other emails you get from third party organizations, along with other friendly reminders, telling you not to forget to update your website information from way back when you tried to make it big as a blogger. Switch over to a more minimalist lifestyle by unsubscribing to unwanted programs and stores by using certain apps. It helps decrease the amount of notifications on your phone, allowing for an increased amount of productivity towards more important things. Let’s face it, nothing is more upsetting than hearing your phone beep, jumping with excitement to receive an important, life altering email, and finding out its another alert from Clearly Contacts – telling you its time to get your eyes checked.

4. Build it back up 

Now that you’ve deleted all your old pictures, and removed some much needed people from your life, it’s time to rebuild your brand. Update your social media platforms. Change your profile picture to a professional headshot, if you’re trying to look more employable. Start sharing more political articles and tidbits if the recent presidential election has you seeking change. It’s important to find an intention behind your presence on social media. Whether its for sh*ts and giggles or starting a revolution, your personal brand must be relevant to the message you’re trying to send across to your followers. Change your privacy settings to restrict your content solely for the audience you wish to reach out to. Once you’ve attained the overall look you’re going for, go ahead and start using your social media platforms to their full advantage. There’s a lot of power in that send button. So choose wisely and act accordingly!

5. Turn it off!

After you’ve cleaned out your social media platforms, backed up your files, and regained power over your desktop space, do yourself a favour and turn it off. Take some time away from social media and technology for an extended amount of time at least once a month. Refrain from answering emails, updating your status, and tweeting. Get in tune with the three dimensional world of reality. Say hi to your dog without the need to Snapchat his every reaction, visit your mom instead of calling her. And hey, clean out the clutter in your closet! Research proves that shutting down technology can help clear your mind, providing for some much needed oxygen and giving leeway to make better decisions in life. Besides, people will like you better when you’re looking at them and not their screen. You’ll like yourself better too. Trust.

Good luck and happy cleaning!

Would you try these vegetable masks?

Facial masks are refreshing and give your skin the rejuvenation it needs as the seasons change.

To shake things up and get away from buying a facial cream potentially full of chemicals, why not try a natural vegetable cream? Though imagining mashed up vegetables on your face is a bit gross, the result of treating yourself to a hydrating organic facial will be well worth smelling like tomato paste or garlic for a couple hours….or days.

Food Fresh Avocado Avocados Fruit Organic

Avocado Body Mask

  • 2 avocados
  • 3 tbsp sea salt
  • Two fresh lemons grated
  • ¼ cup coconut oil

Mix all ingredients in blender until smooth. Apply to face for 10 to 15 minutes and rinse off. Refrigerate remainder and use every two to three days. Avocado is very hydrating and will leave your skin silky smooth.

Vegetables Carrots Basket Market

Carrot Facial Mask

  • 2-3 carrots
  • 4 tbsp honey

Cook carrots and mash with honey, and apply to your face. Leave for 10 minutes and rinse with a cool cloth. Carrots are great for the skin because of their Vitamin A content and they are hydrating.

Tomato Paste Facial

  • Tomato
  • Dash of water

Blend tomatoes until smooth, but not the consistency of juice. Apply to face and leave for 10 minutes and wipe dry. Tomatoes will regenerate the skin and give it a new glow.

Garlic Face Mask

  • ½ tbsp. corn flour and ½ tbsp. sandalwood powder
  • Squirt of Lemon juice
  • ½ tbsp garlic paste
  • Dash of almond milk

Mix all ingredients and add a dash of almond milk to make into a gooey dough. Apply to face and leave for 10 minutes. Rinse with cold water. Garlic is rich in Vitamins A, C, and E and protects the skin from sun rays.

Kale Face Mask

  • Two leaves of kale
  • Almond milk
  • ½ tsp honey

Blend all ingredients together until smooth and rub on face. Leave for 10 minutes and rinse. Kale contains a lot of hydrating nutrients and will leave the face feeling refreshed and moisturized.

Vegetable facial masks aren’t just fun to make, they are also a lot less expensive than the spa alternative. So, for your next girls night, why not try them out!

Would you try any of these veggie facials? Let Women’s Post know in the comments below.

Woman of the Week: Maggie Habieda

Maggie Habieda has only one goal — to make her clients feel beautiful, like the “queens and kings of old.”

Habieda built Fotografia Boutique Inc., a photography studio that specializes in portraits, about six years ago during a time when photography studios were shutting down. It was one of her biggest challenges, but that didn’t deter her. Habieda isn’t the type of person to simply give up on a dream. With a certain amount of grace and charm, she fights, learns, and persists. She graduated with a Masters in Communication and Design from the Ontario College of Art and Design, but that didn’t include a lot of practical business experience, so she went to the library and took out every book she could find on finance and entrepreneurship.  Six months later, she hosted her grand opening.

Photo by Fotografia Boutique.

Habieda came to Canada from Poland at the age of 16. She knew she had the soul of an artist, but couldn’t get into any  art schools in her home country. She decided to move to a foreign country — Canada — despite the fact she didn’t know the national language, and proceeded to be accepted into art schools with a number of scholarships.

In college, Habieda painted and drew women – most of them as princesses. Eventually, she discovered a passion for photography and started her professional journey as a wedding photographer, capturing women on the happiest days of their lives. This type of photography changed how she viewed the term “princess.” She started to believe that every woman is a princess, and that’s something she wanted reflected in her work.

“I shifted away from weddings, I wanted my own environment where I could greet people and the whole place to be for them, to feel better for them. Where they could get their hair and makeup done and change clothes where no one is watching. Create their own world where they feel and look beautiful and walk away with something timeless.”

Photo by Fotografia Boutique.

What makes Habieda’s portraits so unique is her classic style, something she says she developed over the years to combat the “overdone” selfie craze. Her photographs are textured so that they don’t quite look like the traditional pictures you may keep on your phone. Instead, they look like classic paintings or drawings, something you may find in an old castle rather than a 21st century living room.

“In today’s world, everyone has a camera – there is sea of photographers taking photos and as soon as they are taken they are forgotten. I bring back the classics,” she says. “When I edit, I like it to be creative. I add textures, adding little elements, something that makes it more illustrative than just a photo itself.”

Habieda’s creativity and ability to focus on true beauty, rather than just point-and-shoot with a camera, is what separates her from others in the industry. She has been able to connect with high-profile celebrities, politicians, and community leaders, which has led to a very successful and thriving business.  She has won a number of prestigious awards for her work, including the Tiboor Horvath Award of Excellence, Wedding Portrait Best in Class, and Certified Glamour Photographer from the Professional Photographers of Canada.

And yet, she still hasn’t lost touch with her true vision — to capture, and inspire, beauty in others.

“Every day, I transform people’s lives. I spend time hearing people, their life stories. This is beyond capturing a portrait — its capturing people’s souls from the inside, how the world should see them.”

When she isn’t working in the studio, Habieda runs an annual concert called Colours of Love, which brings together six international artists to celebrate love, diversity, and the performing arts. This will be the third year Habieda organizes the concert, held at the Mississauga Life Centre, and hopes this year will be just as successful.

“Music is the universal language. I want to give and spread love with this world.”

To see more of Habieda’s portfolio, visit her website at fotografiaboutique.ca.

 

Celebrating Women: Ann Kaplan

Have you ever met a beautiful woman who seems to grow even more beautiful when she speaks? Ann Kaplan is a woman like this. She has an elegant business look and exudes a strong grace that I’ve only seen a few times in my life.

The more time you spend with Ann, the more her sense of humour and intelligence shines through. I was fortunate enough to meet her over a decade ago and since then I have watched as she built her business – iFinance – from the ground up in a predominantly male industry.  As I grew to know her,  I developed a sense of awe over the way she could think and handle hard, emotionally-exhausting life events and yet keep her sense of humour and desire to put others first. Her strength shone through at a time when others might have collapsed under stress of illness and family losses that saw her move from having six children to suddenly having eight.

When Olympic athletes talk about inner strength and endurance, my mind always turns to Ann, who seems to gain strength with each hurdle she jumps over.  I remember having lunch with her while she talked of all the pain and loss she had to cope with, and yet she could still smile and care about what was going on in my life. She draws strength from giving to all those around her.

Now, add to all of this the fact that she is one of the smartest women I have ever met and you start realizing that there are some great lessons you can learn from Ann. Just a few things I have learned from her are:  laugh as hard as you cry, focus on what you can give and not what it takes out of you, and always be able to laugh at yourself.

Ann Kaplan has become a success in business because she understands what is important in life.  She is the perfect example of someone who gives more than they receive, who values what she can do for others over what they will do for her. When thinking of what makes a woman beautiful, I think of Ann’s grace, her intelligence, and how her inside beauty seems to shine all the way through her.

I am lucky to have her as a friend. I think of her often and find myself thinking… now what would Ann do in this situation? I’ll never have her grace, but if I can try to come close to her level of kindness, I may just capture a small part of the beauty that surrounds her.

What is a “women’s publication?”

As the editor of a women’s publication, I often struggle with its content. Should I appeal to the masses and publish fashion and beauty tips, tips for great sex, or outline the best weight loss diets? Or should I break the mould?

When Women’s Post was founded in 2002, it was done so with a single purpose — to showcase talented women across Canada. The founder of this publication, Sarah Thomson, started it after noticing the disappointing selection of magazines targeting women. They were all pitting woman against woman, competing for the newest fashion trends and workout regimes.

Women’s Post was meant to show that women are interested in more than just their looks. The publication would feature profiles of professionals, asking what they do to help other women succeed in their respective industries. Since then, Women’s Post has grown into so much more. We still feature talented women and have a clear focus on mentorship, but we also publish articles on city politics, the environment, technology, business, and, yes, fashion.

I draw the line at weight loss diets though.

The key is balance — admitting that women are interested in a variety of things, whether that is the latest hairstyles and trends or the rising stock prices. It’s also about recognizing the influential power the media has on women, particularly young girls.

An image has been circulating social media over the past few weeks that has caused a lot of outrage, both inside and outside the newsroom. The image shows the front page covers of two different magazines: “Girls Life” and “Boys Life”.

Girls Life focused on makeup, hair, and overall beauty tips while the Boys Life cover featured job opportunities in the sciences and in technology. While the magazines are not owned by the same company, it displayed some of the blatant gender differences that are engrained in the media.

In Canada, we do a slightly better job. Our “women’s magazines” have articles that encompass a variety of interests, from work advice to recipes. Of course, there will always be specific fitness and health magazines that target specific female demographics, but Canadian publications seem to understand they don’t need to compete with these pre-existing celebrity gossip magazines.

Women’s Post proudly joins the list of Canadian news organizations that have come to understand that gender doesn’t dictate interests. But, I’m even more proud to be part of a publication that also focuses on making sure others know this too. Women’s Post profiles women from every profession, focusing not only on the challenges they had to overcome to get where they are now, but also their many accomplishments.

Women compete enough without the aide of rows of magazines telling them they could be thinner or smarter. With an ever-growing wage gap and the constant discrimination women face in the workplace, isn’t it more important to celebrate womanhood rather than destroy it?

Women’s Post strives to not only be a publication that supports and showcases great women, but a publication where anyone, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation, can find news that interests them. I truly believe this is the future of journalism — anything else is simply insulting, don’t you think?

The good, the bad, and the ugly of going braless

I remember getting my first bra. I was 12 years old and my mom took me to the store. I was embarrassed and excited at the same time. I wanted to be a ‘grown-up’ and equated being an adult woman with wearing a brassiere. But in all honesty, bras are really just a pain in the…back.

Lately, the media has been buzzing over women in Toronto going braless and I decided to join the trend for a week. I wanted to know how it felt to let the ladies roam free and during this experience I learned a lot about myself and my body.

Going braless made me feel insecure initially. To be honest, I felt a bit of internal shame for my reaction amidst a feminist world of ‘free the nipple’ campaigns and bra burning predecessors. Why did I feel so thrown off my not wearing a simple undergarment? Full disclosure: I often opt in for hot shorts (popular name for very short shorts) instead of underwear because they are comfortable. I am not bothered at all by this change, yet not wearing a bra nearly set me into a full-blown panic attack.

I pushed through the anxiety and left my house feeling ready to tackle the world with my found fashion sense. I ride my bike to work every day and was worried that it would be an issue, but found no one cared. At all. The insecurity that comes with wearing a bra is an invention of the mind. Wearing a bra or not, people are so busy staring into the abyss of their phone that they are too busy to notice a pair of knockers swinging by.

I also found that weather impacted my comfort level. When it is really hot outside, it is surprisingly uncomfortable to go braless. It just doesn’t feel nice. A bra helps to lift the breasts and cool the body down. It is also uncomfortable to have no covering layer with cold air as well. However, on a nice mid-weather, warm fall or spring day, it is wonderful to feel the breeze and be unencumbered by a bra. Some women are comfortable with the effects of fluctuating weather patterns on the breasts, but I found this anxiety-provoking.

My back and ribcage felt much better while I was going braless. I also started to notice my body more often, meaning the way I moved or if I was sitting and standing straight up. Bras give us an excuse to slouch because our over-the-shoulder-boulder-holders give extra support that allow for bad posture. Going braless doesn’t allow for slumping at all.

Certain styles of clothing and materials are more compatible with the free flowing look as well. Avoid itchy and tight cotton shirts. I had a very bad day wearing one of these tops. Instead opt in for satin, which is smooth on the nipples, or other soft materials like velvet. I also found cinched dresses very comfortable. It was loose at the top and tight on the bottom, which gave me a nice shape and also gave the ladies room to breathe.

I would recommend going braless for a week. It forced me to look at my body in a whole new light and to love the more natural elements of the female physique. I also realized the bra gives breasts an unrealistic shape and is systematic of the patriarchal ideal of the woman’s body. Round soft curves are beautiful and I’m glad I celebrated that this past week. I will also admit though that I will wear a bra here and there in my future. Sometimes bras can be comfortable depending on your outfit and other times they are not. Do not forget though, they are an option and only need to be used when desired. Try taking one day off a week with no bra and check out #nobrathursdays and #nobrarevolution to get involved. Enjoy the freedom ladies — it feels great.

Try going braless and let Women’s Post know how you felt in the comments below.

The hidden Canadian landscapes to explore

When tourists visit Canada, there is a typical route that they follow. From east to west, people visit Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Banff and Vancouver. These are the main cities and they are amazing in their own right. But what about the hidden treasures of our beautiful and vast country? Those are the places that fascinate me and, as a Canadian, I’ve made it my life’s mission to search out as many of these less-popular places as possible.

Take a ride with me on my adventures across Canada:

Beginning in beautiful British Columbia, imagine yourself lying on a secret nude beach resting on the crest of the mountains, surrounded by a midnight black lake. I decided to ditch the tent that night and slept directly on the beach, watched by the rare and beautiful gypsy travellers that populate B.C. I’m looking at the stars, and they are so clear it feels as if I can reach out and touch them.

I’m just outside Nelson, B.C, the unofficial hippie capital of the west. It is a place built entirely on a steep hill, which is absolute hell to climb with a backpack, but is nonetheless worth it once you see the view from the top. Several incense and weed shops line the streets and the town is dedicated to promoting local goods and community, with almost no corporate businesses in the vicinity. The town is nestled deep in the Kootenay mountain pass and is surrounded by large round mountains buried with trees. They look much different from the neighbouring Rockies. Nelson is as close to heaven as you can get. It is an escape from reality, and seems to only exist in a dream where nature and people finally seem to respect one another.

Another one of my favourite spots is in the Okanagan. The hills have grown much smaller, but I’m still awestruck by the contrast between the orange and red rolling desert mountains and the crystal blue lake that snakes through the valley. As you drive on the Coquihalla, the highway through the Okanagan that leads you to Vancouver, you will hit Penticton. It is a town surrounded by hot desert hills and is the home to the deepest lake in Canada.

I have fond memories of driving to Penticton with my boyfriend at the time and our friends to music gigs at rustic bars on the main strip that has since closed. We would climb on the roof while the boys played, and roofhop because the businesses were all connected ( though I don’t condone this behaviour. I had a friend fall of a roof years later). There is nothing better than watching a harvest moon, surrounded by desert hills and listening to B.C folk music, laden with banjos and violins. It is a sound that seems to emit from the very roots of the Okanagan’s heart and I highly recommend seeing one of the local Okanagan bands if you are in the region (Wild Son is a good example).

My next destination takes you on the Trans-Canada highway through the Rogers Pass into Alberta, my home province, the place where my heart rests no matter where I live in this crazy world. A tour of the Rockies will take you to some breathtaking sites and locations, but my absolute favourite town in Alberta is Jasper. Home of black bears, it is the best place for a sighting from a safe distance. Another favourite is Kananaskis, a tiny resort tucked away between Calgary and Banff. Kananaskis is in the entrance to the mountains, also known as the foothills. The vast prairies that rise into rolling hills and then morph into the majestic Rockies is a worthy site to see. Kananaskis has top level climbing, hiking trails and mountain sites.

Both Jasper and Kananaskis remind me of my mother. You haven’t met her, but she is amazing. My mom taught me the worth of driving to the places you love. She taught me to hike,and to respect and appreciate nature. I’ve seen every wild animal in the mountains because of her, from mountain goats to a grizzly bear. As she gets older, I often think of our drives through the Rockies, listening to Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains, and I realize no matter what happens these places will always remind me of her.

As I got older, I began to crave a different kind of Canadian adventure. I wanted to see the cities — the brick and the old stone edifices in the origins of this wonderful country. It was time to venture east. I packed the car, waved goodbye to my family and friends and took off across the prairies, listening to Janis Joplin. I saw the immense and endless splendour of the corn fields, or the yellow ocean as my daughter says. I landed in Brandon, Manitoba to see a friend of mine and it was there that I found this next hidden gem.

Brandon is a small city with a very tight-knit and loving community. I stayed with a friend who lived in the old city hall. The grand building had been converted to a house for people who studied the arts. It had several floors and rooms, and was run by two professors from Brandon University. Walking in the city, I saw my first glances of the historic buildings that helped build this country.

Ontario was next. The first thing I noticed was that the Great Lakes seemed to go on forever. The immensity of these bodies of water nourishes the land, creating a green and vivacious landscape. Kenora, Ont. is on the border between Manitoba and Ontario, and is my secret gem of the north. Surrounded by Lake of the Woods, this body of water winds around the town, which is a series of bushy islands. The Canadian Shield dominates the north as well and massive boulders of rock that jut from the ground create a complex and visceral topography, which is great for hiking and bouldering.

Speaking of history, Quebec City is the oldest city in Canada. I call it the city of all glories, because it has a beautiful waterfront dotted by old shipping boats (who doesn’t love a good boat?), it is built on a hill with narrow and old-fashioned streets, and is the home of the Chateau Frontenac. It is most definitely one of the most beautiful cities in Canada and has a distinctly European flair. Visiting Quebec City, it was exciting to hold my daughter’s hand and explain first-hand how Canada came to be. Plus, ordering a croissant and an Americano in French is always a treat.

Finally, there is the Maritimes. My mother is a born maritimer, and while I may be biased, I stand by this following opinion — people born and raised in the Maritimes are often the sweetest and friendliest people. I often visit Dalhousie, a city that borders Quebec with the Restigouche River between the two provinces. The Restigouche leads into the ocean, and migrating whales stop in the bay annually. My Grandmother has a cottage right on the water that she dubbed “the Hollow”, and I remember hiking with her to pick beach glass and find fossils. Visiting a couple years ago, it is unforgettable to stand at the pier of the lighthouse and listen to Acadians sing French folk songs as sail boats line the bay. You can almost see the ghosts of the first ships to arrive along the Restigouche River hundreds of years ago on ethereal nights such as these.

There are always more stories and more places to share. Canada is a vast and unforgettable country and you never know where the twists and turns will take you. My best advice when traveling Canada is to take the backroads. That is where you will see a proud old man in his electric wheelchair scooting down the street with a Canadian flag on the back, or a wolf standing watch by the roadside. My next stop is the Yukon. I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes.

Stay tuned for my photo project of my travels across Canada entitled Shades of Blue: my journey across Canada.

My beauty privilege makes me a bad feminist

“He probably just liked what he saw.”

The amount of times I’ve heard my friends and family say this to me after I’ve accomplished something big or small in my life is appalling. Whether it was getting out of a speeding ticket, bagging a new job, or even getting a discount on a new cellphone plan, it’s as if my skills and abilities to function as a member of society is downgraded due to my physical appearance. However, the more experiences I’m gaining as a young adult, the more I’m starting to see that beauty privilege may be an actual thing.

As a feminist, the concept slightly haunts me. Because while I strive for equality and credibility amongst the male gender, I also find myself being inert towards certain projects I take on, knowing that smiling a little brighter and flipping my hair a few extra times will get me the results I’m looking for. And although feminism is defined as the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men, I just don’t think it’s fair to get to that stance by playing on the opposite gender’s weaknesses. Think about it – have you ever seen Hillary Clinton with smoky eyes and red lipstick? I didn’t think so.

I’m not here to complain about my beauty, nor am I here to brag about it. I’m just here to say that I know my physical appearance aids in helping me getting places a nano-second faster and easier than it would have for an ‘Average Jane’. And if you’re in my position, you should be aware of it as well. It’s become apparent that staying young and attractive certainly seems to be hugely important in today’s society. It’s difficult to imagine anyone bemoaning the fact that they’re beautiful; being physically attractive is considered fortunate, and when beautiful people complain about their beauty, it seems ungrateful almost. While I want to embrace it, I can’t help but feel guilty about taking advantage of it.

So while I accept that I have beauty privilege, I’m also willing to accept that I will not have this privilege forever.  The thing about good looks, I suppose, is that they are not permanent. Eventually, even the most well-preserved of females will see their looks fade. And if we don’t know how to fight for equality in sweatpants and a messy bun, how are women to adapt once they are no longer able to rely on their good looks? And while women are perfectly able to conquer the world with our Louboutins, we also need to opt for Uggs once in awhile– just to show society we can succeed in both. And because the foot pain will come back to haunt us.

What are your thoughts on beauty privilege? Let us know in the comments below!