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Vanessa ‘Van’ Piunno shares her passion for music and healthy lifestyle

Eighteen-year-old Montreal pop singer Vanessa Piunno is an up and coming Canadian artist who was recently named iHeart Radio Future Star for 2017.Known simply as ‘Van’ while growing up in Quebec’s largest city, she talks about how her passion for music began at age five and reveals tips on how to stay healthy on the road.

Q: Tell us about the music scene while growing up in Quebec?

A: The music scene has always been so vibrant here with a mix of French and English culture. So many bands and shows every weekend in the summer months. Great memories of me and my dad going to the local parks near my house and catching as many shows as we possibly could, which was always so cool. [It] really gave me a sense of the festive culture around us and it was the seed for me falling in love with music at such a young age. My dad was a musician and this was something we loved doing together, [it was] our thing.

Do have a favourite Quebec dish?

I absolutely love poutine. I think I crave it almost every day, is that bad?

Does being fluently bilingual give you an edge in the music world?

I hope so. Growing up I’d do a lot of shows in both English and French and in doing so, it definitely made me more comfortable on stage.

Tell us about your fans and how do you enjoy being on tour?

I have to say that I would rather use the word “supporters” than fans. I don’t know why, but that word fan always makes me feel a little weird! It’s so heartwarming to know that people love the material I put out, and seeing that people listen to my music or post about it and take the time to message me just gets to me every time. I always personally answer every message I get from my supporters. It’s the least I can do. As for being on tour, it’s been a dream of mine ever since I was a little girl. It still feels like I’m in a dream, weirdly enough. I’m doing things that I always hoped I’d be doing, seeing places that I never thought I’d be seeing and it’s incredible. I’m thankful every single day.

How do you follow a healthy lifestyle while travelling?

Most hotels we stay at have private gyms and so I usually work out for a few hours if I’m not doing any interviews. It’s a great stress reliever. As for food, when we are driving from place to place it can be hard to choose healthy options when we stop for a quick bite, so my tip is to grab nuts or a protein bar. It’s better for you and keeps you energized. I never eat anything sugary when I’m traveling because sugar is bad for your vocals.

What do you like most about performing?

I can just forget about everything. It’s like when I start singing, every worry or problem or just anything going on in my life just disappears. It feels so good to know that I always have this opportunity to be on stage and that’s how I know that singing is my true passion.

What is next for you?

I’m getting ready to hit the road with my band. We have a great band and it’s all so exciting and new for me. I’m still touring in Canada and visiting a bunch of new cities and places, which is always so exciting for me.

Do you write your own music?

Tino Izzo, who has written and produced for Céline Dion and many other amazing Canadian artists, is the main writer and producer for my upcoming album. For each of my songs we always make sure to work together to find the right elements that suit my style and something I can relate to. It’s always a blast when we’re in studio – we take the time to work on some cool new material. His two sons Max and Alex join me for acoustic live performances while doing radio tours across Canada and also co-produced a few of my songs. I can’t wait to release my first album in 2018.

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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.