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Posts tagged “acting

Storytelling in the Spotlight

A couple nights ago, I took to the stage at Raconteurs, a live storytelling/spoken word event here in Toronto. Many of you will remember when I performed at Spark London in the UK two or three times. Since then, I developed a taste for live storytelling, probably because it feeds into my need to be a ham, and talk about myself. Womp womp.

Last month, I performed at The Moth in New York City. That experience was probably the most exhilaration storytelling event of my life. There was easily 400 people in the crowd, and the massive standing-O and cheerful roar of applause after I was done was so galvanizing and fulfilling. They’re sending me the video footage of that night, and soon Raconteurs will upload the footage of my story to their YouTube. so stay tuned, munchkins. I hope to do Spark London, The Moth, and Raconteurs again. I listen to all of their podcasts, and am glad to be featured on there too!

Live storytelling feels like an obvious step in my evolution. I double-majored Theatre and Creative Writing for my undergraduate degree. Live storytelling combines them both, you get the performative aspects and the audience pay-off, but also you get to employ the nuances of language and creative non-fiction. I can pretend I’m one of those actor-writer types like Ethan Hawke (who has also performed at The Moth, fyi).

Expect to see more of me on the storytelling stage, my dudes. Dudebros. Brojangles.

Okay I’ll stop now.

Photography by 1nspireinc

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2014: The Year That Taught Me Exactly What I’m Made Of

I don’t know how to start this entry so I’ll just launch right into the heart of it:

I spent most of this year homeless, broke and starving on the streets of Europe.

And I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

Most of you read this blog soley for all the amazing street art that I find (as you should, I have found some incredible and moving stuff!), and I don’t really talk about myself on this blog anymore. I’ve barely posted any photographs of me on here this year, so let’s change that right now before I launch into it all…

wind in my hair on Make A Gif

 

Ahhh, that’s better.

So here’s the skinny

I will try not to ramble on for brevity’s sake and because everyone has ADD, but perhaps you might take 5 mins to read this, as this post, like most of my posts, will be mostly photographs anyway.

I started off the year in London. It was rough from the beginning. I was freelancing a lot to pay my bills, but money was still tight tight tight! My friends kept insisting on paying for me just because they wanted me to come out and see them, but I felt pretty shitty about having my friends pay for me. I mean, they offered, but what kind of woman does that make me? Always relying on the generosity of friends? I refused the majority of the time.

Still I managed to have some wonderful early experiences in London, like being invited to speak THREE TIMES at Spark London, which is a live-storytelling event.

This below video is from my first and most popular story. It has almost 6,000 views on YouTube, I guess it resonated with people.

Also, as many of you remember, I was cast in Channel 4’s documentary series, First Dates. My episode, the premiere episode of the season, had millions of viewers and broke the internet. Here’s the trailer and some screencaps from my small screen glory:




But life in London was still giving me headaches. I won’t go into too much detail on this point, but I was being sexually harassed by someone who had stolen all of my contact details and had been to my house. I had to call the police just to get him to stop. I couldn’t even get him arrested, I could only get them to force him to stop. It was truly frightening to be the victim of something like this that was completely out of my hands. I didn’t know this person at all, and to have my details stolen like that and used for such nefarious purposes really shocked my system. I didn’t leave my flat for a week because I was petrified to walk outside and find him there. Bless the London Police, they were so kind and understanding and helpful and full of useful information.

But the money issue started to grate on me. London is too expensive for a freelancer like me, and when my uptight and awkward landlady (who would burst into my room when I was sleeping naked and demand I get her a paracetamol because she was sick… or would bore me to tears by yammering on about her ridiculous love life like it was any of my business) decided to raise the rent on me for no good reason, I decided enough was enough. London clearly doesn’t want me here, so fuck it, I’m leaving for something better.

Homeless

I consciously chose to be homeless. I stuffed everything I owned in the world into my backpack, and set off for mainland Europe. I didn’t have the money to pay rent, so I decided I just wouldn’t pay rent. I would get by with Couchsurfing and Housesitting. And those housesitting gigs would last for months, so I would get to stay in these cosmopolitan European capitals for free; places like Copenhagen, Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam and Brussels (and a smattering of smaller rural towns).

But it wasn’t easy. I was so broke that I was living off of €40 a week. A WEEK. That’s how much most people spend in one meal, and that is what I was LIVING off of for a week. There were some really lean moments where I was like, “Should I put the peanuts in the yoghurt, or have the peanuts as a side-dish?” For  example, the entire month that I lived in Paris, I only spent €150 in total, and that’s being generous. I couldn’t afford to take the trains anymore between cities, so I started hitchhiking… which any woman will tell you is, well, interesting. (The one time that I posted on Facebook about my hitchhiking, a friend that I haven’t seen in about 15 years since high school transferred money into my PayPal and wouldn’t take no for an answer. She was like, “TAKE IT AND GET ON A TRAIN DAMMIT” and I was moved to tears. People can be so kind). I’m ashamed to admit that I did a bit of dumpster-diving when I needed to. But the worst it ever got was when I was attacked in Brussels and in Paris. In Brussels, this guy smacked me right across the face in broad daylight. On the Paris Metro, I walked away with a huge welt on my thigh that lasted a month, and the tissue there is still sore, if I’m being honest.

Life as a waif isn’t all romantic and adventure. Sometimes it is pure depravity and despair.

But, for as bad as it was sometimes, I felt like going through all of this was good for me. Like I really needed it. The whole point is to go through a river of shit. The whole point is to crawl up a long ladder on your knees. That’s the whole point. Because it taught me exactly what I’m made of. I am resilient when the shit hits the fan. I am resourceful and crafty, sometimes hustler-charlatan, and sometimes the lucky beneficiary of the kindness of strangers. I never gave up. Going through the worst time of my life, oddly, was the best thing for me. I truly feel like the worst year of my life was also the best year of my life. I am so grateful this happened to me.

So how did I end up back in Toronto?

I was making some money freelancing, so I wasn’t completely in the shitter. I was even translated into Swiss-German when I sold a couple of articles to AufBau Magazine (and they paid me in SWISS FRANCS too! When you exchange that into Canadian dollars, it was more than double. I was like PIZZA FOR EVERYBODY!). But I couldn’t afford the planet ticket home. Then, the Polish Ministry of Economy who sent me on my #Polska14 adventure that you can read about here, paid for my transatlantic flight home. Without that, I would still be a wandering European nomad with no fixed address. So thanks, Poland!

Finding Meaning

Along this strange 12 month journey that was 2014, there were a lot of poignant and unique moments that will never come again. I was in Copenhagen during the Eurovision Song Contest, I was in Berlin when Germany won the World Cup, I was in Paris during the 70th anniversary celebrations of the liberation of Paris, I was in Amsterdam for their Remembrance Day, and I was in Brussels during Nuit Blanche.

I think one of my favourite moments of the entire year was in Amsterdam when my friend Laser 3.14 dedicated some street art to me.

But my favourite thing to do in all of these places (other than photograph street art, of course) was to visit the flea markets every weekend. Because I had no space in my backpack to actually buy anything of substance, the only thing I could buy on the flea markets were old love letters and monochrome photographs from 1900-1940s. The only spot I could keep them was in the space between my iPad and its case, because it was the only spot to keep them flat and safe. After a while, that little slot was bulging.

Here are some examples of what I managed to procure:

Most days I would spend all the money I had saved for eating on these photographs. I usually only ate 2 small meals a day anyway, and would load up on coffee during the day to suppress my appetite.







The small moments I never blogged…


Dancing with friends in London! Everybody in this photograph looks cool except for me. I need to increase my cool-game.

Celebrating World Cup in Berlin with friends! Aw Eric, tu me manques!

Enjoying the view of Berlin from the Klunkerkranich with my two favourite Germans!

Acrobatic performers at the Boxhagenerplatz flohmarkt in Berlin!

This photograph and street-art-hunt made it to the front page of WordPress!

In London, I was cast in a movie, and the costume/hair/makeup would take an hour every day. I was playing a 16th century Spanish lady in King Phillip’s court. My hair was teased, pinned, curled, and yanked within an inch of my life. That hat had to be SEWN INTO MY HEAD to keep it in place. And the corset & neck piece dug into my skin and took out huge chunks of flesh.

This is what my hair looked like after all the pieces were taken out of it.


Hanging out inside an 800-year-old tree in Copenhagen.


Overlooking Copenhagen!

At the Jewish Memorial in Berlin, which is a re-staging of a photograph I took of myself 8 years ago

Berlin olympic stadium … fuck yeah jesse owens.


Sachsenhausen….

Fireworks soar above the Brandenburg Gate the night that Germany won the World Cup

A massive drumming/capoeira parade in Paris that I just happened to stumble upon. They basically shut down Boulevard Saint-Denis!

Click on the volume button to hear! I made this and many other Vines, btw.

My last night in Paris, I cycled to L’Arc de Triomphe and just sat there, watching the city run circles around it.

Nuit Blanche in Brussels was a rainy, glorious night I will never forget. I love Brussels so much!



Overlooking the small medieval-walled village of Regensburg in the south of Germany.

Leaving Berlin, and for the last time too…

Dancing with the gang in Dalston… as all the hipsters do.

This was my housesit in Paris; a two-bedroom flat all to myself. Yes, I am a huge asshole.


And this was my housesit in Amsterdam. Being homeless isn’t all that bad.


Somedays I would wake up in my housesit and just be so happy!


Although, when I was Couchsurfing, some days I would wake up looking like this. Ugh. Don’t fuck with a recently-awoken woman!

Snugglecat in Brussels loves his kisses!


I saw Nils Frahm live in concert four times this year (for a total of 5 if you include last year).  Luckily he performed free concerts, so my broke-ass could still get a little culture. I saw him twice in Copenhagen….


…once in Berlin

…and then in Toronto!

Favourite 2014 Street Art Hunts


I found some amazing works this year, so it’s hard to pick the BEST, as everyone is a winner, but here are some highlights!
#1 Space Invader does Star Wars in London!

#2 Accidentally finding a Banksy in Copenhagen!

#3  El Bocho in Berlin, baby!

#4 Icy and Sot on the streets of Amsterdam!

#5 Finding 183 Space Invaders in one month in Paris!

#6 Jimmy C’s Ziggy Stardust mural in Brixton!

#7 Pablo Delgado in Dulwich!

#8 JR’s “wrinkles of the city” in Berlin!

#9 Roa in Dulwich!

#10 Phlegm in Dulwich!


Here are my greatest street-art hits from Instagram! What a year it’s been!

Favourite 2014 Albums

#1 Spaces by my beloved Nils. Although it came out in late 2013, it really picked up steam in 2014 so that’s why it’s included here. I would walk around my neighbourhood in South London (Crystal Palace) and would listen to Spaces as I wandered up and down the hills, and it kept me sane. Lend an ear to song “Says,” it will be the best 8 minutes of your life, I promise.

#2 Are We There by Sharon Van Etten. I would wander around Kreuzberg and Neükoln in Berlin, along the canal, sit on Admiralbrücke, drink a cola from the Späti, and listen to “Our Love” or “I Know” off this album and feel like someone else understood me finally.

Favourite 2014 Singles

#1 Enemies by Hannah Georgas. The song is simply gorgeous, but it was the music video for it that left me breathless. There’s something about that man’s face. I think it was his eyes. He broke my heart.

#2 Habits by Tove Lo. I know this song was pretty overplayed by the end of the year, but when it first came out, I would walk around Berlin during those hot summer nights when it’s still light out at 9pm, photograph street art, listen to this, and sing when I was sure no one was listening.

Favourite 2014 Films

#1 Grand Budapest Hotel, obviously! I saw this in London with Robin and we couldn’t stop talking about how great it was for hours afterward.

#2 Boyhood. I saw this in Berlin with David and he fell asleep during it, so it could have used a tighter edit (3 hours is too long, guys!) but it was still a tour-de-force.

Speaking of men…




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I was never lonely this year, let’s put it  that way.
Also… OMG BEARDS. EVERY MAN I KNOW HAS A SWEET, SWEET BEARD.

When it comes to the end…

Like I have for the past three years, I will be spending New Years in a country other than my own (2012 in Germany, 2013 in London, and now 2014 in….)

New York City!!


I’ll be housesitting (obvi) for a month (until the end of January) in the Upper West Side. Another place to live rent-free, another amazing city. I haven’t been in NYC since 2012 so it will be great to rediscover all my favourite places (Bushwick here I come!!) and also discover places I never knew before (I’m coming for you, Adele Bloch-Bauer).

NYC, like all the other cities I have lived in this year, is one of those places where you’re never bored. And if you are, you are doing it wrong.

So I’d like to end 2014 on a similar note:

“I’m bored’ is a useless thing to say.
I mean, you live in a great, big, vast world that you’ve seen none percent of. Even the inside of your own mind is endless; it goes on forever, inwardly, do you understand? The fact that you’re alive is amazing.
So you don’t get to say ‘I’m bored.”

-Louis C.K.

2014 was never boring. May that continue in 2015.
See ya in NEW YORK CITY!!!


Leaving Las London

In two days, on May 1st, I am leaving London permanently. I’ve been living here on-and-off for the past seven years, and it’s finally time to move on. I will spend a couple days in my old stompin’ grounds of Brussels (SO EXCITED) and Amsterdam (ZOMG), and then will spend about a month in Copenhagen before settling in Berlin in June. This route is almost the EXACT same route I took in 2006 when I was backpacking around Europe (I’m skipping Luxembourg… because, ew).

Anyway, I’ve had quite the journey here in London in the last year, and here are my greatest hits! These are experiences that I couldn’t have had anywhere else in the world. They are unique to London, are very London-centric, and I am all the more richer for having been a part of them:

#1 Obviously, being cast in a TV show

I beat out over 14,000 other applicants from across the UK to appear in the massively-popular documentary series First Dates on Channel 4. I was featured in the premiere episode which millions of people tuned in to see, and was also in the commercial advert for the show:

Read my blog post about my experience here!

But here’s something I haven’t really talked about on here… I was cast in a movie too. I can’t give you any details, but here’s a jolly photograph of me in full costume.

I had to sit in the makeup chair every day for an hour. That’s not a wig, it’s my hair. They curled it, teased it, sprayed it and pinned it, and then had to stitch that hat to my hair. Also, I had to be sewn into that dress. 16th century MADNESS.

When it comes out next year, I’ll let you know.

#2 Getting to climb atop the O2 Arena for free and singing Christmas carols with an entire choir at the summit!

Normally, the “Up at the O2” climb is a pretty expensive adventure activity, but I was asked to do it by the organizers of a social media website, so I got to climb to the summit for free!  And the view of London from up there was spectacular! I felt like I was had literally just climbed on top of the world. I had to look down to see heaven. Read my blog post about that experience here!

#3 Speaking at the inaugural Best of Spark London live-storytelling event


(Up on stage at Spark London! I’m 3rd from the right.)

I was invited by the organizers of Spark London, a weekly event here in London where people tell true stories live in front of an audience, to speak at their very first Best of Spark London event! It was a huge honour and I was so glad to take part! You can listen to my story on their podcast of the night here. I’m the first speaker in the podcast, so you don’t have to scroll through the audio to find me! You can read my blog post about that event here.

#4 Seeing the London Symphony Orchestra perform live at Royal Albert Hall on New Years!

The Artist Live in Concert at Royal Albert Hall, performed by the London Symphony Orchestra from christine estima on Vimeo.

I won a contest (huzzah!), and was treated to tickets to see the amazing London Symphony Orchestra in concert as they performed the soundtrack to The Artist live as the film played in the background at the sumptuously-ornate institution of the Royal Albert Hall. Oh the things I get to do for free…. That crossed off three things on my bucket list: seeing the LSO in concert, attending a performance at the RAH, and doing something spectacular in London for New Years! Read my blog post about that incomparable experience here.

#5 Participating in the Inside/Out Project at Somerset House, and meeting street-art-superstar JR!

As you all know by now, street art is MY JAM. I love that shit. I eat that shit up. And I’ve been photographing the work of French artist-superstar JR for years around the world with his Inside-Out Project. So when I heard it was coming to Somerset House, I had to take part! I stood in line for 2 hours to get my photo taken, and it was then pasted down on the Somerset House grounds. When I noticed JR just chilling nearby, I went over, and we had a lovely chat. He was totally humble and cool!

Read my blog post about that experience here!

#6 Dining at the super-secret Gingerline nomadic restaurant!

Here’s something I haven’t talked about at all on here, because Gingerline is SO SUPER SECRETIVE that they ban you from talking about it on social media for at least a month after you have attended the experience. Well, I attended the Gingerline in February, so I think I’m good to go now.

So, last year I read on Londonist.com about the Gingerline, a dining experience that is so secretive, you don’t even really know what you get for the ticket price. All I knew was that they were fully booked for months, so I bought my ticket FIVE MONTHS in advance!

Here’s how it works: You buy a ticket, not knowing where the restaurant is or what you will experience when you get there. On the night of the event around 6pm, you have to make sure you are at one of the stations on the London Overground line (the name “Gingerline” refers to the Overground, as it is coloured ginger on the tube map). At 6pm, and not a minute before, they text you the location of the event. You have exactly one hour to hop on the Overground and get to the location, as they lock the doors at 7pm!

I got there on time, and this is what I walked in to…


This basement in a non-descript empty building in the Haggerston area had been transformed into a spaceship with super-sexy-1960s flight attendants with ginger hair from the planet Gingerline!

ZOMG BRAIN-SPLOSION.

There was a huge piece of ginger root in that centre display there. APROPOS.


My table looked like a Star Trek console!


Torture chamber?


Nah, it’s where the flight attendants would inject you with ALCOHOL.


TV panels advised us of our “flight status” and ‘takeoff’ and “landing” hahahah.


They handed us our meals through the port-holes above our heads!


Here was the awesome menu!


And of course, the whole experience had to be seen through 3D glasses.


I met some awesome people there too!


This was their take on the in-flight safety manual!

LOL at “interphalangial.”


Of course we started a conga-line… which involved a lot of “slut-dropping.” If you don’t know what a “slut-drop” is … just … never you mind.


You go girl.


The artificial gravity unit was operational for me, thank fuck.


Yes, Intergalactic Ginger Mom.

Anyway, it was a great experience, and even though the tickets were £50, which is really too rich for my blood (and out of my budget, ahh!), I decided that even poor lasses like me deserve some kind of quality of life. So this was my one and only splurge for February. I can live with that, and I feel like I got my money’s worth! Highly-recommended if you love the thrill of a surprise!

So there you have it, munchkins! My wonderful life in London is coming to a close, but I know that my adventures in Copenhagen and Berlin will be just as wonderful and splendid and exciting. Because life is unpredictable . . . and I wouldn’t have it any other way. There are so many reasons to love London, but life is too short to spend it all in one place.

As one last parting glance at my London home, here is a short film that I made about London’s thrilling street art and graffiti scene.

Onward ho!

Goodbye London.

I hope I never fucking see you again.


#FirstDates: That’s a wrap!


As I previously blogged, the second season of First Dates has come to an end, and the entire cast was on hand this past weekend to celebrate it in full-London style at Café de Paris in the heart of Piccadilly Circus. It was such a trip to have been cast in this television show. I found out recently that over 14,000 people applied to be on the show this year, and I was one of 50-some-odd people to make the final cast. That really is humbling. And also, a small source of pride:)

Here are some photos of me bonding with the rest of the cast from the omni-shambolic clusterfuck that was the all-night Wrap Party! In the above photo, it’s me and my harem of bearded men. Jonathan, Ralph, my date Paul, and Steve. I’m sure all of you have already seen my episode (the premiere episode, of course!), but if you want to see the rest of the series starring these lovely lads, be sure to watch them on 4oD!

Me and date Paul. You see, people? Despite what some audiences thought when they watched our date, Paul and I actually got on like gang-busters. We are great mates and we have nothing but love and high-fives for each other. I’m not gonna lie, throughout the wrap party, there may or may not have been some crotch-grabbing on our parts. YOU HEARD ME.

Of course, it wouldn’t have been a party unless Paul and Steve rubbed their beards ALL UP IN MY GRILL.

Here’s Mo (who was also in the premiere episode with me) and Corinne, who was featured in 3 episodes and, memorably, was reduced to tears by the infamous Rajan. Mo is such a great guy, we had such a great time getting to know each other at the party. We’re both Middle Eastern so having this experience was important to us, to show that not all Arabs are terrorists! We can be LUVAS too, ya know. As for Corinne, there was a bit of drama at the party, which I won’t get into here, so that’s probably why in this and the below photo, she’s pulling quite odd and awkward faces.

Uh…. yeah.


Back to the party! There’s Chloe, who also was featured in the premiere episode with me. Remember her dog Bentley? Aw bless. The doggie stole the show.


And there’s Saniya. Who could ever forget her hilarious comment about Mo and, uh, spaghetti. I’m still not sure I understand it.

SNOGGING STEVE. My life is complete.

Sarah Jayne, as you’ll remember from the First Dates commercial, was looking for her Prince Charming. Jonathan, the Alan Carr doppleganger, was on the hunt for a more ‘seasoned’ lady. They were such fun at the party 🙂

And that’s a wrap, people! Thank you for watching and for your support! It was quite  an unforgettable experience, and it reminded me that life is always full of surprises, as long as you keep allowing them in. There is never, ever, any excuse in this life to be bored. This chapter is closed. Onto the next!

And let me tell you, from what I’ve got planned, the next chapter in my life is going to be something else.

Just you wait.