Colourful Woman Wednesday: Masia One

This is the eleventh post in our “Colourful Woman Wednesday” series, which features stories of colourful women surviving and thriving. If you’d like to share your story, or nominate a colourful woman for this feature, email us or get in touch via TumblrTwitter or Facebook

Masia One

Masia One is a remarkable performing artist. She’s the first female nominated for a Much Music Video Award (Rap) and winner of the Chinese Canadian National Council Pioneer Award. Her music has edge and passion and her style is undeniable. In an interview with the Coloured Collective’s Lisa Rajkumar-Maharaj, Masia has this to say:

How would you describe your musical style? What are your musical inspirations?
My music is based in Hiphop and has dancehall, reggae, and pop influences.  It is also very influenced by my nomadic lifestyle.  The message is with the intention of making people feel brave and positive to balance out the amount of degradation in mainstream sound today.
To say you are multi talented is an understatement. Other than singing, what other types of work do you do? 
I’m currently the Creative Director of a NYC based high end men’s outerwear line M71 that will be launching at Magic in Las Vegas this Fall. My company The MERDEKA Group is a branding boutique where we take events, artists or products and create the brand identity through graphic design, manufactured merchandise and events.  We’ve worked with Redbull, Adidas, Mobile Jam Fest (Youth Creativity Festival) and facilitate opportunities to bring the grass roots community and corporate interests together.  Finally, I really like painting and I hope to get a gig one day illustrating a children’s story book.
Tell us a bit about your upbringing and how you fit into and perceive the urban music scene.
I was born in Singapore and grew up in Vancouver, BC.  When I found a bootleg Public Enemy tape in Singapore at the age of 8, I knew I had discovered something unlike anything I had heard before. When I put out my first album Mississauga in 2003, I’m don’t think I fit into the perceived urban music scene at all – because of the way I look I was told to either be a spoken word poet or car model. Today Hiphop & Urban music is undeniably international and I’m hoping to bring my experience in music & culture back to SE Asia, the place of my birth.
Any performances, albums or anything you’d like to share with our readers? Where can we buy your album?
I have 2 upcoming releases for 2012.  The first is BOOTLEG CULTURE, produced by Grammy winning producer Che Vicious (Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, 50 Cent, Kanye).  Guest appearances include The RZA, Isis of Thunderheist and Talib Kweli.  The second is a record done live at Tuff Gong (Bob Marley’s studios) in Kingston Jamaica together with an incredible band Dubtonic Kru.  My music can be purchased on iTunes or on my website (store opening at the end of the month).
The first single Warriors Tongue can be viewed here:

Masia One Album cover

Finally, since the theme of our blog is Colourful women, that is, women who create a unique space for themselves in the world – powerful women of varying racial and cultural backgrounds, what would you say makes you a Colourful woman? 
Every woman is a colourful woman, but what is exposed in the media is an extremely skewed monochrome vision.  Only 24% of news subjects are women.  In a vast mainstream of Hiphop music, there is a spotlight on only 1 female – who incidentally glamourizes being a Barbie.  At the ground level, casting couches are happening every day in order for women to break through in this industry.  I guess what makes me able to show that I am a colourful woman is that I have been able to be independent and self sufficient in the business from reading my contracts to booking shows, where there’s usually a male “gatekeeper” for every female act.  My business MERDEKA is the Malay word for “independence & freedom” and this is certainly something I champion for all women.

Colourful Woman Wednesday – Phebe Trotman

This is the tenth post in our “Colourful Woman Wednesday” series, which features stories of colourful women surviving and thriving. If you’d like to share your story, or nominate a colourful woman for this feature, email us or get in touch via TumblrTwitter or Facebook

Phebe Trotman

Phebe Trotman is a graduate of Simon Fraser University, with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Kinesiology, Certificate in Nutrition and Certificate in Health & Fitness.She is the Head Coach of the CMFSC Initiation Academy which is a Coquitlam, BC Metro-Ford Soccer program catering to boys and girls in the Under 5 to 7 age levels. She is also a Gratitude & Appreciation Coach with SendOutCards (, a company devoted to celebrating the impact of personal connections, in a growing impersonal world.

Coloured Collective author Veesha Sonachansingh asked Phebe these questions.

What makes you a “colourful woman”?
What makes me a colourful woman is my love for all people!  I do feel that as a Woman of Colour it is especially important to be a positive role model for others and a supporter of others as they excel in their lives…. whether its as a soccer player, soccer coach, in business or simply as a supportive friend!  My goal is to also help be a connector of people in the community so that we can support one another in our different endeavours… lets help each other and work together to rise to the top.

Phebe was truly honoured to be featured as this week’s Colourful Woman, and asked us to share why we invited her. We gravitated toward her because of her positivity. There is something about her temperament that genuinely finds the gold in all experiences and people, and her influence upon them in turn makes them shine even more.

Who/what are some of your colourful inspirations?
I am a huge reader and love personal development books, courses and seminars.  I have really followed in my parent’s footsteps and have a huge library of books.  I get most of my inspiration from learning from others who have followed their life’s passions and made their dreams their reality. Some of my favourite books are The Magic of Thinking Big, How to Win Friends and Influence People,  Excuse Me Your life is Waiting, The Slight Edge and Beach Money… the list does go on though… I love to read!!Favourite  speakers are Maya Angelou, Les Brown and Tony Robbins!I am actually reading a book right now called The Magic by Rhonda Byren and although I’ve only just started it, I can already tell it will be one of my favourite books because it is not only something to read however it also has daily action items to help you incorporate gratitude into your life… it’s fantastic!
My parents inspire me each day through their love for people , helping others and making a positive difference!

What are some of your projects right now?
My current focus right now is called The Gratitude Mission ( and its to encourage 1000 people before the end of 2012 to join the Gratitude Challenge.  The Gratitude Challenge is to express gratitude to a least 1 person a day, anywhere in the world, for any reason, for 30 consecutive days by sending them a real greeting card with a heartfelt message using the SendOutCards system.

My goal is to have 1000 people between now and December 31, 2012 take the challenge so in order to do that I am also looking for other Gratitude Coaches to partner up and help spread this mission around the World! By having 1000 people take the challenge, each sending out 30 cards of gratitude that works out to 30,000 people being touched, blessed, inspired and encouraged… and that’s just the beginning because there is a positive ripple effect that happens!

What message would you like to share with our readers today?
We all are so unique and have each been blessed with God-given gifts and talents that only you have. It is your talents and gifts that when shared with the World will have a positive and lasting impact. If we each truly embrace who we are, live in our life’s passions and shared our gifts with the World, can you imagine what this World would look like? I love the quote… “To the world you are one person but to one person you are the world”  Who are the people in your life that you mean the World to and who means the World to you… do they know? Life is so short and it is so important to live each day to the fullest and cherish the relationships you have with others. Live in your life passions to the fullest and lets be an inspiration to others that they too can live their life passions!

Colourful Woman Wednesday: Idrissa Simmonds

This is the ninth post in our “Colourful Woman Wednesday” series, which features stories of colourful women surviving and thriving. If you’d like to share your story, or nominate a colourful woman for this feature, email us or get in touch via TumblrTwitter or Facebook

Idrissa Simmonds

Idrissa Simmonds is a remarkably inspiring writer and an educator. After studying in Concordia University’s Creative Writing Program for two years, she completed her MA in English Literature and International Relations from the University of British Columbia, and her MA in Educational Leadership, Politics, and Advocacy from NYU. She has always been interested in educational access and equality, particularly for communities of colour globally. Born in Brooklyn NY to Jamaican and Haitian-American parents, she was raised in Vancouver BC, and has spent a significant amount of time in West Africa. The similarities in the disparities in educational access for Black and Brown people in all these places have had a great impact on her career and creative choices.  The Coloured Collective’s writer Veesha Sonachansingh asked Idrissa these questions.

What makes you a “colourful woman”?
I recognize the importance of giving back. Of mentoring. Of giving love even when you don’t feel it given to you. I accept being a beautifully flawed human being and celebrate this in my writing and in my relationships with girls and younger women who are still learning this – shit, I’m still learning this but simply know that there will be good days with the bad. I love exploring my creativity, stretching my boundaries, building community and loving freely.

Who/what are some of your colourful inspirations?
Firstly, I’m inspired by those who are invested in leaving a positive impact with their life, whether that be my landlady opening her home to family on a regular basis for celebrations (and always inviting her tenants!); or the writing of Toni Morrison; or social activists and community leaders. Secondly, I am inspired by anyone who is exploring his or her talent to its deepest potential. James Baldwin, Edwidge Danticat, Nikky Finney, Yasiin Bey, Oprah, a host of educators that I work with, the artists Wangechi Mutu, Paul Sika and Jamal Shabazz…honestly, this list goes on and on!

What are some of your projects right now?
I’m excited to be launching an online magazine that explores the concept of “Global Black Cool” by featuring art, politics, style, literature and social entrepreneurship in cities globally. To stay true to our vision and make this conversation truly a global one, our editors are in Brooklyn, Toronto, Accra, and Vancouver. If interested learning more or becoming a contributing editor please email

I am a 2012 Resident with New York’s Poet’s House Emerging Poet’s Residency. We just completed our 10-week workshop cycle; it was a great experience in digging deep with my writing with a community of peers and getting some publications under my belt. A few of us in the workshop made commitments to our work to see us through the next year and I’m looking forward to seeing what is manifested through this process.

What message would you like to share with our readers today?
If I have learned anything this past year, it’s the importance of living without fear and living authentically.

Feed me something Beautiful

I’m kind of a foodie. That’s not to say that I’m an amazing chef (cuz I’m not), but I definitely relish a good food excursion. In the same way that I’m all about natural beauty, I’m all about natural food.

Being of Indian descent, a lot of people ask me if I can make Roti and of course if I like spicy food. People also get confused about whether I would make traditional Indian food (from India) as opposed to West Indian food. People here in Canada are not too familiar with Trinidadian food verses the more common Jamaican food.

There’s so much history underlying traditional foods. Its obvious on one level, but invisible if your eyes are not open to it. In the West Indies for example so many of our traditional dishes are rich in carbohydrates. Energy giving foods for a people who used to work the fields. We also favour highly spiced foods. I think this is because the produce and meats we historically had access to were lower quality than what’s available today. Therefore we spiced the hell out of it to transform meagre bits into something delicious.

For myself, the type of food that I seek and most love is fusion cooking. I love the unexpected flavours you get from mixing cultures. For example my boyfriend discovered last year that barbecue sauce goes really well with garam masala. At the Kariwak in Tobago they make a cafe frappe that’s a lot like the Greek frappe except it has coconut milk. I’ve found Indonesian food to be a tongue twisting combination of Thai and Chinese flavours (blows the mind). I’ve had spiced venison at an Indian fusion restaurant in New York that was to die for. All in all, in the same way that I love Colourful people, I love Colourful food.

Despite my ethnic indicators however, I’m a dismal failure at Roti and even curry. I’ve tried a million times to make something that even vaguely resembles my mum’s magical cooking, but sadly, her talents have not quietly passed into my own hands. Instead epicurious is my recipe companion and I continually troll various foodie blogs and books to learn new tricks and tastes from fellow colourful foodies around the world.

Food is a playful kind of creativity. We eat everyday and cook things everyday – we may as well make something beautiful. For me, food is beautiful when it is carefully prepared, when its ingredients are harvested ethically and when it is made without too many additives that I can’t pronounce.

Colourful Woman Wednesday: Christiane McGahan

This is the eighth post in our “Colourful Woman Wednesday” series, which features stories of colourful women surviving and thriving. If you’d like to share your story, or nominate a colourful woman for this feature, email us or get in touch via TumblrTwitter or Facebook
This week we tried something a little different. We posted a request for Colourful declarations on our Facebook page asking ‘What makes you Colourful?’. Below is a quote from Christiane McGahan.
Colourful for me is, that moment when you finally realize that other people look at you and just have no clue which category to put you in… you don’t fit the black/white/asian/hispanic categories they’re accustomed to, it confuses them and for a select few, it can even scare them…
But for those of us in this special category all our own, it is a source of amusement and yes, power, to realize that no matter what others think they ‘know’, the human race is in fact, just one race – the boundaries are simply in our minds.

To share your own Colourful declarations, go to our Facebook page and reply to the top post. We’ll highlight your responses on the blog.

Colourful Woman Wednesday: Hanna Herbertson

This is the seventh post in our “Colourful Woman Wednesday” series, which features stories of colourful women surviving and thriving. If you’d like to share your story, or nominate a colourful woman for this feature, email us or get in touch via Tumblr,Twitter or Facebook.

Hanna Herbertson of Blackgold Dance Crew

Seeing Hanna dance makes us want to dance. She is everything we love here at the Coloured Collective – sassy, passionate and talented. Born in South Korea, Hanna Herbertson moved to Sweden at an early age, where she grew up on an island in the Baltic sea called Gotland. Today, Hanna has extensive experience teaching dance as well as performing for audiences across the globe.

In September 2009, Hanna founded Blackgold Dance Crew together with choreographers Genius and History. She currently lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Hanna talked to us about her style of dance and inspiration:

‘How did you get into Danehall?
Growing up in Sweden I listened a lot to the radio and watched MTV. When I first heard tunes by Chaka Demus and Pliers and Shabba Ranks, I fell in love with dancehall music. The dance came later when Sean Paul buss and I discovered the party dances. I used to order dvd from parties in Jamaica and in NYC to learn, this was before youtube.. Lol!
When I came to NYC to study dance I ventured out from the commercial schools and went out the Brooklyn parties and danced with Jamaican dancers. Then in 2009 I was able to go to Jamaica for the first time. The rest is history 🙂

‘Can you describe what it is about Dancehall that you fell in love with?’
The music, the attitude and the freedom of expression was something that I had never experienced before in other cultures.

Dancer, Hanna Herbertson

‘What kinds of style you integrate with Dancehall?’
In the beginning when I started teaching and choreographing Caribbean style of dance I fused it more. Styles like belly dancing, soca, african, salsa etc. The last 4-5 years I’ve been gravitation more and more towards Jamaican dancehall though. Don’t like to be pigeonholed since I’ve studied many different kinds of dance styles so I have kept the name “Dancehall Fusion” and I still mash up styles when I think it’s appropriate.

‘Tell us about Blackgold Dance Crew and the kind of work that you do.’

In 2009 I started doing shows together with two choreographers/dancers from NYC, Genius and History. We quickly discovered that we had great chemistry as a trio and decided to form a dance crew and teach classes together. We ended up working with experienced dancehall artists like Mr Vegas and Mr Lexx. We have preformed and taught at high schools and collages around the US.

Internationally I’ve been teaching workshops, have created shows and done collaboration projects in countries like Jamaica, Germany, France, Finland and more. One of my current projects is working with Singaporean/Canadian artist Masia One. I’m in Toronto right now with her performing and teaching this week.

‘Finally Hanna, what would you say makes you a Colourful woman?’
Being adopted from South Korea, raised in Sweden and now living in NYC and doing dancehall, I’m living a colorful cultural mash up dream. Raised by a strong single mother who never got to travel much she always supported my endeavors and choice of profession. That has contributed a lot to my drive to learn, experience and enjoy life to the fullest and to live my life like it’s golden.

If you are in Toronto this week you’d be mad not to check out Hanna’s show the details of which are below.

Also to learn more about Hanna and her ongoing work, visit her website


Creatively, I live in this strange mental and physical space in which I can’t quite resolve the issue of audience. I have an art exhibition on at the moment in Toronto (more on that here) and coming out of making this show I’m left with questions about myself and my work -about community and art.

Who am I painting for? When I lived in Brooklyn a few years back I asked an artist how it was he knew that his work touched anyone. He said that if he expressed himself honestly that there would surly be people out there somewhere who could identify with his experiences and expressions. There’s something to that. For a person like me though, who lives in the world of Walcott’s Prodigal and who lives without the shelter of religion, racial acceptance or community, who in the world am I painting for?

Have you seen that episode of How I Met you Mother where Lily realizes that the ideal audience for her art was cats and dogs? So she exhibited her work in Vet offices? It was hilarious and silly but oddly applicable.

My desolate musing aside, feedback on my work has been good. There are certain pieces that resound with people on a level that is perhaps common to us all. In that sense maybe with time I, like my work, will grow to a place that is transparent and accessible to all walks of life. I have already grown to be a remarkable in-between-er. Maybe my work will appeal, as this blog does, to all of the other people like myself – caught in between. Or maybe we are all the same animal, responding to the infinite articulations of life as different people. In this sense, audience isn’t an issue. Art is for all of us, so I just won’t worry about it.

no permanent address

I’ve been holding off making business cards for a long time. This is because I didn’t want to put any information on there that wouldn’t be applicable for less than a year. My loved ones can attest to the ridiculous number of phone numbers I’ve had over the years, especially during undergrad when I moved every four months! When moving yet again a few weeks ago I gathered all of my cell phones into a little pile – one for every country I’ve lived in. I cursed, put them in another box and shipped them with all of the other things I’ve shipped and tagged and stored.

So no, I still have no permanent address. I tell people I do – like the government. They seem pretty stuck on the issue, though I stress that ‘permanent’ is a strong term for my living situation. For a while I was using my brother’s house as my supposed permanent address but his wife hates me so that stopped pretty quick. Now I change my address every time I move and in the past 8 or 9 years, I haven’t lived in one place for longer than a year and a half. This is bad news for my National Geographic magazine subscription.

My boyfriend and I were joking around last night that we come from a long line of cantankerous Cartman-like ancestors who at some point in all of their lives said ‘Screw this town! I’m going over there!’ This is true of all of our ancestors with the possible exclusion of his black ancestors who were forcibly brought to the Caribbean. Even then though they were taken to Barbados and then moved optionally to Trinidad – so again – we, and people like us have an inherent predisposition for saying ‘I’ve had enough!’

So why fight it? I should just accept that I’m a nomad. For people like me, buying furniture is a bad idea. Signing 3-year contracts, like my latest phone is a catastrophically bad idea. Reading a lot and making art is hugely inconvenient for moving purposes. But alas, I’ll have to let those last ones slide.

Thankfully, the information age has brought a solution to my business card problem. I’ve gone with Mini Cards from (which are awesome and lovely and I couldn’t recommend them more). On them I’ve put my phone number, website and email address. That’s as traceable as I come.

Colourful Woman Wednesday: Lindsay Hall

This is the second in our “Colourful Woman Wednesday” series, which will feature stories of colourful women surviving and thriving. If you’d like to share your story, or nominate a colourful woman for this feature, email us or get in touch via Tumblr,Twitter or Facebook.

Lindsay HallLindsay Hall is a brilliant, young dancer who recently finished a series of performances with the J CHEN PROJECT in NY. She is currently working with a new company called Liberation Dance Theater.

Born in Canada but raised in Tobago, Lindsay’s style of dance is an elegant but seductive mash-up of influences. Trained in Ballet and Modern from the age of 5, Lindsay grew up in Tobago where she was surrounded by Caribbean rhythms, Folk dances, and Dancehall. In May 2011 she became the first Tobagonian to graduate from The Ailey School’s Certificate Program in New York. While in New York Lindsay has been honoured with full scholarships to attend both the Ballet Hispanico Summer Intensive and the Earl Mosley’s Institute of the Arts. She has had the great fortune of working with some amazing choreographers, including Darrell Grand Moultrie, Earl Mosley, Robin Dunn, Andrea Miller, Peter London, Francesca Harper, Bradley Shelver and Kevin Wynn.

When asked why she is a Colourful Woman, Lindsay said this;

Lindsay Hall I am mixed in every sense of the word. I am of different races and different countries (Black/white and Trinidadian/Canadian) and my influences and interests are just as varied. When I was younger and I met other people who were one race and from one place, I thought their lives must be so much simpler, not having to constantly explain where they are from and why they look the way they do, or (like in my case) why they have a Canadian accent but say they grew up in Tobago. But now that I am older (and I would like to think wiser as well!) and I am delving more and more into the dance world, I realize how unique my story is, and that I can use my background and my story in my dancing. I can embrace my story and not feel so bothered if I have to explain why my hair is the way it is or why I have freckles but my skin is brown.

I am colourful because I have embraced ME. Performing has given me the confidence to express myself in a way that we generally do not do in every day life. While I dance, I face people and I am not afraid to show them who I am: honestly and whole heartedly. Who I am is someone who may be compliacted (which I have learned is ok), full of surprises and not easily figured out in one glance, and I kind of like that idea!’

Check out Lindsay’s Youtube channel to see her in motion!

Hockey night

From time to time in Kitchener (where I currently live) there are these great moments of cultural ambiguity. And as most great Canadian moments, they centre around hockey.

A couple of weeks ago a friend from work took me to an Ethiopian restaurant for some truly delicious cuisine. He was the only white guy in the place though the restaurant was half full. The restaurant was full of energy as people talked and exclaimed at the hockey match playing on a big screen. We could have been in one of those ‘I am Canadian ‘ ads. It was such a surreal and gratifying moment.

I had another great moment last night at an Irish pub that serves the best pizza in town. Four of us were sitting at a table taking in a hockey match. The men at the table next to us were dark skinned and wearing turbans. The table over from them were white college kids in team jerseys. Our table had two white people, one mixed race man (my bf) and myself (Indian). Irrespective of race, everyone was totally into it.

Aren’t sports like that though? When in a group, you can’t help but get into it. I’ve read articles discussing the carnivalesque nature of sports, especially when national pride comes into play. The everyday divisions of ‘us’ and ‘them’ that in daily life divide by race, sex and political affiliation, all of these things melt away. Instead we become ‘Canadians’ versus the other team or nation. There’s unity there and actual acceptance. I saw that during the 2010 Winter Olympics when Canadians of all kinds were high spirited an united with a kind of pride.

Experiencing the World Cup while living in Toronto was amazing as well. When you walk around you see people sporting their nations flags. Strangers from different countries stop and talk, temporarily united in this fever. You could see what games were on each day by the enthusiasm on the streets. When Brazil or Portugal played, certain areas of the city would become a big street party and when Italy won in 2006 Little Italy closed of its roads and was totally engulfed with people.

There is so much to be said about sports and celebrations. I think that it must hearken back to some very basic cultural traditions that seem to pervade most cultures. The way that people are able to come together and get involved with each other during sport events is so different from the rest of the calendar year. It’s truly carnivalesque.

I suppose I am only now recognizing Canada’s pride in Hockey as the same thing I experienced in Trinidad with Football (Intercol memories anyone?).

For more on sport and nationalism check out Sport, Nationalism, and Globalization: European and North American Perspectives, by Alan Bairner.