My grandmother.

The influences in my life that are humans are as follows (in no particular order):

Bo Burnham, Kaelin Isserlin, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Miley Cyrus, Linda Garneau, Evan Peters, Julie Andrews, Lady GaGa, and my grandmother.

I will attempt to explain my reasons for why these people have a greater influence on me than others. Hope it functions properly.

A super-heroine butterfly who cooks like a BOSS.

My grandma has every right to brag about herself. Her culinary skills could swipe the whole competition. She has the most caring heart for everyone around her and always puts her family first. Funny thing is, she has NEVER been one to talk highly of herself. All of the goodness and love that encompasses her presence never seems to turn into greediness nor hate. I have come to be so inspired by her and I am still wondering how I got so lucky to have her as my grandmother.

I never met my Nonna—my Italian grandmother on my mother’s side—and I often imagine if she was as amazing. My dream is to live my senior years in Italy somewhere so I can be buried close to my heritage. I think it would be so ideal if the bright, white lights of heaven’s gate appeared in front of me and right there is my Nonna, making pasta. Pretty nice. While it is amusing to craft a dreamy picture of what you think your family would act like, I am humbled by the fact I can personally witness my grandmother’s life while she is alive. I feel attached to her successes and discoveries and hope that she stays on the Earth for a long time.

Her absolute selflessness reminds me that every human has so much kindness to share. We are all wrapped up in our individual lives and that can turn quickly into arrogance. My grandma remains so giving with her heart, and I know she will continue to have an unlimited amount of positive energy. Whenever she smiles, I just have to join her.

I want to give back to her all the fresh cookies, clean sheets, clever jokes and warm hugs that she has provided me with for the past 20 years. Spending time with her is one thing but it’s not enough. She deserves the world and the moon. I try to visit my grandparents once a month or so to ask them about life, the future and theatre (they brought me to my first musical). Their knowledge and overall patience with my horrible ignorance helps me to reset and ground myself. I have vivid memories of our family cottage in my childhood and both my grandmother and grandfather shaped my experience in such a profound way. I think the most memorable would be the times when my grandmother would let me set up the “cookie plate” for dessert. She knew it would be so exciting for a big-eyed girl like me to organize and display treats for my family, and I’ll never forget that.

I have to mention the fact that my grandparents have been married for over 50 years. Through thick and thin, they have stayed by each other’s sides and still, to this day, are the only representation of real love that I have seen. Since we are talking about my grandmother as an individual, her unmitigated love for my grandfather gives me hope that it is possible to unconditionally love another person. Of course, I love my grandpa too, but I think he would agree that my grandma is an angel who makes everyone a better person.

Grandma, I love you and admire you to no ends. I hope one day to be as incredibly strong as you are.

Kaelin Isserlin.

The influences in my life that are humans are as follows (in no particular order):

Bo Burnham, Kaelin Isserlin, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Miley Cyrus, Linda Garneau, Evan Peters, Julie Andrews, Lady GaGa, and my grandmother.

I will attempt to explain my reasons for why these people have a greater influence on me than others. Hope it functions properly.

The majestic creature I have the fortune of calling my dear friend.

The first time I met this boy was on a tour of Ryerson University. Immediately, I was drawn to his energy. He was dressed in a white top with cut-outs in the shoulder area and as he bounced beside me, his fiery hair followed the same rhythm. I couldn’t help but introduce myself out of a desire to be a part of his life. I wanted to know who this person really was. Is that too intrusive?

We eventually realized we were in the same program and class, creating a relationship from there. I knew that I could be myself around him, even from the first moments of awkwardness. It was “Frosh” week at the time, so I ended up meeting him again at a club to find that his personality was even more contagious under the influence. I was hooked.

When I have conversations with him, whether they are 30 second catch-ups or hour-long deep convos, I feel completely invested in the way he thinks about life. He will discuss politics like it’s a joke, speak about death as if it were a living person, and laugh about ANYTHING. My sense of humour is very crude sometimes, but I never feel like I have to censor myself because if the joke doesn’t land, he will make a noise through his gorgeous mouth to lighten the mood. I am content with that. I’ll take any form of attention!

ANYways, when I decided to include Kaelin in my list of human influences, it felt perfectly okay to talk openly about him, even though he is a close friend. I don’t think others will understand how wonderful he is unless they have met him. He is such a new spirit in my life and I am constantly in awe of his greatness.

Enjoy a small interview I did with him via Facebook messenger (we live in the same city but still don’t have the time to meet up in person… life is crazy).

Let’s get serious. Life sucks. Where do YOU find a will to live? Asking for a friend…

KI: I find a lot of comfort in the fact that I don’t mean a lot in the eye of the universe or even earth. Its really freeing to know that my actions don’t mean much in the large scheme and I can do anything I want as a regular guy. I have a good understanding on what’s my own choice and what I can do to make things better in my little world. Even if I become a big deal in this social ladder, I am very confident in my sense of self, knowing it is not permanent and ever changing. I know I can make things and explore myself, my relationships and the natural world around me. People might be interested in that and it’s totally rad if they aren’t. Knowing that I am my main character and nothing is permanent makes me feel comfortable and in control. Also there is a Sam Harris guided meditation video on YouTube that really gets me going.

Having both a healthy body and a healthy mind is almost impossible with the crazy expectations set on us. How do you stay sane in this world?

KI: I feel like I’m super lucky with my genetics that I can put the whole healthy body thing on the back burner and just let it be. Healthy mind on the other hand, I work really hard on doing things that are going to make me happy. Making meals, washing myself, all that simple stupid things. Also meditation has been really helpful for me. I have a bad habit of forgetting to breathe, as dumb as that sounds, so reminding myself to do that is important.

Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie?

KI: Neither. If I ever meet both of them I’ll figure out but until then I hope they both r chill or whatever. (But also Angelina is a pretty lady and I don’t even remember what Brad looks like so so maybe Angie?)

When does toast become too burnt for you?

KI: I think the toast should be less than a third black and it’ll be fine. Anything more is the danger zone.

If the idea is that dancers and artists are supposed to censor their thoughts out of fear of offending someone, how are we supposed to push the envelope? Do you think art is at risk of dying because of censorship?

KI: In my personal life, I tend to lack censorship or patience when talking to people. Telling people how it is, sometimes not in the nicest ways, is the way I do it. If that’s right, I don’t know, but at least people know what I think. I think it’s important to be able to share your word in order to shape society. It’s kind of an artist’s job. Lack of transparency makes people cloudy and hard to understand and I think an artist should be able to say what they stand for. There will always be artists resisting censorship and ignoring the rules and I think that’s important. What I think is interesting is people who can play around the rules of censorship but warp them subtly to create change softly.

If you were to create a time capsule right at this very moment in time, what would you put in it? You would open it again in the year 2068.

KI: Oh maybe like a collection of love notes, a journal or something. Maybe my phone or some kind of usb full of photos. Also maybe a bottle of kombucha, see how it ferments over 50 years.

Personally, I think women will take over the world in the near future and wipe out the entire male species. Would you rather transform into a squirrel or a bird when this happens?

KI: I wanna be a bird but like one that talks and lives in someone’s house and can just listen to the shit going on.

Finally, if Fiona Apple and Feist fought in a fist fight, how many f’s would you give?

KI: As many F’s as I can. Hopefully it turns into a fun collab project and I get some new music out of it.

Lady GaGa.

The influences in my life that are humans are as follows (in no particular order):

Bo Burnham, Kaelin Isserlin, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Miley Cyrus, Linda Garneau, Evan Peters, Julie Andrews, Lady GaGa, and my grandmother.

I will attempt to explain my reasons for why these people have a greater influence on me than others. Hope it functions properly.

An artist who decides everyday to be someone new and scary.

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Yes, that is the same person in each photo. It’s hard to comprehend how versatile this women is because I seriously wonder if she is of human descent.

The first time I became connected to Lady GaGa was when she performed on a So You Think You Can Dance season four episode back in 2008. This was a turning point for me because when I watched her sing “Just Dance” to a room full of dancers, it was the first time a musician had scared me. She was too weird and different, and my ten-year-old-naive self hated that she was pulling it off. As well, I was super invested in the remaining dancers (including the likes of tWitch, Katee Shean, Mark Kanemura and Courtney Galiano) that I didn’t have time to give GaGa any more attention. I remember being quite annoyed with her performance when in retrospect, I should have been taking notes. This experience reminds me that I have to give new artists a chance to breathe, because they are basically suffocating when first trying to make it in the business.

I try to take from her music that life is a party and a struggle, but I can’t seem to understand how a person that is confident enough to appear in a meat dress has trouble dealing with other issues. I mean, what’s more terrifying than change? She constantly stretches new boundaries, and as her job, she has to make it into art. That must be exhausting!!! I would be so over-worked if I had to create a new character every day. Somehow, some way, she is succeeding.

I like living in the city because I feel like I can change up my appearance with each day and it won’t affect the way others see me. Because I travel on foot mostly, I take the time to watch the peers that stroll past me on their way. Out of the corner of my eye, I see the reactions they have towards my outfit and I wonder whether they really care. Some nights I ride the streets with heeled boots and a shall exposing my left shoulder. Other days I sprint-walk to school wearing old running shoes and the comfiest sweatpants that match the colour of my sweatshirt. On occasion, I wear a comic book dress and eyeliner that wings to my ear. As well, you might see me rocking the latest fashion-faux-pas. Look for me, you’ll find me.

But, back to GaGa. All those times I’ve roamed my city with a fresh outfit to experiment with, I spend a good half of my day worrying if I made a mistake. That means that I am wasting creative time to contemplate if my fashion statements are really saying anything at all. Fashion is a profound avenue for ground-breaking material to be made. I am not very intelligent when it comes to fashion, but I understand why GaGa makes it play an important role in her career.

GaGa seems to know that the more time she spends on impressing people, the less time she feels like a moral being. In this video, we see her wisdom come out as she looks back on her career. After every time that I watch her speak in this, I automatically stop judging her. It’s almost as if I lose my ability to judge someone when it comes to GaGa. How refreshing! What she is doing here is stating that her creative opportunities are going to come into fruition whether we like it or not. If we, as her audience, can’t let her create, we are diminishing the value of the music industry and wasting money building a platform that is manipulative and immoral. So the best thing for critics, networks, and papa-papa-paparazzi to do is take a step away from GaGa. Let her do her thing! She is a trained musician and actor who wants to start a revolution of new possibilities. She is not a person looking for approval. And I am all for it.

She scared us (maybe just mostly me) again when she appeared as Jo Calderone at the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards. After only three years of trying to sell sex and femininity in the business she u-turns and monologues as an aggressive man to live television viewers. What a risk to take. Honestly, I don’t have the balls for that. Mia Michaels once said in a class I took with her that artists nowadays need to be so good that they frighten others. It’s not enough to be creatively cautious because audiences are running out of attention spans. GaGa showed us that she isn’t just a singer and has the ability to transform beyond gender itself. God damn, I respect her. And the crowd is going nuts during this show because they have nothing but alive energy for her. Her commitment to this demands our attention, and that is some scary sh*t to watch.

An icon. For gays, lesbians, bisexuals, heteros, etc. If she wants to attract an audience with such a variety of sexual interests, then her music and production value HAS to be versatile. Otherwise, there would be no “Little Monsters” and therefore, no GaGa.

Just as a conclusion, my favourite album of hers is Born This Way because the track list invents so many characters throughout the album that I feel as though Lady GaGa is never one character. She births new life every time she steps into our eye-line. From “Bloody Mary”, “Judas” to the prostitute in “Government Hooker”, I find comfort in being brought on a political, religious journey with her. THANK YOU STEPHANIE!

Julie Andrews.

The influences in my life that are humans are as follows (in no particular order):

Bo Burnham, Kaelin Isserlin, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Miley Cyrus, Linda Garneau, Evan Peters, Julie Andrews, Lady GaGa, and my grandmother.

I will attempt to explain my reasons for why these people have a greater influence on me than others. Hope it functions properly.

The human form of elegance with just a spoonful of mystery.

Mary Poppins, Eliza Doolittle, Maria von Trapp, Queen Clarisse Renaldi, Millie Dillmount… I could go on…

A resume like this deserves the most respect out of any other actor/actress. Julie Andrews is a vision that will never fade. Her attention to detail, musicality and poise makes her endless generosity seem so invaluable. But! She manages to keep a cool head and stay focused on generating award-worthy performances every single time she steps in the limelight. Indeed, it is such a joy for me to even write about her because I admire her to no ends.

Among the characters she has originated/perfected, Miss Andrews leaps between the stage and the screen so effortlessly that I feel so connected to her journey. She invites her audience to follow her in moments of live theatre, and then she takes us with her when a camera is involved. To make that jump a number of times and still have the intelligence to analyze these plot lines is so impressive to me. I am constantly in awe of her history with performance. Whether she is in a box or a black box, Julie never strikes out.

She has worked with legends like Blake Edwards, Gene Kelly, Carol Burnett, Rex Harrison, and even Robert Goulet. To stand next to people like this would take a lot of confidence and cleverness, and Julie made it seem so easy. It’s as if I have no doubt in my mind about someone’s execution and that is such a comforting thing to have in my life. I don’t have to worry about certain choices that she makes because I know I will always agree with her. For example, her conceptualization of the title role in Victor/Victoria was so gracefully brought to life. This role involves a kind of androgyny that could be troubling for a female artist at the time of the film’s release. When asked to wear a moustache and find inspiration from a male perspective, she did not shy away from the challenge. I think that this choice was very risky, however, the final product was nothing less than iconic and helpful for her career. It gives me the courage to put the story first, so that I can focus on telling the plot and less on how a story could damage my personal life. Julie knows that her own experiences are separate from the characters she plays, and she embraces each role with mindfulness. And that sparkling fountain hat slays everything.

My first time witnessing her “crowning glory” was in The Princess Diaries. That VHS tape was like a stuffed animal to me. I stayed close to its presence and studied her and Anne Hathaway like a hawk. I wanted to be as great as she was in that film. I didn’t realize until I grew up a bit that Julie’s organized madness was the thing that kept me inspired for most of my childhood. From then on, she always seemed to be on my screen. Next was The Sound of Music, where I found her voice to be the lullaby of my dreams. Then came Mary Poppins and hearing her in the Shrek franchise as Queen Lillian. Around the time I was 16, I started obsessing over Youtube videos of her on old talk shows like this one and this one. But of course I started to figure out that I knew nothing about her; she had made her start on legendary Broadway and West End productions. When I heard that she had been the original Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, my ignorance stabbed me in the chest so hard I thought I would collapse. HOW COULD I HAVE NOT KNOWN THAT? Still so mad at myself. I had to do more research in order to understand her greatness on a different level.

As a teenager, I was fortunate to impersonate two of her singing roles in tap routines at my dance studio. “Le Jazz Hot” was the first song I portrayed as Julie, and I instantly felt so determined to attempt my best work for the sake of her legacy. It was a mission that brought me joy and excitement as well as healthy pressure. In addition, my choreographer was a super fan too, so there was a big amount of desire to do her well. Afterwards, I got to play a version of Maria with other dancers on my team playing the von Trapp family. What a thrill that was. To have my friends/teammates beside me onstage made me realize the opportunity of live theatre as a company of people was so much more enjoyable than to do it by yourself. I grew into my obsession with Broadway and other theatre opportunities where a group works together to produce entertainment. It was profoundly a happy time in my life. Also, I got to learn in detail about Julie’s mannerisms that she chose for Maria’s personality. I have never examined a role so in-depth and I felt accomplished with my final results each competition. I knew an opportunity like this would likely never come again, so I wanted to do it justice.

Although Julie Andrews has found more and more success in her life after her golden age, I still feel that her defining years were in those classic movies. I know that that specific style of motion picture is usually not created anymore due to generational changes, but I can’t help but wish that actors would remind themselves of the importance of grace and poise. I think I would respect their work more if I saw that they were more interested in creating art and less interested in fame. And that is what Julie represents, in my opinion. Her work ethic was and still is clearly guided by passion. The ora that she possesses could cure cancer, if that was humanly possible.

One day, I hope to meet her. Just to see her smile in person.

I will forever be indebted to her.

Bo Burnham.

The influences in my life that are humans are as follows (in no particular order):

Bo Burnham, Kaelin Isserlin, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Miley Cyrus, Linda Garneau, Evan Peters, Julie Andrews, Lady GaGa, and my grandmother.

I will attempt to explain my reasons for why these people have a greater influence on me than others. Hope it functions properly.

The guy who wrote a song about being a straight, white male and got away with it.

If you’ve seen his performances on YouTube or Netflix than you understand that his type of comedy may not work for some people. It delicately balances such a fine line between psychotic and socially acceptable. And that’s why I can’t get enough of it. If you’re a sensitive person and you go see him live, you’ll probably end up leaving the theatre with less emotional triggers. This is because his comedy puts the cultural, racial, sexist, religious and other problems in the world and scales them down to a grain of sand. They are mere jokes that are involved in his act.

There seems to be so much over-reaction about certain political statements which I think is necessary for our society. However, when Bo describes these kinds of arguments, he makes sure to include a clever wit. For example, he sings a four minute song in his comedy special what. as if God himself, the highest power, gives no sh**s about the rules that make up Catholic religion. Bo’s song flips around rules like not eating pork, masterbation, and he even goes as far as to say that aliens in heaven are much better to hang around than humans. If anyone was going to write a song about what God is actually thinking, this is the way to do. Go watch it.

Also, when Bo seems to step over the line a little too much, he makes sure to finish the joke and then further explains his intentions as a little coda. I believe that not only shows his professionalism but his dedication to the art of comedy. When he included a song about suicide in his most recent special titled Make Happy, I was nervous about how to react. Has this guy finally gone too far? The first few verses of the song are horrid and very blunt. To a point where if you don’t hear the rest of the song, you would definitely disrespect Bo for pessimistically using suicide as art. But during this time, his eyes are basically closed as if he is talking to himself rather than the audience. Bo’s inner voice comes out and he gives us a glance at why his comedy is closely linked to his own troubles. Then, as the next verses come in, Bo reconnects to his audience to check in on how they are doing. Like me, most people in the audience seemed stunned and awkwardly laughed… uncomfortable situations get people intrigued. Another clever idea from Bo. So, he comes back to the social aspect of his performance and declares that if there are people that feel like killing themselves then the best thing to do is get help, and speak to professional therapists. He proves the point that songs from pop artists are not interchangeable with real-life counselling, and his final joke is that people who get their help from Katy Perry’s “Roar” should rethink their decisions BIG TIME. So clever and personal all at the same time.

Rather than give you another example from Bo’s songs, I will move onto the philosophy of his poem “I F*** Sl*ts”, also from the what. performance. I know, I know… where are you going with this, Brianna? Stay with me because I know it can be difficult to link crude phrasing with philosophical wisdom. When he sets up this poem, Bo makes sure to tell the audience that it will be sappy and romantic, and coming from a male it might seem off-character… right? Nope, it’s perfectly on-character because guys have so many feelings that I think are stronger than female ones. In fact, these feelings are so strong that the only way for them to handle their insecurities towards women is to call them sl*ts and refer to their testicles as nuts. Here, Bo turns into what I think is the teenager version of himself and gives himself the freedom to say whatever his horny heart desires. He is a little boy who wants his reproductive organs to have sexual interactions frequently. I get it. Lots of boys do. So why do we force men and boys to silence their desires? Well, because they don’t have the f***ing willpower to be nice about sex (I digress).

As for Bo, I feel so influenced by his comedy and his performance quality because he scares people in the best way possible. He grabs your attention and then makes you think super hard about the human condition. I want to do that.

It is so appealing to me that he was going to study Experimental Theatre at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Due to his success as a comedian, he didn’t end up attending the prestigious program but, I can see why his eyes were set on experimenting with what it means to create theatre. Changing the game one joke at a time, Bo is able to turn politics into art and comedy into philosophy. His thought-provoking shows will continue to influence my creativity and I really hope he puts something new out for us soon. When he’s ready, of course. No point in rushing intelligence.