hellorousseau

an eloquently warped point of view from the tongue of a cartoon character.

BANG! CRACK! KABOOM! A Manitoba-Made SuperBabe

“I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.” —Maya Angelou

 


In February 1940, Fletcher Hanks introduced the comic book world to Fantomah, an immortal Egyptian woman who could turn into a skeleton-like demon/creature/babe with superpowers.

She would fight evil and crush her enemies, all while adorning a luscious head of blonde curls, and perfect cat-eye liner. Fantomah was portrayed as a goddess, and in some circles, is thought to be the first female superhero.

Slayyy, Fantomah, slayyyyyyy.

In fact, she was originally pretty hardcore: Fantomah used her vast magical powers to sentence her enemies to bizarre and brutal punishments. For instance, in Jungle Comics #7, she transforms a band of greedy diamond miners who oppressed the natives into one man, then sends that man to an “unfound world” to be enslaved by hideous green fanged monsters, then sent into a pit of cobras, and then absorbed into a wall by a giant hand”, but other artists soon changed her from a skeleton-like demon/creature/babe to an ordinary human adventurer.

Fast-forward to a few months later, and female anti-heros start being sketched into existence.

The original Black Widow (not the Scarlett Johansson kind), an assassin/weapon of Satan, is premiered as a kick-ass force to be reckoned with, who slays criminals, then sends them to hell.

Following suit in the superhero-babe category was Wonder Woman, created by William Moulton Marson and his wife Elizabeth for All Star Comics #8.

“America’s woman of tomorrow should be made the hero of a new type of comic strip. By this, I mean a character with all the allure of an attractive woman, but with the strength also of a powerful man,” said Marston.“There isn’t enough love in the male organism to run this planet peacefully.”

From there, characters like Sun Girl, Miss America, Black Canary, and Phantom Lady began to take shape; all of them women, and all destroying evil with a flip of their hair, and a swift-kick to the jaw.

BAM.

But there was an obvious pattern; a delicate mould that had developed– the majority of the heroines were white, thin, and conventionally gorgeous, standing tall and picturesque with flowing hair and toned, glistening gams.

There were very few women of colour flying around the superhero universe.

Black female characters only began to appear after the Civil Rights Movement, one of the most notable being Storm from the X-Men comics. Since being drawn into creation, the powerful, weather-controlling character has been depicted in Hollywood films by stunning women like Halle Berry, and featured in countless television spinoffs and comics.

Besides Storm, though, there was very limited range of women of colour in the superhero world, and even then, a lot of people criticized the representation of black super-heroines as one-dimensional, angry, aggressive stereotypes.

Actually, it wasn’t until 2013 that a little company by the name of Marvel would mainstream a woman of colour in the new role of a dashing, daring super-chick.

Cue: Ms. Marvel, aka, Kamala Khan, a 16-year-old, second-generation Pakistani-American Muslim girl who lives in New Jersey.

Kamala Khan (Ms. Marvel), second left, with her family Aamir, father Yusuf, mother Disha and friend Bruno. (source)

Then in March, 2014, a teenage Cree superhero hailing from Moose Factory, Ontario, was drawn to life by artist Jeff Lemire. The character, a girl named Miiyahbin (alias: Equinox) joined Justice League United. She was the first Aboriginal female superhero introduced into mainstream comics, her powers stemming from the Earth and changing seasons.

Creating a teenage female superhero was interesting to me because, generally, most superheroes are white males. We need diversity and we need different personalities,” Lemire said in an interview with CBC. “You need very distinct voices for personalities on the team or else you just start writing the same character in a different costume.”

And in her own way Sonya Ballantyne agrees, because to the West of Lemire, in a little town called Gimli, there was a pixie-haired Aboriginal girl with a kick-ass vision, who was about to pitch an award-winning short film at the Gimli Film Festival and win a $10,000 prize.

Crash Site centres around Kaley, an Aboriginal girl coping with her parent’s death, who is inspired by a superhero named Thunderbird that she discovers after wandering into a comic book store. Thunderbird (also known as Maggie), is a young Native girl trying to find out where she belongs after her grandma reveals that she was found in a crashed spaceship.

So in a little town called Gimli, a passionate, pixie-haired Aboriginal girl pitched a short film called Crash Site, destroyed the competition, and became the first-place winner of RBC Emerging Filmmaker’s epic tournament.

Just look at that toothy grin~ second from the left (source)

Sonya Ballantyne is a 29-year-old Cree dame from The Pas, Manitoba, who spent most of her life living between Grand Rapids (her dad’s reserve) and Easterville, Manitoba (her mom’s reserve). “Grand Rapids is the sort of place you drive through when you’re going somewhere else,” adds Ballantyne.

When she was 17, Ballantyne became the first member of her family to move to Winnipeg, and most recently, she finished a degree in film making from the U of W. Before that, she graduated with an honours degree in social psychology from the University of Manitoba.

“I always wanted to leave, and university was the best way. I was never happy being contained on the reserve,” says Ballantyne. “I never felt at home. When I moved to Winnipeg, even though the first few months were hard, I felt like I truly belonged. 

Since her move, the feisty, superhero-loving, self-proclaimed super-nerd has dominated in film and all other areas of her professional and personal life, and though gaining confidence was challenging for her, Ballantyne found her own niche and path to follow in order to grab a slice of self-love.

From slaying at short film pitch competitions, to starting her own production company, it’s hard to believe that Sonya Ballantyne isn’t an actual superhero.

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… Though looks can be deceiving.

“Body positivity is loving yourself even if you’re criticized for it. Nothing is scarier to a douche canoe than a woman who loves herself, so being positive becomes your shield against a society that is trying to make you feel bad so you can buy their product.

No dice, Victoria’s Secret. No dice.

As long as my pixie hair game is on point, I’m confident. As a teenager, I wasn’t allowed to cut my hair past my shoulders. When I finally got to cut my hair the way I wanted, I was so much happier. I never feel as pretty as I do when my hair is freshly shorn.

Every time I leave the Aveda Institute (where I get my hair cut all the time, so shout out to them! 80 RORIE STREET IN THE EXCHANGE) with my hair super short, I feel like such a bad ass.

I am also not afraid to try new things in regards to my style. As I near 30, I think I finally found the formula that makes me feel good 95% of the time. My only regret is that I wasted so much time not liking myself. 

I am extremely positive/confident when it comes to talking about my movies, as I am a nerd, and as a nerd that means you tend to love things obsessively. I used to be so embarrassed about my excitement and energy for the things I love, and I used to be shushed about it and told to tone it down.

Now that I’m making movies, everything is amazing, and I speak about it like it is with no holding back. I am thankful for that. I still get shushed, but I don’t care. I’ll speak loudly and proudly.

Embracing my culture has helped me feel powerful. I come from a long line of people who have faced hardships that would have turned anyone into a cynic. It’s like that Queen song from Highlander with the lyric, ‘I have inside me blood of kings.’

I do.

Every single person that came before me has contributed to the ass-kicking, anti-racist, anti-misogeny confident loud mouth I am.

A white man once told me that I’d never amount to anything because I was an Indian and a girl. I was three. Events like this made me so ashamed of my culture; ’cause we were the ones who lived on the side of the river with bad houses, bad dogs running around wild, and the cops coming to break up fights. But I saw my parents using their anger at being treated so badly because they were Native to fuel better things for themselves. So I did it, too.

I embraced being Native, and showed so many racist people that I could fuck them up academically, creatively, and personally. I didn’t succced despite my being Indian, I succeeded because of it, and used every bad thing that I ever faced to chase after the things I wanted.

Native people are like the real life version of Green Lanterns: let those who worship evil’s might beware my power.

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Every single feature I share with my mother is my favourite feature. Her nurses call me ‘Gladys Jr.’, cause I look scarily like her. As a kid, I thought my mother was the most beautiful person in the world, and would get all bashful and full of disbelief when people told me I looked like her. Now, I like being told we look alike.

There’s a quote from Sansa Stark in Game of Thrones where she tells herself, ‘I must be as strong as my lady mother.’ I use that statement a lot, too. My lady-mum is the most hardcore person I know.


If you’re thinking of moving to Winnipeg from a reserve, don’t be afraid to do it.

Bilbo Baggins was afraid to leave home, and look what happened to him when he did! Besides, I’ve lived in Winnipeg for over 10 years, and my parents still think I’m going to be stabbed right outside my door.

As another suggestion, find your tribe. Once I found other Native people at the U of M going through the same thing I was, I felt like I belonged. Plus, white people don’t tend to get our humour.

Lastly, ignore the doubters. One of the biggest things I was mocked about back home was how I was trying to be a white girl. I never saw how wanting something better for yourself made you a wannabe white person. Success is not just the domain of white people, and the quicker that internalized racism stops on the rez’, the better.

As for people looking to make films in Winnipeg, realize your limitations. You’re not going to make Transformers with Winnipeg Film Group equipment. And again, find your tribe. I work with some of the best people who are my closest friends who wanted to help me realize my dreams with film, and had the same vision for the stories we wanted to tell; and be creative! There’s more than one type of story about Native folks, and it’s time we tell them.

(Any final thoughts?)
Love more, laugh more, and don’t be so scared.

Oh! And, a word of warning: if a friend tells you the best way to shape your brows is to shave them, DON’T BELIEVE HER.

I spent a whole summer walking around like Bono with huge sunglasses on as I shaved half of my eyebrow off from nose to middle and it took three months to grow back sufficiently.”

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Though this 29-year-old superhero has yet to garnish her cape, with the power of story-telling, film, and a constant drive for excellence, Sonya Ballantyne continues her adventure to be body positive.

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Around 760 Days Ago

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“The most beautiful makeup of a woman is passion. But cosmetics are easier to buy.” ― Yves Saint-Laurent

Around 760 days ago, I walked into St. Vital mall with a crumpled resume, overly filled-in eyebrows, and a very uneven haircut.

A week before, I was being told by my friend’s mother that the retail job I was at was inappropriate for ‘someone like me.’

“You’re selling crappy bags to crappy people, and those stupid frog hats,” she said, nodding to the fluorescent-green, bug-eyed toque I had bought one shift as a joke. “You need to work somewhere better.”

She mentioned high-end places for me to apply at; retail boutiques and designer stores, but I kept saying I was fine. I felt like after quitting my job as a cashier at a grocery store, I had hit the jackpot in finding an overly-chill mall job.

I mean, there was little to no traffic at the location I worked, the bosses and employees were relaxed, and the majority of my shift would be spent playing Magic: The Gathering with a Scottish red-head in stretch-pants, or shooting elastic bands over luggage racks.

And it was fun right out of high school, but after a year of mediocre sales, a shitty secret-shopper on the day after my 18th birthday (guess how that went?) and a move to a more… What’s the word… Sketchyasfuck mall, I decided I had enough of the ‘lax life. I wanted a challenge- a job with structure where I could actually learn something.

The new location I was at was tucked into the corner of a desolate, cavernous maze of unkept faulty fountains and excessive extra security. Someone stole something at least once a day, a woman on the bench outside the store once pulled out her gun in a daze, and I was spit at after being told I needed a ‘facial’ by a giggling teenage girl.

“But you’re creative!” my friend’s mom would say as I sat in denial, thinking about the old bitch who had tried to rip me off the week before with doctored receipts for a $16 handbag. “You need an exciting, fun retail job.”

Super Cool Fact: Retail is rarely ‘fun’. Retail is always war.

The next day, I printed off my resume, watched a dozen YouTube makeup tutorials, and mentally prepared myself to drop off my envelope of qualifications at a little black-and-white store in the mall.

They were supposedly hiring.

I stopped in twice the week before handing in my resume, picking up makeup I had read about online (yet having no idea how to use it) and reading about the history of the company in late-night web binges.

Originally founded in 1969, France, by Dominique Mandonnaud, Sephora started off as a small perfumery called Shop 8, but the owner had bigger ideas. Mandonnaud wanted to run a new slice of cosmetic heaven- a store that actually let customers try on products before making a purchase- and that was something that was unheard of at the time.

In 1970, Shop 8 became Sephora, but it wasn’t until 1995 that Sephora began producing its own cosmetics, and it wasn’t until 1997 that Louis Vuitton and Moët Hennessy (LVMH) purchased the chain from Mandonnaud.

Since being bought by the world’s leading luxury group, Sephora has gone global, operating approximately 1,900 stores in 29 countries worldwide, with an expanding base of over 360 stores across North America.

So you can guess why, around 760 days ago, when I walked into St. Vital mall with a crumpled resume, overly filled-in eyebrows, and a very uneven haircut, I was nervous.

You can guess why, around 760 days ago, when I approached a thin shopgirl in hot-pink lipstick and crisp eyeliner, my voice shook as I asked to speak to a manager.

You can guess why, around 760 days ago, when I sat down for a group interview across from all-black visages and glottal-fried answers, I thought about my responses and tried to reply thoughtfully.

And you can guess why, around 760 days ago, I vomited up my chicken souvlaki pita and cried with excitement when I received a phone call telling me I was hired on to work a seasonal position.

But I knew I couldn’t work with smeared mascara, so I took a minute to get my shit together.

Eager, I moved from cash, to greeting, to late-night restocking. I was a cheese-ball at the register, cracking bad jokes and poking fun at awkward boyfriends who didn’t understand the difference between concealer and foundation (HA. N00bz.)

From the sidelines, I observed the store’s staff dynamic.
There was Josh, who had resting bitch-face so intimidating that I didn’t talk to him for months out of fear. Shayla, the seemingly soft-spoken red-head who reminded me of a sassy Little Mermaid. Becca, my fellow big-boobed, in-your-face, powerhouse, and Shalla, her Kardashian-obsessed mentor and other half (who doubled as the store’s tender mother figure).

In the back, there was Lacey with her inappropriate jokes and toothy grin. In the front, there was Lauren, the tatted-up ~*cool kid*~ beauty, Brooklynn, a fellow newbie (and babe) who went on to be my boss (which reeeally isn’t as awkward as it sounds), Raquel, a yoga-loving party gal’, Alysha, a bubbly, gel-nail princess, and Jess, an out-spoken realist with a personality double her size.

I quickly bonded with Nichole as we talked about Arrested Development and our love for Marc Jacobs, learned plenty from quick-witted fragrance specialist Morgan, shared constant giggle-fits with cheeky Kaela, and got play-by-plays of the day-to-day from fierce, red-headed leader, Trish.

Slowly, I blended with the group, and made my mark as the loud, foul-mouthed, big-haired new chick who tried to watch every brand video in existence, all while learning that primer is actually supposed to go under foundation, and that perfecting liquid liner comes from practice, not selling your soul to some master of a demonic underworld.

#BrowGameTooStrong

Soon I was matching foundation and filling in eyebrows, learning the difference between under and surface tones, and watching in amazement as Josh tacked on pair after pair of false lashes without breaking a sweat.

I delved into a world of lipstick, finding my comfort zone in dark, gothic reds and browns rather than the pinks and corals I had always been told I should wear to look ‘feminine’ and ‘cute’. I started applying bronzer strategically, not all over my face, and repositioned my blush to accentuate my cheekbones rather than flood product across my profile.

I grew into myself, gaining confidence with every educated brushstroke and wand-swipe within the walls of the black-and-white makeup store, forming bonds with employees and clients alike.

On one day, a blue-haired teenage girl in a wheelchair entered the store with her boyfriend.

After helping her pick out some eyeshadow and lipstick, I chirped a lyrical goodbye to them as they moved towards the exit. She paused and stopped her boyfriend, calling me over before lifting the sleeve of her baggy black sweater.

Lining her thin, pale arm, were dozens and dozens of hand-beaded bracelets, each with their own unique patterns and colours. She slipped a purple and green one off her wrist and held it out to me.

The girl explained that she had cancer and that she didn’t have long to live. She wanted to say thank you to all the people in her life, regardless of how long she knew them. To her, I was no more than a shopgirl who helped her with her makeup.

She held my hand as I touched the bracelet and pulled me down for a hug. “You’re so beautiful,” she whispered with a smile as I froze, tears streaking down my face. “Thank you.” I couldn’t respond; I would choke on my words.

I never saw her again after that.

Life at the little black-and-white makeup store prepared me for the challenges that can come with human interaction, and the patience needed for successful, genuine, and thoughtful connections with others.

Life at the little black-and-white makeup store allowed me to grow and learn in a fast-paced, overwhelming environment of constantly updated knick-knacks and techniques, all while keeping me grounded, trained, and set in reality.

Life at the little black-and-white makeup store gave me the chance to meet and interact with some of the most incredible, talented people I know, and whether I knew you for a chapter, a page, or a sentence, your mark on my life has been effective and sincere.

Around 760 days ago, I walked into St. Vital mall with a crumpled resume, overly filled-in eyebrows, and a very uneven haircut. I was looking for a job: something new and challenging, but more importantly, a place where I could fit in and be supported regardless of whatever ridiculous path I decided to follow.

Around 760 days ago, I found that job,
and around 30 days ago, I left it.

Not because I outgrew the fragrance wall, the intricate gold packages of YSL, or the soft melodic crunch of folded red tissue paper, but because I have the chance to grow elsewhere, and follow yet another ridiculous path.

So thank you, Sephora St. Vital.

Thank you for everything.

They Sleep Until Dark

Heads up: This post is not about body positivity. Sometimes I do things for school. This is one of those things.

Mount Zion cemetery is the perfect metaphor for Baltimore, Maryland.

It’s an overcrowded, messy, sparatic, “… hallowed ground.

Bullshit, thinks Waltemeyer. The place is a small stretch of barren wetness running down…” (542)

Waltemeyer digs up one body, and then another, both times excavating graves of wrong randoms. Their only similarities are that they’re black, male, and they’ve been in the ground over the winter, but it doesn’t stop the cemetery manager from insisting it’s the right guy both times.

The faces of Mount Zion are interchangeable and fleeting, some coffins piled in mass graves, others shoved in cheap boxes before being covered in dirt. In death, their decaying bodies are cheap and disposable, the same as they were in life suggests Simon.

In the midst of Mount Zion, bodies of both victims and criminals, law abiding and breaking citizens, men and women alike, mingle and mix in the dirt of Baltimore.

“Here is James Brown, Gilbert’s murder, that kid who got stabbed to death on New Year’s.

And Barney Erely, the old drunk Pellegrini found bludgeoned in the alley of Clay Street a few weeks after Latonya Wallace, the derelict killed when he chose the wrong place to defecate.

And Orlando Felton, that decomp from North Calvert Street, the overdose that McAllister and McLarney handled back in January…

Eddie Brown’s fatal shooting from Vine Street…

This one was Dave Brown’s, this one was Shea’s.

Tomlin handled this one…” (548)

Although chapter ten of Homicide touches on rule ten of the homicide handbook, some fresh new murders, and a tense, nail-biting concluding interrogation with the Fish Man, the most captivating, interesting images from the chapter come from its first few pages.

Simon describes Mount Zion as a black hole; a toxic entity that surrounds itself with clutter, and sucks in all odds-and-ends around it. Very much like the city of Baltimore, it is enveloped by low-income housing, convenience stores, and surrounding polluted nature (542).

Mount Zion cemetery is where the people of Baltimore clammer to find rest. Mount Zion cemetery is the messy, jumbled, end-of-the-line for faceless, anonymous victims and suspects that run through the filing cabinets of Baltimore’s homicide unit.

The cemetery is yet another pile of lives that have been abandoned for someone else to sort through; to clean up after. Just like how the homicide detectives spend their sleepless days cleaning the blood off the sidewalk, so too do they spend their time sorting through bodies in the ground.

As Simon shows us, a homicide detective’s work does not end with the freshly deceased.

They deal in all that is dead in their city.

“These were the lives lost by the city in a single year, the men and women who cluttered crime scenes and filled Penn Street freezers, leaving little more than red or black ink on a police department tally board.

Birth,
poverty,
violent death,

then an anonymous burial in the mud of Mount Zion.

In life, the city could muster no purpose for the wasted souls;
in death, the city had lost them entirely.” (549)