Photography by Doug Bedard
Barrie, Ont., resident Jennifer Podemski uses her storytelling skills to give her ancestors a voice.
An actor, producer and director who has been making TV shows and movies since she was a preteen, Jennifer Podemski has a face you don't forget—though she didn't always think that was a good thing.
"My mixed heritage could never be ignored," says the native Torontonian. "I stood out everywhere; I looked different [from both sides of my family]. There were times I wished I looked 'normal' and could blend in, especially when I was younger. But it was something I couldn't run away from."
Part Saulteaux First Nation and part Polish, Podemski's unique looks eventually became one of the things that set her apart from other aspiring actors—and later, her dual heritage would lead to some of her most meaningful work.
She started acting at 12, when she took what was supposed to be a one-time gig cohosting Wonderstruck, CBC's kids' science show. She'd barely finished filming when she decided that was what she wanted to do with her life. But the movie business wouldn't just be a career. It would also be a means of accepting herself. "Ironically, I only got comfortable in my own skin when I started working professionally," she says. "I recognized that I had to embrace everything about myself, regardless of how ashamed or out of place I felt."
Her big break came at 20, when she was cast in Bruce McDonald's 1994 film, Dance Me Outside. Soon, she was appearing in The Rez, a TV spinoff of the movie, and taking high-profile roles in Cancon hits such as Sarah Polley's Take This Waltz and Arnaud Desplechin's Jimmy P., in which she played Benicio Del Toro's love interest. And all the while, she was running the first all-Indigenous production company with her friend Laura Milliken. Whether producing or acting, she quickly parlayed her success into projects that spoke to her own family history.
On her mother's side, Podemski's Saulteaux lineage can be traced back some 20,000 years. Her father's Polish Ashkenazi family hasn't been here quite as long—her paternal grandfather came to Canada after the Second World War, when he was liberated from Bergen-Belsen—but it's contributed just as much inspiration. He and his brother are the sole members of their family to survive the Holocaust. His story was the subject of Podemski's directorial debut for CBC; she and her cousins returned to the site where his mother perished in Germany, filming the journey for a short documentary. "I always had a sense I was here to be a storyteller and to share my ancestors' legacies. In terms of content, I don't discriminate," she says.
She also works to tell stories inspired by her mother's side of the family, and the experience of First Nations Canadians like her grandparents, who spent their childhoods in residential schools. Her production company, Redcloud Studios, is dedicated to strengthening Indigenous visibility, producing shows that centre the First Nations experience, such as Rabbit Fall and Moccasin Flats. She also helped spearhead the Indspire Awards, a platform that acknowledges Indigenous success stories. "I've always been very drawn and moved to tell Indigenous stories—especially because there's an extreme void of those perspectives on television and elsewhere," says Podemski. She recently received the Queen Elizabeth Diamond JubileeMedal for her work with Canada's Indigenous communities, but her job is far from done. "I don't think that Indigenous peoples and the rest of Canada can flourish until there's a common space with those narratives. It's all connected."
Jennifer offers a trio of options from Toronto to north of the city.
1. Bagel World (in Toronto)
"It's my all-time favourite. I've been going there for 40 years; I grew up down the street, and I still go with my dad. It's an institution."
2. Scandinave Spa at Blue Mountain (in Collingwood)
"It's a fantastic place to go year-round. I've suffered from Lyme disease for three years, and the healing waters at the spa work wonders on my body, giving me an overall feeling of wellness."
3. Painters Hall (in Barrie)
"It has become the place I like to go for special gatherings. I love the atmosphere and food, and there's a great space in the back with live music."
The best new hair products for spring 2017 Image by: Bumble & Bumble
New and improved products from some of your favourite hair brands are hitting shelves this season.
The hair-care aisle is chock full of potions promising miracles, but we're after products that actually work—with the science and research to back them up.
SIZE DOES MATTER
Half of the global population experiences dandruff, but women seem to be slacking. "A far smaller proportion of women [to men] take proper care of their scalp," says Phil Marchant, the principal scientist for Head & Shoulders. "Many women think antidandruff products only fight dandruff or are too harsh." Over the past few years, Head & Shoulders' team of scientists has been working to change this mindset. A combination of zinc pyrithione and zinc carbonate is the brand's dandruff-fighting duo. Product developers swapped the shampoo's former particle size of zinc with micronized zinc (commonly used in facial sunscreens), reducing its size eight times over. "The smaller particle deposits more effectively and efficiently into the harder-to-reach areas on the scalp," says Marchant. This helps banish dandruff while also giving a better lather and allowing shampoo to rinse away more easily.
Head & Shoulders Smooth & Silky Shampoo and Conditioner, $6, walmart.ca.
NEW AND IMPROVED
"If it's not broke, don't fix it" was Herbal Essences unofficial motto for more than 45 years. Now, the brand known for unforgettable scents and kooky commercials is introducing a new line that marries the best of nature with science, thanks to a new technology called Bio:renew. The complex includes aloe to heal, sea kelp to nourish, bamboo to strengthen and, at its core, histidine, an amino acid and antioxidant. "When you go outside or colour or wash your hair, you're exposing it to free radicals," says Rachel Zipperian, principal scientist for Herbal Essences. "Once free radicals get into the hair, they try to associate themselves with damage sites. The vulnerable parts get free-radical buildup, which accelerates damage, and you end up with lifeless hair." Zipperian explains that antioxidants track free radicals and "take them out" so they're no longer active. The new collection comes in a range of indulgent scents.
Herbal Essences Bio:renew Shampoo and Conditioner, $10 each, shoppersdrugmart.ca.
Clay's purifying properties are well known to skin-care aficionados, and now your hair can benefit from them, too. L'Oréal's latest hair-care release—available in shampoo, conditioner and a preshampoo mask—tackles greasy roots and dry ends with a combo of kaolinite, argilane and montmorillonite clays, helping balance hair from root to tip. Expect fresh, soft strands for up to 72 hours.
L'Oréal Paris Hair Expertise Extraordinary Clay Pre-Shampoo Treatment, $8.50, lorealparis.ca.
GOOD ENOUGH TO EAT
Take a walk down the shampoo aisle and you'll spot products that seem—dare we say it?—delicious. Hair-care brands are increasingly turning to fruit, vegetables and other plants for their nutritional benefits. Products containing yucca and goji berry, black sesame and grapefruit, and quinoa husk and honey take the guesswork our of reading ingredients labels and leave your hair with a yummy scent to boot.
Matrix Biolage R.A.W. Haircare, $25, biolage.matrixcanada.ca.
The new hair-brightening spray from L'Anza uses optical refraction technology, which relfects pigments within the inner cortex of the haqir cuticle to intensify hair colour. Color Illuminator doesn't deposit new colour; instead, it magnifies preexisting pigments that are concealed by the hair's cutcle layer. The result: instantly brighter hair in the short term, and long term, strong and healthy hair nourished with UV protectors, which prevent fading.
L'Anza Color Illuminator Hair Brightening Spray, $35, lanza.com.
It's not just skin care that's ditching chemicals in favour of all-natural ingredients. Rocky Mountain Soap Co. has taken this trend to hair care too. The Canadian company's packaging, ingredients and even store design benefit from an attention to environmentally conscious detail. "I see us heading into a societal shift, defined by simplicity and authenticity, where green choices are the new expectation," says co-owner Karina Birch.
Rocky Mountain Soap Co. Vanilla Coconut Shampoo, $24, rockymountainsoap.com.
Chunky baskets Source: All About Ami
Crochet has made a comeback, with a colourful modern twist! Here's a round up of our favourite free projects on the web.
Create this simple bright bunting for your next party. The best part? It's reusable!
These colourful donuts are pretty sweet, don't you think?
This cozy striped blanket will be perfect for cuddling up with a great book.
Scrub your pots and pans in style with these patterned dishcloths.
This small bag is the perfect gift for the photography buffs in your life.
Store everything from toys to bathroom essentials in these cozy-looking baskets
String these mini houses together to create a garland for your child's room.
These cloths simple to make, they do a great job washing dishes and they're reusable.
We love this delicate crocheted necklace from All About Ami.
Colourful mini madalas are perfect for using up the yarn you have leftover from other projects.
This doily rug is totally on trend.
Bright fruit-themed potholders are the perfect addition to your kitchen.
This super soft wrap is the classic accessory you need in your closet for any time of year.
A luxurious wrap for all seasons – the Bayberries Wrap is the quintessential accessory. We chose to design this wrap in our luxurious Eco Alpaca DK yarn made of 100% superfine alpaca for its fluffy and luxurious feel. The large checker pattern is a unique alternative to plain stocking stitch and is reversible for a consistent look on both sides.
This wrap pattern is suitable for beginners, and knitters of all skill levels will enjoy the simple pattern and beautiful yarn. We recommend using stitch markers to indicate each square and make it easier for you to follow the pattern. Knit on 3.75 mm needles with five skeins of yarn, this pattern requires patience, but it is a joy to knit and you will wear the wrap for years to come.
Note about the yarn: Eco Alpaca DK is available through Americo Original online and at select yarn stores. You can substitute for other DK or sport weight yarns such as Americo's Dehaired Baby Llama, Briza, or any suitable yarn from your stash.
Approximately 75" (190 cm) long by 15" (38 cm) wide
20 stitches and 26 rows = 4 inches (10 cm) in stocking stitch using 3.75 mm (US 5) size needles or size needed to achieve gauge.
K, k: knit
P, p: purl
RS right side of work – knit side
WS wrong side of work
Using 3.75 mm (US 5) size needles, cast on 129 stitches.
Purl 2 rows.
*Next Row (RS): K2, (k25, p25) 2 times, k25, k2
Next Row (WS): k2, (p25, k25) 2 times, p25, k2
Repeat these two rows 12 more times (26 rows).
Next Row: K2, (p25, k25) 2 times, p25, k2
Next Row: K2, (k25, p25) 2 times, k25, k2
Repeat these two rows 12 more times (26 rows)*.
Repeat from * to * 6 more times.
Next Row (RS): K2, (k25, p25) 2 times, k25, k2
Next Row (WS): k2, (p25, k25) 2 times, k25, k2
Repeat these two rows 12 more times (26 rows).
Next Row (RS): K2, (k25, p25) 2 times, k25, k2
Knit 2 rows. Cast off in pattern.
Sew in all loose ends. For best results, block your finished piece. Enjoy!
Americo Original is a Canadian yarn company and online knitting shop with its own line of quality yarns, knitwear patterns and accessories. Americo’s yarns are made exclusively in the Andean highlands of South America, using only natural fibres, including luxurious wool, llama, alpaca, cotton, linen, silk and cashmere. Americo and its in-house design lab are based in Toronto, offering international shipping from its online store: americo.ca/shop.