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PAULINA O'KIEFFE-ANTHONY - I'll never ever give it up again

I have known Paulina for some years now.

It was always a cool and cordial hello at these events that I would attend like Afrochic or even When Sisters Speak, where she'd be performing.

And because she had been on TV and worked with nonprofit organizations, I dragged my feet asking her to be on an issue of Women's Crushing It Wednesdays. But I did it.

And for this interview, I did the one thing I had never done before. I travelled and I do mean travel! Drove to Windsor and met her in her element.

She got me to take pictures of her in her element which was the woods. Her connection to the area and her ability to tell me which animal was which told me that this was very special to her.

It was already undeniable that Paulina was a woman crushing it, but now you get a deeper look into why.

You know what, for the longest time I had, I did not know whether to call you Paulina or Pauline O'Keefe and Paulina...

It’s Paulina O'Keefe-Anthony.

That's what I'm saying. I was always going between the two. Anyways. So I'm gonna start with my first question. Every superhero has an origin story. Where would your origin story begin?

My origin story? Ah, oh, my goodness! I think my origin story would definitely start back in Toronto. You know, in my Lakeshore neighborhood and community. Because I grew up almost in the same community for almost the whole time I've been in Toronto until I recently moved to Windsor. And so I think that is where my origin story starts. However, I would say that other spaces have heavily influenced my origin story over time. I was traveling since I was three. When I was three years old, my first trip was actually back home to my mom's country, which is Poland. And this was an 89. So the Berlin Wall was still up. So you're in communist Poland on the other side of the wall. And like those spaces kind of inform a lot of like... I'm very spiritual. So I believe my spiritual ancestors from both sides, like speak out, or reach out to me, or even when I'm in other lands, like spirits or ancestral spirits reach out and like, I feel them all the time. Even when we were in the woods. I feel what has transpired before I was here in this space. And so I think my origin story, while it was grounded in Toronto, really is a compilation of all the places I was traveling. My father's lands to Trinidad and spending time there. Poland with my mother and surrounding areas, as my grandfather took me around to other countries. And so as I've been traveling, I think my origin story is pieced together by pieces of those places, and how they kind of like speak to how I've been created and shifted in the stories that I release through my poetry and my playwriting and stuff like that.

Nice. Nice. Yeah. So we just went through a bit of an excursion in the woods of Windsor. And you mentioned spirituality. I guess you're in communication. Is that what you do when you go into the woods? Do you stay in communication with the ancestors? With the ancient spirits?

Yeah, I do, I find a lot of comfort in being in those woods. I actually go walking every day. And those woods in particular, are very, very old. And so I feel energies around me when I'm in there. Very peaceful. I think about what transpired on that land before I was there. Whether it be African slaves who came up to Canada on the underground railway, they touch that land. Because if you went a little bit further, as I was telling you, you would hit the shores of Windsor that go across the Detroit River. The indigenous peoples that were there even farther and prior to that, and what was happening on that land. And so I just, I do feel a lot of the history, like, flow through me and I love that. It brings me a lot of comfort. It brings me a lot of nostalgia. It brings me a lot of peace, but also I think it brings me a lot of inspiration. And so stories just kind of start to pop out of me. After I've calmed down, I walk through there, I calm down, and then stories start to formulate in there. Because it's actually so quiet in those woods. For the most part, we're here on a weekend. But in the weekday, I'll tell you, there's not that many people. It's very, very quiet. To the point where you literally can hear your thoughts like we're in such a loud space all the time in the cities and stuff. But there you literally hear your thoughts inside your head. It is so quiet. It’s the birds and your thoughts.

All right. Now with regards to spirituality, I want to stay with the origins and the beginning. When did you first recognize your spiritual side?

I think very early on. So I was raised Roman Catholic in my house, because my mom was a really religious person that raised us. And so I had a really spiritual connection to God from a long time. But also, even though my mom was Roman Catholic, my grandmother, on my dad's side, was Pentecostal. And so when I was in Trinidad with her or when she'd come here… I had that influence as well. And then my father... It's really interesting. He’d quote the Bible, read the Bible, but didn't go to church. But what I only recently found out and which is why I think I've been so drawn to these things. Later on in life, I first learned about Afro religions, Santeria, Candomble, the Orishas, like all of those kind of Motherland infused, spiritual religions and practices that came over during the journey of the Middle Passage. And I was really connected to that. And that actually spoke to me a lot as well. And so I didn't understand until more recently, I found that my dad in Trinidad used to be a drummer. But he'd be in a lot of these circles. And I didn't know. He was doing rituals and drumming for the rituals and stuff. And so, more recently, when I started doing research for my play, and we had to go, I went back to Trinidad with my best friend and co writer, the more I learned about, like Carnival culture, and mass culture and the spirituality of it, the more I've been more drawn and drawn and drawn into it. And so I think it's that ancestral spirituality, coming from the Middle Passage, and what was passed down and carried through and carried along. I'm very connected to it. And even more so, I researched it a lot. I tried to write about it a lot. And it influences a lot of, you know, kind of how I live and what I do. I would also say like, I'm just genuinely interested in religions and spirituality and connections to God and, or a higher power. So, you know, there was a little brief stint in my life where I was like, full on, Muslim as well. And Islam was my guiding path for a little while, which I loved. And I thought it was very beautiful. And so just been navigating spirituality for myself throughout, probably, since I was seven. Like really, really saying, this is something that's in me and, and connected to that thing.

I feel like it definitely opens your mind to the world, I would say. Getting a taste of each of the religions, you basically have an understanding of different people. And therefore, you can actually navigate with people differently that way. Do you think that's what's going on with you?

Um, I do think so. It does definitely open up my perspective up and I have a lot more respect for cultures and people. But actually, my spirituality to me is more so about an inner journey and finding out who I am and being confident in that. And I feel like the closer and more connected I get to those kind of spiritual guiders, the more I step into my power, the more I step into my confidence, my purpose. And I feel more connected to myself actually. So for me, it's very personal. Part of my journey of like, discovering my journey and my purpose.

Awesome. What did you aspire to be when you grew up?

When I was a kid?


When I was a kid, I thought I was going to be a doctor. I wanted to be a missionary at one point. And I wanted to be a marine biologist. And all of those things make sense. I wanted to be a doctor because I wanted to help people, which I do help people just not in the medical field. I wanted to be a missionary, because I think again, that connects back to spirituality. Like at the time I thought, that's what you do. You go into places and teach about, I guess, Christianity or whatever. But now I'm still on that. It's more of a spiritual connection and also, I think I just love traveling, and I wanted to go to different places. And then I wanted to be a marine biologist, because I truly feel like... Even though I'm a Capricorn, it’s a very earth sign, I think a lot of my spirituality is guided in water. And I really love nature. And animals. As I clearly named every bird that came next to us (laughter).

Every one of them! There’s not a bird she did not know.

Right? So I really love animals and being in tune with nature, because again, that's also a spiritual connection. A lot of teachings, including indigenous and African teachings. I'm talking about every living thing, having a spirit. And so I just reconnect with that. And I love being by water. Water always calms me down. And it was definitely a deciding factor, even moving here to Windsor, because it's close to the water. That's what I want it to be.

All right, there's one more question I have about your spirituality. When you got started with your spirituality, was this also the same time you got started with your writing and your art?

I would say yeah. Actually, my first earliest writings, which I don't even know how I still have this. I started out with letters to God. And I would write these letters. It was very self expressive. So God, this is what I'm thinking, this is what I'm doing, you know, so as early as seven, I believe. Because I could tell by the writing (laughter). So yeah, it definitely guides my spirituality and my writing is guided by that. A lot of my writing has always been connected to my identity. My sense around helping people or my sense on what is just social justice. And I've always been attracted to stories, myths and legends. And so there's a lot of story in spirituality. That's what I get. I think that's what's really connected.

That's pretty dope. All right. Now, with regards to your career... With all your accolades, which is more significant and why?

My accolades?


Can I be honest here?

Be honest.

Like you're talking about my awards?

I'm talking about awards, personal accomplishments that you feel with regards to the career.

I think my biggest accolade, and slash career highlight would definitely have to be... Okay, it's a tie. There's two. So my first one was the first time ever I got to perform for When Sister Speak. It will always be, I think, one of the biggest moments of my life, because I had been going to When Sister Speak since 2008. And I didn't get on that stage till 2017. And I remember, after so many of the shows, I'd be asking Dwayne what I had to do to get on there. And every time he’d tell me to just put in the work. And so I started building slowly, slowly, slowly. And then when I finally got on there, it was such... I just felt like I had made it, you know? and not only did I make it on the stage, I did it in front of my daughter, which was really big. And she was actually on stage with me for one of my pieces, which was a piece about her and her birth story. And in front of my parents and in front of my friends and my husband and everything. And that was really huge for me to make it there after, I guess, based on what Dwayne said, put in the work. And so that was definitely, definitely huge. To be on that stage in front of that many black folk, for the most part, in that audience. And then just the applause and the support. It was a big. It was a really, really, really big night. So I would say that was my very big poetry accolade. and highlight of my career. And then on the other side would be when I got to present the excerpt from my play How Jab Jab Saved The Pretty Mas in Piece Of Mind Black Woman Theater. That was a huge, huge thing for me because; A, I had stepped outside of poetry for the first time, which was very scary. And B, because I got to tell a story that was part of this really bigger journey of me reconnecting to my culture in a different way. My grandmother is very Pentecostal. So Carnival was not a big thing for us growing up. That's why it always felt like I was missing that piece. Like I went to Caribana when I grew up a little later. But you know, how a lot of people think it's just a huge party, costume, whatever. But then this play made me go back home to Trinidad, made me interview people, study, and really respect and understand the carnival arts, the resistance, the resilience, the history that it came from. And again, spirituality and story. And now I get to connect to my culture in such a more in depth way. And that opened up the conversations with my dad about what he was doing in Trinidad at that time, and, and all and the music and you know, the ritual. Then to be able to create a story, put it on stage, work with the mentors I was working with, which also made me feel good that people in life said, Yes, I will mentor you and trust you to carry the story for the next generation. So that was such a huge accolade for me to be able to do that with my co-writer, and put that on. And yeah, it was a really emotional moment. But I felt really good. And again, in front of my family and friends who got to see another piece. Well, I think those are my two that are tied.

You talked about being nervous switching from poetry to playwriting. I find with every artist, I findone thing that is for sure, is that we have to give ourselves permission to do certain things, because a lot of times, we have these voices inside our heads that tell us a no, that's not you. You were inspired to write a play. I’d like for you to describe the moment from doubting to giving yourself permission to actually go ahead and do it.

It's very interesting, because the whole play came from two things. The title and then a line that I thought was a poetry line, the end of a poem. And so that line is, and this is how it came to pass, how jab jab saved the pretty mas, which goes with the title. And then I'm like, what am I going to do with that line? What does that mean? And so, over time, I was just trying to write and write. And I talked it through with my co-writer. And I said, I don't think I can do this in just a poem. Like, there's just too much, there's just too much here. And even in that story, part of me wants to see this live on stage. I can't just tell the story by myself. And I want to see the characters come off the stage. And so that's when I thought, I think I'm gonna write a play. And then I talked to my friend, my very good friend, Whitney French, and actually hired her to kind of coach me on how to write the story. I started writing it with my co-writer, her name is Natasha Parson Morris. And so we started writing it together. And actually going into this journey together. She's also Trini. And so as we went through that story, we're interviewing people, and people are encouraging us to write the story. And I thought I was totally gonna do this. I can do this. And we're getting feedback. I'm getting more and more confident. And then we were talking about the importance of reviving these stories. Having people know what Carnival or Caribana is really about. Then I guess maybe the ancestors were like, No, you got to do this. It became less about giving myself permission to move from poet to playwright and more about feeling like a duty or responsibility to carry the story on. And so then there was no doubt that I was going to do that. And I could only do it through a play. Why a play? Because if you know anything about Carnival culture, Carnival is street theater. And so naturally, that would be the best way for me to tell it.

Nice. Um, have you ever felt about giving up in your career? And if so, can you describe it?

Yep, I have thought about giving up and I did, actually (laughter). So in 2007, I competed in Dwayne Morgan's Toronto International Poetry Slam (T.I.P.S.). Before I knew what the slam world was really about. I thought I could do this. Did not even make it past round one. Shattered my confidence. I thought maybe this is not me and my poems. I thought they're not good enough. Like, once I was hearing those poets out there, especially because that competition in particular brings poets from the States. Yeah. Which is a whole different energy if you watch spoken word. So I'm over here, like, new new to spoken word. I think I'm gonna be all that in a bag of chips. Got slammed in the first round. And then done. Confidence over. This is not me. I don't do this. And so I didn't go back on stage, like on a professional slam stage, or even really do big shows for seven years. So I stopped for seven years. I just worked in the nonprofit arts community social sector. I did workshops, like teaching poetry here and there. Maybe I would do a little performance here and there, like a local university or a local community. I would perform as part of the workshops, but no big shows like you saw me do after. Okay. So seven years… Had my daughter had my son, and it was after I had my son, I don't know what it was. But something said, I'm coming back. We got to do this. And so I literally had to restart. And by that time, you had Rise poetry come up. You had Britta. You had a whole next generation under me, came up and was doing poetry. And I came in at a weird, weird juncture. Because on some parts, I came back into the scene, which is funny. The first thing I came back to was TIPS (laughter), in 2014. I made it to the second round, I think or something like that. Or third round, I can't remember. But I made it much farther. And so I felt more confident in my poetry. And then I came in this really interesting juncture in my career, where I like met people who were wondering who I was and where I came from. And then they would be approached and told “Don’t you know who that is? That’s a OG right there!”

And so it was just this weird juncture. So introducing myself to people and other people who knew me and my work from before also introducing me to other people. So it was very interesting. But after 2014, I was like, nah, I can't quit. I started doing my poetry series, Words by the Water, for a year and a half. I put on my festival, and I just started challenging myself. If I have an idea, I'm gonna do it, I'm gonna write a grant for it. Because I got really good at grant writing in those seven years I took off for not for profit. And I just converted that to myself as an artist. I made a lot of connections with the Arts Councils and stuff. So I started writing grants for myself. I started just putting myself out there. If I thought I was going to do something, I would go and do it. Doesn't matter if it paid me or not sometimes. Because I started building up and that was the work Dwayne was talking about. Like, you just have to go out and do it and experiment. Put yourself out there, try new pieces. I go to Roots Lounge all the time. It was my favorite, most comfortable, safest place to try my new stuff, to get back on the slam scene. Made it to the Toronto team to go to Nationals. And so all of that started to then build up my career and build up my kind of visibility. And then I worked really closely with Dwayne Morgan after that, because he was the coach for the national team. And once I got connected with Dwayne... That's a lifelong mentorship. And so I would just keep doing whatever he needed me for, I would do it. And just put myself out there, put myself out there, put myself out there. My name kind of kept going from word of mouth because I was just taking gigs and making sure people knew my name and work on my craft and do all my stuff. And after that I said, I'd never let 2007 happen ever again. I might shift how I do my art, but I'll never ever give it up again, because I don't feel good enough.

How has the pandemic affected you creatively, professionally? And also with your family life?

Yeah, the pandemic has definitely affected me. I want to say, it has definitely affected me creatively. Because the urgency in the pandemic time was I needed to get a house. I was living in an apartment with my kids and my husband, and it was just too tight. And then I was like, we can't ride out the pandemic like this anymore. I need to get these kids a backyard. I need more space. And so my art kind of took a little bit of a backseat to that. So it was just like commission gigs, grant writing gigs, more teaching gigs. So I wasn't performing a lot. During the pandemic, I did have a few gigs. But virtual performances are definitely not the same thing as live theater. And so it kind of made me sad. So I didn't take too many of those. Because poetry is like, especially spoken word poetry is, like a spiritual energy exchange. And so it's really hard to do that over zoom, to be honest. You have to be in the presence of people, so the energies can intermix. and you can walk through and make eye contact. All of those things are really, really tough to do. So it really kind of killed my creativity on the performance side. For sure, I would say it also killed my creativity a little bit on the play side, because we had done our excerpt and then we'd had gotten support around finishing the play. But there was this one scene that her and I decided, now we have to go back home because there's more research to do. Because it's like a dream scene with these Carnival characters that come out. So we have to either write it there, or we need to do more research before we can write that scene. Then of course, COVID came and Trinidad locked its borders down. It’s still closed. So we couldn't go. So I couldn't do that. I wasn't really inspired. It was just a sad time. Can’t perform. And so creatively, I would say, it was really tough for me. I haven't been creating too much at this time. I did create some other courses that are not art related (laughter). So there's a little bit of that still going on. But yeah, creatively, I haven't done much except for teach for the last probably year and a half. So it really killed that. And then of course, having my kids be home homeschooled. They were homeschooled for a little bit. And now they're just doing online school in an actual school board. There's just no time. You're tired, you're exhausted, you're overly locked down. And you can't go anywhere. And so it was hard for me to get re inspired. I feel like now I'm getting back inspiration a lot. Now, we've settled into this house. I get to walk in the woods quite a bit. And a lot of my ideas can flow again, doing some recordings of my poetry to put on Spotify and stuff now. Working on some written stuff for a book. And eventually, when the borders open, we'll go back to Trinidad and try to finish this play up and start to do some of that stuff. Some video poetry, those types of things. So the creativity is slowly coming back. And of course, I'm curating a huge ass art’s exhibit for Art Works TO with Dwayne Morgan and Randall as part of this open soul collective. So just even doing curatorial things has kept me more connected to like art making and stuff like that. But it was definitely a struggle for me.

I believe everyone needs a support system. How would you describe your support system? How heavily have you relied on them?

I would say the village is everything. And without the village, there's no way I would have been, as far as I was, in my career. Especially after having kids. The village is everything. From my mother, who would watch them at our house, every time I had a show or a gig. And my husband would be at work. To my husband, who like, supports me emotionally, mentally, through a lot of things. He listens to my phone, while I practice. Keeps the kids away when I'm teaching, especially when I have Zoom time. Supports me at my shows. To my girlfriends, my co-writer, my best friend. Just creating with me, and she has kids too. And we were neighbors as well. So during the pandemic, we would support each other. And it was just really great to have a village that supports you in what you're doing. To my mentors! Oh my gosh! All my mentors who keep me creating keep me working on my art, the business of my art. So I think the village is key and necessary. And if you don't have a village, you're definitely going to be struggling for sure. It's not to say you can't do it, it's impossible. We're meant to work and live in villages. And so I rely on my village. And then I also put myself out there to be part of villages where people can support people. So I'll provide the support. I mentor quite a lot of people. I reach out to my sisters, my friends, my girlfriends, you know, we exchange childcare watching, so all the moms can get a break mentally. So yeah, I'm part of a lot of villages. And I'm very happy to play my part. And I feel no ways to lean on my village because they've offered me such a great support.

See, now I want to ask about being married to an artist. You know, what are the benefits? And what are the difficulties that come with that?

Well, depends how you're asking? Are you saying Carlos being married to me as an artist or me being married to Carlos as an artist?

(laughter) If you could describe both, I would love it.

The funny thing is, Carlos did not know he was an artist. When we first started dating, actually, his aspiration was to find a great job and work so that I wouldn't have to work and I could just do my art. And now we are in the vice versa position. So he didn't know he was an artist. And actually, I spent quite a bit of our relationship trying to convince him that he was. So firstly, you know, he tried out with the photography, and then he got into his writing and stuff. But I've always encouraged him to like discover his art. I’d tell him, “You are totally an artist, like, look at the way you dress”

Like even his styling stuff, his photography stuff, the way he curates fashion shows. I'm like, “You're absolutely an artist.”

That's what I remember about him.

So I would first and foremost, say that if you are dating a true artist, they may bring out the secret artist in you (laughter). For me being married to an artist, I think it's amazing, actually. It's definitely a struggle, because you have to kind of balance steady money coming in. So it's good that I'm really good at math. I've always been good at balancing having a full time day job and always doing my art. And since Carlos is new and coming into his art I offered to let him just focus on that. Because I've been doing my art for a long time, I have a name for myself, and he wants to make money for himself. It's just easier if you don't have to do both at the same time. And I got the opportunity to do a lot of that before I had children. So he's only had children for the whole time that he's been discovering this. So just kind of trying to level the playing field and let him catch up a bit and find himself in his artistry. But I would say it's great because we get to talk a lot creatively. We help each other. We work on grants together. I talk to him and give him artistic feedback for what he's doing. He does the same for me. And he kind of gets it. He gets what it's like. Before he was really doing his art, he didn't understand if I'm going for a gig. He understood it as I'm going out with my friends, it's fun. Now that he has gigs, and he has meetings and writings sessions, he gets it. It's so much easier for him to say, okay, I get it now. I get what this meeting is about all the time or this gig or you have to be here or you have to prep for this interview. It's easier because you both understand each other. And then our art forms are similar, because we're both writers. And I'm a performer as well. So I think it's just been very blessed that I've been able to support him in his artistic journey. And he's definitely been a great member of my village in supporting me in my artistic journey. And being like my number one cheerleader on that. So I would say it's good. But somebody, at least one person, I think, has to definitely has to be a stabilizer. You have to have some stability, especially if you have kids, you have to make sure there's some stability in there. Along with the art making, because art making might take a while to see some steady income.

It's like the kite and string theory. One person has to be the string the other can be...

For sure.

For sure. What is next? I mean, you have play going on, but what do you see down the road for you?

Um, what I see is a lot of infinite possibilities. But I think right on the horizon for me, I'm really enjoying this I work I'm doing with the Spoken Soul Collective and curating. And I want to do some way more curating. It's just been fun putting together artists and creating, like a vision. Like having a vision and pulling the artists to do it. Part of some of the stuff I'm curating and creating is a documentary. And so I think that might take me into a little world of film and directing kind of work, which is kind of nice. But I'm definitely in a place where I'm not scared to try anything new. And I'm definitely not in a place where I'm limiting or boxing myself in anymore. I'm hoping the play will finish. And then we'll be able to, I don't know, if theaters will open, we'll be able to show it in Trinidad. And we'll be able to show it here. Doing a lot more international work with more international artists out there, curating stuff like that. And eventually, because I've been saying this for like, probably at least 10 years, finally getting one published chat book or book, anthology of my own work out there. Right now I'm in the middle of finalizing my album. So I'm going to wrap up my single, probably at the end of the month. And release that and then work on finishing the rest of the album, and then there will be an album as well. All right, so lots of creative things are happening.

Okay, well we’re coming down to the last few questions. What is a misconception people have about you?

Um, to be honest, I'm not sure. I would say maybe a misconception people have is that I'm not... Maybe some people who don't know me very well, that I'm not accessible because I'm so busy, or I'm very well known. But I'm actually one of the most accessible people. I think a lot of people know.

I mean, sure, the interview here (laughter).

I'm just really about community so I’m superduper accessible, even though I look busy all the time. I am still fairly accessible.

Out of everything you've ever written, what is your favorite line?

My favorite line? Oh my gosh! Do you how much stuff that I’ve written? (laughter) Oh my gosh! Oh, Lord. I don't know. Um, shoot. I don't know. I don't think I can even answer that. No, because I just have so many great lines from different poems that I can't even answer that. I don't even have a favorite line.

You have the top three lines?

Ah. Oh, man. I gotta think. I really got to think on this one. I really have to think that through. Couldn’t you ask me about my favorite poem? Top poems?

(laughter) Nah, everybody has that (laughter). This one's a little deep, but I think it'd be dope. Because I wanted to ask you earlier about if you're talent rubbed off on your kids, and come to find out, you have your daughter that's out there putting on shows. Right there you have Paulina 2.0 that’s on her way up.

Yeah, although I don't think of her that way. So I don't know if my talent has rubbed off on them. And I don't like to think that. I like to think that my kids are their own people. And they come with their own sets of skills and talents and passions. I do think my daughter has definitely been influenced by being at one, one to many poetry shows from a young age, because she used to come to a lot of my shows, even as a really young kid. And so, I feel like it's not so much my talent, but the fact that we just shared genes, and I can see a lot of myself in her. And our characters are very similar. She's very quiet. She's very to herself. She likes to write her feelings down, or at least talk them through. And so she's just known that poetry has been an outlet. But not just poetry. She's working on a book, apparently. The Art Of Life. From a nine year old perspective. There's plenty of advice, apparently for you all. I think what I've definitely conveyed to her is that writing is an outlet, and you can use it to express what's going on inside and release those things and let go of those things. So most definitely, I think my daughter, you know, has seen that and is working on that with her current gigs and things she's done before. My son has been really introduced to a lot of different art. I think the thing he drew most closely to was dance and drumming. And then my stepdaughter, even though she's not biologically mine, but I've always encouraged her. She's a singer, and performer, and I've been putting her in a lot of arts camps. And she's really flourished in using the arts as a creative expressive tool. So I would definitely say being an artsy household has definitely influenced our kids and maybe tapped into their own talents. I don't know if I would say my talent has rubbed off. But I would definitely say it's influenced them looking at their own artistic journeys, or the use of art in their journey of life.

If you were to meet a young 18 year old Paulina, what would be your advice to her?

Oh, easy. Two things. One, invest in stocks. So you can make money, fund your own projects and not have to rely on grants. Although, I would still get grants, but I wouldn't be limited. And two, your art can be your main thing. When I was younger, I did art and I received a lot of messages that it was a hobby, that it was a side thing. And you know, it's actually that that's the main conversation and point I speak about in my TEDx talk in 2019 that I did. It was really about that. So if I could go back to when I was 18, I’d give myself my own TEDx talk that I gave to other 18 year olds. Jump into your art full force. You're 18. The world is your oyster. This is the time to take risks. And I would have done that. I would have had fun with art. I would have not worried. I would have finished my degree but kind of got it out of the way and just really took on the art. I would have been an artist this whole time I think. And I would have tried new things out like playwriting, other kinds of writing, and really, like dove in a little bit more.


One last question. I'm wondering because you support your children in the art form. And you coming up, you were told that the art was a hobby? Well, what was it like growing up with your parents? You have two different cultures. Did you receive that support? Or did you have to look for it elsewhere?

I think I received my support around my art framed as being a hobby. But definitely I was told that I’d be going to university or that I was so smart. I was a high achieving student. And then even while I was coming out of university, and I got started working in the nonprofit sector, and I'd be talking about my gigs, and it would be dismissed to ask me how my job was going. Like, it's always what's your day job? What's your bread and butter? How are you building that career? Everything on the side was just extra. It's not your main thing, but we're proud of you. So they were very proud of me and my art. But it was never seen as this could be your career. Your career is what you're doing over here, in the nonprofit charity that might actually get you into government or the other things that we think you can do, because you're so smart. And you’ve gone to university and got scholarships. Don't waste your smart talent over there. Build up that career. And so, that was kind of it. But I grew to understand that because my parents are immigrant parents... And what does every immigrant parent want when they cross dangerous seas and airways and borders? They want their sacrifices to come to this country results in their kids having a better life than they did and having all the opportunities. So I understand that because in the cultures that I came from, also, art doesn't take you places. Government jobs, take you places. Big money takes you places and puts you into the opportunities that they feel they came here to give you. But I will tell you that now my parents are really proud of my art. They understand what my journey is. So it took a little while and the more features I get, they understand.. Every time I'm on CBC, they get it. Every bigger stage, they get it. They see it for what it is.

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