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Nordstrom Anniversary Sale 2021 Canada Beauty Preview: Top Picks | #Fashion

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Nordstrom Anniversary Sale 2021 Canada Beauty Preview: Top Picks

Photography courtesy of Nordstrom Canada

Ahead of the sale, we’ve assembled our favourite beauty finds in the sale — including gift sets and jumbo-sized products exclusive to Nordstrom — for a special sneak peek. Get ready to plan your shop!

It’s that time of year again! Nordstrom Canada’s Anniversary Sale — its biggest shopping event of the year — is right around the corner. The sale, which offers new arrivals from brands for women, men, children and home decor at temporarily reduced prices, begins July 28 and ends August 9. If you’re a Nordy Club Ambassador, you’ll have early access to the sale, starting July 25 in-store and at nordstrom.ca. And when we say the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale 2021 Canada beauty sales are good, we mean good.

The beauty portion of the Nordstrom Canada Anniversary Sale will feature select beauty offers, including gift sets and jumbo-sized products exclusive to Nordstrom from brands like Charlotte Tilbury, Estée Lauder and Nars. For the first time ever, starting July 19, customers can get a sneak peek at the shoppable items ahead of the sale on nordstrom.ca/anniversary. When previewing the sale, you have the option to add your favourite items to a wish list so that you can check out faster when it’s time to buy. We love a pre-planned shop!

Below, we’ve assembled our top Nordstrom Anniversary Sale 2021 Canada beauty picks for you to preview. Read on for an exclusive look at some of the best beauty deals this year’s sale has in store (and don’t forget to check out the full preview on July 19).


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Frank And Oak Collaborates With Canadian Artists + More Fashion News | #Fashion

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Frank And Oak Collaborates With Canadian Artists + More Fashion News

Photography courtesy of Frank And Oak.

Including the latest drops from two Toronto-based (and Willow Smith-approved) jewellery brands.

Frank And Oak launches a collection in collaboration with local Canadian artists

Montreal-based clothing brand Frank And Oak has just launched Make It Local, a three-piece T-shirt capsule collection that has three Canadian artists at its helm. Devon Pryce, Kiki Makes and Jesse Katabarwa were chosen to each imbue a T-shirt with their unique perspective on what “local” means, and the results are nothing short of visually stunning. To continue the theme, the brand has brought the graphics to life with local manufacturing. The Make It Local T-shirts are unisex and retail at $49.50.

Vitaly unveils the first drop of their Summer 2021 collection

Photography by Steph Verschuren.

Genderless, experimental design studio Vitaly has released the first drop of their Summer 2021 collection. Dubbed Metamaterials, this latest collection of jewellery pieces is entirely composed of 100 percent recycled stainless steel. This includes otherworldly objects recovered from suspected crash sites. The assumption that these pieces have origins from extraterrestrial genesis speaks to the Toronto-based brand’s fascination with space, technology and the possibility of life beyond our comprehension of the universe. What’s more, Vitaly’s pieces have been worn by the likes of Olivia Rodrigo, Willow Smith, Bad Bunny and Lil Nas X, which is a testament to the brand’s cutting-edge aesthetic.

Toronto-based designer Steff Eleoff drops summer pieces

Photography by Samuel Kojo.

Another Toronto-based label coveted by Willow Smith (as well as other stars like Kylie Jenner, Snoh Aalegra and Giveon) has some summer drops worth noting. The eponymous jewellery brand by Steff Eleoff has three new pieces in its signature organic shape and form: the Eva Earring, Hesse Earring and Drip Hair Clip. The earrings are inspired by German-American sculptor Eva Hesse, which is in line with Eleoff’s inspirations: nature, contemporary design, architecture, and her background in fine art. The campaign also points to the self-taught jewellery designer’s inspirations, through juxtaposing an ethereal waterfall scenery with polished, sterling silver drip-like jewellery. The collection is available to shop now.

Obakki launches an ongoing charity initiative

Photography courtesy of Obakki.

This week, ethically-focused lifestyle brand Obakki launched an ongoing charity initiative in conjunction with their Essentials Collection. The collection, available for men, women and children, is filled with late-summer staples such as T-shirts and sweatshirts. For every item purchased, Obakki will donate one basic needs kit (which includes essential hygiene items like toothbrushes, toothpaste, menstrual products and soap) to a woman or girl in a refugee settlement community in Uganda. The entirety of the collection is made from organic cotton and has a low carbon footprint, making both sides of this initiative quite productive.

Looking for more fashion news?

Canada’s new Governor General wore an Indigenous ensemble to her inauguration

The Sex and the City reboot is already showing off loads of fashion-forward moments

Here are our fashionable gift suggestions for the bold, fierce Leo in your life


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A Fenty Parfum is On Its Way + More Beauty News From This Week | #Fashion

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A Fenty Parfum is On Its Way + More Beauty News From This Week

Photography via instagram.com/fentybeauty

It may not be a new album, but we can’t wait to get our hands on Rihanna’s latest launch, anyway.

Dezi Skin launches Dew Me Over

Following the launch of Desi Perkins’ brand, Dezi Skin, with a vitamin C serum, the brand’s second launch, Dew Me Over, a mist spray, is officially here. The mist contains two powerful concentrates: one identical to your skin’s natural lipids and the other filled with natural fruit extracts and antioxidants. Dew Me Over can be used on bare skin to prep and hydrate your complexion pre-makeup application, or after makeup to set your look.

BeautyCounter’s Lid Glow Cream Shadow is here

Looking for a cream eyeshadow that won’t budge through the summer heat and humidity? Look no further than BeautyCounter’s just-launched Lid Glow Cream Shadow. Available in 10 buildable shades and housed in a recyclable (and chic!) glass bottle, the shadows are easy to wear (really — just blend with your fingers) and suitable for even the most sensitive skin. They’re even formulated with responsibly sourced mica, something that is often overlooked in makeup products that features that beloved illuminating shimmer.

A Fenty Parfum is on its way

Well, it may not be an album, but Rihanna’s upcoming release, Fenty Parfum, does happen to be a brand new category for Fenty Beauty. The singer just announced that a “sensual, confident yet sexxy” fragrance launch is on its way soon, and you just know it’s sure to sell out — fast.

Menstrual product brand joni has officially donated 100,000 pads since its launch

Canadian period care brand joni has announced that it’s just surpassed 100,000 pads donated across Canada since its March 2020 launch. The British Columbia-based brand’s “one-for-one” #getjonigivejoni model sees one of its sustainably made biodegradable pads donated for every pad purchased on the site, as part of the brand’s mission to breaking the cycle of period poverty. Launched by Linda Biggs and Jayesh Vekariya, the co-founders recognized that in Canada, a staggering one in three people under the age of 25 who menstruate experience period poverty. They set out on a mission to tackle the issue via partnerships with non-profit organizations, advocating for new period equity policies and initiatives and the distribution of period care products to those who need it most.

ONE/SIZE concealer is finally here

ONE/SIZE, the beauty brand launched by Patrick Starrr, has just dropped its latest release: the Turn Up The Base Butter Silk Concealer. Available in 24 shades and formulated with caffeine, mango and avocado butters, as well as collagen-boosting peptides, the concealer does some serious heavy lifting in the skincare arena as you wear it. Of course, its dark circle-covering abilities are no joke, either.


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Naomi Osaka & Simone Biles Are Addressing Olympic Anxiety | #Fashion

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Naomi Osaka & Simone Biles Are Addressing Olympic Anxiety

Photography by
Xinhua News Agency/Getty Images

Olympic angst is nothing new. Here, Kurt Browning reflects back on his apology to Canada after the 1994 Winter games.

It was the 1994 Winter Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway. Canadian world champion figure skater Kurt Browning was poised to take home a gold medal. But during his televised performance, he shockingly fell on his triple flip. Nerves set in, and as the performance went on, he failed to execute his double Axel. Once he completed his rocky performance, Browning bowed to the audience, and the camera closed in on his face seemingly mouthing the word “unbelievable.”

A live taping of the event shows a disappointed Browning sitting next to his coach after the skate, saying, “I need a hug,” while an Olympics commentator voices over the clip with, “Disaster doesn’t begin to describe what happened to Kurt Browning.” Despite his devastating loss, the athlete carried on to do press, in which a reporter brought up his performance at the 1992 Albertville, France Olympics, where he fell on his triple Axel attempt. The interviewer asked if Browning felt he was “reliving Albertville” with this defeat, and questioned why he seemed to struggle at the Olympics despite having won world championships in the past.

These are questions no one wants to answer, let alone think about, after enduring such a loss. Looking back on his experience, Kurt Browning tells FASHION he couldn’t explain a moment like that because it happens so quickly. “It was totally a mental thing,” he says. Imagine experiencing a heart-wrenching defeat and immediately having to explain on a worldwide broadcast how and why you failed. This is the reality of Olympic anxiety and competing in the games, but maybe it shouldn’t be.

U.S. Olympic gymnast Simone Biles has been making headlines for her decision on July 28 to remove herself from both the team and individual all-around competitions at this summer’s 2020 Tokyo Olympics because of mental health concerns. The athlete spoke out about the extreme pressure that comes from competing in the Games and cited experiencing “the twisties” during practice: a term used among gymnasts to describe a phenomenon where their body and mind won’t cooperate, and as a result, they can’t perform skills.

“There’s a strong connection between where your mind is at and your ability to perform a movement in the best way,” commented Toronto-based physiotherapist Bridie Nicholson, who added that athletes often seek help from sports psychologists to deal with the pressure of high-stakes competitions. “You don’t move at your best when you’re stressed or when you’re thinking about the pressure.”

“As soon as you don’t feel like yourself [and] you don’t feel right, then natural things become unnatural,” Browning says. Athletes are constantly in pursuit of “grace under pressure,” he added, but it doesn’t always work out that way.

“Usually I loved the pressure because it was kind of exciting. It was like, ‘Oh, I like this, if I can skate and do this job and entertain people and have them stand up at the end, that’s the best. Let’s do that instead of falling.’ But when it didn’t happen, it was almost like someone else was doing it to you,” he explained.

Despite the support she’s received for her decision to step back, Biles has also been criticized for being “weak” and “selfish” by forfeiting the U.S. gold medal and speaking out about Olympic anxiety. These criticisms exemplify the way high-level athletes’ bodies can be seen as public property, something viewers feel entitled to. Ironically, most of us cannot envision this type of pressure — Biles described it as having “the weight of the world on my shoulders at times.”

On July 27, Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka, who was expected to win gold, was eliminated from the Olympics after losing to Czech athlete Marketa Vondrousova. The Associated Press reported that Osaka said she felt “like there was a lot of pressure for this,” and that this loss “sucks more than the others.”

This kind of pressure is what pushed Osaka to remove herself from this year’s French Open, an annual tennis tournament held over two weeks in Paris, France. The 23-year-old athlete said the expectation to attend mandatory press conferences after matches worsened her Olympic anxiety, and she opted out to preserve her mental health.

When Kurt Browning suffered his loss at the 1994 Olympics, he famously issued an apology to all of Canada. His individual disappointment took a backseat and he took on the responsibility and guilt for not bringing a gold medal home to his country.

“I always thought that as an athlete, I’m lucky to be in a sport that people want to watch. I’m lucky to be in the situation with all this pressure,” says Browning. “So that’s why when it didn’t work out, I felt an obligation to say sorry. It came naturally, and I still stand by it.”

The pressure put on Olympic athletes and the range of emotions they must experience is hard to imagine, Toronto-based psychotherapist Matt Cahill told FASHION. “I think the spectrum of emotions that athletes go through — and to some degree are expected to go through, even though they might not have signed up for all of it — is quite incredible.” It’s that same Olympic anxiety that makes competitors tie their performance to their worth as people, ultimately leading athletes like Osaka to pose the question, “What am I if I’m not a good tennis player?”

Biles and Osaka are imposing a necessary turning point in the treatment and expectations of Olympic athletes, he added. “We need our elite athletes to maybe not be these beasts of burden, who are there to hold our collective hopes and dreams, but rather for them to basically say, ‘We are individuals, we are fallible, and we don’t want to risk damaging our bodies if we don’t feel that we are up for this.’” The last thing an athlete wants to do is take themselves out of a competition, added Nicholson, but doing so to attend to mental health concerns is necessary.

Browning’s 1994 apology to Canada perfectly reflected the expectations put on Olympic athletes to succeed for their country. But as Osaka and Biles have demonstrated, this weight can be too much to take on. Browning lauded Osaka and Biles for their bravery in being vulnerable. He pointed out that athletes have experienced mental health struggles for a long time, though these things weren’t openly talked about. “[It’s important for athletes to be] able to say, ‘Today I didn’t feel right… And it doesn’t matter why,” he says. “It’s just enough to know that today, I wasn’t superhuman.’”


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How to Style Loafers – As Seen on the Streets of Paris | #Fashion

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How to Style Loafers - As Seen on the Streets of Paris

Photo by Getty Images

Wear them to your next brunch date, gallery hop or virtually anywhere.

Ever since Gucci reissued their signature loafers and Prada their platform version, loafers have been having a moment in many parts of the world. Specifically, fashion enthusiasts in Paris recently seem to be exceptionally fond of the classic style, showcasing a variety of ways to wear them. From the typical preppy number to a vibrant refresh, loafers are truly a versatile shoe that’s easy to style and stands the test of time. And once you find the right pair, they can easily become your go-to footwear of choice.

Whether you like your loafers simple, chunky or eccentric, take inspiration from the trendsetters in Paris on how to style them.

Pearls and ruffles

Photo by Edward Berthelot/Getty Images

The combination of soft and edgy never gets old. Giving off the same vibe as Villanelle’s monumental getup in Killing Eve (you know what I’m talking about), a babydoll dress is a perfect addition to a pair of chunky loafers. Add some pearly accessories and there you have an easy outfit you can dress up or down.

Get the look:

Wide-leg stance

Photo by Edward Berthelot/Getty Images

If you’ve been on TikTok, you’ll know this is how all the cool kids dress these days – wide-leg pants draped over an understated shoe, worn with a playful knitted vest. This tried-and-true outfit recipe works for any season and in many iterations, whether you layer a turtleneck underneath or wear it on its own.

Get the look:

Updated classic

Photo by Christian Vierig/Getty Images

Fashion guru and Swarovski creative director Giovanna Engelbert sure knows how to elevate a preppy look, adding oversized baubles and a pop of colour to her Chanel ensemble at the brand’s Spring/Summer 2022 Haute Couture show. A bralette + cardigan combo is a must-have for the season since you never know when a chilly breeze might hit.

Get the look:

Eye-catching outerwear

Photo by Edward Berthelot/Getty Images

A statement shacket deserves to be the highlight of your look, as seen on creative consultant Jean-Philippe Phiné N’djoli outside the Bluemarble show. To take things up a notch, he matched his footwear with one of the colours on his top, creating a nifty colour palette. The tailored silhouette and neutral tones keep the rest of the outfit balanced and on point.

Get the look:


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Ashley Callingbull Interview: FASHION Magazine September 2021 Cover | #Fashion

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Ashley Callingbull Interview: FASHION Magazine September 2021 Cover

Photography by GABOR JURINA. Jacket, $370, and rings, from $370, 4Kinship. Earrings, $1,000, Ahlazua x Catherine Blackburn.

Residential schools had a devastating impact on Callingbull and her family. The actor, beauty queen, influencer and September 2021 cover star speaks to fellow Cree David A. Robertson about facing — and overcoming — intergenerational trauma.

Ashley Callingbull wears many hats. She’s a beauty queen who was crowned Miss Canada in 2010 and Mrs. Universe in 2015. She’s an actor, playing Sheila Delaronde on the APTN drama Blackstone from 2011 to 2015. She’s an influencer with 1,000,000+ followers on her Instagram. She’s an advocate and a motivational speaker, giving talks on mental health, building self-confidence and her Indigenous culture. She’s a brand ambassador, most notably landing a deal with Nike in 2020. And she’s a survivor of physical, mental and sexual abuse.

Callingbull has been to hell and back, but she is living proof that trauma can be overcome. She speaks with confidence and heart, often sharing her message with a cocked eyebrow, even if tears are falling. She has no fear of vulnerability or of saying exactly what’s on her mind, even if it sets non-Indigenous people off. “I’m not speaking against Canadians; I’m speaking for Indigenous people,” she declares via Zoom from Florida, where she is staying with her fiancé, Wacey Rabbit, who plays centre for the Jacksonville Icemen hockey team. “A lot of Canadians don’t want to hear the truth, but truth is our power.”

Photography by GABOR JURINA. Coat, $380, and pants, $160, Evan Ducharme. Shoes, $130, Manitobah. Hat, $500, 4Kinship. Earrings, $60, Indi City.

When Callingbull was five years old, she and her mother left their home in Enoch Cree Nation in Alberta for Maskwacis (formerly known as Hobbema) to live with her mother’s boyfriend. He had a “charming persona” that covered up the terrible things he did to people, describes Callingbull. The abuse started soon after the move. Her mother didn’t know about it because he threatened to kill Callingbull, or her mother, if she said anything. He told her that nobody would ever love or appreciate her (“anything to break me”), and she believed it.

It would be five years before she and her mother escaped.

Photography by GABOR JURINA. Top, $220, skirt, $280, ring (on left), $495, and ring (on right), $370, 4Kinship. Earrings, $240, Iskwew Rising.

Callingbull was 10 years old when she had to testify in court; for the first time, she was forced to go into detail about what had happened to her. She remembers hearing her abuser and his family laughing while she testified; when she got off the stand, humiliated, she told herself that she would never speak out again.

She felt a pull to numb the pain with drugs and alcohol, but her kokum, Charlotte Callingbull, who had also been abused, urged her granddaughter to stay on the “red road” rather than put toxins in her body. In Indigenous communities, the red road is a path to wellness fostered by our connection to traditional ways of living, ceremony, all of our relations and Mother Earth. In Cree, the word for this is minopimatisiwin, or “the good life.” “That’s our strength,” emphasizes Callingbull. She also found healing in the sweat lodge, where she could cry and pray in safety, and by coming to an intimate understanding of intergenerational trauma.

Photography by GABOR JURINA. Jumpsuit, $440, 4Kinship. Bikini
top, $100, Angela DeMontigny. Earrings, $70, Warren Steven Scott.

When the remains of 215 Indigenous children, some as young as three, were found near the former site of Kamloops Indian Residential School, Callingbull’s family phoned to tell her that her moshom (grandfather) couldn’t stand to watch the news. George Callingbull had never been outspoken about what had happened to him, and it was like having old wounds reopened.

George attended St. Albert Youville residential school in Edmonton from 1944 to 1948, its last year of operation. The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation uncovered the names of 46 children who had died at the Catholic-run institution. Countless other victims are unknown. George arrived at St. Albert only speaking Cree, and this was met with a violent reaction. “They threw boiling water on him,” causing burns all over his body, says Callingbull.

Photography by GABOR JURINA. Dress, $160, Lauren Good Day. Earrings, $70, Warren Steven Scott. Top, stylist’s own.

Charlotte, who passed away in 2006, attended Ermineskin Indian Residential School from 1953 to 1962. Ermineskin was one of the largest residential schools in Canada. It was overcrowded, tuberculosis was widespread and there were other horrors, such as the physical and sexual abuse Charlotte endured. “She watched children starve and get put in cages,” says Callingbull, adding that her grandmother told her that a priest would impregnate young girls and then dispose of their babies.

George turned to substance abuse to mask the pain. One night, he was lying in a ditch on the side of the road when he realized that this was not who he, as an Indigenous person, was. Together, Callingbull’s grandparents turned their lives around. He became a medicine man and she a medicine woman, helping anybody who came to them.

Photography by GABOR JURINA. Jacket, $245, ring (on left), $470, and ring (on right), $495, 4Kinship. Top, $125, and pants, $160, Evan Ducharme.

Many Indigenous people have yet to break the cycle of harm, including Callingbull’s own abuser. He was abused by his parents, who experienced the same while attending residential school. “Everything they did to his parents, his parents did to him and then he did to me,” she says. It’s one of the reasons Callingbull doesn’t talk about residential schools as if they’re a thing of the past — the impacts of a system that only ended in 1996 are still felt today. When she’s told to “get over it” on social media, a phrase Indigenous people hear ad nauseam, she asks how that can be possible when Indigenous people are broken — and still breaking.

But Callingbull wants to make it clear that while the residential school system was designed to kill the Indian in the child, despite the staggering loss of thousands of children and the trauma that has reverberated through the generations, the government and church did not succeed.

Photography by GABOR JURINA. Jumpsuit, $440, 4Kinship. Earrings, $70, Warren Steven Scott.

How did that little girl, who had once vowed to stay silent, become somebody who could speak to a packed Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary for WE Day? Or to thousands of students and faculty members at Harvard University?

Callingbull was 14 when she found her voice again. Her infant sister, Ambee, had passed away from trisomy-18, a rare chromosomal disorder. She learned that it was cathartic to talk about what she was going through. That led to her volunteering at the children’s hospital in Edmonton, which, in turn, led to a position as a youth representative. She gained strength as she shared her story more and more and began to work with kids in the foster care system who were living through their own trauma. They would tell her how glad they were that they weren’t alone. That was when she realized how powerful her voice was and how inexorably that power was linked to truth.

Photography by GABOR JURINA. Jacket, $500, Mobilize. Dress, $160, Jamie Okuma. Earrings, $70, Warren Steven Scott.

She put her voice to good use again in 2015, when she became the first Canadian, and first Indigenous person, to win the title of Mrs. Universe. She entered the contest even though at the time she’d considered retiring from beauty pageants. Two things motivated her: The pageant’s focus was on raising awareness and funds for domestic abuse survivors and their children — something that is near to her heart. She also knew that a federal election was coming up and was well aware that the media wouldn’t listen to what she had to say unless she did something significant.

Sure enough, after becoming Mrs. Universe, Callingbull had the media in the palm of her hand. In one of her first interviews, she addressed Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, the foster care system, access to clean drinking water, land stewardship and environmental protection, how Indigenous people were treated like terrorists for fighting for their land and how the Stephen Harper government had failed Indigenous people. Callingbull hopes that the recent heartbreaking discoveries on several former residential school sites serve as a turning point for Canada. “It wasn’t just a system that was trying to civilize us; it was genocide, and people need to accept that,” she states.

Photography by GABOR JURINA. Top, $315, and hat, $500, 4Kinship. Skirt, $550, Lesley Hampton. Earrings, $70, Warren Steven Scott. Bra, stylist’s own.

Callingbull sees the path to reconciliation as a long-term process that requires healing to occur in First Nations communities, through spiritual and cultural programming; colonial systems to provide equitable treatment to Indigenous people; and Canadians to educate themselves so they understand the truth of this country’s past and present. “Doing this work honours the children,” she says. “It says a great deal about Canada — that it took the loss of so many children for people to listen. But now that they’re listening, we need to keep telling our stories.”

Callingbull’s moshom told her not to stop, and she has no plans to, tirelessly speaking out because she knows that others can’t. She manages the stress by keeping her mind and body healthy through ceremony and physical fitness — she can frequently be seen doing squats or poolside planks on Instagram and TikTok. Also shared: the video of her fiancé kneeling behind a treadmill with a little jewellery box, ready to pop the question when she hopped off. He, too, is in the business of breaking glass ceilings. Rabbit, who is from the Kainai First Nation, was the first Blackfoot to be drafted by the NHL.

Photography by GABOR JURINA. Dress, $165, Lauren Good Day. Earrings, $60, Indi City.

While packing for her move to Enoch Cree Nation ahead of her September wedding, Callingbull took the opportunity to make some donations to a local women’s shelter. She sees the victims of domestic violence, like herself, as survivors. When she and her mother finally escaped the abuse they’d been trapped in for so long, they were turned away from a shelter because it had no room — she doesn’t want that to happen to anybody else.

Callingbull’s long-term vision is to create her own foundation and start her own shelters, beginning with one in her community. She wants to provide a safe space for women and children and offer them a second chance at life, because she knows what it’s like to get that chance: “I may not be a medicine woman, but I can still help people heal.”

Photography by GABOR JURINA. Dress, $160, Jamie Okuma. Earrings, $150, Indi City. Top, stylist’s own.

Photography by GABOR JURINA. Styling by LUCREZIA MANCINI. Creative direction by GEORGE ANTONOPOULOS. Hair by GIANLUCA MANDELLI FOR CREATIVE MANAGEMENT. Makeup by COLLEEN STONE FOR CREATIVE MANAGEMENT. Producer: AKIHIRO KANAYA FOR FIRST OPTION PRODUCTIONS. Post-production: PATTY WATTEYNE. Fashion assistants: SOFIA DAGUANO, PATRICIO GAUDELLI.


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Naomi Osaka & Simone Biles Are Addressing Olympic Anxiety | #Fashion

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Naomi Osaka & Simone Biles Are Addressing Olympic Anxiety

Photography by
Xinhua News Agency/Getty Images

Olympic angst is nothing new—who can forget Kurt Browning’s apology to Canada after the 1994 Winter games?

It was the 1994 Winter Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway. Canadian world champion figure skater Kurt Browning was poised to take home a gold medal. But during his televised performance, he shockingly fell on his triple flip. Nerves set in, and as the performance went on, he failed to execute his double Axel. Once he completed his rocky performance, Browning bowed to the audience, and the camera closed in on his face seemingly mouthing the word “unbelievable.”

A live taping of the event shows a disappointed Browning sitting next to his coach after the skate, saying, “I need a hug,” while an Olympics commentator voices over the clip with, “Disaster doesn’t begin to describe what happened to Kurt Browning.” Despite his devastating loss, the athlete carried on to do press, in which a reporter brought up his performance at the 1992 Albertville, France Olympics, where he fell on his triple Axel attempt. The interviewer asked if Browning felt he was “reliving Albertville” with this defeat, and questioned why he seemed to struggle at the Olympics despite having won world championships in the past.

These are questions no one wants to answer, let alone think about, after enduring such a loss. Imagine experiencing a heart-wrenching defeat and immediately having to explain on a worldwide broadcast how and why you failed. This is the reality of Olympic anxiety and competing in the games, but maybe it shouldn’t be.

U.S. Olympic gymnast Simone Biles has been making headlines for her decision on July 28 to remove herself from both the team and individual all-around competitions at this summer’s 2020 Tokyo Olympics because of mental health concerns. The athlete spoke out about the extreme pressure that comes from competing in the Games and cited experiencing “the twisties” during practice: a term used among gymnasts to describe a phenomenon where their body and mind won’t cooperate, and as a result, they can’t perform skills.

Toronto-based physiotherapist Bridie Nicholson told FASHION athletes often seek help from sports psychologists to deal with the pressure of high-stakes competitions, as it can impact their physical abilities. “There’s a strong connection between where your mind is at and your ability to perform a movement in the best way,” she said. “You don’t move at your best when you’re stressed or when you’re thinking about the pressure.”

Despite the support she’s received for her decision to step back, Biles has also been criticized for being “weak” and “selfish” by forfeiting the U.S. gold medal and speaking out about Olympic anxiety. These criticisms exemplify the way high-level athletes’ bodies can be seen as public property, something viewers feel entitled to. Ironically, most of us cannot envision this type of pressure — Biles described it as having “the weight of the world on my shoulders at times.”

On July 27, Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka, who was expected to win gold, was eliminated from the Olympics after losing to Czech athlete Marketa Vondrousova. The Associated Press reported that Osaka said she felt “like there was a lot of pressure for this,” and that this loss “sucks more than the others.”

This kind of pressure is what pushed Osaka to remove herself from this year’s French Open, an annual tennis tournament held over two weeks in Paris, France. The 23-year-old athlete said the expectation to attend mandatory press conferences after matches worsened her Olympic anxiety, and she opted out to preserve her mental health.

When Kurt Browning suffered his loss at the 1994 Olympics, he famously issued an apology to all of Canada. His individual disappointment took a backseat and he took on the responsibility and guilt for not bringing a gold medal home to his country. Throughout their three-time Olympic figure skating run, athletes Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir were dubbed “Canada’s ice dance darlings” and dealt with the undoubtedly high expectations that came with that title.

The pressure put on Olympic athletes and the range of emotions they must experience is hard to imagine, Toronto-based psychotherapist Matt Cahill told FASHION. “I think the spectrum of emotions that athletes go through — and to some degree are expected to go through, even though they might not have signed up for all of it — is quite incredible.” It’s that same Olympic anxiety that makes competitors tie their performance to their worth as people, ultimately leading athletes like Osaka to pose the question, “What am I if I’m not a good tennis player?”

Biles and Osaka are imposing a necessary turning point in the treatment and expectations of Olympic athletes, he added. “We need our elite athletes to maybe not be these beasts of burden, who are there to hold our collective hopes and dreams, but rather for them to basically say, ‘We are individuals, we are fallible, and we don’t want to risk damaging our bodies if we don’t feel that we are up for this.’” The last thing an athlete wants to do is take themselves out of a competition, added Nicholson, but doing so to attend to mental health concerns is necessary.

Browning’s 1994 apology to Canada perfectly reflected the expectations put on Olympic athletes to succeed for their country. But as Osaka and Biles have demonstrated, this weight can be too much to take on. On July 28, Biles tweeted in appreciation of the support she’s received for her decision to step back. She said it has made her realize that she is more than her accomplishments as an athlete, something she “never truly believed before.”

Biles and Osaka are combatting Olympic anxiety not by apologizing, but by self-preserving, and that’s commendable.


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