Andrea is an old, passionate, hilarious white-haired woman in a hot, shameless, curious young woman’s body. She is currently living her life to the fullest. She has worked as a receptionist, science tutor, farm intern, barista, babysitter, nude model and waitress, among other things. Her passion is writing stories, and living adventures both real and imagined. Andrea also loves singing, dancing, improvising, and acting. She is a graduate of the University of Toronto (Major: English, Minors: Religion and Paradigms & Archetypes) as well as a certified yoga teacher from the Sivananda Yoga Centre.
I first met Andrea at a summer solstice jello wrestling party. What? I have cool friends. There's not much I can share about that night, but I can give you a couple of tips for working with Funjel. First, don't dump it on the grass because it's very difficult to get off your lawn. Second, if you have hair like mine, a salt water soak does wonders to get it out of your hair.
1. When we first met a couple of summers ago, you were working and living on a farm and working on a novel. What are you working on now?
I’m a long way from the farm! The novel I was working on, about a whorehouse in Heaven, has morphed into a collaborative collection of short stories and photography with my friend and director Nicole Bazuin called Modern Whore. The novel itself was based on a short story I’d written called “Our Girl Violet,” which will now take the form of short, episodic tales featured throughout the book among other stories of fiction and non-fiction, which all serve to tell an over-arching narrative of one girl’s entry and exit from the sex industry. Each story will be accompanied with Nicole’s expert photography, starring little ol’ me as model.
2. Did you grow up in a creative household?
Yes and no. My brother and I were raised by our single mother until I was sixteen. My mom worked full-time, fed us, and fixed anything around the house that needed to be fixed. In a word, she was both the man and woman of the house. She forever encouraged to pursue my passions and above all, be myself. She’s also the funniest woman I know, which has certainly impacted my life and imbued everything I do with a cheerful sense of humour. While the house itself wasn’t an artistic haven by any means, I never felt isolated or outcasted by my interests in writing and performing. My family, particularly my mom, dad, and step-dad, have always been very supportive of my pursuits which has allowed for an incredible and unprecedented level of openness and honesty for which I am eternally grateful as an artist.
3. Describe a typical day for you.
These days, I work full time as an assistant to a film and TV agent, so five days of the week, my life is very structured and geared towards maximally multi-tasking and getting everything done from 8:45 AM to 6:00 PM. On the weekends, if I’m not visiting my farm-boy boyfriend in Kitchener, I am sitting in a café trying to catch up on emails, editing stories for Modern Whore and occasionally reading a book – which is, right now, Dancing in the Flames by Marion Woodman and Elinor Dickson.
4. What or who inspires you?
I have a pantheon of artists and heroes who inspire me, each a saint to be called upon in times of need. They are, but not limited to: William Blake (ultimate artist), Patti Smith (performer), Davey Graham (guitarist), Leonard Cohen (poet), Aldous Huxley (author), Robin Williams (transcendent clown), Rihanna (unashamed sexual star), and Mary Wollstonecraft (godmother of feminism).
5. What's the most ambitious project you've worked on to date?
Modern Whore is definitely the most ambitious project I’ve worked on, but I suppose filming for three months straight as the lead actress in a feature film called Advocate comes in a close second. And that project was certainly “ambitious” from start to finish. Low budget, as independent as you can imagine, it was the writer/director’s first film, as well as mine. There was a lot of trial and error, like when the director reviewed the footage a month and a half in and discovered almost all of it was out of focus. The culprit? The half-blind director of photography he hired for free off Craigslist. Ambitious is one word to describe that project.
6. What's the biggest creative risk you've taken so far?
I recently performed one of the short stories from Modern Whore on stage as part of the Bed Post show hosted by Erin Pim. The performance involved wearing a thin negligée and inviting audience members to squirt strawberry Nesquik all over me as a homage to Carrie who has pig’s blood dumped on her after being crowned prom queen. Of course, we all know how that ended for everybody else. The story, called Holy Ho, attempts to draw the connection between sex workers who are socially “pig blooded” for living their lives, while also arguing that we are all, sex worker or not, “hoes” – working for money when we’d rather be doing something else. It was a big risk but I’m quite proud of the results. I hope to do more performing of Modern Whore stories in the future, and perhaps unite them all as part of a one-woman show.
7. Have you had any career disappointments?
When I’d chosen the farm path three years ago, I was at the peak of my (then, very short) comedy career. I had been doing improv at The Second City Training Center and the opportunity to go further with their year-long Conservatory Program beckoned. I was also working there as the front desk receptionist so my ties there were deeply entrenched. I had to choose between the Conservatory and going to the farm, and as we know, I chose the farm and left Toronto and the comedy scene behind. I knew it wasn’t permanent, but it was still painful. A dear teacher, at a social gathering after our last class, asked me why, why hadn’t I auditioned for the program? The tears streamed down my face – I had chosen the farm. I have no regrets about my decision, but I can certainly speak to that time as being a bit “disappointing” for myself and for others who believed in my comedic potential. The good news is, I’m back in Toronto stronger, wiser, and funnier than ever. I haven’t missed a beat.
8. Any advice for aspiring artists/creatives?
Always follow your heart. If you’re anything like me and full-time work scares the crap out of you, don’t let fear hold you back. While it may take up a lot of your time, the time you have left over to devote to your craft will be all the more sweet. Find a way to make money that bolsters your creative life. Believe in yourself, your work, and your worth. You have something to say that has never been said, because no one can say it like you can. Just keep working.
9. What's next for you?
I’m going to continue working with Nicole on our Modern Whore book, writing more salacious and thought-provoking feminist smut and posing for sexy accompanying photos to tingle and tantalize our readers. I also hope to continue performing, whether I’ve written the material or someone else has, improvising, and fingers crossed, making music. All the while balancing my wicked-awesome job at the heart of the Canadian entertainment industry! In a word, what’s next is making, making, making.
Interview by Glodeane Brown. Photo from Andrea's website.