HER: Best of 2016

While it wasn’t literally the worst year ever, between the state of the world (environment, wars, rising nationalism/religious fundamentalism, elections of governments with explicit white supremacist agendas, alarming rates of gender based violence and femicide, ongoing genocides of peoples all over the earth including right here), and the fact that as people with ‘timelines’ we are most likely exposed to stories about all of those things multiple times a day, 2016 has been…rough.

Its been a lot and and its taken a lot for us to get through, but we have.

For us, a big part of that has been finding people and spaces where we can create, collaborate and celebrate with each other. With good vibes only. And good art/inspiration/understanding, which we wanted to share with you. So we put together a list of some of the things that have brought us joy, inspiration, understanding, respite, and relief this year. Take a look at some of our best of’s below and share some of yours.

Thank you for being on this journey with us and Happy New Year!

Love HER.


Song or Album that was on repeat:

Lydia: There are so many to chose from – it was a fuckin’ phenomenal. Hands down my album of the year was A Seat At The Table by Solange. Every track has resonance for me, but I felt a resounding “yes! thank you!” upon first listen of “Don’t Touch My Hair”. The lines “You know this hair is my shit, Rolled the rod, I gave it time, But this here is mine”  have given me life over and over. Nothing quite like jubilant defiance of accepting your natural hair texture (if you so choose).


Shemeena: ANTI. Every time I heard it, it felt like I was developing the armour I needed to get through the year. And there was something about “Consideration” that no matter where I was, or what I was doing, hearing Rihanna and SZA’s voices together made me pause and toughen my stance a bit.

Janu: This  year’s releases came back to back, so much so that I’m still processing and digesting a lot of the work. But what I will say is that I’m a sucker for breakfast, waves, honey crisp apples and some good r&b albums. Over the course of the past few weeks, I’ve had ‘Rise’ by Solange playing almost every morning. “Fall in your ways, so you can crumble…so you can wake up and rise”. I carry this song and  it reflects the process of breaking what you know of yourself to become who you’re meant to be. Catharsis and metamorphosis in one. I’m down with it. (I lowkey listen to Pigment by H.E.R, Musiq Soulchild & Bach’s Violin Concerto in A Minor at least 5 times a day though).

Yaayaa: When I like (highkey love) a song I tend to kill it. To the point that most people that know me don’t care to hear that song ever again in life! But I know my stuff so I don’t care what anybody has to say about my bad habits. The songs I had on repeat this year were Julian Thomas’ ‘Ownership’ and  Travis Scott’s ‘The Ends’ off of the album “Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight”. My iTunes does not lie and these two songs were in my 25 most played and both songs had incredibly redeeming qualities about them. In the case of Julian Thomas’ Ownership it had the ideals of a Sade song on codeine and sprite, while with The Ends, Andre 3000 spit a verse that could spawn a whole docu-series. One song had me thinking a drug induced sexcapade could be a fun idea (I did not indulge), while the other made me want to watch serial killer documentaries on Netflix. Safe to say they both did their job!

Talya: 2016 gave us a lot of shit but it also gave us a phenomenal year in music. It’s so hard for me to pick just one. ANTI stood out for me and stayed steadily on repeat. Watching Rihanna step into her purpose once again and speak to heartbreak, self awareness and sensuality was so enjoyable – especially on “Kiss It Better” (and who knew we needed that cover of “Same Ol’ Mistakes” the way we did?). I really believe she gave us the album of 2016. Oh wow, now I’m thinking of all of the beautiful women who gave us something special…TiKA’s EP, Carry On soothes my soul and provides release…  Nao’s “Adore You” was another big one that felt like a blessing in all it’s hypnotic goodness. Other highlights: The Life of Pablo was an incredibly generous Kanye standout and made me feel mighty and healed. Watching Young M.A push thru gave us a funass moment of relief this summer and it goes without saying that the Knowles sisters gave women the most cathartic, epic projects we never could have imagined. My petty side will forever smile a petty grin when those first petty notes of “Sorry” drop. Thank you, Goddess Bey.


A live performance you can’t forget…

Kat: I don’t have the patience for award shows as I once did but, Rihanna’s Video Vanguard performance was so great to see. The costume changes and seeing her huge body of work as a young woman was inspiring. I also got to see Florence and the Machine for the first time and she was a modern rock n’ roll fairy queen. Contrasted with her sweet speaking voice, I enjoyed hearing her stories of how each song was written (mostly hungover) and the meaning behind the song. I would be a liar if I said I wasn’t entranced by her blooming and flowing costumes, SIGH. She even got us to turn off our phones and it was beautiful.

Yaayaa: I love going to live performances where artists are not yet discovered but are on the cusp of a major rise. My favourite live performance was Tika’s show at the Drake Underground featuring Sydanie, Desire, and my two non blood related brothers Claremont The Second and Cola. This performance was a true manifestation of what it is that you can do when you put your heart and soul into something that you are truly passionate about and watch it manifest into something amazing. This show was a family vibe and it was a true testament to the talent that is in this city, that is not OVO related. Not only were the performances absolutely amazing, but Tika came into true form and boy was she alive! This show was filled with laughs, tears, happiness, sorrow and joy Tika made us all lay our problems down at the altar while she preached at the pulpit!

Shemeena: I was lucky enough to see Prince when he played his Piano & A Microphone tour here in march. It was breathtaking and virtuosic. I sang, cried, laughed and marvelled. I also saw Too Attached perform at Massey Hall and Metropolis this fall which was incredible.

Lydia: I’d have to say one of my favourite performances of the year was Chance The Rapper’s performance of “No Problem” on Ellen. Check it if you haven’t! Weezy and 2 Chainz round the whole thing out, but as always Chance puts on a joy-filled romp.

Janu: I would honestly have to say that my absolute favourite live performance this year was seeing Gallant live. His ‘Ology’ album was a beautiful piece of work, but after hearing him live I can safely say that the audio doesn’t do his vocal ability and range any justice. I hung on to every falsetto, riff and vibrato.

Talya: I drove to Chicago for Kanye’s homecoming show on The Life of Pablo tour. It was special. Something that you can’t describe, insta story or  boomerang, even to the best of your ability. It was hard to watch at times and I openly bawled… I mean.. WEPT at several moments. It was one of the last shows he did before canceling the balance of the tour and it was the first show after the Kim/robbery spectacle. I think he was sad. I was also blessed enough to go to the Formation World Tour and it was truly a religious experience. Beyoncé has ascended as a performer. She has shot through the stratosphere. There will never be another.


Most impressionable article/essay read?

Kat: The Scourge of Unpaid Female Labour is something that I’ve been thinking about a lot this year. This is even an issue the Gates Foundation has identified as a priority. The redistribution of labour hasn’t changed much in recent years and I think this is a problem we need to tackle to ensure womxn have full equality to men.

Lydia: This piece on Man Repeller about being a “fashion girl” while also being plus sized  shifted my perspective in a few ways. It, in a lot of ways, made me feel less isolated about my experience in “the industry” (fashion industry, to be exact) where my size can often be a barrier. How come we’re left with boring and drab options, with no room for flourish? Emily was candid about the desire for being included… “But I also want everyone to consider that next time you see a plus size girl walking down the street in some printed top you think is horrendous and a pair of boring pants, it’s possible that what she really wants to be wearing may only exist in her head. For now. Just know that we like cool clothes, too.” While bringing to question the lack of inclusion for those over size 10, it also shed a light that despite having limited options, people outside of straight sized clothing want cool stuff too! Even if we’re wearing an outfit that doesn’t read that way.

Yaayaa: Alicia Bunyan Sampson’s series, “Diary of a Polyamorous Black Girl” was the absolute lick! It put into perspective what it is to like and/or love many different people but from the viewpoint of a black girl. For many of us that are black girls or women of colour. our sexuality has always been tied to patriarchy and monogamy. This article here… it blew off the hinges when it comes to how women of colour talk about sexuality and relationships and the fluidity that goes along with them.

Shemeena: “What my children learn about themselves in school” by Métis writer Chelsea Vowel who writes at âpihtawikosisân was one of the pieces that struck me most this year. She discusses her children’s experiences learning about Indigenous peoples in school (where they are either not represented or misrepresented), how she navigates this with them, and how representation and history are integral to our understanding of each other. It was such a powerful read for me and I have learned so much from reading her work at âpihtawikosisân as well as her book Indigenous Writes: A Guide to First Nations, Métis & Inuit Issues in Canada. 

Janu: I didn’t understand the concept of polyamory, and of feeling for more than one person at one given time until I read our dear friend Alicia’s article on her experiences as a polyamorous Black womxn. I didn’t pass judgement, it’s not my style. I just didn’t understand, and as a result felt conflicted about where I’ve stood in relationships past. It was eye opening to read her entries for two reasons: I learned  a lot in general, and I learned more about myself. I would highly recommend reading it with an open heart, spirit and mind.

Image courtesy of Courtney Moore

Talya: I think our team is all in agreeance that Alicia shifted the conversations we had and are now having about sex and love. She is so powerful. I am in awe and complete gratitude for her generosity and how she helped put us on the map. The story even got picked up by Everyday Feminism.


Best eats of the year?

Kat: Hanmoto is the gift that keeps on giving, just when you thought you were over the izakaya trend. Get the hamachi tartare, the nasu dengaku, the okra and the dyno wings. It’s been said, but try and get yourself a reservation at Alo, the service is unbelievably attentive and you will savour each bite. Is it bad that the most memorable part of the meal was the homemade bread and butter? Maybe, but you can judge me for it.

Janu: I’ve been frequenting Doo Roo Ae & Sunrise House (both on Bloor West) for my late night Korean food fix quite a bit this year (by quite a bit I mean once a week). This is a big deal because I rarely ever want to go back to the same spot with cravings as intense as they are – highly recomend. In terms of of my go to brunch spot (cause ya girl loves brunch), The Commodore on Queen West is my absolutely favourite. You NEED to try their pancakes.

A very large video of Janu’s eggs at Commodore.

Shemeena: There is one dessert that is my go-to when I want to celebrate anything, and that is the chocolate terrine at Enoteca Sociale. It’s the lightest, richest, most decadent chocolate mousse type thing with olive oil, salt and hazelnuts sprinkled on top. Its heavenly and hedonistic in the same spoonful.

Yaayaa: Hands down this goes to Sweet Jesus on King. Sweet baby Jesus I am not a girl that is big on sweets (I love me some sodium) but, this place has the best desserts in the city! Like the type of desserts are so good its damn near orgasmic –  I feel so gluttonous after I eat a dessert from there. It’s a guilty pleasure.

Lydia: We had some delicious corn on my birthday at Alibi Room, back in september. Sadly I did NOT get the name of the dish… but the tastiness lives on in the memories of my tastebuds. Otherwise, there has been a multitude of delicious meals (Portland I’m looking at you). Be sure to stop in at Pine State Biscuits if you ever find yourself on the NE side of Portland!

Talya: I know I’m late to the game with this one… but I was just in Brooklyn for a whirlwind working weekend with the broke&living team and Charlene made it a point to make sure we made a point to eat at Sweet Chick. Extremely satisfying vegetarian Chicken and Waffles were had. This was a life changing experience for me.


Best TV Binge:

Lydia: I’ve watched a lot of Netflix this year – my latest favourite was Chewing Gum. This BBC series was absurd and pretty frickin’ hilarious. The protagonist, Tracey, does everything wrong and in the most awkward ways. This is constantly endearing and hilarious. She is ambling along in young adulthood in the most cringeworthy ways, and I couldn’t look away.

Janu: Binge watching is the only way I watch shows, it’s truly a lifestyle. I’m also a sucker for a good anime series. Aside from delving into shorter series, a longer one that I really got into was Hunter x Hunter. Like many anime series, this one is broken into a several arcs but ultimately follows our main character Gon and his best friend Killua in their journey as ‘hunters’, as friends and in their personal lives. It’s not as deep as I’m making it seem, I promise, but I enjoyed this series so much that I followed through and read the manga.

Kat: Chewing Gum was the perfect show for me to watch this year. I absolutely live for the character of Candice played by Danielle Walters who serves looks the whole show. I loved her way of hilariously telling it like it is when Tracey gets into some hilarious situations (ex: losing her virginity at 24, unknowingly becoming a drug dealer etc). We also see Candice evolving – she eschews her boring sex life, asking her partner for what she wants and asserting who she is. Overall’s, Chewing Gum’s flavour of secondhand, cringeworthy scenarios left me beet-red with laughter. As a bonus, you can probably watch the whole season in about 2 hours.

Shemeena: In anticipation of all the Star Trek movies playing at the TIFF Bell Lightbox this past fall, I decided to rewatch all seven seasons of The Next Generation. It was one of the best decisions I made all year. I love the premise of a science ship on a peaceful mission to explore galaxies far and wide, as well as the vision of the future they projected where human society had evolved past racism, sexism, material greed etc. I stalled somewhere in season six and somehow missed the movies but its hopeful, and science-y, and examines ethical leadership in interesting and sometimes uncomfortable ways. And you see amazing space visuals all the time, the landscapes/backgrounds are all planets and stars! Also, I have always loved Data. Like…loved Data. Like ‘had a life size poster of him in my first office’ loved. So there’s that.


Talya: The Get Down. Without question. Zeke 4ever. Watching it felt like watching the series I had waited my whole life to watch and being quietly blessed like this by Nas was really what we needed in 2016. I was also here for the nostalgia and fun of Stranger Things.


Yaayaa: My favourite show that I binged watch was the Netflix original Marvel’s Luke Cage. Honestly the show’s acting is not the greatest especially from the main character Luke Cage as well the script writing is very…interesting. The sexual innuendos were elementary at best and made me cringe but overall the show was really good when it came to the action scenes and plot. My favourite character throughout the whole show (I can’t believe they killed him) is Cottonmouth. Yes he was a villain but in a lot of ways reminded me of myself even though he was a terrible human being. His back story made it hard for me not to love him. Plus he’s fine and his laugh is delicious!


Best Read:

Kat: I read quite a bit of nonfiction this year – one book that I’ve had on my list for a few years was a book called DRIVE by Daniel H Pink. I felt like this was a book I “should” read and in the end I’m happy I did. Learning about what motivates people to succeed was eye-opening and this book also unravels the scientific backing behind what motivates us (find your flow, being autonomous, intrinsic motivation, and of course a livable wage). The ultimate freedom for creative groups is the freedom to experiment with new ideas. Some sceptics insist that innovation is expensive. In the long run, innovation is cheap. Mediocrity is expensive—and autonomy can be the antidote.”   

Shemeena: 2016 was the year I finally started reading for pleasure again. While I mostly caught up on the piles of books from my to read list from the last few years, the book from 2016 that I loved most, and that also has a special place in my heart, is Vivek Shraya’s even this page is white. I have read so much of Vivek’s work over the years, and while her lyrics and prose are always beautiful, there is something about the way the language and melody of the words, connect with the soberness and starkness of writing about race, that is so arresting. Everytime I read one of the poems or see them performed, it also makes me do the work of examining my own culpability and complicity in upholding systems of oppression.

You can purchase etpiw here.

Lydia: The best book I read was Shrill by Lindy West. My favourite passage was – “Maybe you are thin. You hiked that trail and you are fit and beautiful and water and I am so proud of you, I am so in awe of your wiry brightness; and I’m miles behind you, my breathing ragged. But you didn’t carry this up the mountain. You only carried yourself. How hard would you breathe if you had to carry me? You couldn’t. But I can. ”

Janu: ‘Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear’ by Elizabeth Gilbert. I wouldn’t say I’m the biggest fan of her writing style but Eat, Pray, Love and Big Magic were my favourites from her. I would say that anyone and everyone that is a creative should pick this book up and give it a read. She covers things we already know, but puts it in such a digestible format. It’s a super easy read with a lot of tweetables, quoteables and relatables (lol – I’m being absolutely serious). This paired with ‘The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck’ by Sarah Knight will push me into 2017 channeling the womxn I am becoming.

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