All photos by Jacquline Ashton
Styled by Sammi Smith
Tell me a bit about yourself (name, where you’re from, what you do, what interests you etc.)
My name is Chelsea Russell, I was born in Barbados and raised in Jamaica and have been living in Toronto for the past six years. My interests… singing, writing, eating, sleeping, laughing, dogs.. Art. Food.
You have your hand in many bags right now so to speak, you’re a pretty multi-dimensional creative. Can you speak to how you got to where you are today? (Driving forces, mentors, gut feelings?)
Well my mother is a piano teacher and so music and that creative sense has always been around me since a young age. I was never really sure how I wanted to creatively express my ideas but I knew that doing it through art was very important to me. I always loved to sing and people always encouraged me to do it. So that was the first avenue, paired with my instrument being the piano music was definitely a medium of expression for me. I also trained in the Royal Academy of Dance’s syllabus in the Caribbean for about 10 years consistently and did a lot of modern dance, movement has always been very very important to me. Bodies are so beautiful. I moved to Toronto to get a Bachelor of Fine Arts at some University here, anyway I ended up going to York for their Acting Conservatory and have been pursuing a career in that as well. Separate from that that program helped me to understand the beauty of humans why their stories and experiences are so important for me to tell and thats what has motivated the majority of my projects, whether it’s writing, recording, acting or even a shoot !
What project past, present or future has been most meaningful to you?
Probably a culminating project I did towards the end of my time at York it was meant to be a short one woman show to depict an Archetype I had chosen. I paired up with a very talented choreographer and close friend of mine to tell the story of ignorance and a foreigner in a new place, being misunderstood through short vignettes and dance. It was interesting because I had been out of touch with dance for about 4 years and had been intensively studying acting every single day so I tried to portray the idea as clearly as possible just through movement and it was just me on the stage for the entire piece. It was received well and I would love to develop it into something more.
If you had to collectively name the message you are trying to portray through your work, what would it be?
At this point in my development as an artist I’m still open to direction through life experience. For me to define name a message might be limiting. I have so many ideas and they shift, morph and change depending … I would like to establish myself as a solo artist but currently I am pretty dependent on portraying other people’s ideas to the best of my ability. I don’t have a theme or specific goal. Perhaps it’s more about human experience specifically through acting, the reason I do it is because I love people I love humans. It’s more about understanding them and their motives. Having lived in such diversely different places I have a very wide understanding of human behaviour and would like to portray that kind of idea through my work. The lens is super wide right now.
Are there any societal ideas about women you feel particularly need to be challenged?
I’ve never worn a bra. And have always received unnecessary attention for it. I think the social media movement towards “freeing the nipple” is a very valid argument and I wish it were taken even more seriously. I said it before I think the human body is a wonderful thing and to censor it or pervert it in any way is ludicrous to me. Coming from the Caribbean we have always been very open minded to embracing all women’s body types and how they want to dress themselves. However I’ve found the conservative nature of some parts of North America to be so regressive and sad.
Who is one woman who inspires you?
Maxan Russell is a supremely powerful, successful, beautiful and inspiring artist in Jamaica to me.
As a creative finding your path, what words of advice do you have for the easy. community?
A friend of mine once said “ Be Happy, Do what you love, Have sex Get money … Repeat” - King Akstar.