Know Her Stories

Get to Know: Raia Carey
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Get to Know: Raia Carey
Raia—or “Coach Carey”—is a three-time-certified life coach, motivational speaker, and co-founder of Get Real, a charity that provides antiblack racism workshops, anti-bullying workshops, and LGBTQIA+ awareness workshops to schools, camps, and businesses. By openly sharing how she has overcome personal hardships, she creates a welcoming and safe environment for people to shift their mindset towards self-awareness, resilience, acceptance and sustainable success.  Why do you feel like your work is important? It doesn't matter who you are, where you're from, what you look like, or how you identify—everyone is going to have ups and downs, and it's important for us to be able to be proactive about those ups and downs in life. Everyone can work on building their confidence from within.   "It doesn't matter who you are, where you're from, what you look like, or how you identify—everyone is going to have ups and downs..." What’s something you wish someone talked to you more about when you were younger? Mental health issues, body image issues, and how to build confidence. I've dedicated my work to helping people move through the same issues I’ve struggled with so they can build the confidence to go through life. We all need that. I wish I’d learned how to speak to myself, and about myself, because that plays a big role in how you show up in the world.  Growing up, I really never heard anyone talking about body image. For someone like me, who's masculine representing and identifies a little bit differently than just male or female, it would’ve been really helpful to learn that I'm not alone. It's beautiful to see that now there are those resources for young people.   But I think that would have really helped me to hear more people talking about the realm of mental health. When I was younger, I faced a lot of bullying. I hated school. I cried. I never wanted to be there. I think if I would have learned a bit more about how to regulate my emotions at that age, it would have helped a lot.  How did you get started doing this? I started with really wanting to understand myself and others, which is why I majored in psychology. Psychology was a great way for me to gain insight on why people do the things they do. But I never saw myself represented in that field, whether it was case studies, or the work we were studying. So I thought, “How can I support myself and my communities if I don't see myself represented here?”  Given my background in psychology, life coaching seemed like a great fit. So, I went back to school for coaching when I was 27, and I really felt like I had to get back to the drawing board. I thought, “How can I support myself and support others?” Now I have three certifications in coaching, and I honestly can say that I love what I do so much. "I wish I’d learned how to speak to myself, and about myself, because that plays a big role in how you show up in the world."  Can you share one of the hardest things to overcome in your work? I love that people are getting more support, but what I find difficult in my space of life coaching is that there are a lot of people calling themselves life coaches that aren't certified, and that could be potentially harmful to someone who's looking to hire someone.  How are taboo topics about women's bodies, women's health, pregnancy and postpartum sex holding women back?  The two things that really get me fired up that I wish we talked about more are women's reproductive health and mental health. We need to be talking about these things.   I recently was in the hospital with a lot of cramps and pain. I had no idea what was going on. I wish these types of things were talked about more because then I could’ve been more proactive and preventative. The doctor thought I had a cyst on my ovaries. It turned out to be my fibroids. Luckily, I’m fine. I just wish that this was discussed or talked about more when I was younger.   "The two things that really get me fired up that I wish we talked about more are women's reproductive health and mental health. We need to be talking about these things."  What do we all stand to gain by connecting women to their power and inner strength?  When more women-identifying people have access to education and resources, I think the whole world stands to benefit. Historically, women-identifying people often put resources, money, and support back into the community, and back into young people. That’s how we continue to learn, grow, and share together. And I think our world could stand to use more women-identifying people in power, leadership, and support. When they have those resources and education, women-identifying people build their inner strength, their confidence, their morale, and it helps how they show up as leaders, partners, friends, and mothers.   What do you hope people walk away with after working with you?  The most rewarding part of my work is when my clients no longer need me and have the tools to truly do things on their own. I also love it when my clients have those “Aha” moments. Sometimes just a reframe, a shift in language, or a new perspective can have such a big impact on how someone feels about themselves. That gets me fired up.  Writing: Carter Selinger
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Get to Know: Shaughnessy Otsuji
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Get to Know: Shaughnessy Otsuji
Shaughnessy Otsuji is a cosmetic and restorative tattoo artist. She’s the owner of Studio Sushiko, which has locations in Langley, BC, and Los Angeles, California. Her passion lies in restoring confidence, taking an inclusionary approach to her work. She helps people reclaim aspects of their physical appearance while collaborating with them to realize their truest inner beauty. Why do you feel like your work is important?  It's transformative, it's restorative. It brings confidence to every single person that I tattoo. It's restoring a feature that a person has lost. It's really impactful.   "The emotional aspect of my work can be difficult. I think a lot of people get into this career because it's rewarding. And it is. It's amazing to be able to offer this to people, but not everyone realizes how heavy it can be..."   How did you get started doing this? I’ve been a cosmetic tattoo artist for over a decade. I started off brow tattooing, and got a lot of clients who were going through chemotherapy and losing their brow hair. I have an aunt who had a double mastectomy, and she was my inspiration for getting into nipple tattooing. She had a preventative double mastectomy, and she was the one who told me that I should start offering nipple tattoos. The more I learned about what she had gone through, the more I became convinced that this was an amazing thing that needed to be offered. So she kind of pushed me in that direction. Now, I finally get to tattoo her in, like, two weeks. I'm so excited! Can you share one of the hardest things to overcome in your work?  The emotional aspect of my work can be difficult. I think a lot of people get into this career because it's rewarding. And it is. It's amazing to be able to offer this to people, but not everyone realizes how heavy it can be going into these appointments and hearing everyone's story. I've definitely learned a ton about different types of surgeries and different scarring and mastectomies, and radiation. You have to take that on. As amazing as everyone’s story is, it's heavy. Half the time I don't even realize it until the end and I'm like, wow, I just learned so much about this person.  How are taboo topics about women's bodies, women's health, pregnancy and postpartum sex holding women back?  Social media still censors a lot of the work I do. I’ll spend a good two to three hours sometimes editing a video. I’ll make sure the transitions are perfect and everything lines up with the music. Then, I’ll finally post it, and within like 20 minutes it'll get flagged and deleted. That’s frustrating. I get a community guidelines violation, and it gets removed for “nudity” or “sexual activity.” It's really frustrating because I want to show people what's available for them. But Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook will delete my posts right away. I guess I'm flattered that it looks realistic and people are falling for it, but it should be allowed. It's a tattoo of a nipple. It's not even a real nipple, but what's the big deal with nipples anyway? Everyone has them.  "It's a tattoo of a nipple. It's not even a real nipple, but what's the big deal with nipples anyways? Everyone has them.”  But as far as reconstruction goes, and as far as tattooing goes, I do have a lot of clients who go through the process and don't know what's available to them. It's great when they end up doing their research and find me and find out that there is a natural-looking option. Sometimes people will bring me a photo of what they used to look like for reference, but oftentimes they have a blank canvas so they can choose their ideal nipple type, which might even be a heart shape, which is really fun. And I like to add as many details as possible. Strategic shadows and highlights, little bumps and wrinkles—all those little details that may be perceived as flaws end up making it look so much more natural and realistic. What do we all stand to gain by connecting women to their power and inner strength?  I feel like when women come together in a community, they're able to share so much knowledge between each other and go through things together. That’s so helpful when you're dealing with something as intense as breast cancer and reconstruction.  "I feel like when women come together in a community, they're able to share so much knowledge between each other and go through things together."  What do you hope people walk away with after working with you?  I hope that my clients walk away with the most confidence that they've ever had, and oftentimes I see it in their face, which is amazing. Once they leave my studio, it's like a weight is lifted off their shoulders. They can look in the mirror and not see scars anymore. They don't see this memory of cancer anymore. They just see what they used to look like.   Writing: Carter Selinger
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Get to Know: Nikki Bergen
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Get to Know: Nikki Bergen
Nikki is the Creator of The Belle Method and The Bump Method Inc. She fuses Pilates with Pelvic Health, supporting everyone in feeling confident and strong throughout pregnancy, birth, postpartum and beyond. Why do you feel your work is important? Women's health has been largely neglected in many spheres, and now we're kind of behind in terms of research and how we treat women throughout pregnancy and postpartum. The more we educate women, the more they can advocate for what makes the most sense for them.  After giving birth, so many issues are explained away as just being “part of motherhood.” Women think, “I'll just suck it up.” And, unfortunately, when women have issues with incontinence, pain, or their pelvic floor there aren’t many people saying, “Yeah, this is common, but you don't have to live with it.” I'm very passionate about spreading the word because I think women internalize a lot of shame about issues with fertility, miscarriages, and complications with pregnancy when so often they’ve done nothing wrong. How did you get started doing this? I was a dancer. I injured my knee, found pilates, rehabbed it, and it was life changing. After that, I started working out of a physiotherapy clinic. In my mid-twenties, I felt I had no business teaching pilates to firefighters with herniated discs, and 65-year-olds with osteoporosis, and a teen with scoliosis and a rod in her back. But those were my clients. And so, I studied hard before each session and asked the physios, chiropractors, and massage therapists what I could do with each person. I learned so much from them early on.  Then, I started to make group classes. I was really able to fuse my dance background with my injuries and special populations background, which helped me create a class that would be a fun, energizing, accessible workout. I started getting a lot more pregnant women coming, and I thought: “Ooh, you guys need your own thing.” So, I started classes for pregnancy and postpartum.   "I think if we really focus on empathy, community, and support, there's nothing we can't accomplish."  What’s something you wish someone talked to you more about when you were younger?Pelvic health. When I was starting out, 70% of women in my postpartum class were joking about having bladder problems. I had no kids then. I was still in my twenties and I thought, “I need to learn more about this. I don't think this is the way it's supposed to be.” Then, after having my own kids in my thirties, my interest in pelvic health sort of just grew and grew. So, I'm not going to stop talking about it. I also really believe in community over competition. And I think that’s something we really need to teach our young girls about. There's this societal myth that women are catty and cruel to each other, and I really have found the opposite to be true. I think if we really focus on empathy, community, and support, there's nothing we can't accomplish. Can you share one of the hardest things to overcome in your work? I spend a lot of time convincing my students that it's never too late to improve their pelvic health. A lot of people think that peeing their pants, or having symptoms of heaviness, or having bad diastasis means it's over for them. But I have students in their 60s who are improving their quality of life, improving their pelvic health, and just feeling better in their own bodies.   After pregnancy there's a lot of trying to slim down, lose weight, and take up less space to fit a certain aesthetic. I like to come from a place of function. Let’s just work to help our bodies function well. Let’s come from a place of gratitude, especially if you've carried a pregnancy, for everything our bodies have been through and helped us through.   "Let’s come from a place of gratitude, especially if you've carried a pregnancy, for everything our bodies have been through and helped us through."  How are taboo topics about women's bodies, women's health, pregnancy and postpartum sex holding women back?Let's talk about postpartum sex. We are often cleared at six weeks to say we can resume all normal activities, including penetrative intercourse, and some women internalize that as pressure. It’s like “You’ve got to go do this.” And we're not really given any guidance. We're told the advice: “Just use some lube, be on top, have some wine,” and it's like a joke. But a lot of women experience pain, and then they think there's something wrong with them. But they haven't really gotten help. They haven't seen a physiotherapist, or learned about their pelvic floor. This can create a neurological feedback loop where your brain starts to anticipate pain. You can get issues with vaginismus. Or issues with chronic pain during sex. And this is terrible because, again, there's shame. Sometimes your closest girlfriends won’t even talk about this.   Let's talk about the lack of aftercare that women get after major abdominal surgery, like cesarean birth. When you have a cesarean birth they cut through seven layers of tissue. It's a major abdominal surgery, and then they’re like, “You're good. Go for a walk and go home. Take some Advil.” I've had heart surgery myself—it was a catheter ablation, which is a day surgery. It was nothing compared to birth, and yet I got more after care than I did with birth.  "Let's talk about postpartum sex. We're told the advice of just use some lube, be on top, have some wine, and it's like a joke."  What do we all stand to gain by connecting women to their power and inner strength?I honestly believe that women can change the world. Period. Self love can be challenging, especially if you look at your body and you don't recognize yourself, which is unfortunately common. I hope that we can come to this place of gratitude for everything we've been through and then trust that it's never too late to develop the belief that our bodies are stronger than we think. If we can work from a place of self love, I think we can make a lot of headway.   What do you hope people walk away with after working with you? Birth can either be one of the most empowering or traumatizing experiences of your life. And how we are treated, how we are respected, validated, spoken to—everything makes such a huge difference. I get a lot of women in our classes who have had prior traumatic experiences. And it's the most amazing feeling when I hear of a positive birth after that trauma. When I hear women saying things like: “I was able to do it my way” or  “I'm not peeing my pants anymore” or “I didn't tear this time and I feel like a million dollars” or  “You've given me a feeling of confidence about my body that I thought I had lost”—I get shivers every time.  Writing: Carter Selinger
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