About Me

My photo
Christine Ama is a freelance fashion, arts and culture writer. She has contributed numerous articles to ADONE Magazine and SheDoesTheCity.com and worked for several years as a product copywriter for the Hudson's Bay Company. With a BFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia and an intensive Fashion Merchandising program under her belt, Ama is passionate about marrying her love for creative culture with the written word. In the past, she pursued music as a self-produced electro pop singer/songwriter called Christer (rhymes with "shyster" ;) releasing a full-length album, two music videos and touring internationally. After visiting over five countries in Europe, Ama temporarily relocated to Berlin, Germany where she worked and wrote for over a year. She currently resides in Toronto, Canada.


Myles Sexton

Toronto-based model, makeup artist and designer Myles Sexton is notorious for pushing the boundaries between male and female, beautiful and bizarre. Sexton and I get up close and personal to discuss the triumphs of his present and the challenges of his past.


Slam Poet Diana Itebu

Igho Diana Itebu fell in love with poetry at an early age. Fascinated by relationships and how habits intertwine in our lines of communication, Diana has channeled her ideas through the notorious Slam, an impassioned poetic presentation that challenges the classical structure of verse. I caught up with Diana to pick her brain about her life, inspirations and the structure of Slam.

My name is Igho Diana Itebu but I answer to a plethora of nicknames including Iggy. I'm 22 years old, born in Nigeria, grew up in Vancouver, now residing in Toronto. I come from a very large family – I'm 1 of 8 children between both parents. I’m currently studying at York University, working towards a double major in Education and Creative Writing

How long have you been writing, performing and participating in Slam?

In the seventh grade I had a really quirky teacher who made us do journal entries for about 20 minutes every day. A lot of my classmates hated it but I really got into it. That's when I realized I liked writing. And it just became a habit. I started actually performing and quickly became an avid slam attendee at 18. 

When did you first develop an interest in slam poetry? What were some major inspirations for you?

I got introduced into the Slam world through a friend of a friend: Kelsey Savage. I went to my first poetry slam at Cafe Deux Soliels in Vancouver and I was hooked. The whole energy/vibe in the room that night was electric. I loved every minute of it.

Two experiences that have stood out to me at a slam: 1) the first time I witnessed Kelsey Savage perform an 'improv' piece at CafĂ© Deux Soleils (she got on stage, asked an audience member for a prompt and came up with a poem in the spot.) I was floored. 2) Watching Rudy Francisco perform at The Drake Underground in Toronto. He reminded me of Joshua Bennett (my absolute favorite spoken word artist I've discovered so far.) I just remember thinking, “Man, everyone needs to get hip to Rudy Francisco!” 

Describe your first experience on stage, or an impactful experience you had performing for others.

My first experience on stage was actually at a high school speech meet. I read Sojourner Truth's speech 'Ain't I A Woman.' The judges were so impressed I ended up having to perform it again in front of a lot more people than I ever imagined. I remember being nervous as hell but as soon as I started speaking I wasn't anymore. To this day I still feel sick to my stomach before any performance, forever nervous until I utter the first word.

How do you consider slam poetry different (or the same) from other kinds of poetry? What sets the genre and the slam night experience apart from other modes of performance and sharing?

Writing is a very personal experience to me. The way I see it, the process of writing is like you making dinner for yourself, no recipe just straight from your dome. Slamming is basically inviting a bunch of people into your home and sharing your dinner with them. Does that make sense? Slamming is an extension of writing poetry.

How you define your style of work and yourself as a writer and performer? What subject matter is important or influential to you?

I write a lot about relationships; more specifically human interactions in different types of relationships. I'm intrigued by the differences and similarities in familial and non-familial relationships; how habits overlap and intertwine in our lines of communication in these relationships. When I was younger a lot of my poems were vulgar and usually filled with a plethora of sexual innuendos because I wanted to be more relatable. My style has changed a little now. My poems are a little more personal but far less sexual. I've definitely written a poem or two about every guy I've dated and sometimes I've gone as far as writing about an ex’s relationship with their parents. My ultimate goal as a performer is to be relatable to at least one audience member.

What makes a slam poem successful? What makes it not as successful?

You can tell when someone has written a poem just for the sake of getting high scores. It’s really awkward to watch sometimes. A slam is essentially a competition but it's never meant to take away from the art. As long as you've written or are performing a piece that at least one person in the audiences can relate to, to me that's a successful poem.

For Girls
by Diana Itebu

I’ve heard
Stories of girls growing up too fast. 
I’ve heard 
stories of girls who just love to dance. 
I’ve heard stories of girls who used to wear virginity like a badge on their chest. And now she’s got a baby sucking on her breasts. 
I’ve heard 
Stories of girls with “born to fuck” tattoos on their wrists 
Those same wrists he pinned down to the ground - three minutes felt like three hours as she got fucked up...the ass 
Fucked, not raped-- 
You can't be raped in your own home

I’ve heard stories of girls, used and abused by the men they love most 
I’ve heard stories of girls with very low self-esteem
I’ve heard stories of girls who’ve been through hell and back; and still live to tell their stories
And I like to listen, so I’ve heard stories…

And since I’ve been hearing about these stories
About these girls
My whole life,
I have tried to not be like the girls in these stories

So as a kid I never wanted to grow up, yet I called myself the grown ass kid And I always wanted to dance but daddy didn't want me getting too attched,
So that dream faded away quickly--
When I was in the 7th grade, 
The finest boy in junior high told me he loved me 
And that he always would
My naiive 12 and a half year old self,
Looking for love in all the wrong places--
I believed him

He said:
Baby, we're not just having sex,
We're making love
And you know
It's kinda like that poem you wrote
'Unprotected poetry'
It just wont feel as good, with a condom...

And I’ve been lucky compared to the girls in these stories 
But I keep telling these stories about these girls with so much potential 
These girls, 
Who let petty things hold them back
These girls, 
Who always fall in love with the wrong guys
These girls, that fit the stereotype... 

I re-tell these stories about these girls
Because one way or another they have got to be heard

I believe that every girl has a story...
is mine--

Gettin' Tight with Tight Club

Keighty Gallagher is the founder Tight Club, a Vancouver-based alternative fitness program with an inventive, street-smart sensibility. Since its insemination in 2011, Tight Club has become a local treasure, a beloved buzzword among artists, designers, musicians and servers within Vancouver’s creative east side. Her DIY approach, use of urban settings, themed events and funny flyers set her apart from more commercial fitness programs in the city. Gallagher proves to her clients that "You don't have to be a jock to be tight!"  

This past summer, Tight Club collaborated with active wear behemoth Lululemon to create a slick capsule collection of workout gear that would appeal to a niche market. Two worlds collided – a multi-million dollar corporation and a sweet local start-up – resulting in a line made up of neutral black, grey and white tanks, t-shirts, shorts and the highlight piece, a sleeveless hoody with “Tight” branded across the chest in reflective lettering. Tight Club, and Keighty, had inadvertently become a muse of sorts, and the results have sent both parties soaring to new heights.

I caught up with Gallagher to get all the deets on her, Tight Club and that surprising relationship with one of the industry's most powerful forces.

Where were you born?

In a little town at the bottom of a mountain on Vancouver Island - Courtenay, British Columbia.

Describe your upbringing and early years.

From the time I was born until the day I left for university in 2006, I grew up as a keener kid whose dreams were to go to the Olympics in Track and Field and live somewhere that grew palm trees.

I grew up on my family farm with horses, chickens, a few dogs and a cat-infested barn. I was spoiled by how close the mountains and the beaches were and spent my winters lurking Mt. Washington with my Dad and my summers at Saratoga beach.

Describe your history with athletics (track and field), fitness etc.

In kindergarten I would race the tallest boy from our portable classroom to the bus line. Sometimes he’d win, sometimes he’d lose. Fast forward 5 years and I decided to go to the local field to practice “sprinting on a track” before my first elementary school track meet. There were some practice hurdles set up and I jumped over one…terribly. The coach told me to leave, but said that I should join the track team when I turned 11.

Five years later I attended my first World Youth Championships and two years later went to my second. Traveling the world and competing at that level scared the f--k out of me! But I was into it!

Can you talk about the shift from your education in Marketing to fitness training? What prompted that decision? Also, please name all the programs you took and the years/locations where you completed them.

After I graduated high school at G.P Vanier, I was enrolled in the University of Oregon as a future business student. From Day One I hated almost everything about university. Living in the dorms was the worst. The entire city revolved around the success and colour combination (yellow and green) of our school. On Saturdays, when all I wanted to do was chill after our morning hill sprint workout, instead we were forced to cheer for our football team in the standing section. Fug that.
The next year I transferred to Portland State University, eventually obtaining a Bachelors of Science with a double major in Marketing and Advertising. Life ruled in Portland, and four years later I was given the notice to return to my home country in Canada and start living the hustler’s life.

The shift into fitness came when my contract was up as a marketing assistant at a local social media company. I was faced with a big decision. I guess I was going through an identity crisis because I was a hot second away from packing my bags and embarking on an epic “find myself” trip. Then one day I met this boy who changed my life [Henry Barros is now Keighty’s live-in partner and collaborator.]

Three months later I was enrolled in a personal training certification program and was organizing weekly group workouts with friends I worked with at the Alibi Room, a restaurant in Gastown, Vancouver.

Give me a bit of history of Tight Club. The inception of the idea, the concept, how it changed/evolved over time. Early stages, gaining a following, collaborating with others (cooks, nutritionists etc.)

The early ages of Tight Club was pretty scrappy. Every Friday I’d start my day texting my friends, trying to rally their butts down to Andy Livingston Park to try out this “fun” workout I had designed. What was cool was that these people weren’t your typical gym rats. For my first group workout I led a soft-spoken fashion designer, a ceramics artist (with clay stained tights to add), a writer and a server. No one identified themselves as the “workout type” but were open to the idea that being fit was a good thing. Their openness allowed me to experiment with the language I used as I figured out queues to help them better their form and posture, making the workouts super goofy and fun.

Word spread that I was leading a fun class, but moreover, that I was getting some pretty influential people in the Vancouver creative scene together to sweat. I began to realize that you don’t have to be a jock to be fit, which is the whole idea behind Tight Club.

Tight Club is a lifestyle for individuals who value active bodies, creative minds, and balanced lives. You don't have to be a jock to be tight!

As the weather changed from great to gross, I started playing around with different spaces to use as well as the idea of adding another class to the mix. My Friday afternoon OG class was great, but my 9 to 5’er friends wanted a chance to get tight as well. So I introduced my Wednesday night “Tight Club Night Club” class, and chose a meeting spot at Strathcona park. It was great in the fall because the sun stayed up until late, but as the winter grew upon us, it was clear we needed to find a sheltered space with light.

What’s tight about Tight Club is that you don’t need much to work out with. My workouts are designed to be as challenging as you want to make it. Using your own body weight, gravity, and natural outdoor features as measures of intensity, I was able to find the perfect space to keep Tight Club alive during the winter: under the Cambie Street bridge!

My tag line, “We do it in the rain” proved to be a true statement last year, with almost every single workout ending in rain. But people kept on coming!

Eventually I put together a website so people could get a hold of me and find out my schedule, and after a year and a half of annoying my friends with text reminders, I celebrated my first “no text” workout with a packed class. The word was spreading and I was stoked!

As the year went on, I started flexing my marketing muscles, and made some strategic connections with some likeminded individuals in the health and fitness industry. I repped my friend Christina Culver’s salad business hard, getting her super salads delivered to my class after every workout. From the concept of providing a double service, a secondary business was born: The Tight Life. An all-inclusive program that enrolls you in a fitness class as well as a structured nutrition plan that feeds you after your workouts. Boom. Carley Mendes of Keep it Real Foods was the brainchild behind the concept, and we launched the challenge in June, selling out within the week!

You have a live-in studio now. Tell me more about that.

So that boy I mentioned earlier [Henry]...well, I ended up moving in with him. We found this beautiful coach house with an alley entrance in the Strathcona neighbourhood, and it happened to have a yoga studio built into the garage. It was fate!

We moved there in February and after accumulating some equipment, I started inviting my personal training clients over to “The Coach House.” It was pretty awesome getting a little break from the rain and cold last spring, and as I got used to working in a smaller space than I was used to, I started running parts of my Tight Club classes from the studio.

Obviously your marketing and communications skills have contributed a lot to the success of Tight Club.

I’m pretty basic when it comes to advertising. Social media and word-of-mouth marketing were the cheapest and most effective channels to reach my targeted audience, and so I started designing some pretty funny flyers and tagging friends who had completed the workouts in them. I wanted to communicate the message that Tight Club was fun and not too serious, and I think the online posters really helped.

Over the winter I was super-inspired by the Nike “Run In the Dark” campaign, so I put a funny twist on exercising when it’s shitty outside.
Messages like “We do it in the rain” or “Lets get wet” helped bring a little lightness to the idea of working out when it’s gross out. The season shouldn’t dictate your activity level.

When and how did you get involved with Lululemon as their fit model? Describe that role, a “day in the life of” and tell me a bit about your work-related travels.

That’s actually kind of a funny story! I was taking a ceramics class last summer and was introduced to a Lululemon designer who was in the class as well. They were super short on fit models and were looking for a size 8. I had no idea what a fit model did but I saw it as a great opportunity to meet some active people and possibly get some more clients.

The “day in the life” of a fit model is always different depending on the time of the season. The busiest time is when the samples are coming in the factories and the design team is trying to make sure the garments fit perfectly. Something unique to Lululemon is that the designers actually bring their fit models overseas with them to the factories. That was definitely the selling point when I found out we got to travel. This year I have been lucky enough to visit Taipei, Sri Lanka, Singapore, and Hong Kong four times.

It’s not all glitz and glamour though. We are put up in nice hotels with the expectation that with comfort and rest comes effective feedback and immense attention to detail. We’re not just human dummies. We have to know the brand, know the products consistency, and be able to speak not on behalf of our own style, but with the Lululemon “muse” in mind.

One of the most interesting parts of getting to go onsite is getting to know the different cultures of the countries. The Sri Lankans are probably the warmest and most hospitable people I have ever met! They definitely take the term “host” to another level.

How did the idea of a Tight Club/Lululemon collaboration come about? Where did the idea come from?

I was in the middle of a fitting when this super-babe entered the room, Jean Okada, the head women’s designer at the Lululemon Lab. The first thing she said when she saw me was, “Hey, you’re the Tight Club girl!”

A few months later, Jean pushed for a Tight Club inspired clothing capsule collection, complete with a launch party, video production and photo shoot. It was the biggest dream come true to see how much she believed in the project, which made me work even harder to keep the momentum up!

Tell me about the early design stages: focus groups, inspirations, trends and the development of the capsule collection.

To help the designers understand Tight Club, they invited eight of us to come over for a sushi + sake dinner party to talk about what we wear when we sweat. I was super impressed to see how diverse the crowd was. There were people who typically wore comfortable street clothes to workout in, as well as the Stella McCartney kitted out babe. No one was afraid to talk about how much they liked or hated Lululemon and were able to articulate their reasons respectfully. We were asked to bring our favorite article of workout clothing and right away it was apparent that colour wasn’t something we were interested in. Blacks, greys and whites, monochromatic patterns and various classic terry cloth fabrics were showcased in our group.

A few weeks later, Jean emailed me the design line-up and I couldn’t believe my eyes! It was everything I wanted to own in my own active wear wardrobe. Not looking like a flashed-out jock, these were pieces I could seamlessly wear to a workout and head to the bar afterwards. We produced a women’s tank, bra and tight, a unisex t-shirt, unisex short and the highlight piece was a boxing-inspired sleeveless hoodie with “Tight” written across the chest in reflective material.

We introduced the line with a launch party and the debut of our video and photo show. It blew my mind to see how many people came out for it. It was like the best surprise birthday ever!

Do you consider yourself a muse for the design team at Lululemon?
Describe that experience, of being a kind of muse or source of inspiration for a big company. Do you feel that it’s a symbiosis, in that you inspire them and they inspire you?

I’ve heard that term “muse” thrown around loosely at the Lab. Since I’m not your typical yogi girl (in fact, I don’t do yoga at all) I am constantly inspired by the work the designers are doing at the lab. They are taking a yoga centric company and are creating beautiful and functional street wear, all while connecting with the community. I don’t know if I inspire them, but they sure as shit inspire me!

What do you see in the future for yourself, Tight Club and your
relationship with Lululemon?

2014 is going to be a big hard year! I’ve gotta keep the momentum going that was built over the summer and I’m not really sure what will come next. I’m going to have to continue to get people stoked on getting it wet, having fun while exercising, and knowing that just because you exercise, doesn’t mean that you’re a jock!

Stay tuned to see what Tight Club will be up to this winter :)

For more information on Tight Club please check out their website HERE.

No comments:

Post a Comment