Lisa Charleyboy is a woman of many talents. She’s a blogger, she’s an actor, and she’s also the force behind Urban Native Magazine. The site, which moves out of beta mode to officially launch this month on November 18th, is a resource for indigenous business, lifestyle, fashion, music and culture. Beyond creating a platform for talent, Charleyboy hopes the site will encourage youth to engage with cultural issues and find inspiration, a space that showcases a voice too often absent from mainstream media.
SDTC: You’ve been running a blog under the Urban Native Girl name for six years now. Why did you feel the time was right to turn Urban Native Girl into a magazine?
Lisa Charleyboy: I’ve always had the notion that Urban Native Girl blog might turn into a magazine and I was just waiting for the right time. I started the blog to see if there would be an audience for all of the random things – pop culture, fashion, Toronto life, Indigenous lifestyle and commentary – that I like to write about. After creating a business plan and getting an investor earlier this year, the time was finally here.
SDTC: What are the most important things you hope to accomplish with Urban Native Girl mag?
LC: I really hope to create a magazine for Indigenous youth to be able to see themselves reflected, to be able to give them pride in their culture. Native people are often reflected negatively in mainstream media and I want a place where role models and success stories can be highlighted in a way that young people can relate to. I also hope it can be a space to break down stereotypes about Native people and show the diversity of our people.
SDTC: What about the urban Native experience is unique?
LC: The Aboriginal population in Canada is the fastest growing demographic in Canada and this population is not only very young, it’s also increasingly more urban. There is a common thread of displacement and a seeking of Native culture amongst urban Native people. Although we are far from our traditional territories and families, many of us are seeking a connection to culture that we can access despite these challenges.
SDTC: What do you think is most critically absent from the media in terms of an Indigenous voice?
LC: Indigenous voices in general are difficult to find in mainstream media. I can think of about a dozen or so Aboriginal journalists working for mainstream media across Canada. I’m sure there are more, but the visibility beyond their region is likely low. It is a difficult industry to get into as most employment is only offered after unpaid internships. This is a challenge for many diverse groups in Canada, as many are first generation post-secondary students and don’t have the network and resources to be able to accept unpaid internships. It is a privilege to be a journalist today.
SDTC: What can readers expect from Urban Native Girl Mag?
LC: There will be a lot of pop culture with an Indigenous twist – fashion, film, festivals and profiles on Indigenous artists and people who have found success in their chosen professions. It’s a celebration of culture in an accessible, fun, and entertaining way.
SDTC: Where do you find creative inspiration?
LC: I get my creative inspiration from the Native community, pop culture, and from art and music – it depends on the day. I spend a lot of time researching on the Internet and I’m constantly amazed by the work and the art that I’m able to discover and unfold.
SDTC: Who are three designers we should know about?
LC: My favourite Indigenous designers right now are:
Sho Sho Esquiro – she is an emerging fashion designer who has had fashion shows in New York City and is also beginning to show her work in museums. She successfully straddles that fine line between fashion and wearable art.
Manitobah Mukluks – it is an Aboriginal-owned brand that has made a global impression. Their moccasins and mukluks are coveted by many, and they’ve created a cult following. It’s an exciting brand to watch and to wear.
Louie Gong – he is an artist and a fashion designer who recently did a partnership on design with both Manitobah Mukluks and Paul Frank. He has a fresh approach to traditional Northwest coast design that is imprinted into the fabric of our North American society.
SDTC: What has been the most satisfying thing about this experience so far? The most challenging?
LC: The most satisfying moments of this experience are when I talk to Indigenous youth and they are inspired by what I’m doing and what I’ve done. I love it when I get an email from a young Aboriginal woman who says that I inspire her and encourage her to strive for success or when I talk to youth at a gathering and they get energized by the opportunities that are in front of them.
The most challenging aspect of what I do is operating a business in online publishing as a lean start-up. There is a lot of work to accomplish both creatively, editorially, and in the business side of things and I am only one person. I’m often stretched thin, but the rewards are great and the passion is high, so I keep on.
SDTC: Talk a little about how you got here. What experiences prepared you best to run your own online magazine?
LC: I spent over six years operating my blog, Urban Native Girl, and have completed a degree in journalism. I also spent years studying fashion, and have worked in various aspects of the fashion industry. My varied career experiences, and education have leant themselves well to running my own online magazine as I’ve had experience in many aspects of the business already. Having used social media for many years, I’m able to leverage that experience to gain a wider audience.
SDTC: What advice would you give to young women who want to start writing?
LC: Study business. No, just kidding. I think if you’re passionate about writing, whether it be in fiction or non-fiction, the best thing to do is to read and write a lot. It’s just that simple. Getting an education in writing is advantageous, but I treasure the critical thinking skills I learned in university much more than the practical classes I got. Interning at a newspaper, magazine, or publishing house when you are in school is a great way to learn more about the business and which sectors appeal to you most. Getting published early on was also a real boost to enable me to be able to work full-time as a writer before I had even graduated from university.