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Smashing Stereotypes with Confidence

May 2019

Jill Andrew and Aisha Fairclough portrait. Both of them smiling.

Jill Andrew and Aisha Fairclough are the power couple behind the groundbreaking Body Confidence Canada. They want to create a world where all bodies, especially the ones traditionally marginalized are included and celebrated.

Body Confidence Canada (BCC) advocates for body diversity through its programs, events, campaigns, and many other projects. One of their most prominent events is the annual Body Confidence Canada Awards (BCCA), which celebrates champions of body diversity and body equity. The 519 has had the honour of hosting the Body Confidence Canada Awards multiple times.

“The work of Body Confidence Canada is to try and expand the definition of body confidence – from how we feel, move and live in our bodies, and how they are perceived in the world we live in. Our body confidence is also interlinked with social and economic barriers we face. You cannot feel confident and empowered when you are experiencing so many barriers. It is a small part of a big trajectory”.

Jill is an educator and advocate with two decades of experience in the education sector – as a Child and Youth Worker, a high school teacher, and a Student Equity Program Advisor for TDSB. Today, she is the Member of Provincial Parliament for Toronto-St. Paul’s and the NDP Culture Critic where she continues to be an advocate. She truly believes that education impacts narratives around body image and holds immense power to change them.

Aisha is a television producer. Her expertise is storytelling and her passion is to tell those stories through an inclusive and informed lens that reflects the world we live in.

With their collective personal and professional experiences, Body Confidence continues to grow and expand their vision to uplift and amplify voices that are not often seen or heard.

The partnership between The 519 and Body Confidence Canada has grown over the years. Jill and Aisha not only host their Body Confidence Canada Awards at The 519 but are also avid champions of our work. They have worked with us on a number of fundraising events. The FATshion Raiser, a fashion fundraiser, held in 2015, supported a clothing drive for new immigrants, refugees and other local LGBTQ2S communities that identify as plus-size and experience barriers in accessing clothing that is winter appropriate, or for job opportunities and interviews. Jill and Aisha feel a strong connection to The 519 as a safe community space where allyships are built and are continuously developing creative ways to support.

“The 519 is unique in the sense that it does not have a ‘one size fits all’ agenda.”

Their Body Love Ball is another signature fundraising event for programs supporting LGBTQ2S communities. These funds raised from this Ball offer support to The 519’s Newcomer and Refugee program, supporting LGBT youth, families and allies, as well as Body Confidence Canada Awards (BCCAs). In 2017, the Body Love Ball raised funds to develop the Jill Andrew and Aisha Fairclough Body Confidence Canada Micro-Bursaries for participants of The 519’s Newcomer and Refugee program to support with wardrobe for settlement, immigration and job interviews, as well as basic needs like winterized clothing.

The couple continues to smash stereotypes and support marginalized communities. They believe a lot more needs to be done, which needs continuous efforts and solidarity in support. The queer and trans communities are diverse, and both Jill and Aisha believe that it is important for marginalized, vulnerable and racialized members to have a seat at the table. As donors and partners of The 519, they encourage people in their network to support the work we do.

“Our queer, trans, two-spirit and gender nonconforming communities are building a legacy. The more we participate in any way we can, the better it is for our collective future. We exist, we aren’t going anywhere and no one can tell us otherwise!”

About Among Friends LGBTQ Refugee Support Group at The 519
Among Friends is designed to ease the transition for individuals who arrive in Canada escaping persecution at home as a result of their sexual orientation. The 519 has offered this peer support program since 2005.

The need for services for older LGBTQ2S communities is increasing, and funding for such programs is decreasing.

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