Ontario-based Vanessa Brousseau goes by resilientinuk on TikTok where she shares personal stories with her almost 90 thousand followers about her upbringing, culture, art and healing journey while also spreading awareness for Missing and Murdered Women, Girls and 2-Spirit People. Vanessa found TikTok during the first set of COVID-19 lockdowns and has found a place in the app for her strong voice and opinions on what matters to her most — educating and making space for the next generation of change-makers.
Two Row Times caught up with Vanessa aka resilientinuk during this year’s National Indigenous History Month to chat about her passions, art and how she is using TikTok for change.
Jace: Where do you live?
Brousseau: Welland, Ontario.
Jace: Where did you grow up?
Brousseau: I grew up in Timmins, Ont., about 10 hours north of here. I’ve also lived up in Attawapiskat First Nation. That’s where my children are from. I’ve had some remote living experiences.
Jace: How did you first hear about TikTok?
Brousseau: It was when COVID first hit and we were all cooped up in our houses and had nothing to do. My sons were on the app for fun and I asked them what they were always laughing at then I tried it out myself.
Jace: What made you choose TikTok as your main platform?
Brousseau: I was on Facebook and Instagram already but I was never into creating videos or any content like that. I really believe that the TikTok platform is very user-friendly. And I think that’s what encouraged me to start making videos. I’m very dedicated to TikTok and anything I create gets uploaded there first and I’ll share it on my other socials after.
Jace: How would you describe your platform in a few sentences?
Brousseau: I like to advocate and share the truth about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and Two-Spirit as my sister has been missing for almost 19 years now. It’ll be 19 years in December. I also like to share my culture, which is Inuit and Ojibwe. And I like to show my art. I’ve healed myself through my art.
Jace: How is TikTok creating space for Indigenous content creators to tell their own stories?
Brousseau: We’ve been silenced for so long. Especially Indigenous women. Being able to tell my truth, in my way, with my voice, in my style is huge. And it’s part of my healing journey as well.
In the last year, I’ve grown as a person on the platform and I think it’s starting to show in my confidence and content — and I have so much more to share. I’m very busy so it’s hard to have the time to share but I’m not in a rush. I have storytelling to share for another 20 years or so.
Jace: What is your goal on TikTok?
Brousseau: My goal is to spread awareness. TikTok posted a video for National Indigenous History Month and in it, they called me a change-maker. I was so proud because that’s what I want to be called above anything else. I’m all about making change and not only on Tiktok. I’ve worked for the federal government for eight years and one of my volunteer positions there is co-chair for the Truth and Reconciliation Working Group. My job is to spread awareness and education to other employees. I’m constantly trying to create awareness which I really believe creates change.
Jace: Was there a specific content creator or video that inspired you to post your own?
Brousseau: What sparked me to post my first video was a video posted by Celina Myers aka celinaspookyboo. She’s an amazing content creator who put up a bunch of cardboard dresses on her front lawn for National Indigenous MMIWG2S on May 5. I saw it and I don’t know what clicked but I thought I could do that too. It’s truth. It’s my story. I thought I need to be doing this. This needs to be coming from our own people.
Jace: What age group or groups make up most of your following?
Brousseau: I’d say my viewers are 25 years old or under. I love that because those are our change-makers for the future. I have a lot of young viewers and they are very direct with the way they interact with me and the questions they ask. I love the relationship I’ve been building with my followers. I also do presentations in high schools and I’m able to speak with the students there.
Jace: How do you portray your authentic self online?
Brousseau: I always try and remember where I come from. I think it’s very important to remain humble. I’ll listen to the drum music that I’ve recorded. I’m also a scent person so I’ll have my sage going which grounds me. A lot of my videos are very emotional so I really need to make sure I can get back to myself because it’s hard. My sister has been missing for so long and it’s a real thing I live with every day. I love my sister and it still feels like it happened yesterday. It’s hard for me to get those raw emotions out and then come back. Sometimes people don’t even see how hard it is. Sometimes it takes 10 recordings just to make one video but it’s important to be truthful. People will see it if you’re not.
Jace: How do you stand out from other creators doing similar content as you?
Brousseau: I want everyone to spread awareness on MMIW. The more the better, right? I think what stands out for me is I’ve done a lot of healing. I’ve done a lot of therapy and I’ve done a lot of work on myself and it shows when I speak. I also believe that I speak the truth and sometimes the truth isn’t pretty. I may lose followers or not gain as many because I am very truthful and so is my content. I think it’s important to be true to yourself and who you are. I’m 43 years old so I have a lot of experiences in my life.
Jace: What types of videos do you have the most fun creating?
Brousseau: My art. I love making art videos. I work with seal skin a lot. So, I’ve been really enjoying that. I really enjoy making different things and it’s a part of my healing journey.
Jace: What tips would you give a small content creator trying to grow on TikTok?
Brousseau: Don’t give up. If I were to give up every time I didn’t get a view or didn’t get a comment, or someone didn’t see me — don’t give up. And remember to love yourself. That’s important. Don’t compare yourself to others because nobody is the same. Everybody is different. Everybody has their own unique qualities. It’s really important to be true to yourself and be kind to yourself.
Jace: What would you say to a shy content creator to help boost their confidence?
Brousseau: I write down what I’m going to say first. Every time I make a video I always write it down because I want to make sure my messages are clear and I’ve practiced them. Even though I have so many followers and I’m verified, I still sometimes have a hard time pressing that post button. I really do. I think are people going to judge me? Are people going to see a different side of me they won’t like this time? As long you’re being true to yourself everyone will see that.
I’ve exposed myself to some of my past abuses and things that happened to me and I was really scared to say those things for fear of judgment or fear of more questioning because I’m a very private person and I only want to share so much at a time. It’s hard to know the balance but don’t be scared to press that post button.
Jace: What’s the biggest perk of being considered a creator on TikTok?
Brousseau: All the beautiful people I’m meeting. I’m not joking with you, I’ve made some beautiful relationships and not just with Indigenous people. Non-Indigenous people and other different cultures too. I spent a weekend in Toronto recently at a festival and I had a great time with a bunch of aunties. We made a bunch of videos that are way out of my normal content and it was just nice to have a break and have that support. I’m really looking forward to meeting even more people. You can grow your support so big and not even leave your house.
Jace: How do you deal with online hate, racism, and sexism?
Brousseau: I get it too. I get really ignorant comments when it comes to my sister sometimes. Someone saying “hey, she’s dead,” or “why don’t you stop talking about this?” Or, “who cares?” I delete it. I don’t spend the energy answering those comments. I try to remember my seven grandfather teachings. One of them is to be kind and respectful and that’s what I try to do.
Follow Vanessa on TikTok @resilientinuk.