Thru the RedDoor Studios held their fourth Youth Empowerment Summit (Y.E.S.) Tuesday evening, with featured guests inciting Six Nations youth to explore the arts and follow their dreams. This Y.E.S. opened up with local talent Lacey Hill sharing her musical gifts and introducing the evening’s guest speakers; Cree/Métis actress Jessica Matten and Saulteau musician Jayli Wolf.
Jessica Matten shared her journey of breaking into the world of fashion, film and television. Some of Jessica’s biggest credits includes starring in Blackstone on APTN, and a major role in the upcoming Netflix series Frontier, starring alongside Jason Momoa. She bridges her love of fitness and well-being, fashion and acting with her company Lemon Cree – providing workshops to native and non-native communities across Canada.
Jessica began modeling as a child with her mother, who started one of the first Native modeling agencies back in the 90’s. She once worked the fashion cabinet for Elle Magazine, organizing fashion shoots for bands and models across the globe. From there, she got into fashion styling and modeling on her own. She’s modeled for various lifestyle brands, which lead her to audition for commercial work in acting. Jessica showed the youth participants one of the short films that helped launch her acting career, called A Red Girl’s Reasoning. The film screened at film festivals internationally, catching the eye of one of the producers for Frontier. The work she did for that short film was done for free, so it goes to show that when you go and simply do what it is that you love to do, people respond to it and it can lead to greater opportunities down the road.
“Fear has no place for inclusion in success. What you fear the most in life is something that is usually nudging you to try it out,” said Jessica, who points out that often people are afraid to try out something they love because they don’t know where to begin, or they are afraid of failure. “Sometimes you just have to take that first step, and that can be the most difficult, but once you do it, amazing things can happen.”
Jayli Wolf shared her story of making sacrifices and having faith in order to live out her passion and be her true self. Growing up in a strict cult-like religion completely limited Jayli from exploring the arts, or anything that would take her focus off her worship. She tried to suppress her need to express herself, which brought her down over time. Luckily, Jayli was able to break out of her religion once she went off to school, studying the arts and exploring the world outside. She found healing in writing songs and decided to quit school to pursue her music career. Soon she was touring across B.C. with The Boom Booms. Roughing it out on the road lead the group to rely on the kindness of strangers to help them out.
“It’s really cool when you’re an artist and you start to learn that there’s that give and take. You really start to learn how important building your creative family is, people who you can barter with,” Jayli points out. After the tour, Jayli bartered with a producer named Hayden Wolf, giving him a place to stay while he recorded her original music. The collaboration between the two lead to much more than they expected. The two became creative partners and partners in life, falling in love, getting married and starting their own electronic band called Once A Tree. Since then, their music has been featured on TV shows, they released their first album Thousand Lives last year, and have three music videos playing on Much Music.
“You are good enough. You deserve to be happy and if you’re doing something that makes you happy and that you love, then isn’t that a success in itself?” asks Jayli. “Find what it is that you love to do more than anything else in the world, then let go of the outcome of it. There’s going to be times in your journey when you wonder if you should give up. You have to ask yourself in those moments if it’s more painful to give up than to continue on. If it is going to be more painful, then don’t you dare give up because that’s your calling.”
Lacey Hill closed the event with encouraging words that hit closer to home. Growing up faster than most kids, Lacey had to help her single mother take care of the family. Her family responsibilities lead her to discover music later on. She now spends her time empowering native communities with her job as an Aboriginal recruiter for Mohawk College and as a musician. She points out that the Youth Empowerment Summit is there to guide our youth to find out what they are passionate about now so they can spend more time utilizing those gifts and living a happy life.
“We’re here, we’re being and we’re here to experience things. You just gotta try, and things show up,” said Lacey. “When you say ‘yes, I’m going to show up’, so will all those opportunities around you, and then some!”