At Auburn Lane, every day is IWD. International Women’s Day is our origin story. We are always looking for great stories about, by and, of course, for women. Women who make waves in male-dominated industries, who are charting their own courses, women who overcome and thrive. The women who inspire, as well as help women. This year, we decided to ask each of our contributors to share women who speak to them, personally.

Carole Celebrates Kim Thúy

I work with a lot of celebrities in my makeup world. Most are either pleasant or polite but distant, but few leave a lasting impression. Rarely do I feel like someone has touched me, who I think about afterwards. That is, until I entered Kum Thúy’s hotel room to do her hair and makeup for the first time. Her memoir, Ru, had been made into a film and she was attending the TIFF festivities. Who was this tiny bundle of effervescent energy, enthusiasm and happiness? Surely she has lived a perfect, charmed life to retain her almost childlike positivity.

I immediately googled her because I only knew that her books had won awards and she was a popular media personality in Quebec. Thúy was born into a well-to-do family in Vietnam and she did lead a charmed life for a short time. At the age of ten, however, her family fled with more than a million “boat people” after the fall of Saigon. From a refugee camp in Malaysia, eventually landing in Granby Quebec in 1979, her life was, not surprisingly, difficult and full of obstacles.

She learned French as well as English, adapted to the extreme weather, strange culture and food and found a way to fit into this new world. Fast forward to a degree in linguistics and translation, and a second in law all while working as a seamstress, cashier, cook and interpreter at times.

Thúy is also strong and quietly resilient.

Eventually, a job with a prestigious law firm gave her a chance to return to Vietnam as part of a group of Canadians advising the country’s Communist leadership as they tried to embrace capitalism. Here, she met her Quebequois husband and the couple had two sons while living in Bangkok, the second son with nonverbal autism. When they returned to Montreal, she opened a popular restaurant, Ru de Nam. After five years of that, she took a year off to write. The result was Ru.

Kim writes and speaks eloquently on the challenge of learning how to connect with her autistic son. When she discovered a method of communication developed by autism specialists and founders of SACCADE, Brigitte Harrisson and Lise St-Charles, she was finally able to understand and be understood by her son, which transformed her life. Thúy encouraged them to write a book that she, consequently, collaborated on.

“He basically taught me to be very aware of my senses,” she says. “Without him, I don’t think I would have been able to write Ru as I did, with that kind of awareness.”

Maybe I connected to a woman who, like me, wears so many hats – lawyer, mother, activist, restauranteur, writer, TV personality. Thúy is a voice for immigrants and refugees and people living with autism. A champion for finding joy and beauty in every tiny detail, every act, every opportunity. Overcoming adversity with resilience, strength, curiosity, passion and generosity. She can spread her joy to everyone who encounters her, with enthusiastic hugs, ever-present laughter and light. I consider myself lucky to be allowed to be welcomed into that light, for short bursts.

I have since read many of her books and am trying to embrace this outlook of finding beauty and joy in everything I encounter. Adversity is an opportunity to learn and grow and going into my 60th year, I no longer have time to linger on the past or waste time on things that don’t spark joy. My new mantra for 2024 is “What would Kim do?”

Nathalie Celebrates Dr. Louise Newson: Menopause Specialist

You may have read in the news this week about a report in The Lancet from an international team of doctors on menopause and its treatment. In part, the paper argues that menopause is being over-medicalized and that HRT is now being overprescribed to women. Predictably, media coverage of this story points to female vanity being behind the increasing demand for HRT. Surprisingly, the authors of the report also appeal to doctors to arm women with information that isn’t driven by pharmaceutical companies or other commercial interests.

The report in The Lancet is not as patronizing as the headlines make it out to be, but it’s close. We are supposed to grin and bear it. The authors of the report ask us to fight both Big Pharma and opportunistic snake oil remedies while we fight discrimination and ageism and while we manage night sweats, rage, anxiety, heavy bleeding, brain fog, UTIs, and about 30 other symptoms of menopause.

Dr. Louise Newson, IWD
Dr Louise Newson

Ignore the noise around this in the media and go straight to a trusted source of information and advocacy.

Dr Louise Newson has long been a powerful voice in advocating for women to have access to accurate information about menopause and HRT. If you want to cut out the spin and get straight to the facts about perimenopause and menopause, she has many useful resources.

Arm Yourself with Knowledge

Her podcast features guests from patients to practitioners and examines in-depth many aspects of menopause from hair loss to sleeplessness. Her books are written to be accessible and to help women advocate for the help they need. Newson’s Balance App is designed to help women learn about and track their symptoms and understand the ever-changing presentation of perimenopause and menopause.

Dr Louise Newson has been my most powerful ally in educating myself and advocating for myself with my healthcare professionals as I navigate menopause. Now, I embrace my wrinkles, my grey hair and the wisdom that comes with my welcome accumulation of years. I also embrace the HRT that is giving me the most optimal enjoyment of those years. I have her to thank for that.

For more on menopause advocacy, see my review of Dr. Jen Gunter’s Menopause Manifesto here.

IWD is part of International Women’s History Month

Libby Celebrates Tessa Bonhomme

I have long admired the grit and determination, both on and off the ice, of Tessa Bonhomme. The Gold-Medal-winning Olympic Athlete, Hockey Analyst and Mother of Two is passionate about celebrating the momentum finally moving in women’s professional hockey. As part of Destination Toronto’s lead-up to the NHL All-Star Game, Tessa sat down for a fireside chat on what the future holds for women’s hockey.

IWD, Tessa Bonhomme women of the year
Tessa Bonhomme

“Playing these games, flying to Calgary or going to Minnesota, there are ladies on the bus marking papers, lawyers reading contracts, people on corporate calls, ladies taking sick days just to travel. It was like, what are we doing, in 2010, how are we still there? Back then it felt like we were so close. To see it finally happen, makes me think of those women’s sacrifices.”

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Ella Celebrates Dr Julia Carroll

I met Dr Julia Carroll at her busy uptown clinic. She is a talented dermatologist so of course she’s no stranger to Botox, Fillers and other tools to stop ageing in its tracks. But an anti-ageing agenda couldn’t be further from her truth. Instead, Dr Carroll encourages patients to age on their own terms, and not according to some Hollywood expectation.

IWD, dr julia carroll women of the year
Dr Julia Carroll

Ageing is a privilege and something we should embrace. I don’t love the word ageing gracefully. I think that takes some power away from us- instead, I love the expression ageing intentionally. That means you’re deciding the things you want to take control of and want to focus on. Whether that’s working on yourself physically, being stronger, or doing Pilates. Or is it a little line that bothers you- or maybe there are some lines you want to leave behind. as a female, that really resonates with me.

More Women who inspire for IWD

Sonya Celebrates Gina Livy

I had never been on any weight loss program, and quite frankly, wasn’t really looking for one. But when my friends started buzzing about the Gina Livy Program for healthy and sustainable eating, that is what really got my attention. To find out it was an actual person (and Canadian!) who had a serious global following was intriguing. The concept of healthier, mindful eating that was easy enough to follow led me to lose 15 lbs pretty quickly. But from what I’ve heard from friends is that keeping it off, now that is truly amazing. Gina opened my eyes to the science behind methodology.

With over 30 years of working with people successfully, including herself, she’s retraining the body to learn and trust that we are feeding ourselves what we need…and then let go of that stubborn body fat without much sacrifice. And she’s determined to make it accessible to everyone. At an extremely low cost (currently $75 CDN) to access her 3-month program is beyond mind-blowing. No magic pills, no special shakes or powders. No deprivation.

Read about the Livy Method Here

She also opened my eyes to a world of “self-sabotage” — that is what we tell ourselves that sets us up for failure. I’ve been there “Oh, with my lifestyle I can’t do this” or “I’m too busy” are words that I’ve spewed in the past for many things and not realizing what it did. My attitude has changed to “You’re fucking right I can do this!” and not feeling guilty nor denying myself a cookie once in a while. And coffee is okay! Music to my ears!

Gina has changed my relationship with food. I didn’t think I was THAT bad, but there were definitely life-changing tweaks. And not just for me but for many of my friends as well. Nothing weird here. Just the basic scientific and proven facts. I wrote about my experience here.

Gina Livy, IWD women of the year
Gina Livy

Sonya Celebrates Chef Nuit Regular

If you came to Toronto and asked where to go for really, really, REALLY great Thai cuisine you’ll probably land at one of Chef Nuit Regular’s establishments. Her restaurants PAI, Kiin, Selva, and others don’t just serve great food but also an experience. Kiin, for example, is where you can explore her menu that is worthy of Thai Royalty. She brought authentic Northern Thai cuisine and culture we fell in love.

Speaking of love, one look at their social media account (managed by her adoring husband, Jeff who also manages the hospitality and operations side of the business) and my heart skips a beat. The couple’s journey to Toronto all plays out with how they met and all the accolades Nuit and the restaurants have accumulated. And both of them are true portraits of graciousness and gratitude. It’s no wonder that brands like Mazola and iconic fashion meccas like Holt Renfrew are drawn to them for partnerships and collaborations.

Chef Nuit continues to lead in new and exciting ventures with so much thought, care, and gusto. Inspiration indeed. From that fateful backpacking adventure where she met Jeff to her empire today that continues to outshine many.

chef nuit regular-kiin

Chelsey Celebrates Anika Sawni

The founder of Grüvi (with her brother, Nick) extolls the virtues of living a hooch-free existence. It’s not about teetotaling– it’s about living an authentic and meaningful life. Alcohol is not good for our health. We should feel included and supported in every social scenario, whether we’re drinking or not. Anika adopts an introspective view of alcohol. Why am I drinking this? What is the purpose? You can demonstrate some distance between feeling pressured into drinking by hitting pause. A good habit to lean into- anytime of year.

Get Inspired With our Favourite Quotes by Women

“As we approach our fifth-year milestone as a company, it’s exciting to see the societal shift around alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages since we launched. Our vision at Grüvi is a world where choosing a non-alcoholic option is normalized and celebrated. I see a pretty dramatic shift happening in the category and society as a whole. I see a point of normalization where in every occasion, every setting, you’ll have a non-alcoholic option available to you.”

Anika Sawni, Co-Founder, Grüvi
Grüvi Non-Alcoholic Beverages- Anika Sawni
Anika Sawni, Grüvi

Sarita Celebrates Rachel Fallon

Using her lived experience and deep knowledge of yoga and Psychodynamic Psychotherapy, Rachel delivers a healthy dose of medicine via movement, breathwork and meditation. At her home studio, Sweat & Tonic, Rachel has created a sanctuary for hundreds of Torontonians in need of rest, healing and community building. What makes Rachel stand out in a city with hundreds of yoga teachers is her authenticity. She shares why her practice is pivotal in her own growth and well-being, her continual investment in developing her knowledge from sacred practices from around the world and her deep care and welcoming for all who join her on the mat.

“Expect to play, feel, expand, release, let go, be empowered and challenged in new ways. I create a platform for you to explore deep visceral experiences through experiential breath-work, contemplative and intuitive movement, deep listening and release work.”
Rachel Fallon, Yoga/Breath/Meditation Teacher