By Alyssa Shapiro, she/her
We first met multi talented model Amer in Montreal, Canada when shooting the 15% Vitamin C + Clean Caffeine Energy Serum campaign. Amer moved with her family to Canada when she was just two years old, first immigrating to Egypt from Sudan to escape the war, then settling in Fredericton and later Ottawa. When not modeling, Amer is putting her hands to work, creating art and practical pieces from wood and glass. She spoke to YTTP via Zoom.
Alyssa Shapiro: I didn’t get to meet you on set, (covid…) so before we chat, I’d love to hear a little bit about you!
Amer: I came to Canada with my family when I was really young. We just immigrated to Egypt because of the war, but after Egypt, when we came to Canada, I was like two—so little baby. And, you know, we lived in Fredericton, which is on the East Coast, and then moved to Ottawa later on. And then I moved here by myself to Montreal when I was 19.
So since then I went to school kind of, but then left to do woodworking and glass making. And that's kind of my life now, just wood and glass and somehow modeling.
AS: So you remember mostly Canada.
AS: Do you still have family in Egypt or Sudan?
A: Yeah, like my whole extended family mostly is still in like the village in Sudan, but like a lot of our relatives have moved to like other places. Like I have an aunt in Italy who I visited last summer before the pandemic and that's like my favorite aunt to visit, ‘cause Italy, it's cool. But other than that, yeah, people are still back home.
AS: I would love to have an aunt in Italy. That sounds like an ideal place to have an aunt. How was your experience with the shoot?
A: It was great. Like everyone was respecting distancing as much as possible, even though it was quite funny that we would have to touch anyway, I guess, but everyone was really awesome and really sweet. I've shot with Up Close before for a different shoot, but it was nice to do something different with them.
AS: Has COVID clarified anything for you? Like, has it made you see some things in your life are more important?
A: Yeah. Like, I kind of felt... I guess, I really value freedom of movement and it's really great to see how like, despite everything that is happening, like I can still Zoom my family or FaceTime them. And that's the cute, fun thing about distance, I guess. But also I feel somewhat optimistic about the way we communicate, since people really make an effort to hold onto connections that we have. And that's nice. It's heartwarming.
AS: Okay. Talk to me about woodworking and glass making. And can you show me anything that you've been working on?
A: When I moved to Montreal, it was supposed to be for school and I was doing political science and economics for a bit, but really hated it. And like, it was kind of very depressing and it's funny—I kind of feel that like my whole mission here has just switched to like, doing what I like to do, which was always like craft stuff.
So I dropped out of school. I went to a technical college and started woodworking, which was something I never thought I would do. I don't know. It's just fun to make things with my hands.
AS: I'm so curious what the decision-making process was to decide to drop out of school to pursue something creative, instead. What advice would you have for people who are considering it? What sort of things were you thinking about?
A: I realized that I would be really sad if I kept going down a path that I didn't enjoy and I wouldn't want to commit to something that was just upsetting, mostly like a career possibly, and like something vaguely related to politics. Politics seems dark. So, uh, yeah, I guess my advice would be to do what you love. YOLO. I just kind of really, really value happiness and I think that's more important than financial success, which is terrible advice.
AS: It’s an interesting conversation to have with your parents… I can imagine there's a lot of pressure and this sense of—and I don’t know, tell me about your parents, but there’s the parental version of like, this is how you be successful and have a good life versus what you want for yourself.
A: Yeah, definitely like it's really funny because my parents did make a bunch of sacrifices to come here in the first place. And like, I did feel quite disrespectful by leaving school because like that is like a major fundamental for them. And the way that they view success is like, you'd go to school, you get a job, and then you get married and have kids. But I don't know. I feel like more and more, that has become difficult to do because of so many factors that make it difficult to stick to one path. So, YOLO.
AS: And then if you change your perspective about it, it's more like you have all these different opportunities and paths. It just can be really exciting to explore all these different opportunities. What does self-care mean to you and how do you practice it?
A: Self-care for me is just finding happiness, even the little things, like if it's a sunny day in the middle of the winter somehow, I’ll be really happy and that feels like self-care—just enjoying the sun by being in my apartment and looking out the window or going for a walk, like just little things that keep spirit lifted.
AS: What role does energy play in your life?
A: Energy's important. It's cool, like energy it's all around us. I really feel kind of spiritual in the way that I feel like even once you die, your energy is still around, which is kind of spooky. But like my dad passed away three years ago now and like, I always felt kind of connected to like energy believing that like, I can feel his presence. This is getting very spooky, but like, I kind of feel that like, I dunno, like certain energy comes within and also like you can feel it in spaces or in places or things that remind you of people that you love or things in general. So energy for me is just the concept of love. I think.
AS: That’s really beautiful.
A: Thank you.
AS: Knowing that and feeling that, does that influence how you put your own energy out into the world?
A: Yeah, like, I really feel like it's very important to just have a positive outlook and be positive and loving as much as possible and to spread that because I feel that energy is permanent in a way, like what you put out there has an impact on someone or something somehow. So it's good to put out positivity and love.
AS: What are your greatest wishes and dreams for yourself?
A: I hope to be happy as much as I can. I hope to be able to spread happiness to others. And I guess that's my life mission in a way, just to be happy and do what makes me happy and try to spread it as much as I can.