The girl you have to meet. We Day Speaker, Ashley Murphy: Defying the odds.

The girl you have to meet. We Day Speaker, Ashley Murphy: Defying the odds.

Ashley and Hannah Alper at We Day Ottawa2As I get ready for We Day, I am looking forward to another season of inspiration and motivation. I am going to be sharing the stories of some of the We Day speakers here on my blog – and they are all truly inspiring and are definitely We Day worthy. Though there is one person that stands out to me the most. She is someone who is such a role model for not giving up, trying your best, giving back and to not let any obstacles get in your way. Her name is Ashley Murphy.

Ashley is 16 years old and is in grade 11. Her parents have 10 children – 8 are kids they adopted or fostered, including Ashley. She was born with HIV and was on life-support until she was five and a half months old. At one time, the doctors believed that she would not live more than a few weeks. Ashley says, “obviously, I had other plans.”

AshleyCollage

I had a chance to interview Ashley about her story, her message and her passion for my blog. I am so excited to share this with you. I know that you will love her as much as I do.

How would you describe yourself?

I am a sixteen year old girl but I’m small for my age. My friends say I am quirky, funny, loud and smart. My teachers would say I am all of those but quiet. I am a very hard worker and a loyal friend and like to stand up for what I believe in. I’m stubborn, chatty and a person who is always either laughing or smiling. I love the theatre and therefore I gesticulate a lot when I speak. One of my passions is music and singing.

I would think that most people would describe me as strong because I was born with HIV and was very frail for the first six years of my life but I battled back over and over and kept defying the odds. I always try to look on the bright side of every situation and live my life to the fullest.

Tell me about your family.  :

I come from a family of ten kids and most of them have some sort of special needs or medical condition. Most have come from abusive or neglectful backgrounds and many of us have lost one or both of our birth parents to addictions.

My mom was a dental hygienist until my brother was born disabled and then she quit to take care of him and my sister. My dad is a special education teacher and they both came from big families. They couldn’t have any more kids after both were born premature and they had three miscarriages so they decided to build a big family in a different way. So they started taking in kids that others would not take. Kids in wheelchairs, kids with serious medical conditions, developmentally delayed kids and kids with behaviours.

With love and patience and a lot of teamwork all of us kids overcame some pretty big problems and bonded. We finally had a family and a permanent place in this world.  We are all making a life for ourselves. My brother graduated from university in spite of serious medical challenges in his life, my sister is a paralegal and is now in school working on becoming a lawyer – after beating cancer and having a mild heart attack at nineteen, my brother who is a quadriplegic and legally blind and had a catastrophic brain injury graduated from high school and is going to go to college – not one of us is the type to give up.

At We Day last year, you talked about your family’s passion for volunteerism. What motivates you?

We know what it is like to be in a situation where we need help and we know that we are fortunate that we always had enough to eat, always had someone to talk to and play with. We knew that no matter what we did we would never be hit or abused again. Each of us kids (and our parents) have chosen to spend a good portion of our free time volunteering for organizations that mean a lot to us. We all volunteered for Easter Seals, Sick Kids, Variety Village (that is how my mom and your dad became friends when I was three), Abilities Centre and the Jennifer Ashleigh Foundation because those organizations helped many of us.

I personally also volunteered for The Teresa Group, AIDS Committee of Durham Region and AIDSWalk because they have helped me with my own health and teen groups.  I volunteered to help raise money for Ronald McDonald Children’s Charities in an ad campaign with Wayne Gretzky because they helped my grandparents when my aunt was getting a liver transplant.

I was extremely fortunate to go on a Me To We trip this summer to Kenya where I helped build a classroom, learned about the way of life and the way that Free The Children has impacted life for the people of Kenya. I was able to speak to HIV patients and we learned about each other’s struggles and triumphs. I fell in love with the country and its people and I hope to return someday. I am currently raising $10,000 to build another classroom and I am up to around $3000. This money is not for me to go back to Kenya; it is to fund the building of a classroom. I have donated all of my own savings to the fund as well which was $1000.

We strongly believe in giving back and in helping others as long as you are able to. Even small things add up.

Ashley in Kenya, 2014

Ashley in Kenya, 2014

 

What do you want people to leave We Day feeling or knowing after you speak this year?

My hope is for people to go back to their schools and communities and spread the word that HIV/AIDS is far from over, that it CAN happen to them and to know the facts. You can’t catch it from hugging or kissing someone or sharing food. I hope to decrease the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS and for people to know that people who have contracted the virus are just regular people. I want people who are living with HIV to know that it is possible to live openly with the disease and be accepted and happy. I am sure that there are some people who are uncomfortable with the fact that I have this virus but I can’t let that stop me and all I can do is educate people and hope that they listen and have an open heart and mind.

 Who inspires you?

Princess Diana was a big influence in my life even though she died before I was born. My mom was comfortable saying yes to taking me in directly because she saw the volunteer work that Princess Diana did with AIDS patients and figured that if she can hug them, kiss babies and show compassion then it must be safe to do so because all the security she had would not let her get hurt. It always stuck with my mom and little did she know that years later she would be asked to step in. The Children’s Aid Society called hundreds of other people and they all said no way. If Princess Diana had not been so forward thinking and brave back then, my mom might have also.

Ashley and Martin Luther King III, National We Day 2014

Martin Luther King Jr. inspired me since I was in grade five. I was very inspired by his teachings and his belief in non-violence and wanted to learn more. I read everything I could get my hands on, researched and watched movies and documentaries. He is my personal hero and his wife, Coretta Scott King was a big HIV/AIDS advocate back in the eighties and nineties when it was taboo to be one. I was so honoured and grateful that I was able to meet his son, Martin Luther King III twice through We Day. It is one of the biggest highlights of my life thus far.

 

 

Who are you looking forward to meeting at We Day this season?

I hope I get to meet Magic Johnson. He has been such a leader in the HIV/AIDS field and was speaking openly about it back when people wouldn’t even talk to you if you had it.

I enjoy meeting everyone that I meet and I hope that they take my message back to their own circle of friends or fans and help spread the word. In my mind they are all superstars because they are volunteering their time at We Day and helping to effect real, tangible change in the world.

_______________________________________________________________________________________

Ashley is the perfect person be the first in my series of profiles for #MyYearOfAction. She and her family have taken action through compassion and volunteering in their community and Ashley has taken action by using her voice to share her story, inspire others and educate people about HIV. She is a role model for so many reasons and I hope that she has inspired you too.

Ashley has a fundraising page for the school that she is building. At the time of this post, she is almost one third of the way to her goal of raising $10,000. You can check it out and support her with a donation or leave her a message here.

This is Ashley speaking at National We Day in Ottawa 2014.

 

You can follow Ashley on Twitter, too https://twitter.com/AshleyRose_FTC

We Day! Are you ready? I am. Toronto and Vancouver Line Ups revealed.

We Day! Are you ready? I am. Toronto and Vancouver Line Ups revealed.

we day stage framedWe Day season is almost here! On October 2nd, 20,000 students will come together at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto for the first We Day of the season to celebrate and launch the Year of Empowerment.

I am so excited to share that I will be speaking at We Day ! I am so honoured, humbled and proud to be part of the We Day and Free The Children teams. I cannot wait for another season of inspirational and motivational people that will be part of We Day this year. Not just the talent at We Day – but also all of the students that have earned their way there by following their passion, taking action and making a difference in their communities and in the world.

 

Today I’m happy to share the line-ups for We Day Toronto and We Day Vancouver. These are the first of many exciting announcements from We Day. Stay tuned for more.

TOR-VAN-talent-announcement

Toronto – Thursday October 2, 2014 at the Air Canada Centre

• The Honourable Elizabeth Dowdes​well – Lieutenant Governor of Ontario
• Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan (@QueenNoor)
• Big Sean (@BigSean) – Award-winning American hip hop recording artist
• Hedley (@Hedleyonline) – Multi-platinum, JUNO and MMVA Award-winning recording artists and Free The Children ambassadors
• Joe Jonas (@joejonas) – GRAMMY®-nominated, multi-platinum artist and Free The Children ambassador
• Col. Chris Hadfield (@Cmdr_Hadfield) – Astronaut, author, professor, musician, first Canadian to walk in space/command a spaceship
• Lights (@lights) – Canadian pop multi-instrumentalist and JUNO Award winner
• Kweku Mandela – Social Advocate, Filmmaker, and grandson of President Nelson Mandela
• Kardinal Offishall (@KardinalO) – Award Winner Rap Artist, Music Producer and Free The Children Ambassador
• Katie Couric (@katiecouric) – Yahoo News Global Anchor and New York Times best-selling author
• Nelly Furtado (@NellyFurtado) – Singer, songwriter, producer and Free The Children ambassador
• R5 (@officialR5) – American pop rock band
• Ed Robertson – Canadian musician and lead singer of the Barenaked Ladies
• Shawn Desman (@DaRealSD) – Platinum-selling and Juno Award-winning recording artist
• JRDN (@JRDNmusic) – Juno Award-winning artist and Free the Children ambassador
• Karl Wolf (@KARLWOLFs) – International recording artist, MTV Europe Music Award winner and Free The Children ambassador
• Neverest (@neverestmusic) – Chart-topping, MMVA-nominated Canadian pop-rock band
• Liz Trinnear (@liztrinnear) – Host of Much Countdown and host of We Day Toronto
• Cast members from the Emmy-nominated TV series DEGRASSI (@Degrassi)
• Mustafa the Poet (@MustafaThePoet) – 18-year-old poet, writer, actor and emcee
• Natalie Panek (@nmpanek) – Rocket scientist, explorer, and advocate for women in technology
• Alex Deans – 17-year-old inventor, scientist and artist
• Craig and Marc Kielburger (@craigkielburger) – International activists and co-founders of We Day
• Spencer West (@spencer2thewest) – Me to We motivational speaker, ambassador and author
• Hannah Alper (@ThatHannahAlper) – 11 year old Me to We inspirational speaker, Free The Children Ambassador, blogger and youth activist. That’s me!
• Ashley Rose Murphy (@msAmurphy) – Motivational youth speaker
• Stan Wesley (@StanWesley) – National Speaker
• Robin Wiszowaty (@robininkenya) – Me to We motivational speaker, author and Free The Children Program Director in Ghana and Kenya

Vancouver – Wednesday, October 22, 2014 at the Rogers Arena

• Selena Gomez (@selenagomez) – Actress, multi-platinum recording artist and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador
• Orlando Bloom – Actor and humanitarian
• Macklemore and Ryan Lewis (@macklemore) (@RyanLewis) – Grammy Award-winning hip-hop artists
• Shawn Mendes (@ShawnMendes) – Canadian singer-songwriter
• Sir Ken Robinson (@SirKenRobinson) – Author, speaker and international education advisor
• Donnie Yen – Martial arts movie icon, actor, director, producer and Free the Children ambassador
• Mariana’s Trench (@mtrench) – Juno Award-winning pop band
• Debby Ryan (@DebbyRyan) – Musician and actress
• Kardinal Offishall (@KardinalO) – Award Winner Rap Artist, Music Producer and Free The Children Ambassador
• Victoria Duffield (@VDuffield) – Canadian singer, dancer and actor
• Cast members from the Emmy-nominated TV series DEGRASSI (@Degrassi)
• Shawn Desman (@DaRealSD) – Platinum-selling and Juno-Award winning recording artist
• JRDN (@JRDNmusic) – Juno Award-winning artist and Free the Children ambassador
• Karl Wolf (@KARLWOLFs) – International recording artist, MTV Europe Music Award winner and Free The Children ambassador
• Neverest (@neverestmusic) – Chart-topping, MMVA-nominated Canadian pop-rock band
• Silken Laumann (@SilkenLaumann) – Olympian, inspirational speaker, author and child advocate
• Kay – Singer, songwriter and rapper
• Craig and Marc Kielburger (@craigkielburger) – International activists and co-founders of We Day
• Spencer West (@spencer2thewest) – Me to We motivational speaker, Free The Children ambassador and author
• Mustafa the Poet (@MustafaThePoet) – 18-year-old poet, writer, actor and emcee
• Hannah Alper (@ThatHannahAlper) – 11 year old Me to We inspirational speaker, Free The Children Ambassador, blogger and youth activist. Me again!
• Ashley Rose Murphy (@msAmurphy) – Motivational youth speaker
• Robin Wiszowaty (@robininkenya) – Me to We motivational speaker, author and Free The Children Program Director in Ghana and Kenya

I’m looking forward to another amazing We Day season and these awesome people who make it all happen.

Team We Day

In partnership with MTV, and alongside National Co-Title Sponsors, RBC and TELUS, We Day Toronto and Vancouver will bring together more than 40,000 students in an inspirational setting, celebrating the commitment they have made to take action on local and global change. The two events will be streamed live at www.mtv.ca/weday and taped for broadcast on MTV premiering Tuesday, November 11, 2014 at 7:00 p.m. ET and on CTV, Saturday, November 22 at 7 p.m. ET.

I’m Running With Terry Fox. Are You?

I’m Running With Terry Fox. Are You?

I just finished the Terry Fox Run with my dad in my neighbourhood. We go every year. My school is also doing the Terry Fox run on Tuesday and I am so excited to run with my friends in honour of Terry Fox.

terryfox

Terry Fox is a Canadian hero. When he was a teenager, Terry got cancer that started at the knee and had his leg amputated and replaced with a prosthetic leg. Terry Fox wanted to raise money for Cancer research. Before he got Cancer, he was very athletic and wanted to continue and he just decided that he was going to run across Canada to raise money. On April 12th, 1980, Terry dipped his foot in the Atlantic Ocean in St. John’s, Newfoundland and set off on what he called the Marathon of Hope. For the first little bit of the marathon, he didn’t get recognized that much, but when people saw that he was doing more than 26 miles a day and that he was really dedicated, people donated so much money and got so much support. Every where he went, people would out to cheer for him, support him and sometimes run with him. Sadly, at Thunder Bay, his cancer had returned. This time it was in his lungs. On September 1, 1980 he had to make the very difficult decision to stop. He returned home to British Columbia and passed away in June.  A few days later, he died in the hospital.

Terry loved Canada and he believed in Canadians. He believed that all Canadians want to make a difference. At the time, there was about 24, 000 000 people living in Canada. He thought that if every person donated one dollar because they believed, all of that would go to cancer reasearch. His goal was surpassed by a lot of money. Now, more than $650, 000 000 million dollars have been raised for cancer research. Isn’t that amazing?

Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope gave the people who had cancer, who had a disability, who believed that they couldn’t make a difference, something that they really need – HOPE. His marathon started with a dream, then with hope, strength, determination and perseverance, it became a reality. If you ever thought that you could not make a difference, think of Terry Fox and how he made a big impact in the world.

When I was on the We Create Change Tour, I thought a lot about Terry Fox. Like him, We started our tour in St. John’s, Newfoundland and we drove across Canada. In St. John’s I visited the monument to him by the water where he dipped his foot in the ocean and in Thunder Bay I visited the monument to him that honours his last stop. The part of the highway leading into Thunder Bay is called Courage Highway, and as we drove I imagined him there.

Monument to Terry Fox in St. John's, Newfoundland.

Monument to Terry Fox in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

Terry Fox, Thunder Bay

Monument to Terry Fox in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

If you want to learn more about Terry Fox’s story and the Terry Fox Foundation, go to http://www.terryfox.org/

Are you running this week? Let me know in the comments below!

Demi Lovato and Spencer West Are Going On A World Tour

Demi Lovato and Spencer West Are Going On A World Tour

imgres-5

Two of my favourite people, Demi Lovato and Spencer West are going out on tour together! They both have redefined what is possible and both have inspired millions of people by their encouragement to never give up on their dreams.

From the press release:

West met Lovato in 2012 where they shared the stage at We Day, a series of stadium-sized youth empowerment events held across North America and the UK. Both inspired tens of thousands of young people when they shared their personal struggles, the impact of being bullied, and how they found the inner strength to prevail. We Day was also the launching pad for their friendship.

“I know the power of music and understand the impact it can make,” says Lovato. “I also know and understand the power of spoken word. The first time I heard Spencer talk about his personal journey I was moved. I couldn’t be happier that he’s joining my tour, and I know my fans will make a personal connection with him too.”

“I am so humbled Demi asked me to be part of her World Tour,” says Spencer West. “Demi is truly breaking ground and paving the way for celebrities and the causes they care about. To have the opportunity to reach her fans sharing my personal story, and the work I do – well – it’s a dream come true. She has the most devoted fans out there and sharing our message together is a huge honor.”

Last year, Spencer joined Lovato for her milestone 21st birthday on a Me to We volunteer trip in East Africa. On the trip, Lovato helped build an X-ray clinic and then removed her gumboots to haul water for the women living in the drought-stricken rural community. She also joined in a traditional beading circle with Me to We Artisans Maasai Mamas. The Me to We Artisans program employs more than 1,200 Maasai Mamas, providing them with an alternative source of income so they can pursue their dreams and support their families and communities. Meeting the Maasai Mamas moved Lovato to create the Limited Edition Demi Lovato Rafiki Friend Chain. This piece will be sold at all tour stops for $15 with 100 percent of the proceeds going towards Lovato’s goal to fund the building of a Women’s Empowerment Center in Kenya. This center will provide a unique opportunity to reach women who shoulder major household responsibilities without much (or any) formal education or skills training. The center will offer skill training workshops aligned to local culture and traditions, will provide access to computer labs and offer a space to accommodate local artisans who are participating in the Me to We Artisans program giving women the autonomy and capacity to create strong economic futures for themselves and their families.

“Throughout my tour I was looking for ways to give back. After spending time in Kenya and working alongside the Maasai Mamas I knew I wanted to share their beadwork with my fans,” says Lovato. “My hope is that the proceeds from the Limited Edition Demi Lovato Rafiki Friend Chain will help to continue to empower women in Kenya, giving them a brighter future with economic independence for them and their families.”

Now yet another reason not to miss Demi on tour!

The Amazing Race and Changing The World. They have more in common than what you might think.

The Amazing Race and Changing The World. They have more in common than what you might think.

image The Amazing Race is one of my favourite TV shows. It has all of the things that I love – travel, challenges, friendship, life-changing adventures and a lot of fun. When I think about it that way, it sounds a lot like my journey as a change-maker. I made a list of all of the things that we love about The Amazing Race and how much it has in common with what goes into changing the world became even more clear.

  1. Teamwork. Teamwork is the key to The Amazing Race – finding your partner and working together and using each other’s strengths, skills and talents and using them to get it done. Teamwork is about encouraging, supporting and motivating each other. On The Amazing Race, my favourite teams have been the ones that work well with their partner AND they are also the ones that offer to help another team how and when they can. In my journey as a change-maker, I can tell you that being part of a team is how things get done. Everyone on the team has different things to offer and when you put them all together you can accomplish so much more than you can on your own.
  2. Have Fun. Even though the teams are in it to win it, they all still have to have so much fun along the way. That is what it is all about, going around the world and having an awesome time together with your partner. On our journey as changemakers, we are working hard to tackle some pretty serious things – poverty, homelessness, child labour, hunger. But let me tell you it is rewarding and it can be fun. Dance-a-thons, carwashes, neighbourhood cleanups and We Day – all fun.
  3. Overcoming Obstacles. Along our journey we will all face obstacles – time, support, money, resources, knowledge. These are all things that come up along the way and we need to find our way around, over, under or through them. In my conversations with people who have overcome obstacles, they all have one thing in common – they are passionate about what they are doing. When things get hard, it’s important to remember why you are working so hard and use that to motivate you to get creative or empowered to face what is in your way.
  4. Determination and Courage. Every challenge, road block, speed bump and detour on The Amazing Race requires serious determination and courage. Some of the things that they have to do are things that they have never done before. Some of the things require super strength, some require patience and some require wisdom. It takes courage to stand up for what you believe in and it takes determination to stick with it and see it through. But like The Amazing Race, it’s worth it and it feels so good.
  5. Celebrate your accomplishments. This is a big one. On The Amazing Race there are plenty of things to celebrate – completing a challenge, getting past a roadblock, making it to the pit stop and of course – making it to the end. Every team celebrates each one and it is important to do this along your journey as a changemaker. Whether you have reached a fundraising goal, got your school motivated or realized that you did something really well, you should be proud of yourself and celebrate that. Celebrate often – it keeps you going.

Cloud 1

My Year of Action. Your Year of Action. OUR Year of Action.

My Year of Action. Your Year of Action. OUR Year of Action.

September is always an exciting time where so many things are fresh and new. In September, we all get new classrooms, teachers, friends, clubs, teams and activities.

It’s the perfect time to think about how you are going to spend your time and your energy. What are you going to do different and better this year than you did last year?

I am launching a new initiative on my blog that I’ve been working on since May that takes everything that I learned and experienced last year on my journey as a change-maker and turn it into action.

What I have learned in the last year through being a part of We Day throughout North America and on the We Create Change Tour across Canada is that young people are excited about making a difference in their communities and in the world.  I can tell you that they are committed, motivated and inspired because they are seeing results.

What do they have in common? They have found their spark, their team, their  support. They have also identified their skills, talents and gifts. When they added their spark to their gift, they were able to put them into action to make a difference.

I am dedicating my year of action this year to empowering others to make a difference. I want to help others find their spark and their gifts and put them together so that they can be the change.

I’m going to share what I have learned along the way in my own journey as a change-maker. I’m going to introduce you to people who have inspired me as they have found their spark and ignited it into action. I believe that we can all gain so much from learning about what other change-makers are doing.

I’m going to help you to discover your spark – that thing that makes you want to take action and make a difference.  Once you have identified your spark, you’re going to be motivated to do something and I’m going to help you to do that too.

Are you ready? Let’s do this.

Step One: Take #MyYearOfAction Pledge. 

You don’t have to decide yet what you’re going to do, but you are deciding that you are going to DO SOMETHING.

Download the pledge below. Print it. Sign it. Date it. Colour it. Make it all your own.

Take a picture of yourself with your pledge and email it to me at Hannah@callmehannah.ca.

I’m going to build a gallery here on my blog of all of your pledges and pictures so that we can be inspired by each other.

Stay tuned. This is only the first step on our journey and our Year of Action.

#MyYearOfAction2

 

 

MYPLEDGECollage

Are you ready? Are you with me? I’m with you. It’s going to be a great year.

 

Raju, The Tortured Elephant Who Went Viral, Might Be Back With Original Owners

Raju, The Tortured Elephant Who Went Viral, Might Be Back With Original Owners

You might have heard about Raju, a fifty-years old elephant who lived his whole life in Allahabad as a “begging elephant,” which means he was beaten, starved, and kept in spiked chains. When Wildlife SOS found out, they staged a nighttime rescue of the elephant.

Here’s footage of Raju enjoying the company of his new family.

 

 

But it turns out his awful past is not fully behind him. The person who denied him even the most basic comforts has asked the court to get him back. You can help be a strong voice and sign Wildlife SOS’s petition at http://www.change.org/p/shri-akhilesh-yadav-the-honourable-chief-minister-government-of-uttar-pradesh-keep-raju-free

 

Dan Kanter and I Talk Justin Bieber, The Next Star And Egg Rolls

Dan Kanter and I Talk Justin Bieber, The Next Star And Egg Rolls

 

dan2

YTV’s The Next Star Season 7 hit the road across Canada for their audition tour with a new addition to its judging panel, music producer and songwriter Dan Kanter. Originally from Ottawa and based in Toronto, Dan is a multi-instrumentalist, guitarist and performance coach, as well as the Musical Director and lead guitarist for Justin Bieber. He co-produced two of Justin Bieber’s albums and co-wrote his song “Be Alright” on the album “Believe”. I had the opportunity to sit down with Dan during a break in the show tapings!

Hannah: When did you realize that you wanted to be a musician?
Dan: I knew at a very young age that I wanted to be a musician. My father directs musical theatre, so I grew up always going to the theater and loving music – and not just loving music, but loving a whole production of music. All the lighting and wardrobe and everything and I was very young when I started playing and singing. I’ve always loved music.

Hannah: And now you’ve played in thousands from millions of big stadiums a lot, don’t you get nervous out there?
Dan: I don’t get nervous. I get really excited, I try to take those nerves and turn it into excitement and that’s what we’re always telling the Next Star kids, you know? Take all those nerves and instead of letting them take away from their performance – turning it into good energy.

Hannah: When did you know that you were really good at music?
Dan: I mean, I’m still trying to get better at every instrument. I played classical piano for a long time and that was a lot of work and a lot of practice but it’s really when I started actually playing chords and writing songs and singing that I thought “oh, I could do this” and I could hear songs on the radio and start playing them. So, that’s really when I sort of felt confident that I should keep practicing and I’m still practicing. I practice every day.

Hannah: You’re Justin Bieber’s guitarist and that’s really big! How did you really end up with that?
Dan: Thanks, it’s really exciting. A lot of it was luck but, I’ve been musical directing and playing guitar for pop artists for a long time. In Canada for a long time I was helping kids just like we do on the Next Star, becoming better performers, writing setlists, learning how to sing properly and so at the time Justin needed somebody and fortunately I was recommended to him and that was about five years ago.

Hannah: Now you’re probably the best of buddies
Dan: Yes, he is like my little brother – that’s for sure.

Hannah: Little brothers do pranks and I know that you guys play pranks on each other quite a bit. I really like a good prank, so Justin once went on your twitter account and posted that you were going out of the band. Did you ever get revenge? Because, you did promise that you would.
Dan: Yeah, Justin is quite the prankster. He broke into Twitter and announced that I had quit and he’ll never forgive me for what I did and five minutes after that happened TMZ called his manager asking for the exclusive scoop on what I did to quit, which is hilarious. But, I haven’t really got him back one-on-one. We’ve done a couple pranks on him, we have a song called ‘One Less Lonely Girl’ where Justin brings up a girl on stage and he gives her flowers and on the last tour he gave her a crown and she’s his queen and so one show we found our most overweight, sweatiest crew guy and brought him out on stage and he sat in the chair and Justin had to give him flowers and serenade him and he wasn’t very happy. (laughs)

Hannah: Well, do you think that he’ll get you back for that?
Dan: I mean, he pranks me all the time. All the time. So I have no doubt that there will be more pranks coming, I always seem to be the butt of his pranks.

Hannah: Right. So, it’s not really ‘revenge’.
Dan: It’s hard to prank him because often he’s on stage in front of eighty thousand people and we really don’t want to ruin the show for the audience. So, it’s easy for him to prank us – we just can’t really get him back.

Hannah: That’s true! I know that you’re more than Justin Bieber’s guitarist. You’re also the co-writer of “Be Alright” and I think that song really stands out to me, it’s one of my favorite songs. It’s really smooth and it’s soft, tell me about process of writing that.
Dan: “Be Alright” is a very special song to both of us. We wrote it in Bali, when we were sitting on the beach. So we were just sitting around with an acoustic guitar so that’s probably why it’s so smooth – thanks – and you know, it’s sort of relaxed and chill. It’s a special song because it’s one of the first times – you know Justin and I very close and we talk a lot about personal things that are going on in our lives, but that was the first time we not just talked about it, but we wrote about it and we were both in long distance relationships. We wrote a song about it and it means a lot to both of us and I think the fans really like it because it’s sort of insight into really what he’s feeling. It’s not so much just a dance pop song, it’s a really personal song.

Hannah: So, between you and me, can you tell me something about Justin that I would not know in a Tiger Beat magazine.
Dan: Yeah, that’s a tough question – what would I tell you? I’d probably tell you that not a lot of people know that Justin is a great cook. Even though you would think ‘oh, Justin Bieber – he could have people who cook for him’. He actually prefers to cook and he’s a great cook. He makes food all the time, it was really fun on the last tour, we were really tired of staying in Hotels so we would try to rent houses in different places and different cities and we’d always find a house with a great kitchen and he’d always be in there cooking up a storm. (laughs)

Hannah: I just got back from a 10-week bus tour for We Create Change and Free The Children across Canada and you spent a lot of time on the road. What do you love and what do you hate about it?
Dan: I love being on a tour bus, I sleep like a baby on a bus so that’s my favorite part of being on a bus. Often times when we’re touring internationally, we have to fly everywhere and I don’t love touring on a plane. I love being on a bus. Did you have a little bunk that you would get in?

Hannah: We didn’t sleep in the bus, we slept in hotels. But, did you guys sleep in the bus?
Dan: Some nights we’d sleep in the bus, some nights in hotels but, I just really liked it. I used to go to summer camp and I was always around people and then I was in University in a dorm and I was always around people. So, traveling on tour in a bus just with everyone around, I really love just being around people. It’s tough sometimes being away from my family and I get homesick and sometimes I just want to come home and cook my own eggs and sleep in my own bed. But, I love being on the road and with Justin it’s an amazing experience to go all over the world and meet all of his fans, he’s got the best fans in the world and it’s just incredible to play his music for them everywhere in the world.

Hannah: So, you’re a judge now on ‘The Next Star’. What’s one piece of advice that you’d give to youth who want to make a difference or want to achieve their dream. Or, anyone who wants to achieve their dream, really.
Dan: My best advice is to really just never give up, if that’s what you love and really follow your heart. With ‘The Next Star’ – we went across the country and we saw thousands of amazing Canadian kids who are so talented and we were only able to give out twelve golden tickets. Many great kids heard “no” – and I think so many successful artists hear “no” during their career, but it’s the ones who don’t let that “no” stop them and they keep going and they keep working and working until they make it a yes. So, that would be my advice – to just never give up.

Hannah: What will ‘The Next Star’ have that will make them stand out to you?
Dan: For me I want ‘The Next Star’ to have the full package. So I want them to have an amazing voice, amazing stage presence but also a really good sense of style. Just, kind of like what you have. It’s hard for kids to know who they are at such a young age and it’s easy for a ‘Next Star’ to just come out and try to imitate Bruno Mars or imitate Katy Perry. But, I really want to see a ‘Next Star’ who can show us who they are and really let their personality shine through.

Hannah: Can we do some rapid fire?
Dan: Yeah, of course.

Hannah: If you could hide your elephant anywhere – where would you hide it?
Dan: My garage. And when people come over I could say “Wanna come and check out a car?” Then open and the garage and it’ll be an elephant!

Hannah: Then they could ride the elephant, maybe?
Dan: Could we do that?
Hannah: Maybe.
Dan: Could you imagine just seeing this on the streets of Toronto, someone riding an elephant?
Hannah: That would be awesome, I think that if you ever get an elephant – you should do that.
Dan: We’ll stay in touch, i’ll invite you over.
Hannah: Perfect!
Dan: You can have the second ride after me.

Hannah: Oh, awesome – sounds good! Where is the favorite place that you’ve visited so far and you’ve visited a lot of places.
Dan: Well, on the ‘Next Star’ tour we went across Canada and that was really exciting. It was great to be in Halifax and Winnipeg and Edmonton. We went to Vancouver, Montreal – places that I don’t often get to because with Justin we’re so busy traveling all over the world. So, that was really great to see Canada but, my favorite place in the whole world is Tokyo in Japan. I love Tokyo, I love Japanese culture and food and shopping, I love the hotels and I love Japanese toilets, I love everything about Japan.
Hannah: Well, that sounds very interesting and it’s always good to try new things. Always good to try new Japanese toilets (laughs) and see what it’s like.
Dan: You want to ask me about the Japanese toilets?
Hannah: Sure.
Dan: What’s so special about them?
Hannah: Yeah, what’s so special about Japanese toilets?
Dan: Well, they’re hands free so if you walk up to the toilet you just put your hand over it and the lid lifts up and the seat is heated. What would it say?
Hannah: “Welcome to the toilet”
Dan: Now this interview has gone very potty (laughs)

Hannah: Who is your hero?
Dan: I really have two, one is my Father. He plays guitar and always brought me up on Bob Dylan and The Beatles, but also into musical theatre. He’s the one really where I learned what I want to do and what I do with Justin and Ariana Grande and all the artists that I work with is just it’s not just about the music, but how music works with the whole show. How the audience sees it, all the lights, wardrobe, dancing, trap doors, explosions, all that. My other hero is a guitar player named Zakk Wylde, who I love very much. He’s always done whatever he wants and that’s what I love about him. He’s never really sold out, he knows who he is and he stays true to that. I think his audience really loves him and whatever he does they’ll follow him because they know he’s being true to himself.

Hannah: So, you’re from Ottawa. We visit there a lot, my grandfather used to live there. My mom loves the egg rolls at the Golden Palace, have you ever tried them?
Dan: (laughs) Of course, I love them.
Hannah: Really? Okay my Mom’s going to be so happy! She can eat them for breakfast, lunch and supper. When we went to the JUNO Awards in Ottawa, we had a giant limo and took everyone before the event for egg rolls. You see the parking lot, and 15 artists all come out wondering what’s so great about egg rolls. Once they tried them, they’re were all like “OK, you’re right.”
Dan: They’re very, very special to me. I grew up eating them once a week, maybe twice a week and I love them and now my wife loves them. They’re so famous in Ottawa that now at the Canadian Tire Centre where the Ottawa Senators play and where Bieber performs when we’re in Ottawa, they actually sell the egg rolls there. So, when we’re back stage we send someone up to go bring us egg rolls back stage and now the whole Justin Bieber crew loves Golden Palace as well. hey’re the best in the whole world. I love them. I was actually just talking to someone about my number one – I really love food and I was talking about a top ten favorite bites, just a bite of something and GP egg rolls are number one for me, without a doubt. I love them. Actually, now I’m really craving them. (laughs)
Hannah: Well maybe you can get them after.
Dan: Do you have some? Behind the couch over there?
Hannah: Ha! No, but next time I’m there we’ll send them to you.
Dan: Deal!

YTV’s The Next Star airs every Monday at 7:00pmET.

Malala is #StrongerThan FEAR. What am I #StrongerThan? What are you #StrongerThan?

Malala is #StrongerThan FEAR. What am I #StrongerThan? What are you #StrongerThan?

July 14th is Malala Day. It has been almost 3 years since she was shot and almost killed for wanting to go to school and raising her voice for that right. It has been 3 years since the world watched as she recovered and her voice grew louder with support from everyone. It has been one year since she spoke at the United Nations on her 16th birthday and it was proclaimed to be Malala Day and she said “I speak not for myself, but for those without a voice.”

For Malala Day this year, Malala wants us all to raise our voices and get loud for what we are passionate about. She wants to know what we are each stronger than.

This is a message and request from Malala:

Malala Day is not my day. It is the day of every girl and every boy. It is a day when we come together to raise our voices, so that those without a voice can be heard.

On my birthday last year, I stood before the United Nations and spoke up for girls’ rights. You stood with me, with letters, messages and photos of support. Thank you.

This year, we need to raise our voices even louder. I’m asking you to stand with me again on Malala Day to say: We are stronger than the enemies of education. We are stronger than fear, hatred, violence and poverty.

They thought that bullets would silence us, but they failed. Instead, out of that silence came thousands of voices. My birthday wish this year is that we all raise our voices for those under oppression, to show our own power and that courage is stronger than their campaign of fear.

The road to equality is long, but we will succeed if we walk it together. Please join me in raising your voice this Malala Day.

I am #StrongerThan

strongerthan.jpg

Join me and show your support, what are you #StrongerThan? I want you to take a picture of yourself with a sign that says, “I am stronger than…” and list your word.

For more information about Malala Day and Malala, go to www.malala.org.