Lisa Charleyboy will speak to a crowd of about 20,000 youth

Photo: Kourtney Meldrum

Former Ryerson student will speak at WE Day

In Arts & Life /

By Kourtney Meldrum

As a young girl sitting in her home in British Columbia, Lisa Charleyboy would flip through glossy fashion magazines looking for something and someone to connect to. It wasn’t until she made the move to Toronto at the age of 17, went to York University and someone on campus handed her a copy of Spirit—a native arts and culture magazinethat she realized what she wanted to do.

As a First Nations from the Tsilhqot’in – Raven Clan, Charleyboy is currently the Editor-in-Chief of Urban Native Magazine, a publication that creates pop culture content with an Indigenous twist. As one of three of Huffington Post’s millennial Aboriginals to watch, Charleyboy is set to speak at WE Day to a crowd of about 20,000 youth on Thursday.

WE Day is an annual event that brings together students with interests in transforming communities and changing lives. This North-American celebration hosts a star-studded line-up of guest speakers to invigorate young people and give them the tools to change the world.

In many ways, the blog was a way for her to find him, and the part of herself she had never known.

After realizing that the fashion industry just wasn’t for her, Charleyboy transferred from Ryerson’s to York for professional writing. 

Flipping through the Spirit magazine made Charleyboy realize she only ever saw negative stereotypes of Indigenous people in the media all her life. This magazine was different.

“Seeing all the really beautiful images and [the] really accomplished [and] intelligent Indigenous people felt like there was this whole world that I’d never seen before and that had never been shown to me,” said Charleyboy. She then started to become in touch with her Indigenous roots. 

This meant connecting to something much greater in her life. At the young age of four, Charleyboy had lost her father.

While at York, Charleyboy started writing a blog called Urban Native Girl to reconnect with her father and her heritage. It allowed her to explore whatever topics piqued her interest. Whether that be fashion, pop culture or Indigenous matters—she did it all. 

Much to her surprise, Urban Native Girl quickly grew. The blog was intended for her to be able to write on subjects that she found interesting, and the fact that so many other individuals connected with the content she was creating was an added bonus.

There was this whole world that I’d never seen before and that had never been shown to me

In many ways, the blog was a way for her to find him and the part of herself she had never known. 

“I just want to be able to be close to him and he’s not here. So by me going towards Indigenous culture, and learning more…it really is like me trying to find my place as an Indigenous person and to connect with him in a different manner,” said Charleyboy. 

Urban Native Girl gave Charleyboy a platform to not only explore and connect to her own Indigenous roots but also to travel across North America and meet people from First Nations communities. 

Having a platform also comes with responsibility. By being able to share her story with not only Indigenous youth, but youth in general is something that she takes very seriously. 

She still pinches herself when she thinks about the events she’s been asked to be a part of, like upcoming WE Day.

“I’m really excited to be able to share my story with everyone there and hope that it will inspire. Even if it inspires one person, that’s enough.” 

Charleyboy will be speaking at the Air Canada Centre, where she will share her story in front of thousands of youth—among them maybe a young individual waiting to be handed their own version of a Spirit magazine.

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