Sylvia Stewart is a Canadian based actress, stunt-woman, filmmaker, and entrepreneur. Loving mother, sister, daughter, and friend. We chatted with her about life, family, business, struggles, and her hopes for herself and our world.
AURA – Share with me something about yourself that you're working on improving, and how you think (XYZ) will be better/more productive/run more smoothly once you've accomplished your goal.
AURA - What did your parents do, how did they influence you, and what lessons have you held onto?
SYLVIA - My father worked for the federal government on a military base as a draftsman and union delegate. My mother stayed home and raised my brother, sister and I. My parents instilled in us a love for hard work, formal education and love of the arts. My mother introduced the various arts to us at home and a love for nature by inviting us to tend to the backyard garden, going for long walks in nature and encouraging painting and sketch drawing.
My father nurtured in us a love for music (he used to be a member of a band in Jamaica in his youth). Every chance he got, we would hear him sing alongside whichever Motown record he was playing in the living room. My sister and I were his willing backup singers.
I am adamant about eating real, minimally processed food as a direct result of my parents' example. I credit them for many things but especially providing a solid foundation in health and well-being. My mother introduced me to yoga at 2 years old! My parents did a great job creating well-rounded humans adults :)
AURA - Describe your biggest obstacles in life and how you’ve mastered them.
What were your biggest epiphanies: the moments of life-defining change that shaped you into the person you are today. What is your life philosophy and how did you develop it?
SYLVIA - Many major things happened in my life to alter my life philosophy and trajectory. At 6 years old, I trained intensely as a gymnast. The perfectionist in me required me to do the same move over and over again until I achieved mastery of the skill. At 19, I moved from my childhood home with my slightly older sister. Not too long afterwards she was diagnosed with a mental illness that would change her life forever as she has been drugged with pharmaceutical drugs ever since. I became my big sister's protector and overseer at 19 years old. At 24 years old, I was single and pregnant with my lovely daughter. My responsibilities increased to tending to my daughter, keeping her and my sister safe physically, legally and otherwise while holding down a job/ trying to develop a career. Through all this, I never gave up on my dream of being a performer. I would go to auditions and work on set as a background performer to pay the bills. My first stunt job was given to me months after my daughter was born. I credit my early life experiences and especially childbirth and child-rearing as a great training ground for the film industry. Just like in my personal life, I get to 'show up' and juggle many things at the same time while utilizing several skills on set.
My life philosophy is that there will always be obstacles and challenges hurled at you, but you just need to learn to juggle them, remain positive, have a sense of humour and push forward in spite of it all.
AURA - What is your vision for the future for you personally and professionally? Maybe add some thoughts on where you hope the world will go.
SYLVIA - Professionally, I would like to see more cultural and visible diversity on screen. I am so much a proponent of this that I am currently the chair of my performer union's diversity and inclusion committee. I would certainly love to work more in front and behind the scenes as a producer of content. I think that we definitely need more stories featuring typically marginalized groups with the same groups at the helm (writing, producing, etc). I have worked in the Montreal market in Canada's both official languages, but I would like to increase the work that I do in french. I find it challenging to act in French, as it is my second language. Also, I created a small beauty product business to help reduce the toxic burden that most women absorb through the typical beauty products that they use. I started small with lip butter and body butter that possess simple, pure, vegan and gluten-free ingredients. It is a passion project that has become very helpful to friends and family so, I will start selling EHMFROOT across Canada very soon to increase my reach.
Personally, I want to give myself permission to take a break more often. I am so used to taking care of everyone and saying 'yes' to wonderful experiences that I must allow time for self-care and meditation. That, I think, is the key to longevity in business and in life.