By Aaron Zaretsky
There are many Black Canadian women who were born in the GTA, who have had a strong impact in their field. A lot of them are from the past, however below are FOUR present day Black Canadian women from the GTA who have made groundbreaking triumphs in their respected fields.
Born in Toronto, Lana Ogilvie revolutionized the modeling industry. After being ‘discovered’ at a High School fashion show in Toronto, she re-located to New York and signed with Ford Modeling Agency. She has worked as a runway model in Paris, Milan, and London, and graced several magazine covers such as Vogue, Chatelaine, and Cosmopolitan. In 1992, Lana Ogilvie became the first ethnic model to sign a contract with Cover Girl.
She also strongly advocates for diversity in fashion, being part of ‘The Black Girl’s Coalition’ in the 1990’s, a group that worked to raise awareness regarding the fashion industry, and lack of diversity on the runways and in print. Ogilvie’s success led to her becoming a brand ambassador for Cover Girl. She then moved to television becoming an on-air host and segment producer at Fashion Television, and segment contributor for CBC and Citiline. Ogilvie continues to work as a television host and model, and is an inspiration for current and future ethnic models.
Brampton-born Ebony Oshunrinde (aka WondaGurl) is a dedicated, hard-working record producer. She finishes a beat in a few days, then goes back to edit until it is perfect. Her perfectionist work ethic paid off as she became a star at 16 years old, when a track originally sent to Travis Scott resulted in Jay-Z using that track on his album Magna Carta Holy Grail. WondaGurl would go on to produce two songs for Drake on his 2015 album If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late and produce for Rihanna, Lil Yachty, and Big Sean. Her major goal is to work with Kanye West and it could very well happen one day.
Toronto-based academic Eugenia Duodu has a passion for science and volunteer work. Studying Chemistry at University of Toronto, she was able to fulfill both passions by volunteering for Visions of Science Network for Learning, a STEM-based organization that facilitates educational programs for low-income youth in the GTA.
During her studies, Duodu climbed to CEO running the organization part-time. When she completed her studies, earning a PhD in Chemistry, she ran the organization full-time. Duodu continues to work in Toronto with her goal to make a long-term positive impact in low-income youth communities through STEM engagement, which can enable youth to unlock their potential.
Scarborough based Olympian Phylicia George loves running competitions and started running hurdles at 15 years old. She represented Canada at the 2012 summer Olympics in London finishing sixth in the hurdles event. She then competed in the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto and the 2016 Rio Olympics, but never medaled. In the 2018 winter Olympics in PyeongChang, George teamed up with Olympic medalist bobsledder Kaillie Humphries and they won a bronze medal in women’s bobsleigh. In the process of winning an Olympic medal, George became the first Black Canadian woman to compete in both the summer and winter Olympic Games. An incredible accomplishment for a remarkable Olympian and an influence for future Black Canadian women Olympians!
This Black History Month take some time to appreciate the GTA based Black Canadian women who have made groundbreaking triumphs in their field. Their hard work, determination, and achievements will inspire future generations and continue to make an impact.