East Meets West: Elly Mayday Looked Life Square in the Eye
On a beautiful spring day back when I was a boutique girl strutting around in my heels and skirts, helping others find their own strut, a woman about my age with the most gracious full smile came in looking for a dress fit for going out with her babes. Geez, she looked so familiar, how did I know this person? I helped her find some fancy duds, we chatted easily and flung back and forth. “Did we just become best friends?” I asked, quoting Step Brothers. Without missing a beat, she quipped back, “Wanna do karate in the garage?”
Yah, I knew this woman
Before I ever moved to Vancouver, and was sorting myself out in a myriad of ways in Ontario, an old boyfriend, always a supportive champion sensitive to my eating disorder past/and present introduced me via Instagram to a mega babe of a “plus-sized” pin-up model- based in Vancouver no less! This model wasn’t the Kate Moss physique that I had convinced myself I had to aspire to be in order to deem myself beautiful, she was voluptuous and joyful, sexy and radiating confidence, this model was Elly Mayday.
On that beautiful spring day, I got to meet Elly, a woman who left a trail of inspiration and gratitude wherever she walked. I’m not here to infer that I knew Elly better than I did. Elly and I texted back and forth a sprinkle of times, shared some really good memes, but, unfortunately, the much-anticipated plans to go dancing to 90s jams never came to fruition. Doesn’t mean that Cheshire- cat grinning woman didn’t hold a special place in my heart though.
Elly and radical self-acceptance go hand in hand. She carved out a niche for herself in the world of fashion in an arena that scares the pants off of most- lingerie. Loving and celebrating herself as she was, not subscribing to the norm.
And celebrate she did! All the way to New York City where she was part of the #ImNoAngel undergarments campaign alongside self-proclaimed “size sexy” supermodel Ashley Graham.
Radical self-acceptance isn’t just for the exterior. Lion-hearted and bursting with courage are marvelous descriptors for how Elly tackled her next hurdle; in 2015 she was diagnosed with a rare form of ovarian cancer. Initially, due to the rarity of the nature of her disease, even being diagnosed was a challenge.
What did she do? Advocated adamantly and steadfastly. Her intuition was informing her that something was not right and that she had to speak up over and over again for herself. And so she did. She also kept modeling- through the chemo and the baldness and the surgeries and with the scars. Elly kept on sharing her journey with honesty and vulnerability and candor. The good, the bad and the ugly. All of it. From the glamour, cat shoots to the months and months of being in the hospital
On March 1, 2019, Elly passed away.
I hated writing this column. I hate how much death hurts and confuses, how it angrily mystifies those of us still kicking around in these human bodies on Earth. That’s the nature of grief, though I suppose. Yet on the flip side, it hurts because we cared, we felt and we loved. We love.
Elly planted seeds of hope wherever she went; courage, self-worth and love, conviction, humour, passion. I could go on and on because she was that vast with her charisma and zest, her desire and ability to thrive meeting challenges head-on.
About a year ago, I ran into Elly on the street and played the catching up game. I confessed that I had been struggling, depression nipping at my heels, “Well, get that taken care of,” she said.
At the time, I was offended that she would say something so bluntly. My ego didn’t want to hear that! I wasn’t ready to face it head-on. Her comment, her ability to look things in the eye, and to look me in the eye and say that was an act of love.
Thank you, Elly, thank you.