My last interview before I head back to England is with Azalea Hart, face of Toronto Carnival. I rush from from my Edge Walk of CN Tower (totally amazing experience, I would recommend it for all the adrenaline junkies out there) to Square One Mall in Missassauga to meet Azalea. Talking to various people including Ayisha Jackson of Carnival Make Up Kits, I was told I had to speak to Azalea Hart. I am glad I did! I find out about more about this very poised and beautiful lady.
I’ve heard so much about you. You are the face of Toronto Carnival, you do a video carnival blog… How did you get into it? Well I’ve always been interested in carnival and the culture. I’ve gone to a bunch of carnivals all over the world; Barbados, Miami, Jamaica, LA, Cayman Islands, Toronto, Trinidad. Just like yourself, I try to go to as many as I possibly can. I have a background in broadcasting. One of my professors, I bumped into her on the plane on my way to Trinidad carnival. It was Reading Week and she was on her way to Grenada with her husband. She wanted to know where I was going, what I was doing and I told her. She thought it would be a great idea to take videos of it and make it a project for class. I did it, she loved it and said you have to keep doing this. And I have kept doing it for a year and a half.
And the face of Toronto Carnival? How did that come about? There was an online competition. I was voted in. I found out about the competition a few days before the closing date. I really pushed it on my social media and it came down to two of us. I think what made the ultimate decision in my favour was that they asked you to write a little bit about yourself, like a CV. And I told them about my experiences of carnival and this is my love and my culture. I was chosen.
What exactly is your role as face of Toronto Carnival? So what I do is focus on speaking to the media and speaking to patrons about storming (public who are not in costume but join masqueraders on the road) the band. That was our theme this year, ‘No storming on the road’. My image was used for a lot of the marketing, online and different media sponsors. And any time there was an interview, I would be interviewed and that theme was my focus. I guess the authorities wanted someone to speak to the media who was in it and part of the culture, not just a suit or tie as a representative.
So has there been a lot of storming before in Canada? In Toronto? Oh yes, But I think it is because the public do not understand the culture. You know Toronto is such a huge melting pot of many people and they do not take the time to understand the carnival culture. And I guess if you are not in it, you do not understand. They just see it as a party. They do not know the history, that there is a competition, registration. Not matter how many fences we put up, they just want to go where everyone else is.
What does carnival mean to you? You know what? For me it is freedom. I always tell people there is no one way to describe it and you have to feel it to know what I am talking about. You know? Euphoria.
How would you persuade international masqueraders to come to Toronto Carnival? What is unique about it? Well what I think is unique is the diversity. You get to come out and see so many different people come to play mas. It’s amazing to see that so many different people want to be part of the Caribbean culture. Another thing is that there are so many things to do leading up to carnival. There are lot of hip hop events. There is the OVO fest which Drake hosts and a lot of artists come to Toronto for that. There are basketball players such as Lebron James and lots of events on the Harbor Front focused on cultural diversity. It’s so scenic. Parties have recently become drinks and food inclusive which has been following the trend of carnival events in Trinidad. So it is doing it all in this amazing city.
What was your favourite part of Toronto Carnival? I had an amazing time on the road! I got there at 10am and left at 2pm so I had a full day. I had such a good time with like minded people and our truck is on the road. I enjoy the road so much!!
The one thing that had put us off coming here for a long time was that there was no drinking on the road. We thought ‘what’? Yes, I guess that is the one thing that I don’t like. But Canada is not like other countries. You can’t just walk around with a bottle. But people are drinking. It’s not just so obvious. And everyone has a great time regardless.
Is there anything you usually look for in a costume when you play mas? I usually model at band launches and I will usually be given that costume for the road. So it’s rare that I get to choose my own costume. But I will never play in a black costume. I do not like black on the road. Before I never liked feathers or things like that as it felt too hot. I always felt too hot. However, in the last few years, I only want to play in big pretty mas! I just love it, it feels like a costume to me. The bigger the better!
And have you got an particular designer that you like? Yes. Sophia Rickson of Devyani Costume Designs. She’s part of Saldenah and designed the Ashanti section. She does amazing work. I wore her costume for the Official launch of Toronto Carnival.
You’ve been to many carnivals outside of Toronto. What has been your favourite? The most fun and surprising other than Toronto and Trinidad was Jamaica carnival. I had the most amazing time on the road! It felt like Trinidad number two. The vibes was amazing on the road, will not miss that next year.
And are there any new carnivals that you would like to try out? I have never participated in Miami Carnival and would like to try that. I would also love to go to the UK and play mas. Those are the two main ones for now.
For anyone coming to Toronto Carnival next year what would you recommend? I’d say get your tickets early, it’s always good to prepare yourself beforehand so that you are not scrambling around for tickets last minute. There are certain parties that sell out quicker than others. If you want to do OVO fest, you have to know six months in advance and be ready at 10am on the dot when these tickets go on sale as they sell out in ten minutes. Boat cruises are awesome. Perfect backdrop for any photos.
What about any events you would recommend? I always enjoy day parties more than night parties cause they are more special you know? DJ Private Ryan had his first Soca Starter event here in Toronto this year the week before Carnival. That was absolutely amazing. Flare is a Dr Jay’s event which was pretty good. I didn’t go to many this year but food and drinks inclusive fetes, I am there.
What are your goals for the future? So I went to school of journalism. My aim is to become an entertainment host of some sort, television or online. I’m starting my own entertainment show that will be airing on my carnivlog as well. So I will be doing both of them simultaneously. For the carnivlog, it is just for different people to experience the culture, put a spotlight on the carnivals and the culture.
Speaking to Azalea, looks like Toronto made the perfect choice for face of Toronto Carnival. She is very warm, personable, intelligent and articulate. She is extremely poised, almost regal and although her image is used to promote this carnival, for Azalea, carnival is more THAN just about her looks and looking fantastic in a costume. She wishes to educate people about our culture. I can’t wait to hear and see what she does next.
For more information on Azalea, please go to www.youtube.com/azaleazoe, Facebook CarnivlogwithAzaleaHart, instagram @azaleazoe. To contact her, email firstname.lastname@example.org. All images with this article used with the authorization of Azalea Hart.