By Kika Martinez
Vanessa Conti Irion is a journalist, but it was as a press officer and television producer that she made her career in Brazil. Vanessa has worked professionally in Porto Alegre (where she was born), São Paulo, Belo Horizonte and Rio de Janeiro (where she lived 7 years before immigrating). Abroad, also she recorded a travel program. Currently, Vavá is responsible for the events and communication and audiovisual projects of the Diversité Artistique Montréal (DAM ).
DAM operates on two fronts: On the one hand, it offers services and programs that help the inclusion of culturally diverse artists in Montréal, (immigrants and/or those identifying as ethnic minorities) in the Québec labor market. On the other hand, it sensitizes organizations, professional associations and government institutions in the cultural sector with best practices in regard to diversity.
WAVE: How did you come to live in Canada?
VANESSA: In 2011, I was enrolled for a master’s degree in Amsterdam that would only begin the following year. At the invitation of a friend, I came to Montreal to visit him and study French and English during the months left before my trip to Holland. I met someone here a few weeks after my arrival and a month later we were already living together! Love has literally changed the fate of my life: I was asked to marry and I decided to stay.
WAVE: As a professional have you encountered difficulties in Montréal?
VANESSA: Like most immigrants, I found it difficult to establish myself professionally in my area. I thought it would be easier. I went through several job interviews. But then I got phone calls with the same speech: “We love your work, it’s clear that you have a lot of experience and creativity. We choose the other person because she is from here and dominates French.” Having another accent that is not from Francophone or Anglophone countries is a problem, even if you write in French or English better than someone born here. I worked a year at a coffee shop to pay the bills until I entered Diversité Artistique Montréal (DAM).
WAVE: What types of projects do you develop?
VANESSA: We work on two fronts – one artistic and one more political and social. We have four structuring projects and a follow-up career development, in addition to diverse opportunities, visibility offered and some discounts in the partner organizations. Our projects help artists in their inclusion in a sector difficult to penetrate.
WAVE: What tip do you give to young Brazilian artists who land in the city?
VANESSA: Get in touch and get help. I got to know DAM relatively late and I think I would have been more likely to settle here more easily if I had had such support back then. Professionally, studying French, taking courses in your own area and also volunteer work helps in the process of inclusion, especially by the contacts made. It’s not easy sometimes in our own country, why would it be different here? Another precious tip is to make new friends from different backgrounds, trying to get out of the comfort of having contacts only in the Brazilian community. It is an excellent exercise to know the culture, the behavior, the way of thinking of the people of the place that you chose to live in. Do not be discouraged. Know your rights and duties here. In addition, Canada is a beautiful country and Montreal is a wonderful city: cosmopolitan, safe, feminist, with a thousand activities going on (hot or cold!), So enjoy the best of this place!