Presented by Renew Life
She’s known for wearing her heart on her (tattoo) sleeve. Here, Canadian musician Bif Naked opens up about taking on the activist causes close to heart in her songwriting and finding the humour in the darkest moments during her battle with breast cancer.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Always writing lyrics or poetry, or lousy words strung together that make nothing. There’s never a moment that I don’t have something to write about.
What inspires your songwriting?
A lot of my mentors and heroes were punk-rock guys. They were really political and they were writing about things they were passionate about and that personally meant something to them. So it made sense for me to write songs about being pro-choice, about my own choices in life, about girl-on-girl love, about being sexually assaulted. We didn’t have any #MeToo movement; there was no Internet. The way we would be creative or discover our own activism or advocacy was through our songwriting.
What’s the significance behind your tattoos?
When I started getting tattoos, it was an armour for me. I discovered that people didn’t talk to me or hurt me, or come near me, or insult me. As soon as I open my mouth, that’s all ruined; my tough exterior is totally betrayed.
What helped you cope after you were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007?
I was 36 when I was diagnosed. Suddenly I discovered, not necessarily for me but with all the other patients I met, that there was a real level of shame. The only thing I could do in response to being around [these women] was to make jokes. It would ease the feelings and the fear. It was the greatest gift we could give one another. And I carried that lesson with me forever, and [decided], “I’m never shutting up.”
What keeps your work life gets too hectic?
I get anxious, I get overwhelmed really quickly, if things are going really nuts and the schedule is really hectic. It can sometimes be a 23-hour work day. If you have enough of those in a row, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. The one thing that always relaxes me is spending time with my husband, laughing and making fun of ourselves.
What advice would you give to young women?
My number once piece of advice: [apply] sunscreen on your hands! Just kidding. It’s easy for a young person to think that something is insurmountable, that it’s too impossible, too much of a dream. You just have to keep going; it’s all about commitment and persistence more than anything else.