TV, radio personality speaks to students about “˜self-love”™

By Olivia Candy Palmater, a comedian, television and radio personality, writer and speaker, spoke about her journey “of self-love” to a group of local students on March 21.  

Grade 8 students from JD Hogarth and Elora public schools joined Grade 9 and 10 students at Centre Wellington District High School to listen to Palmater, the host of The Candy Show on CBC.

Palmater, who was born seventh into an interracial Mi’kmaq family in New Brunswick, said she first experienced racism when she was just five years old.

“The first five years of my life were like a fairy tale,” she said.

“Every single day my parents told me that I was the most intelligent child that had ever lived, that I was the most beautiful child that was ever born; just the very fact of my existence was a gift to the universe. And like all kids, I believed what I heard every day. I had a great sense of self-worth.”

But when she entered school, Palmater said the fairy tale ended.

“Apparently, those kids at school did not get the memo on how fantastic I was,” she said. “They tortured me. That very first day was the first day I heard the word ‘half-breed.’”

By the time she reached Grade 12, Palmater said she did not know what she wanted to do in life, except to play volleyball in post-secondary school.

Palmater told the group her guidance counsellor told her to set her sights lower.

“He said, ‘Well, you people don’t tend to do well at university, so maybe you should set your sights on something different,’” said Palmater.

“I was so naive that I thought he meant because I was an athlete, because I was a jock.

“He said, ‘I don’t mean because you’re a jock, I mean because you’re Mi’kmaq and you people don’t do well when you go to post-secondary education.’”

Palmater said she learned a lesson that day: no one knows what an individual is capable of except that individual.

“Everywhere you are being sent a message: that message is that you are not enough,” she said. “That message is wrong. Of course you are enough.”

She explained that hate, racism and sexism all boil down to whether or not you love yourself.

“You will never be able to love ‘the other’ until you truly and honestly love yourself,” she said.

At 27, Palmater said she decided to become a lawyer. She graduated as the first Aboriginal valedictorian law student in Canada.

But by 32, she did not want to work in law any more, and instead became a comedian. At the same time, she came out as gay to her family.

Palmater said the words people use are powerful and derogatory terms should no longer be accepted.

“If you are not careful with the words that you choose, those words could do damage,” she said.

Palmater said her GPS told her to take Indian Trail (in Guelph-Eramosa Township) in order to get to CWDHS.

“Could you imagine for a moment what that felt like for me?” she asked. “That word hurt me this morning.”

Palmater said that as a collective, those who do not accept hurtful words can change the conversation.

“If you learn to keep those words out, you can learn to keep happiness in your life,” she said.  

She parted with the words, “You are important, you are special, you are intelligent and you are worthy of your own love.”

CWDHS teacher Pamela Brown-Wass, who organized the assembly, said hosting Palmeter was important to the school community.

“I think sometimes it is so easy to be judgmental … I think Candy’s message is … ‘be the best you you can be and when you’re your best you, you can be your best for everyone else,’” she said.