Today we raise our fists high and put our hands together in celebration of our Feature Girl Warrior, the thirteen-year old Vancouver based writer, award winning actress and influencer Esabella A.K. Strickland, a champion against child illiteracy who acts as an empowering figure against bullying through her art. From a young age Esabella was diagnosed with Dyslexia and ADHD, which not only impacted her learning, but inhibited her interactions. It wasn’t until Esabella was awarded a grant from Variety Children’s Charity to attend Kenneth Gordon Maplewood School (KGMS) – an alternative high school program for students with learning differences and specific learning challenges – that Esabella suddenly took flight. In 2018 Esabella wrote, produced, co-directed and starred in the film, My Red Ball (2018). The film handles themes of bullying, written through Esabella’s own experiences, and went on to become a Fest Favorite. Esabella has recently had the honor of being a co-host for the 53rd Annual Variety Show of Hearts Telethon, supporting the cause that has been so good to her. Over the JULY 2019 long weekend this gifted young girl was part of the short film, MoonTime. Esabella had a hand inspiring, MoonTime, as well as participating as an actress for the role of Heather, which features an all-female cast and crew. The story deals with a girl’s transition into womanhood and aims to remove the shame and social stigma that is unfortunately often felt by young girls when they experience their first menstrual cycle. Esabella’s goal is to have girls feel more empowered by the process! She has also just finished her first Young Adult novel, Then and There, Here and Where written with her Dad, Michael. Esabella has worked hard to train herself with techniques she uses to deal with both her anxiety and her dyslexia. Through this process she’s discovered what she calls her two superpowers, memorizing and a higher level of sensitivity toward others, including the characters she plays. She has also trained herself with mindfulness and grounding techniques to cope with anxiety – something she hopes to pass on to those she works with. A fierce swimmer and passionate painter, she is currently working on her own line of greeting cards for young adults. Esabella is an exceptionally gifted Artist and an inspiration to Girl Warriors of all ages. And to that we say a joyful resounding YES!
What makes you a Girl Warrior?
I am not afraid to try anything once. I also want to make a difference in the world by having the courage to try things. I was bullied when I was younger so I understand how lonely somebody feels when you don’t fit in.
What drew you to acting and why do you love it so much?
I started “acting” in grade 3 with a teacher who had a drama background. He got me excited! I did some school plays that lead me to the musical theatre program at Arts Umbrella, which I did for 3 years. But I have always loved getting up on stage at a young age, too.
What was my most memorable moment on stage/on set?
Oh that is tough. It would have to be when I was on Travelers and I was in a scene with Eric McCormack and we chatted between scenes. The second was when I acted in my first film called Enlightenment and at the end of shooting the whole cast and crew gave me a huge applause and called me onset. It was so cool!
How do you balance school and work and what are the challenges/rewards?
Oh that is easy since my school does not give out homework. They believe homework is counter-productive so I have lots of free time to do the things I love, like piano, tap dancing, swimming, martial arts, acting lessons. The challenge for me is to get to bed on time, as there is so much I want to do.
What’s your dream role?
My dream role is to play Orabella, the character I wrote about in my YA Novel. She is very similar to me but with special powers and a lot more responsibilities.
If you could wave a magic wand so that you could work with anyone – past or present – who would that be?
Oh that is so hard! For the past I would love to meet Helen Keller, as she was a fighter and created her own path, even though she was deaf-blind, that didn’t stop her from making a difference in the world. She was a writer and activist and even got a Bachelor of Arts degree, and she did this before women had the rights we have today. As for today, I have been lucky to have so many teachers/mentors come into my life, like my Mom, Oma, Cathy Lee Crosby, (my Fairy Godmother), Kathleen of WeRGenZ who believed in me enough to get me invited to the Adobe Summit as the youngest Adobe Insider to attend. Recently I got some great advice from Serinda Swan.
How do you use your art to fight against bullying?
I use images that inspire inner happiness and love. You are your own best friend. Really, you’re not alone in the world when you have yourself as your best friend.
What do you want to say to the bullies out there that you can’t say through your art?
That you need to look at your own pain and ask for help. Really, you want to hurt and shame others because you’re only mirroring what is going on inside, so be vulnerable and ask for help.
What do we need to know “for sure” about being a child actor?
To have fun… don’t focus on just acting. Try different things but also be prepared to let the outcome of the “audition” go. No matter how great you do on your audition it doesn’t mean you will get the part. Disappointment is part of the process but do other things that make you happy.
Why is being able to read so important?
It gives you confidence – even math is reading. It encourages us to explore more, and the words of others inspire us to create our own words and stories. Words are like musical notes, and when words and notes are brought together it creates stories that feed our soul.
How do you find time to create music? Is there a soundtrack to your life?
At a young age I saw music… or notes. It was hard for me to read music because of my dyslexia so I really had to focus on hearing it. When I really “got” what I was hearing I could see it, very similar to writing a story or painting a picture, I first feel it then I see it. Each day is random as to what I create.
What’s the most important life lesson your Mom taught you?
Never give up, always believe in yourself and it’s none of your business what others think of you.
What would you say to other Girl Warriors looking for inspiration?
Always ask for help, find what your passion is and go for it, and don’t be afraid of what others think. Be original with your ideas and express them. Also find your Wonder Woman Fairy Godmother and ask them lots of questions. Never be afraid to ask.
Who is/are your Girl Warrior hero(s) and why?
OMG, there have been so many girls I know who are trying to make a difference – from my friends, to classmates to my social media Girl Squad. Each is unique in her own way, but we help lift each other up so we all can succeed.
What makes you laugh uncontrollably?
Oh telling jokes to my friends or family, and just acting silly sometimes.
How do you handle disappointment/rejection?
That is hard but I try to do something creative. I start by drawing or painting how I feel until the bad feeling goes away.
After seeing your work and reading this interview people might say you’re an “Old Soul”? Why do you think that is?
Not sure… but my parents taught me at a young age about the Native American Indian story of the white wolf and the black wolf. I feel that what you know is pulled out of you when you’re doing things that make you happy or doing something creative. It is the genuine part of who you are.
Blue Sky it. No boundaries here, just limitless opportunities. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Oh I know… once I graduate I am going to take a year off to travel and find myself in the world. Then I would like to become an animator and own my own animation studio, but who knows, I just want to keep doing what makes me happy.
If a movie were written about your life, what would it be called?”
Oh I guess it would be called “Bella” as you should always see the beauty in life, be grateful for what you have.
To learn more about Esabella head over to her website: https://www.esabellakarena.com/
Or on IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm9263162/
Follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/EsabellaKarena
Subscribe to her YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0O8yLZ4ZBDNyH2Rgjmw9ug/featured?view_as=subscriber
Discover more about Orabella the Oracle at: https://www.orabellatheoracle.com/
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/orabellaoracle/