Speaking About Autism

I work as a producer for a morning show, and one of the great things about this job is the incredible array of smart and talented people I get to work with when planning and producing interviews. Recently I produced a segment with the terrific filmmaker Cooper Raiff, the director of the new film 'Cha Cha Real Smooth', which won the audience award at Sundance this year. The film stars Dakota Johnson as the mom of Lola, a teenager with autism, played by Vanessa Burghardt, an actor with autism. For the film's casting director Angela Demo, it was completely off the table to consider neurotypical actors for the part of Lola, who is on the autism spectrum. Click here to read the Variety article about the film's commitment to authentic casting.) The film is awesome; I loved it and you should watch it (it's on Apple TV.). What I also loved when working with Cooper's communications team was the information they provided to help the on-air hosts speak about autism during interviews. Often colleagues will ask me questions about how to speak about autism on the air as the mom of a child with ASD, and these points offered by the PR rep could not sum it up better:

In speaking about autism:

• Autism falls under the umbrella of neurodiversity / neurodivergence, but not all neurodiverse people are autistic. Being on the autism spectrum can impact the ways in which an individual communicates, engages in social interactions and other behaviors.

• If you have met one person with autism, you have met one person with autism: autism is not a monolith, and each individual's experience and the expression of their autism is different and can even vary from day-to-day. "Cha Cha Real Smooth" tells the unique story of one character who happens to be autistic.

• Avoid passive, victim words and instead use accurate, respectful language: rather than "he suffers from autism," use "he has autism," "he's autistic" or "he's on the autism spectrum."

• Avoid "high-functioning" and "low-functioning" labels. Neither is a clinical diagnosis, and these labels can minimize the support that individuals with autism may need, in addition to prioritizing an ableist perception of how one should interact with society. Many in the community prefer language such as "high support needs," "low support needs," but it's also best to describe the person's needs that day or event as needs change.

• People with disabilities, such as autism, should not be described as "inspirational" or "courageous" simply because they have a disability, nor should they be infantilized in how they're addressed or perceived. As the community says, "always assume competence."

Such thoughtful and clear information about what can be a confusing, emotional and divisive topic. People feel differently about what language to use surrounding autism in discussions and I feel this is an excellent guide to follow. Rosie :)

How To Donate Directly to Ukraine From Canada

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022 and since then we have been watching on our screens the horror and unimaginable suffering of a full-blown war. We are far away from those who are helping Ukrainians flee armed conflict and we want to help, but don't know the best way how. One way is to give money directly to The Ukrainian Red Cross. They are on the frontline of this war, helping people inside the country by aiding evacuations, mobilizing volunteers, collecting blood, and providing shelter, food and basic necessities. They have trained thousands of volunteers who, often at their own personal risk under the shelling, deliver humanitarian aid to help the injured, evacuees and those left behind in hotspots. Donating directly to the Ukrainian Red Cross ensures your support gets right into Ukraine. Keep in mind you won't get a tax receipt as this isn't a Canadian registered charity. But for those wanting to know their money is going straight to where it is needed as quickly as possible, this is a way to do that.

The Ukrainian Red Cross is providing aid for animals suffering in this war as well, delivering pet food to shelters.

You can donate from outside Ukraine by clicking here. Rosie.

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Vivier Pharma at Elton John's AIDS Foundation 30th Annual Oscars Viewing Party

The 30th annual Elton John AIDS Foundation Academy Awards Viewing Party took place on Sunday, March 27, in West Hollywood Park, LA. I was thrilled to attend with Vivier Pharma, a Canadian skin care company honoured to support EJAF for a second year in a row. The party was hosted by Lady Gaga, Billy Porter and Eric McCormack, alongside the chairman of the Elton John AIDS Foundation, David Furnish.

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The star-studded gala featured a stunning performance by Brandi Carlile and raised $8.6 million for the Foundation's lifesaving work to end AIDS. Elton John and David Furnish's sons Zachary Jackson Levon Furnish-John and Elijah Joseph Daniel Furnish-John (Lady Gaga's godsons) were also in attendance. A friend of David Furnish and a long time supporter of the Elton John AIDS foundation, I have a strong connection to the work that the foundation does as my beloved Auntie Valerie passed away from AIDS contracted through a blood transfusion.

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It was very important to me to dress for this special event as my authentic self, so I chose a beautiful Dsquared silk tuxedo with a custom NARCES half ball gown. The custom outfit allowed me to play with masculinity and femininity, not in drag, but as myself. My diamonds were generously provided by Maison Birks and my glowing skin is of course made possible by the incredible line of Vivier skin care products.

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Congratulations Vivier Pharma on your incredible philanthropy work worldwide, and specifically the life changing support you give to The Elton John Aids Foundation. The funds help frontline partners to prevent infections, fight stigma and provide treatment with love, compassion and dignity for the most vulnerable groups affected by HIV around the world. For more information about the incredible work this organization does, and to support them in their goal to end AIDS by 2030, visit the EJAF official website.

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Check out my exclusive interview in Los Angeles with Mike and Steve Vivier - Presidents of Vivier Pharma. JP xo

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Visiting Toronto's Distillery District in Winter

Every February one of the many ways we celebrate my son and brother's birthday is by taking a trip to the Distillery District. The last few years we have made the Toronto Light Fest our destination, but the festival has been paused during the pandemic so instead we take a trip to visit the shops, art installations, and then hot chocolate and treats from Balzac's. We've been bringing our little man there since he was two... now he's almost as big as his dad and loves the vibe of the area just as much! There's something really nice about visiting the Distillery when there isn't a major event going on... it's chill and so picturesque. The loveliest family time and tradition! Rosie :)

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The Distillery Historic District is located at 55 Mill Street in Toronto.

Vanessa Williams on The Evolution of Makeup for Black Women by Beauty Expert John-Paul Ricchio

Since Vanessa Williams became the first Black woman to win the Miss America crown in 1983, the world of beauty, skincare and makeup for dark skin has changed greatly. In this exclusive conversation with the legendary actor, singer, producer and fashion designer, we discuss the evolution of makeup for people of colour. It was such a great privilege to have such an open and candid conversation with the inspiring Ms. Williams- a true trailblazer and trendsetter. Enjoy... and when you are done watching, you can also read my full interview in the Toronto Star's Kit to learn about what products Vanessa Williams can't live without. JP xo