The Face oF a Shero

Toronto Life is proud to part­ner with Hill­crest to cel­e­brate ex­tra­or­di­nary women who ex­em­plify the power of one. Here are their sto­ries

Toronto Life - - Contents -

joanna GriF­FiThS Body pos­i­tiv­ity war­rior. Founder and CEO of Knix, an in­ti­mate ap­parel com­pany de­signed for women by women

“I’m on a mis­sion to em­power women to be un­apolo­get­i­cally free,” says Joanna Grif­fiths. That’s the cen­tral pur­pose of Knix, an on­line-only co­many that has rein­vented in­ti­mate ap­parel for real women who seek out great­look­ing, high-per­for­mance and leak-proof un­der­wear. Prior to launch­ing Knix in 2013, Joanna in­ter­viewed hun­dreds of women in the de­vel­op­ment process. “Two things stuck out,” she says. “First, that women were look­ing for bet­ter prod­ucts across the board. And sec­ond, that the in­ti­mates cat­e­gory as a whole was mak­ing women feel pretty crappy about them­selves—broad­cast­ing one mes­sage that one very sin­gu­lar body type was the best body type.” Joanna changed all that. Knix, which has ex­panded into a teen and sports line, is ac­ces­si­ble to ev­ery size, and uses seam­less fab­rics for com­fort and functionality. Giv­ing back has al­ways been a part of the equa­tion. In a va­ri­ety of ways, Knix sup­ports women liv­ing with men­tal ill­ness, breast cancer sur­vivors, and those flee­ing abuse and sex traf­fick­ing. And Knix’s most re­cent ini­tia­tive, con­sist­ing of shar­ing sto­ries and ex­pe­ri­ences on its web­site, is about ex­am­in­ing women’s iden­tity as it re­lates to in­fer­til­ity. It’s a topic Joanna knows in­ti­mately. Af­ter suf­fer­ing a mis­car­riage, she is now ex­pect­ing her first child. “We want it to be a space where we ac­knowl­edge the big topic of fer­til­ity,” she says. “We want to tell all kinds of sto­ries.”

Dr. Tina MeiSaMi Oral and max­illo­fa­cial sur­geon. Founder of the Dr. Borna Meisami Foun­da­tion, which re­stores hope to women af­fected by abuse

Eight years ago, dur­ing a time of pro­found grief, Dr. Tina Meisami de­cided to take ac­tion. She called on friends and col­leagues to help her es­tab­lish the Dr. Borna Meismi Foun­da­tion, an or­ga­ni­za­tion, named af­ter her late brother, that pro­vides den­tal ser­vices and oral surgery to women es­cap­ing do­mes­tic vi­o­lence. In 2007, Tina had been dev­as­tated by the news that her only sib­ling had died sud­denly and un­ex­pect­edly of a heart at­tack. He was only 40. The Meisamis had grown up with a tight bond: when their fam­ily fled Iran for Toronto af­ter the 1979 Is­lamic Rev­o­lu­tion, Tina and Borna re­lied on each other for strength and di­rec­tion. “It was a very nur­tur­ing re­la­tion­ship. We took care of each other,” she says. They even­tu­ally fol­lowed in the foot­steps of their father, a physi­cian who in­stilled in them the power of medicine and the im­por­tance of so­cial re­spon­si­b­lity. Borna be­came an or­tho­pe­dic sur­geon. Tina pur­sued oral and max­illo­fa­cial surgery. The foun­da­tion has now grown to 26 den­tists and den­tal specialists who pro­vide pro bono treat­ment for women liv­ing in shel­ters across the GTA. Th­ese sur­vivors of vi­o­lence ex­pe­ri­ence oral dis­ease be­cause of de­pres­sion and self-ne­glect, long-term im­pacts of abuse. Restor­ing their hope has been cen­tral to Tina’s work. “I re­mem­ber our father would say to us: ‘Your job is help­ing peo­ple be­cause you can,’” she says. “The idea of giv­ing women their smiles back is at the fore­front of our mis­sion.”

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