Blaine McLeod

The Healing Power of Stories: Blaine McLeod Helps Himself and Others Sharing His Experiences

“I had a lot of walls up because I was scared to be who I really am. Now I am teaching the younger generations to open up,” shares Blaine McLeod. “It takes a lot of courage for someone to open up the story.… Everyone has a story. But stories are healing. I started my healing process a long time ago by sharing my stories,” he continues. 

Something he’s noticed is the way he will share a story and someone will say how their friend or their cousin went through something similar but when he looks in their eyes, he can tell they were the ones who had those things happen. People often come up to him after hearing his stories, sharing their own in return and it’s something that warms his heart. He knows how hard sharing can be. 

Wabasca, Alberta is where he grew up and had a rough upbringing. He went on to graduate from the Center for Indigenous Theatre and got his foot in the door to become an actor, starting a new life in Toronto. Acting became a way to be himself and tell his stories, or those of people who have been through similar circumstances but might be too shy to do so themselves. He’s working on writing a one-man show called Bonehead, a story about his life and all the mistakes he has made and learned from.

To overcome barriers in his life, McLeod checks in with himself around his feelings, spending time journaling and ensuring he’s true to himself, letting go of shame around how he was raised. Because many people from his reserve don’t venture away to chase their dreams, he likes to remain visible as much as possible so they know that if he can do it, they can too. He lost one of his brothers to addiction and spent a few months back home after his passing so he could take the time he needed to grieve and rejuvenate. 

Illustration by Shaikara David

McLeod moved away from Northern Alberta because growing up as a Two Spirit person in the area was a challenge and Edmonton seemed like a better option. He moved there on his own at 14. Acting in a high school play inspired him and he was the first in his family to graduate from high school. He moved into the oil industry like the rest of his family until he realized he was living more for his parents than his happiness.  He took a chance and pursued a three-week acting program in Toronto and moved there with no family nearby in his new community. His friends became family and what he learned made him a stronger person. The city was fast-paced and he felt a bit lost in the shuffle at times. 

His one-man show has been an opportunity for self-reflection, though sometimes he wonders if it’s good enough and he feels like a stronger speaker than a writer. To get over that, he records himself speaking and transcribes it. The criticism that comes from sharing his art sometimes gets him down and he’s been working on the project for several years. 

When asked for his advice for youth considering a career in theatre or acting he says, “Follow your dreams.” After growing up in a family that was pretty closed-minded, he ended up living someone else’s dream and lying to himself that the money would make up for it. When he finally stepped outside of his box, he found peace. 

He knows it’s not easy to make a change but he has words of encouragement based on his experiences. “It's a scary road, but you will meet a lot of people down the road, and if you're far away from home, friends, become your family and take care of yourself.” Getting used to a big city is a hurdle he’s seen many people grapple with and he tries to be a friend to newcomers like him who have moved from reserves and small communities. 

Thinking of his hopes for the future, McLeod would like to keep doing what he loves as an artist, sharing his story. He hopes to get his one-man show on stage and to get back in the swing of things after taking a break from his creative pursuits. He’s been working at a restaurant on his reserve while he’s been home visiting and grieving with his family.  Humility is a lesson he’s been learning, balancing those teachings with his pride in how far he’s come.

Blaine McLeod had a lot of walls up once upon a time when he was scared to be himself.  Now he is teaching a new generation of storytellers to open up. Witnessing the courage it takes to open up and the healing that can come from sharing, he’s developing a one-man show and community capacity for empathy by modelling openness and grace. He started his healing journey a long time ago by sharing his stories and he’s bringing people with him along for the ride. 

Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.

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Key Parts

  • Career
  • Identity
    First Nations
  • Province/Territory
  • Date
    April 18, 2024
  • Post Secondary Institutions
    No PSI found.
  • Discussion Guide
    create to learn discuss

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