FOXY director Trista Suke on why alopecia doesn't define her

Trista Suke's film FOXY is broadcasting on November 7, 2020 as part of the Absolutely Canadian series. In this Q&A, Trista speaks about her journey as a filmmaker and how the film helped her move beyond the fear of living with alopecia.

Trista Suke is the director of FOXY, airing Nov. 7 as part of the Absolutely Canadian series

Filmmaker and director of FOXY, Trista Suke (Scott Ramsay )

Trista Suke
Filmmaker and director, FOXY
Toronto, ON

Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Tell us about yourself.

As I look through my window and gaze upon my peaceful front yard, Dupont Street, I ponder the question, "tell us about yourself." I could share the predictable stuff, like how I grew up in the countryside north of Toronto, graduated from Ryerson's media program, or how I'm about to enter a quarter-life crisis, but I won't. Instead, I'll tell you that I made an award-winning film, sing jazz and soul music, and am currently revving up my wig-modelling career. Toronto winter is coming and we're in the middle of a pandemic, life is great. 

What inspired you to make FOXY?

A scene from FOXY featuring Trista Suke (Trista Suke/Ellis Poleyko)

Losing all of my hair at a young age due to alopecia made me shrivel up in fear. My worst nightmare was that someone would find out that I didn't have hair, or worse, see me without my wig. It wasn't until I turned 20 that I realized something had to change. Thanks to my supportive family and then roommate, FOXY co-creator Ellis Poleyko, I reluctantly decided to create my final thesis project bald head. I saw it as my chance to come clean, and let go of the ridiculous facade that caused me ongoing stress, anxiety and paranoia. If you ever get the chance to make a film, or creative project, about your biggest secret, do it! It completely changed my life.

What's the most valuable thing you learned while making the film?

  • How to write a contract

  • Refrain from saying "we'll fix it in post" 

  • If you want something done, do it yourself

  • Don't underestimate the importance of quality audio 

  • Toronto filming locations are more accessible than you think (hello TTC!) 

Among the many things I learned in the filmmaking process, number one was discovering the power of passion. Looking back, I realize FOXY would be nothing without passion as the driving force. Ellis and I knew very little about filmmaking but we went for it. Headfirst, into the deep end. It's not always easy, but finding something that sets a fire within you is all it takes. It's crazy how that thing for me was once my biggest burden. 

Who are your favourite Canadian filmmakers or documentary makers?

I had the pleasure of meeting several talented filmmakers at festivals where FOXY was shown. I met fellow Canadian Gavin Michael Booth in Palm Springs, California and saw his amazing film, Last Call. At the Regina International Film Festival, I saw William Mazzeleni's unforgettable film, Pow-Wow, inspired by Indigenous people in Quebec. Finally, Deepa Mehta. She is one of the most influential local artists paving the way for women filmmakers. She has a distinct and powerful voice. I deeply admire her consistency. 

What's your advice to anyone currently struggling with alopecia?

Having alopecia is a very personal battle. Family and friends have often told me 'don't stress, it's only hair' or 'you're beautiful no matter what', alongside other encouragements that I wholeheartedly ignored. I wasn't ready to come to terms with it at that time, and no one could change my mind. Perhaps if I saw more representation of 'imperfect' people in the media, I would have been more confident. There seems to be only one definition of beauty on paper, and I am so ready to change that. We are all the same, because we are all different.

Anything else you'd like to share?

Watch FOXY as part of the Absolutely Canadian series on CBC Ontario stations on November 7 at 7 p.m. or stream for free anytime on CBC Gem! You will not be disappointed. Stay FOXY baby!

Absolutely Canadian airs locally through October and November on CBC Television and CBC Gem. (CBC)

Trista Suke is a filmmaker and singer based in Toronto. You can follow Trista on Instagram @_trista_ for updates on her projects and musical endeavours. For more information on FOXY, follow @foxythefilm.

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