Story by Ann Fritz, Hair and Makeup by Lesia T. Bear, Photos by Kevin Stenhouse Photography
Her indigenous Cree name is Whispering Two Moons but her friends and fans know her best as Lesia T. Bear. She is an actress, professional make-up and hair artist, published poet, screenwriter, producer and is now directing animations for a children’s book. Furthermore, the gorgeous 52 year old has been a stunt performer in DreamKeeper and Into The West. She started out in Hollywood North as a host, sharing the story of Vancouver becoming the new Hollywood. Over Lesia's extensive career she has worked in hit television shows such as: 21 Jump St., X-Files, The Commish, J.J. Starbuck, Stingray, Wise Guy, and Bury My Heart Wounded Knee plus performing in Distant Thunder, Red River, Traveler, and The Investigation (The Clifford Olsen Story) Children of the Dust. A special highlight of her career was a performing a scene with the one and only Sidney Poitier.
Born in Calgary, Lesia was raised on a farm by her grand-parents. Lesia’s road to success on the electronic and silver screens was not an easy one, and one that required she grow up quickly. Her professional career began at 16 in hair and make-up becoming the youngest in her class to graduate from Jacobson's Beauty School in Calgary. She admits this was not her first love, but her mom, the directors, actors, along with other make-up and hair professionals thought she was a natural and one of the best new talents. For Lesia, she wasn't aware yet that her true desire was to become an actor and writer. She believes, “When on your journey you have to be honestly and mindful, treat yourself with compassion and kindness. Move beyond your fears, frustrations and anxiety. Finding your true essence by calling on your inner power and have the confidence to just go for it! If you don’t, you’ll be just disappointed in yourself and in your life. Our community is like a puzzle, if we were all the same shape, we couldn't create such a beautiful mosaic together. We are all original and unique.”
A year later in 1982 Lesia ‘went for it’ by moving to Vancouver and the rest plays out much like a fairytale. “The last time I lived with my father, James Bear, I was 2. For 11 years I thought my father was dead. There were misspoken words and misunder-standing's, and I didn’t bring him up because of my visions of moments in my early years. Sadly, my sister and I also had a complicated relationship that was turbulent in every unspeak-able way. Regrettably, these moments forever changed our lives. I tried to focus on the fond memories I did have." Van-couver was a brand new start for Lesia. "I asked my mom when she was visiting, where my dad was buried because I wanted to pay my respects. The look on both my Grandma’s and my Mom’s faces said it all when I heard them say ‘He’s alive.’ There are no words to describe what I felt inside; I was a tornado of emotions. I demanded to see him. It’s a bit of a long story, but it was important for me to confront my past and connect with loved ones to find the questions I so badly wanted answered. In true fairytale fashion, they met, and now their bond is stron-ger than ever. "My Papa Bear is a tremendous inspiration in my life. Jimmy 'The Bear’ is what everyone calls him in the Billiards world. He’s won many championships throughout Canada, USA, and England and the first Indigenous man to come 2nd in the World Snooker Championship. I am proud of his achieve-ments and his loving spirit. I am working on a documentary about him. "
She is grateful for her family despite their past hardships. "Thanks to my Mom who encouraged me to move to Vancouver to be with my Dad - it changed my life. I grew more into my true self with his love and support. It is also where I met so many gen-uine friends who protected me, gently guided me on my glorious journey. It was best time of my life, and love them all dearly. "
Lesia quickly connected with the designers in the art, fashion, and photography world in Vancouver, who took immediate notice of the ‘new kid in town. She was asked to model in hair & fashion shows, photoshoots, her photos found their way into art galleries, and eve to the cover of the 100th issue of The Georgia Straight. In 1984, she was voted ‘Favorite Model’ in the famous Bo Brown Salon hair show, out of 150 models. In fact, if you were to stop by the salon today, you will still find her photograph and trophy on display. Soon after, she hosted a local Vancouver show called Hollywood North, about how Hollywood TV shows were coming to Vancouver. Than a friend suggested she ‘find an agent’. That agent was Lisa King and started her the following day on 21 Jump St. - featuring Johnny Depp! Her first day on set, producer Patrick Hasburgh, took immediate notice of Lesia enrolling her at The Peter Breck Academy for Film and Television. She took acting for television, film, theatre, voice, improv, directing and screenwriting, earn-ing her Acting Degree while continuing to work on her other TV series, film, and modeling jobs.
In 1993, there was a writer’s strike, which brought her back to Calgary. Lesia made the decision to learn about her heritage by enrolling at the Plains Indian Cultural Survival School where she studied the Cree and Blackfoot languages, Traditions and Survival - graduating with straight A's while still working in film. “I love learning, we’re all here to teach one another. It’s 100 percent effort in work and relationships. Harness your visions, enrich your mind by focusing on innovative ideas.” A major highlight for Lesia came the following year in 1994, when she was cast in Children of The Dust, working with the one and only Sydney Poitier and Jim Caviezel.
Lesia shares another dear moment. “One day on set I learned a valuable lesson from my dear friend & actor Jimmy Herman. He was watching me when he pulled me aside saying, “Stop giving away your kindness and power so easily to some of these people, they will just use it against you one day Lesia, please just be very careful.” It was powerful moment knowing he was watching out for me. I was blessed having Jimmy’s love and support and from many other close friends like Rochelle Parrent & Al Stickle, who literally saved my life on set. I am eternally grateful. They are in the Land of the Everlasting. I miss them dearly along with my Mom Shirley. My connections are sacred, with my friends and family who all saved me in their own way. Now I also share my love with love Jack Crowells and my fur-ba-bies Sulaa and Aulani who are always there for me. We all have to reconnect with gratitude.”
6 years later, Lesia went to Hollywood, earning 2 degrees at Joe Blasco Professional Make-Up School upgrading her skills in makeup and prosthetics. After school she attended To The Top showcases, auditioning for: agents, casting directors and pro-ducers. When Lesia caught the attention of producer Matthew Earl Jones, brother of actor James Earl Jones, he immediately recognized her talent and hired her to do makeup and work in his film Right Hook. As they shared stories, Matthew encour-aged her to ‘write her dreams into scripts.’ True to her world-ly nature and Matthew’s insightful instincts about her, Lesia wrote Soul of a Spirit Warrior, a real vision she dreamed of, and has dedicated to all First Nations. In searching out investors for her projects, Lesia shares some great advice. “Get your scripts registered, NDA’s signed, get investors to show proof of funds before you sign anything. Research them! Never trust anyone until everything is concrete. There are a lot of talkers out there, not a lot of doers -- and many takers (of your ideas), so be careful. I know it’s better to plan, than to react - so look for professional reliable mentors with integrity who support you, those are your keepers.”
Today, Lesia is writing her own screenplays, a theatrical piece, several documentaries and a series of children's books with a final animation in development. “I've worked with hundreds of talented actors, directors, producers and crew the past three decades, not only as an actor, stand-in, stunt, SSE, but doing makeup, hair, set decoration and scenic paint,” says Lesia." As a result, my acting and writing were put on hold. I love being ver-satile, but I was losing myself. I’d stop what I love because I was afraid of failing or avoid disappointing myself. Fears, bullies, sometimes hold you back, but no more avoiding, I am working hard on facing them. For effective change, I moving in a posi-tive direction with beautiful transformative visions; I prioritize opportunities, workout, meditate and eat right. I love the mys-tery of life, there are always hard questions, but it is not hard to find the answers if your open to exploring them, like being honest with ourselves and each other. Truly forgive, ask for help if you need too, it’s essential in all that we do.”
“I am focused on producing and directing my screenplays, documentaries, I am actively looking for investors, applying for grants and film funds. I know it’s all worth it.” I can see this is emotional for Lesia to share “I have been subjugated by some producers, directors and people in the industry, but I’ve said NO when I wasn’t comfortable and have kept my integrity and self-respect. There are issues that arise from being First Nations/European descent, "Lesia recalls a director telling her in an audition that she was too beautiful to be Native, and are you Native?” Lesia goes on to say, “I stood up, I didn’t get mad, and I said, 'Yes I am, and please know there are tons of beautiful Native women out there.' I listed many and I hum-bly walked out.” Lesia adds, “I ended up working with him, he apologized and now were friends. I get type-casted a lot; it happens to the best of us. Try to not take it personally, it’s hard - but keep your grace. Take risk and learn new skills they will lead to new endeavors."
Lesia says, “There are important changes taking place for wom-en in the film, television and work industry today, not only the 'Me Too' movements which are so, so important but also is-sues of ageism and even safety. Sadly, people don't realize how many people get hurt or killed in the workplace. No one knows what you or your family goes through when you go home, the long hours and those who don’t follow protocol. It happens in all work places. We have to create a knowledge of caring feedback in all areas of our life and work. Practice makes per-fect.” Lesia goes on to further elaborate about ageism. “I am getting older, there seems to be this ridicule about the age of actresses, it is discrimination.” I am glad to see that actresses are proving that they can perform well at any age. Lesia makes a point with examples like Grace and Frankie with Jane Fon-da, 80 and Lily Tomlin, 78. “They're incredible, I love the show and break so many stereotypes. Ellen and Oprah who inspire us everyday. The lovely Wilma Pelly from North of 60 in her 80’s and still working. Women who just turned 50 and in their 50’s are proving women can be successful like Sherry Miller, Roma Downey, Nicole Kidman, Catherine Bell, Lori Loughlin and so many more. Women don’t often recognize the power of their influence. Everybody is watching. Each and every one of us is an inspiration to someone, you don’t have to be a big movie star to influence a life. That is extremely empowering. Reclaim your authentic power by being the best version of you." Can you see why IHWM feels Lesia's long career in Film and TV makes her a Canadian inspiration and star? Her merit have too often been overlooked. Lesia proves that when your put your heart and soul into your life’s goals – you can achieve success at any age.
There are issue's very dear to Lesia’s heart; “I speak my truth quietly. I want to break the stigma of false stories told about the First Nations People, then and now, in books and films.” This is why she wrote empowering scripts Soul of Spiritual War-rior and the sequel Two Moons to explain how Indigenous peo-ple truly lived. “Addressing the truth is important when telling any history and culture. Last year was the reconciliation with Native Cultures for Canada 150. I never want to see this for-gotten, and there is much work to still be done. I also thank Gord Downie from The Tragically Hip for bringing his love and awareness to the First Nations issues. I have learned from my Elders our story must be genuinely told. If this is the only thing in my life I can make right for our First Nation People, this makes all my tireless and endless efforts worth it. My culture has enriched my life; I want to do the right thing.”
Lesia was a child blessed and a woman gifted who shares her unique gifts with her family, her friends, her community and who through her charitable works has made significant and positive change in the lives of others. Now an elder and a men-tor, Lesia brings inspiration and breathes a new sense of pur-pose in those she meets and works with. Her love of nature truly personifies her title of "Sage Woman". Lesia is a truly remarkable inspiration!
A full range of Lesias work can be viewed on her website lesiatbear.com