February 1 edition: Meet Vancouver’s rising stars

Introducing The Breakouts class of 2024.

Hello, hi, good morning. It’s an exciting day here at the Straight: we’re launching our inaugural Breakouts issue!

The Breakouts

The Breakouts are, in our eyes, the city’s rising stars. We put our heads together to highlight changemakers and big thinkers across 10 categories—from theatre and dance to entrepreneurship and activism. 

Find the issue in newsboxes tomorrow morning; in the meantime, discover five of The Breakouts below. And stay tuned for a special bonus edition of our newsletter tomorrow featuring the other five.

Huge thanks to our presenting sponsor, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, for helping bring our vision to life.



Jillian Dion went from working in a brewery to working with Martin Scorsese

Jillian Dion was at work at the now-defunct Callister Brewing on Franklin Street when she got the call from her agent that would change everything.

“I was a little scared to answer it. Things had not been going my way,” she recalls. “I was heartbroken at this point.”

But she went outside to answer the call. Her agent chatted nonchalantly before delivering the news: she got the part. The part was a supporting role in Martin Scorcese’s Killers of the Flower Moon alongside Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert DeNiro, and based on the true series of murders of Osage Nation members back in the 1920s. 

  • At BlueShore at CapU, Feb. 28, Justin Adams (Robert Plant’s guitarist and Tinariwen's producer), and Mauro Durantem(leader of Italy's esteemed Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino) perform thrilling folk/blues. "Astonishing"–Guardian*

    *sponsored listing


Jorge Tuane of Dear Gus brings emotion and memory to his food

Jorge Tuane still remembers the first time he saw someone eat a hard-boiled egg. He was just a small boy in daycare, and his teacher pulled one out to eat as a snack.

“I felt like I was witnessing some sort of magic,” he recalls. “I just remember seeing that egg being cracked on the table. I couldn’t believe it—it held its shape.”

For Tuane (and, indeed, for many of us), food memories are some of his most vivid. It might help explain why there is such an emotional quality to his cooking. As head chef of Dear Gus Snack Bar, which opened in December 2023 in Mount Pleasant, Tuane is showing the city his vision for good food, and it’s a beautifully simple one.

  • Taste the world at the Vancouver International Wine Festival, February 24 - March 3. Discover Italy and more at a full week of lunches, dinners, seminars, and tastings.*

    *sponsored listing


Entertainment Arts at KPU

Meet Naomi Freire, a Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) graduate from Brazil, who shared insights during a recent conversation about her experience in the Entertainment Arts program at KPU.  

For her capstone project, Naomi took the skills she learned in the Advanced Game Development program and created a video game project, outlining the comprehensive development process, including the use of Blender for 3D modeling and Substance Painter for texturing.  

Naomi underscores the pivotal role of KPU in forging connections between students and local gaming studios, as exemplified by her firsthand experience attending a presentation by Felix Bernard, the lead concept artist at Relic Entertainment Studio. 


Billy-Ray Belcourt is singular in an industry of sameness

There is a certain thrill of discovery to reading Billy-Ray Belcourt. His writing feels like a secret: something important, something to be shared among close confidants. It’s not that he’s unknown—his five books, multiple literary award nominations and wins, and track record as a national best-seller certainly suggest otherwise—it’s that his work feels singular and special in an industry of copycats.

Bridging the academic and the literary, Belcourt’s writing is gorgeous to read: sentences are sweeping and expansive, full of breath and lyricism. And he uses this command of language to, as he describes it, express “a desire for another world.”


How Kaylee Astle is changing the beauty game with Blanka

The beauty market is booming, and the tech scene is always innovating. But the beauty-tech scene is almost non-existent. For Kaylee Astle, co-founder and CEO of Vancouver-based Blanka, that gap presented an opportunity. After a career in consulting and a short-lived attempt to start her own sunscreen line, she realized that there was a need for infrastructure that supports independent beauty businesses.

“Independent brands have captured more than 25 per cent of the beauty industry, but they haven’t historically been supported by anything,” she says. “We wanted to build technology to solve a lot of the problems I experienced.”


When AI takes over from human intelligence, how will people be treated?

The Shadow Whose Prey the Hunter Becomes—playing at PuSh Festival Feb 1-3—is a story about the type of public meeting you would hope to happen in a certain kind of democracy.

From Back to Back Theatre (Small Metal Objects and The Democratic Set ) and co-presented by Neworld Theatre and The Cultch, this piece asks:

How do we each ethically navigate the complexities of representation and language?


The unparalleled rise of Ola Dada

It often happens like this: someone stumbles into an open mic night at a comedy room and gives it a try, for shits. They get hooked and then they’re consumed. Such as it was for Ola Dada in 2017. Barely a year into living in Vancouver, the accounting student and bank employee was roaming downtown with some friends. They stumbled into a comedy show in the basement of what used to be Goldie’s Pizza on Pender Street. Dada’s friends persuaded him to get on stage, which he did, despite never even having thought about doing standup before. 

He killed it. As he was leaving, showrunner Suzy Rawsome invited him back the following week. When he returned, she asked him how long he’d been doing comedy.

“I was like, ‘Since the last time I was here,’” Dada recalls. “She was like, ‘WHAT?’”

  • Philadelphia punk band Poison Ruïn bring their West Coast Tour to The Pearl on Thursday February 8th with guests Chain Whip & Extensive Slaughter.*

*sponsored listing


BlueShore at CapU presents Quebecois folk, Robert Plant's guitarist, all-women big band and more

A world of music awaits! Quebec's Le Vent du Nord delivers reels and ballads, February 18.

UK's Justin Adams (Robert Plant, Tinawiren) and Italy’s Mauro Durante (Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino) perform worldbeat and blues, Feb.28.

Soul dynamo Dawn Pemberton grooves with CapU ensemble Kenté, March 1.

Sister Jazz Orchestra and Dee Daniels celebrate International Women’s Day, March 8.


Dreamy pop band Babe Corner brings its signature babecore to the stage. (Feb. 1 @ The Pearl)

The Circurious Debut Cabaret promises gravity-defying tricks and plenty of whimsy. (Feb. 1 @ WISE Hall)

Indie rockers Cold War Kids wail into town. (Feb. 2 @ the Vogue)

Studio 58 brings Stephen Sondheim’s dark twist on fairytales in Into the Woods. (Feb. 1 to 18 @ Studio 58)

Browse curated vintage wares—from clothing to dishware—at the Vintage Assembly. (Feb. 4 @ Heritage Hall)

Wander through Capilano’s romantic Cliffwalk Love Lights with a lover or a friend. (To Feb. 25 @ Capilano Suspension Bridge Park)

Want to know what else is happening in Vancouver? Check out our events listings.

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