Andrea Menard has come to view each part of her multifaceted career as interconnected. Acclaimed for her work as an actress as well a singer, Menard is also a seasoned songwriter with four albums to her name.
Early in her career Menard took her writing even further when she created the one-woman musical stage play The Velvet Devil, a story about a 1940s Métis singer who turns her back on her past to try and make it in the big city. Featuring 18 songs co-written with her musical collaborator Robert Walsh The Velvet Devil would later be turned into a film by the CBC.
Originally from Flin Flon, Man., Menard began acting more than 20 years ago and has gained praise for her roles in such TV shows as Moccasin Flats, Rabbit Fall, Blackstone, Hard Rock Medical, and Canada’s first transgender-themed television series The Switch.
This year the award-winning actress was honored by the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA) as the organization’s Woman of the Year.
“Andrea is deeply committed to the growth and development of Indigenous representation in Canada’s arts industries. She is an inspiration and a role model for all of us,” said ACTRA National President David Sparrow.
“I believe that I can be of most use by healing, by truly walking in an empowered way,” said Menard over the phone from her home in Vancouver.
“I've been without a voice. I've felt deeply unworthy of having the right to speak, of having the right to take up space. I had a deep worthiness issue because the system trained me well, that I should stay in my place and remain silent and invisible.
“So, what I can do to help empower the world and to make this world a better place is to become empowered by myself. And that means to trust in what I know, trust in the teachings I have been given, to trust in the gifts I've been given and to use those gifts.”
A member of the Métis Nation, Menard in recent times has been compelled to add motivational speaking to her impressive list of skills, following an invitation back in 2018 to present a talk she called Silent No More – Using Your Voice to End Violence Against Women, at TEDx Stanley Park.
“I had a little revelation about myself recently. I've known for many years that in the beginning when people would ask ‘are you a singer or an actor’, and I said ‘I'm both’. Then it was like, ‘oh, I'm more than that. I'm actually a writer too’. So there were three parts-and then, of course, being Indigenous, there's a fourth part to me.”
As Menard began cultivating more branches on her tree of self-expression she talks about how she learned to accept all these different roles as elements of her complete self.
“It's like I'm a medicine wheel. I'm an actor, singer, writer, and now this ambassador, this teacher, speaker, this messenger.”
A strong part of Menard’s message is the need for humans to reconnect with the natural world. She feels strongly that a connection to Mother Earth is an essential antidote to the destructive forces of consumerism.
“I feel that Mother Earth, she is our mother. And our mother is a place of healing. Our mother who birthed all beings is a healing place. She is a source of comfort and healing and sustenance and everything,” Menard explained.
“When her children are cut off from her by living in boxes and existing in front of computers, and screens and being around electronics all day, we need to connect again. We need to get grounded, and for people who have never had that experience of connecting with their mother… they don't know what it feels like to be nurtured.
“To be in the stillness, in the silence. To hear the birds sing, to hear the waters sing, to hear the trees sing. All of those things are important for us to recognize our relatives and to actually be in communion with our relatives.”
Menard has been a member of the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers for the past five years and has developed the influencer part of her multifaceted persona to focus on wellness training rooted in feminine leadership, a program that she has developed called Lead Like A Goddess.
“According to my Indigenous Elders, humanity is entering the time where Feminine Leadership must emerge to change our trajectory from one of self-destruction to one of creative evolution. I’m here to help you find your role in this change,” Menard is quoted on her website.
Viewing the modern world from the perspective of a healer, Menard feels that to succeed in a society dominated by capitalism, women have had to tap into the masculine side of their being to thrive.
After hearing the stories of many women she came to the realization that, like their male counterparts, many women were suffering from serious stress related illnesses such as rare cancers, brain injuries and strokes, and that their bodies were breaking down.
Ultimately, Menard believes that to bring about a healing paradigm in the world, all humans must now work to consciously connect with their feminine powers.
“The word goddess is not something that as Indigenous people we use. But for me I needed a word, an English word, and there's not very many English words for sacred woman. And I thought, ‘oh, how am I going to reach all women?’ So for me, my Leading Like A Goddess workshop came from that.”
With so many creative avenues to travel, Menard’s versatility has allowed her the ability to navigate the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic with graceful flow. She has found that when she is focused on one area of creative expression the others tend to fall back and lie dormant in the background.
As she began to develop her Leading Like A Goddess wellness training program the pandemic restrictions forced her to shift her focus somewhat. With work in acting, musical performance, and recording shut down Menard switched lanes and began writing a book based on a set of cards she developed called The Seeds from the Sacred Feminine—Wisdom Cards.
No longer feeling much enthusiasm for the music business, she was considering putting her recording career on the back burner. But while separated during the pandemic from her long-time songwriting partner Robert Walsh, Menard was inspired to create new compositions for drum and rattle.
“The new album that's coming is all because of COVID,” Menard said. “I couldn't be with my guitarist, and so I came to think that the only thing I could really sing was drum and rattle songs or little spoon songs. So I thought, ‘oh well, maybe I'll just do a whole album of Michif language songs and I'll go around to the Elders and we'll create a whole bunch of new songs to celebrate going forward’.”
Speaking with Menard and considering her rich and diverse career it becomes evident that this inspired artist has truly embraced her role as a creator, a voice, an influencer, and as an inspiration for others who seek her out guidance and her transformational perspective.
“Because I have given over my talents to the grandmothers very early in my life, I trust that what comes through me is of value. So, as I move into feeling empowered and feeling that my trust in my relationship with my ancestors is important, trusting in myself has also become a big part of it. The more I trust in me, the more I trust others, and that’s when I can create from a really empowered place which serves to empower others.”
By David Owen Rama, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Windspeaker.com, Windspeaker.com