“Hope carried me to where I am now, and I’m so grateful for that. I didn’t let my adversaries darken my world and outlook.”                                                                                                                 

        – Inspire Awards Nominee Vonny Sweetland

By: Breana Adjepong-Duodu

What does it take to be Toronto’s LGBTQ Person Of The Year? Meet Vonny Sweetland, Community Activist, Millennial Brand Consultant, and 2019 LGBTQ Nominee for The Inspire Awards — A unique annual event, observed by politicians and members of our community to celebrate the contributions made by the allies and unsung heroes of The Greater Toronto Area.


What is your story? Tell us about your journey leading up to this nomination?

V: By original trade I’m a Radio/TV host! However my life and career is truly something that is always evolving. I’ve spent several years in media, yet still, community work has always been a part of my platform. That, along with design and décor. I feel exploring myself, and my true inner passions have brought this award upon me.


What excites you most about the Inspire Awards platform?

I think what excites me the most is being recognized by the municipal government here in Toronto. I think it’s so special that the awards have individuals like Kirstyn Wong Tam championing the event within the City. City Council needs to have open eyes and ears with the diverse groups that they serve, and the Inspire Awards platform gives them that chance in one of the most personal ways.


What challenges do you currently see impacting the LGBTQ community?

V: Our challenges are far and wide. To me, one of the largest is representation in Canada’s workforce. Many LGBTQ individuals find it hard to secure long-term employment in their areas of expertise. Not all, but many. We need to work harder not just as a community, but as a government to ensure that equal opportunity exists across the board for all Canadians, including LGBTQ newcomers to Canada.


How have you personally transformed vulnerability, into an asset?

V: A critical vulnerability for many is sexuality itself. When you don’t fit into the “norm,” you are an outsider, you are vulnerable. I’ve taken this and championed it. I live every day in such a way that I’m always true to myself. There’s only one you, BE HIM or HER!


As a strong community advocate against bullying, how did you personally go about building self-confidence in the face of adversity?

V: Self-esteem, for me was gradual. It built slowly. The main thing was reminding and reassuring myself that it gets better. Whenever I face adversity in these areas, I always try to look at them as temporary and not permanent. Thank God for that! It helped me to keep pushing forward with hope.


You are a person of renaissance that has successfully turned many of your passions into career opportunities. Any advice on staying limitless when your feeling mentally stuck?

V: You remain limitless by not becoming married to yourself or your ideas. Operate in a way that is fluid for you and your counterparts. Understand that playing small doesn’t serve you or the world at all. Think big, be big, have a presence, but also be ready to absorb information from others.


The learning never stops; what are you striving to master this year?

V: Nothing is worth doing unless you intend to do it well. That and doing the MOST you can, for the largest amount of people you can, for as LONG as you can! With that being said, I am striving to master what it takes to be part of a management team for a global company. I have been given a great opportunity to work closely with the CEO of UMBRA and other executives with worlds of knowledge. Umbra is a global Canadian owned company in the design and décor space. For me, the company represents everything I love: décor, creativity, passion, and originality. I’m excited to learn and grow.


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