By Claire Dela Gana

The name sounds familiar. Somehow it rings a bell. When we met her parents at a fundraising dinner, my gut feeling was validated. My husband and I used to serve the kids ministry of one of the lay organizations here in the GTA . Ariana Cuvin, was the chubby, fair- skinned and talented girl that wowed the audience with her cuteness and singing ability. Yes, the designer sings!

The Singer

Ariana started singing at a very young age. Growing up, she continued singing in church. She attended the Father John Redmond Catholic Secondary School and Regional Arts Centre in Toronto. Her talent and community work were recognized by various organizations. She was the recipient of the Filipino Centre of Toronto Outstanding Student Award-High School; the Redmond Letter Award for her outstanding contribution to cocurricular programs at Father John Edmond; and, she was honoured by the Knights of Columbus and Kiwanis Club for her contributions to the community.

“You have to learn to be okay with the fact that you are not going to be able to please everyone.”

She is a member of The Unaccompanied Minors. They are a mixed gender a cappella group of around twenty dedicated, energetic and music-obsessed students from the University of Waterloo. Founded in September of 2009, their goal is to promote contemporary a cappella on a campus that has long been known for its focus on engineering and mathematics. They put unique spins on songs from current top 40 pop hits to older rock favourites.

In case you missed it, her singing talent was showcased when former Philippine President Benigno Aquino III visited Canada where she sang both the national anthems in one of the receptions.

The Designer

“I do graphic design but my interest is actually user experience design. Basically research on users and trying to figure out how to design an interface the best way possible to make it easier for them to use.”

Ariana wants to pursue a career in the user experience design field. She was the first user experience designer hired by a mathematics software company.

According to Ariana, it is a growing and a well-paying field. She hopes to land a job in the public sector but she’s not closing her doors to opportunities that will come her way.

The Winning

“I have always been an over achiever. Ever since I was little my parents were always driving me. When I struggle in school they were always there to help and they always tell me to try and do my best.”

She was picked on during her elementary years. Not because of her skin color or accent because she was born in Hongkong and her first language was English. But because she was already showing her gifted abilities. “My parents would say don’t focus on them. They shouldn’t hinder your abilities to succeed.”

Aside from her parents, the people around her support her and believe in her. Her roommate and co-member of the acapella group was the first to express his belief in the winning design. She bested 300 students in a design contest to create a logo for the sesquicentennial celebration. Ariana was more than thrilled that her winning logo will be used across the country for the celebration. She also received a cash prize of $5,000 which she put towards her tuition costs. Not bad for someone who learned about the contest and came up with the design 48 hours before the deadline. But her winning was dampened by the controversial news and conversations that followed.

The Winning Design

Ariana tried to stay away from the maple leaf but ended up submitting her design in the shape of a pointed maple leaf. As a matter of fact, it is composed of a series of diamonds, or “celebratory gems”, arranged in the shape of the iconic maple leaf. The four diamonds at the base represent the four original provinces that formed Confederation in 1867: Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Additional diamonds extend out from the base to create nine more points—in total representing the 13 provinces and territories. She explains, “The repeated shape is meant to create a sense of unity and the 13 shapes forming the leaf represents our togetherness as a country.”

The Learning

“I understand why people are upset especially after I got to win. I was asked a lot whether I felt I was taken advantage of.” Personally, Ariana doesn’t think she was taken advantage of.

She read the contest rules and she knew that she was putting in time to something she might not get any results from. Being only 19 at that time and not used to all the controversy, she took it hard.

“People on social media can be mean.” But she recalls everything that happened with a hearty laugh.

As a designer, she was told often that “Everyone is a critic and you’re not going to be able to please everyone.” She thought she knew and understood what it meant until the controversy happened. Her words, “You have to learn to be okay with the fact that you are not going to be able to please everyone. And that was hard because I’m very much a people pleaser. I try to do what I can to help people and make people happy.” But her greatest lesson from the experience is learning to take away herself from the situation and remind herself that “You did your best. Not everyone will be happy with it but it’s okay.” Lastly, she adds, “Stay off Twitter!”

You will never really know how your children will grow up to be. As parents, you can only pray and hope for the best. You will never see the fruits of the seeds of life lessons you plant in their hearts and minds until they face adversities in life. From the singing child, I now see a woman who can hold her head up high in any circumstances but will still be wearing her heart on her sleeves.

Together with Ariana’s parents, we should all be proud that the most iconic symbol (so far) of this country’s commemoration of its confederation was created and designed by a Filipina. It will be a constant reminder of Canada’s proudest moments as well as the pride of the Filipino community. We sincerely hope that Ariana will be an inspiration to the next generation of Filipino Canadian artists and a role model to fellow Filipinas.



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