Vancouver’s Most Awesome: Yael Cohen


F*ck Cancer is an educational movement aimed at shifting the power from cancer to the patient. It educates people to look for cancer and  realize that early detection is cancer’s best cure. It also promotes generation Y to engage with their parents in this process. I met up with one of Vancouver’s Most awesome Yael Cohen, the founder and chief, at their head office in Gastown to discuss her Vancouver Favourites, people and food.

What makes Vancouver awesome?

It’s everything. Our environment, it’s the oceans and the mountains, sounds trite- but true. It’s our people, and our lifestyle. Oh  and the fact that no matter what you’re craving for dinner, there’s a place to get it within 10 minutes!

What are your fondest memories growing up in the city?

I moved here when I was ten, I had come from South Africa, then California and Colorado… all over the place. And the week we moved was the fireworks, Festival of Lights, so we had just moved into our new house,  and didn’t know anyone at all. My big brother Ryan and I, had gone out to play on the street and we had met neighbourhood kids. And so being me, I invite everyone over to watch fireworks at our house. It’s the first night in this new house, my parents are unpacking, they’re exhausted. Mom is in a nightie, busy putting the house together and the doorbell rings, and literally fifteen people show up. Any of course the only place that you could see the fireworks from our house was off my parent’s bedroom balcony! That was my first memory of Vancouver.  We had never really lived in a place where there was that sense of community. So that’s definitely one of my favourites.

Who is your favourite Vancouverite?

There are so many. My mom and my dad, is that lame?

My mom and my dad, they are my favourite humans so they would have to be my favourite Vancouverites as well, right?

What was your experience like doing your Tedx Keynote?

It was nerve wracking, that was the first time I had spoken in front of that many people, so it was as scary as hell, but it was awesome. It really makes you have to think about what you are doing and what you are trying to do and how to succinctly represent your message. You have got such a short amount of time and you really want to make sure you are clear and concise and inspiring. Obviously I believe in what I do, but if I can make hundreds of thousands of other people believe from my seven minute speech, then I better damn well work my butt off. I have gone to quite a few of the TED events. TEDmed, Tedwoman and TEDglobal.  I think that TEDx is fantastic. It gives us access to thousands of voices that wouldn’t get the chance to be on a main stage.

How do you prepare for something like that? Going from an average citizen to being thrown into the media spotlight?

I know you can prepare, I haven’t particularly, I still get nervous as hell, which is probably a good thing. It keeps me wanting to do better and better. I wrote three speeches before I got to the TED one that you guys saw. My speeches are points, I don’t write actual speeches, because if I get nervous and skip a line I throw myself off. I just write points and I speak about them from the heart.

What is your favourite thing to do in the winter?

Whistler. I don’t really ski or snowboard, I just love Whistler. I go most weekends that I’m in town. It’s my escape; some of my best work has been done in there.

What is your favourite thing to do in the summer?

Whistler as well, actually! But I love Vancouver in the summer because our shared  public spaces are so well used. I love city dwellers reading under a tree by the Art Gallery, or picnicking in English Bay, or running the seawall. We really know how to enjoy good weather here!

What is your favourite Vancouver band?

Topless, for sure. (Topless Gay Love Tekno Party) They’re amazing, they’re whimsical and exciting, love them!

Photo courtesy of the artist

Do you have a favourite show that you have been to in Vancouver? A favourite concert you can remember?

I haven’t seen a show or a concert in Vancouver for a long time. Oh, I saw Eric Clapton. That was the last concert. Can we say the Olympics? That was a great show.

What was it like for you during the Olympics here , did you go to any events?

I got to go to a lot, it was fantastic, I expected it to be a zoo, to the point where I was thinking of leaving town and I am so glad I didn’t. I spent the first week in Whistler, watched the snow sports up there, and spent the second week down in Vancouver. We got really lucky and got tickets for the men’s gold medal hockey game! The environment was unbelievable, really; really amazing, so glad I stayed. It made me love Vancouver even more, if that’s possible.

I think a lot of people had that same idea,  we gotta get out of the city but then stayed and it was like wow, so glad I stayed.

Because Vancouver is such a quiet, passive city (not entirely), we don’t generally interact with total strangers, we keep to ourselves, and so to have that ability to just…

…have a crazy party, with everyone on the streets all day?

…yeah [laughs]. Parents and their three year old kids, a party that’s family friendly and still fun, it’s pretty hard to pull off.

Who is the most interesting person you have met? Maybe someone that caught you off guard or changed your perception of them.

As expected Deepak Chopra is just wonderful. He wasn’t what I expected at all though. He’s funny and edgy and he’s got so much personality. He is also so warm. He was as fantastic as I anticipated but his personality was not at all what I expected. Sophia Bush is a wonderful friend and a remarkable human being. She is an actress and an activist. She is on One Tree Hill and she is changing the world. I think I knew she was fantastic but I didn’t realize the extent of her genuineness, authenticity and her heart.

What is your favourite Neighbourhood in Vancouver?

I love Gastown. I love the intersection of new and old. The edginess. It is a beautiful dichotomy.

What is your favourite Vancouver Restaurant?

I love Aphrodite’s in Kits. It’s so good! It is local organic and has the best pie! It’s really, really delicious.

What is your favourite type of pie?

All. Is that an answer? I have a major sweet-tooth.

What do you like to do in Vancouver on a Sunday?

Brunch. Somewhere like Cafe Zen, Hawksworth or Cindy’s. I love to cook on the weekends too; it’s my time to dance around my kitchen enjoying the aromas, and the moment. Can’t forget work and family time.

If I were to give you $100 in Vancouver what would you spend it on?

Food probably. Most of it on food and then the rest on… sweet food? Actually reverse that.

Thanks for meeting with us!