Billy Blanks has become a mainstay of my life. Apart from my sons, he is the only person I have seen almost every day since we were put under COVID restrictions back in March. As relationships go, mine and Billy’s works very well: he has kept me sane, given me a reason to move every day, and when I’m done with him, I can just switch him off.
We first met when my younger son was sent a YouTube link as part of his PE online learning plan. We fired up Billy Blanks’ Tae Bo Punch Out and got to work. “Start to punch! Punch it out!” Billy exhorted from the TV. And so we did. And we have done so—or at least I have—every day (save Sundays) ever since.
I mentioned Billy to a friend and was amazed when he became animated. “Billy Blanks?” he laughed. “The bad guy in all those movies? He’s cool.”
Yes, Billy, the man responsible for changing my physical shape and reminding my endorphins to show up and do their thing, does indeed have a resumé that includes bit parts in movies such as Tango & Cash, The Last Boy Scout, and Kiss the Girls. On television, he also showed up in ER and Muppets Tonight (he’s billed in the latter as a dancing muppet which, frankly, makes me like him even more).
I’ve worked my way through many of Billy’s pre-COVID workouts, but it’s those he’s produced since that bring a smile to my face. Shot in his living room, with his wife and daughter roped in to help out, these lo-fi videos feature Billy with couches and furniture pushed to the edges, a cabinet filled with action figures in the background. In some, the music cuts out; in others, his daughter walks in and out, rolling her eyes. There’s no facade—in these strange days, the wall between our professional and private spaces has evaporated.
This magazine has always prided itself on publishing in-person interviews, but save for those that can be safely accomplished face-to-face, we now use Zoom. I spoke to our cover star, musician and composer Terence Blanchard, from my home in Vancouver to his in New Orleans. What just a year ago would have felt less than ideal now seems completely natural. We were both at ease and relaxed, just happy to make a personal connection, however virtual. It was a pleasure and a privilege to spend time with a man so thoroughly accomplished in his field and committed to passing on his knowledge to the next generation.
These are challenging times, and our interviews with Tamara Vrooman, the new CEO of YVR, and Anthony Kiendl, who has taken over at the VAG, show how important it is to adapt as each new wave of change and uncertainty appears.
We also need to treat ourselves. Whether it’s by planning an amazing vacation for the other side of the pandemic, eating the best Peking duck found locally, uncorking a bottle of Penfolds Grange, booking in for a safe spa experience, or indulging in one of Ladurée’s luxurious French pastries, we hope this issue inspires you to be kind to you and yours.
As we enter the home stretch of this year, if not the virus itself, we can all identify those changes and adaptations that, though forced upon us, have enriched our lives in some way. Noticing the small things that bring joy to our day, and finding meaningful ways to stay connected with the people we care about, are priorities for us all, regardless of who we are, where we live, what we do.
We are in this together, and together we make each other stronger. Work it!
Get your copy of the Winter 2020 issue.