New life in Canada exerts its influence on music and clothes

by Gregory Beatty

Street Wear June 13

Who: Yana Bilyk

Where: Saskatchewan Legislature

Born in Slavuta Ukraine, Yana first visited Canada on a two-month Canada World Youth Exchange in 2007. After returning to her homeland, she applied formally to immigrate. Since arriving in Regina in July 2010 she’s immersed herself in the arts community. Music and acting are her two biggest passions, but she also works as a model.

If you’ve seen the WolfCop trailer, you might recognize her from the bar scene. With her band, she’s got gigs lined up this summer at Mercury Café (June 15), Moose Jaw’s Motif Festival (July 12-14) and the Regina Folk Festival (Aug. 9-11).

What brought you to Canada?

I’ve wanted to live in Canada since I was a kid. In school one day our teacher said “I have a surprise. There’s a student from Canada who’s coming to talk to you.” He was older, but when I talked to him I was amazed by his personality and how easygoing he was in expressing himself. We were not like that. We weren’t part of the Soviet Union anymore, but there was a wall between us and North American culture. He was the first foreigner I’d ever met. My English was pretty poor. But I was so excited to ask him questions about Canada. He inspired me, so I started digging English and [later] entered the university with the exchange program to come here.

How would you describe your music?

For sure you can hear eastern European elements. I write in three languages: Russian, Ukrainian and English — although lately I’ve been writing a lot in English because that’s what I’m surrounded by. But even when I was in Ukraine I always liked artists like The Cranberries, Sinéad O’Connor and Dido. And, of course, the Beatles and Pink Floyd.

Growing up in Ukraine, and being part of broader European culture, do you think there’s a different approach to fashion there compared to North America?

Absolutely. Here things are super casual. In Ukraine people put a lot of effort into getting ready before they go out — sometimes too much, I think. And that’s true even in comparison to people in western Europe. I do enjoy feeling comfortable here going out in sweat pants — not going out at night, but for groceries and stuff like that. But sometimes I would like [Regina] to have a little more fashion sense. I wonder if that isn’t related to how much people drive here. When you have a car you can just throw anything on and go, and no one can really see you.

How would you describe your style?

It’s a blend between formal and casual. In my life I don’t like too much of anything. But I absolutely do like, if I go out, putting in some effort when I get ready.

What’s special for you about this outfit?

The thing that’s special is that it’s from different corners of the world. My jacket I bought when I was living in Shanghai. I worked as a singer and dancer at an amusement park that was the Chinese version of Disneyworld. The shirt is a present from my friends Tara and Krista. They brought it from a club in Nashville when they were there a few months ago. The jeans I got in Regina. I like brand name jeans that I can wear with any style. These are Guess; they look good whether I’m in heels or runners. The boots I picked up here too. They’re not super casual, but they’re not formal either. My earrings and necklace are from Ukraine. My mom and dad sent them to me recently.

Outside of performing, is there anything you enjoy as a hobby?

I’m very much into yoga right now. I also started playing beach volleyball. Our team plays every Monday at the courts near the rugby club.