Adenike ‘Niki’ Corion
Raised: Trinidad and Tobago
Nominated by: Karen Alexander
Adenike ‘Niki’ Corion knows how hard it can be to balance career and family.
Niki was a young single mum working fifteen hour days at her dream job at the Toronto Film Union, dressing models and actors, until she missed her son’s first steps and decided to reevaluate. Since then she has up skilled twice, opened her own mobile spa and, more recently, co-founded the popular Barre Life studio in Toronto.
Niki talks to us about how to pivot professionally, how to face your fears and how to support and be supported.
Your parents moved you to Trinidad from the ages of eight to sixteen, they are incredibly formative years, what do you remember about them?
I have great memories from that time. It is still very much a part of me. I remember at the time feeling like we were starting over. It was a big adjustment at first and I found that going to school there was the hardest thing. I always compare it to military school. It was very tough, very strict.
But in terms of getting to know my extended family like my grandparents, my aunts and my uncles and my cousins, those are the memories that are so dear to me. Time has passed but I remember those days so well. It’s a completely different lifestyle over there, very care free and not as fast paced as it is in North America.
And soon after you got back to Canada you began a career in the fashion industry. Is that something you were always interested in? You just followed your feet into that?
It was actually. It was something that I used to do as a hobby, I used to draw clothing and designs. It was from watching all the night time soaps growing up like Dynasty and Knots Landing and seeing all the high fashion. I remember I went through this Madonna phase and I made my own can-can skirt with the leotard leggings and the whole look. I used to put together my own outfits. So when I moved back to Canada and went to high school here, I started thinking that maybe this was something I should pursue.
I don’t know how some women do it and most women, to be honest, I know don’t.
I went to college for two years and then university and got my degree. I got a position as a design assistant for a sportswear company in Toronto and I did that for a while until I got a job at the Toronto Film Union and from there everything changed. I stopped designing clothing and started dressing actors and models for a living. That was a wonderful and fascinating job. I loved my career. I miss it. I miss it a lot. But I had to make some sacrifices. But no regrets, my child comes first.
I want to talk about that fork in the road that you came to and how you managed to make that decision. Was it difficult?
Well it was really hard for me because I was trying to balance everything including raising a child. He was almost two years old before I made the decision to leave that career. I was a single mum at the time. I had the support and help of my parents but I was doing long hours. I felt like he was either in daycare or he was with my parents. I think the wake up call came for me when the babysitter told me that he took his first steps and I missed it. That really upset me. I started evaluating my life. I come from a really strong family background where family comes first. We’ve always had that mentality growing up. Careers, they come and go but if I wanted to raise my son the way that I wanted him to be raised I needed to have a more active role in his life and I couldn’t do that working fifteen hour days.
And so you made the decision to leave that work and went back to school part time to pursue another career in aesthetics?
I did. It took a while because I had to balance part time study, work and raising my son. Financially it was a bit tough but I had a goal in mind. I wanted to pursue another career. I went in to the study with the goal that I was going to start my own business, that I was no longer going to work for someone else. I figured I can do this on my own because with aesthetics you can work from home, or you work part time and you have a lot more flexibility. So that’s what I did and after I finished I decided to open my mobile spa.
Those years from when your son was born to when you opened your mobile spa, what were they like?
A lot of it is a blur, I would have to say that personally it was a tough time even though I had my family’s support. I was trying to raise a child and have the career at the same time and sometimes you can’t have both. It’s very hard to do both. I don’t know how some women do it and most women, to be honest, I know don’t.
I have a lot of friends that have given up their careers just like myself. It’s not something I regret. I know that I made the right decision. I’m happy that I made the decision.
Has life slowed down now? Are you finding you are able to hang onto moments you are having with your son and be present in them?
It slowed down a lot while I was in the spa industry but having just opened another new business it’s gotten very busy again but the great thing about this time is that Liam is a little older now. He’s fourteen going on fifteen and like other teenagers he is very much in his own little world. He doesn’t want mum fussing over him like I used to.
I feel like I’m in the space right now where it’s crazy busy and frantic but at least I have help. Liam is very helpful with the business doing odd jobs around there and he gets to see the importance of an active lifestyle. My partner and I both run the business, he’s more of a silent partner but he’s still a great support system so I don’t have that load on my shoulder like I did when I was younger.
Would you describe yourself as goal oriented in a professional sense because what it sounds like is that when you want to do something or change something, you just go out and do it?
That’s exactly it. I’m a risk taker. I’ve always been that person. If I make up my mind about something I’m going to do it. Don’t get me wrong, I get scared like everyone else especially with starting a business but I’ve always just gone with it. My parents always said that I was the wild one. Someone who just did what she wanted to do. I think that’s a strength. I think…
Absolutely, it is! Have you ever had moments where you’ve doubted that you’re able to achieve the things that you’ve wanted to achieve?
I’m going through that right now to be honest. I think because the business is so new. We’re looking at expanding to a second location but there’s a part of me that’s terrified. I feel like I’m still growing with the one location. There’s that part of me that wants to jump into a second location right now but I get that voice in my head saying: Are you ready?
She wasn’t someone that backed down from anyone. She always had this thing she’d say, If something is going to work out, it always does.
I’m also getting older too I think so I’m slowing down a little and I’m not interested in pursuing another career. I feel like this is it. I’m done. It was always circumstances that forced me to make those big life changes. For whatever reason I had to switch gears and change my chapter. I’m still going through a new chapter right now. We’ve only been open about a year and a half. We’re still growing. I feel I have a long way to go still.
Would you like to tell us a little bit about him about your story with your husband Mark?
I guess so, he’s very private so I don’t talk much about him publicly. After I had my son, I was in an on and off relationship. I split with my son’s dad a few years ago but fortunately in spite of us not getting along as a couple, he has been a great father to our son and we have remained good friends.
After the split, It was very tough as I was very closed off from starting another relationships. I was very focused on my son and my career for a long time but along came Mark and showed me that I could trust again. He is my biggest cheerleader. He sees all my flaws, all my strengths and builds me up and I should hope I do the same for him. He’s the one that keeps me grounded.
So you balance one another out?
Yes. We complement each other. We’re very much opposites but there are a lot of similarities that keep us perfectly glued together and most importantly he makes me very happy.
What are your happiest memories?
My happiest memories… The birth of my son, of course. I can’t imagine my life without him and I’ve completely changed because of him.
But also my memories of my maternal grandmother in Trinidad, we were very close. I still get a little teary eyed when I think about her. We lost her a few years ago and she was like my second mother pretty much. I remember after school every day I would go to her house and I would hang out with her and she would tell me stories and we would just sit on her porch and we’d talk or I’d comb her hair. My fondest memories are with her and it’s still hard for me because she’s gone. I feel like there’s a part of me that hasn’t quite recovered from that.
Of course. It’s a very different and special kind of love you have for a grandparent.
It is. She was just one of those people that everyone was drawn to. Her house was kind of like the hub of the street. Everyone would go over and hang out and she had quite the sense of humour. I loved her sassiness. I have to say my fondest memories were just every waking moment I spent with her. It’s still so raw to talk about her and I sometimes wonder why it’s so raw and I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I wasn’t there when she passed so I feel like I didn’t get to say goodbye.
What parts of your grandmother do you see in yourself?
I’d like to say nurturing. My husband calls me a helicopter mum. I’m learning to let go a bit now because he’s getting older but I would have to say it’s that. I’m extremely maternal and she was like that. And I am like that not just with my son, I’m like that with my staff, I’m like that with my friends. I can’t help it it’s just who I am. I am very protective of the people I care about.
What do you think your grandmother would say to you if she was here today and able to talk you through this position that you’re at with your business?
Probably the best thing she would say is keep moving, keep going, push forward. She was such a fighter. She wasn’t someone that backed down from anyone. She always had this thing she’d say, If something is going to work out, it always does. She would have encouraged me that way. If I had doubts or was feeling a little down with the business or I was scared, she’d call and say, ‘Adi just keep going, don’t give up.’ I think that would be the advice she’d give me.
And what advice would you have for our readership?
Never let anybody tell you that you can’t do something. That’s my mantra. I don’t want to hear I can’t. You can do anything if you put your heart and your soul into it.
Just recently, I gave someone I know some advice. She was looking at starting her own business but she was so scared to leave the comfort zone of her job and I said to her, ‘Are going to settle in life for being unhappy? Start small .You don’t have to start big. You’ll be much happier for doing that.’
It’s okay to be scared. Nothing is wrong with that. That’s a good thing. It’s not giving in to that fear that is the key.
It’s great advice. That just makes me want to ask one more question. What does it mean to love yourself?
To love yourself is to know who you are as a person. Not change for anyone else unless it’s something destructive of course and you recognise that, but knowing who you are as a person and accepting your qualities, both bad and good. As women get older, (I can’t speak for men) you become more comfortable in your skin and stop seeking approval from others. I’ve always felt like you should do what you want to do and not give a shit what anybody else thinks. That’s where the self love comes from.
I think that’s the perfect note to end on. Thank-you Adenike!