31 May Feature: Vanessa Grimaldi, Founder of No Better You
Reading time: 5 minutes
Following her Bachelor journey, Vanessa Grimaldi opens up about her career, mental health awareness, No Better You and more.
This special education teacher turned social media personality has not only used her platform to spread very powerful messages, but also to grow her passions.
Keep reading to find out how Vanessa Grimaldi uses her online presence to give back to society.
AZ: Tell us about your background and what your career was like before the Bachelor?
VG: Before I went on the bachelor, I was a special education teacher at Galileo Adult Education Centre. I was teaching for quite a few years before going on the bachelor but special education was really what I felt was my calling.
AZ: Where did the idea for starting your foundation, No Better You, come from?
VG: Once the show starting airing, my students would ask me questions about the show and social media. Some of them were reading the comments on my Instagram profile. Of course the comments were either nasty or sweet. They asked me about how I deal with all this new attention. I went from having 300 followers on Instagram to having thousands of people following me. The scrutiny was hard to deal with but that’s why I started the foundation No Better You.
I was talking to them about how some people judge but to always remember there’s no better version of yourself, there’s no better you. Then I thought that would be a great name to have as a foundation. Once the idea came about, I registered us as a non profit. We had our first fundraiser and that’s how I stayed connected with my students.
In our first year we raised $50,000 that we gave to the English Montreal School Board. I got to help decide which schools received some of that money. The goal was really to help out schools that were neglected and that weren’t getting enough funding. We helped open up 4 sensory rooms in 4 different schools.
AZ: What events have you hosted lately through the foundation?
VG: Because May is Mental Health Awareness Month, I wanted to help bring awareness to these conditions and help people celebrate their stories. We hosted an event where we held a free photoshoot and had individuals share their stories. With that we’re going to share each person’s story on Instagram.
My main goal now is to help people come forth with their stories and feel empowered to be their true authentic selves every month. I want to host these small photoshoot campaigns where people can get their photos taken but also connect with one another. We then want to celebrate their stories on social media.
AZ: What are the benefit of the sensory rooms for the students?
VG: The sensory rooms are windowless and have to be a space that feels very safe and therapeutic. The walls are usually white or blue since it’s a therapeutic colour. That helps students who need stimulation through their senses.
All 4 rooms are very different since they are built based on the needs of the students and the school. In one school they have squares of gel on the floor which change colour when stepped on. Some of them have mats that vibrate to the sound of music. There’s also interactive games that the students can play with on the wall and so much more.
Students who have a diagnosis need a form of stimulation, so this is where they get stimulated. The rooms help them gain self confidence to transfer back into the classroom. Ever since we opened up our first room one of the students started speaking.
Moreover, it’s also a space where the entire school can benefit. As someone that suffers from anxiety, it’s really a room where I can go and feel like I can be present and not in my head.
AZ: Considering you have a successful podcast and new YouTube channel, how would you describe this career transition?
VG: The transition was tough but I’m very grateful for it. Because I have a platform like I do, it was important for me to be able to give back. I’m really happy that I have such good support in Montreal and worldwide when it comes to my foundation. I think the most important thing for anyone on social media is to remain true to yourself. We have to try not to get sucked into a world that is trying to make you someone different.
AZ: Since your father is an entrepreneur and runs the bakeries Bémol et Levain in MTL, was entrepreneurship a career path you saw yourself following?
VG: I never imagined myself starting my own business. I always wanted to become a teacher. My mom was a teacher and so is my sister. It’s in our blood. I always felt like what fed my soul was helping others and giving back. That is where education comes in. I never thought in my wildest dreams that I’d have my own foundation. It feels like quite the accomplishment.
AZ: Are you a fashion lover and how would you describe your style today?
VG: I think working from home has definitely changed the way I dress. It’s allowed me to enjoy loungewear a lot more. I’ve also always been someone that enjoyed a good sale. If you find me at the mall I’m usually in the 50% off section looking for a great deal. I love wearing jeans. I always feel more comfortable and sexy in jeans, as opposed to wearing a skirt or a dress. Normally, I’ll wear jeans with sneakers or a nice pair of heels.
AZ: What are your favourite clothing stores in Montreal or internationally?
VG: I like little shops. In Montreal, because I’m so busy, I’m a one-stop shop kind of person. My go-to shop is the Hudson’s Bay whenever I know I need something new. When I shop internationally, I like to go to small local shops and helping local businesses.
AZ: What is your go-to outfit for walking into an important meeting or event?
VG: If it’s a formal event, I like Di Carlo Couture. If it’s a more casual event, I have no problem showing up in jeans and a pair of heels. If you accessorize jeans the right way, it becomes presentable and makes me approachable.
AZ: What can we expect from you and No Better You in the following months?
VG: With No Better You, we’re hoping to continue this monthly campaign and to celebrate people’s stories. We want to help raise awareness and inclusion. I think we’re still a little bit close-minded as a society so I want to be able to connect people and help build stronger bonds. A few exciting projects are coming up from me as well but unfortunately I cannot talk about them yet.
Featured image credit: Barnev Valsaint