When Bif Naked voiced her support for A Voice for Lil Olive on social media, she lent the documentary the benefits of her celebrity. She also gifted it with an unmistakably positive energy, just by being who she is.
At 45, Bif Naked is a survivor of childhood abuse as well as substance use and a cancer diagnosis. But the Vancouver resident also can lay claim to titles such as singer, songwriter, actress, author, activist and newlywed. And in an age when cynicism often reigns, she unabashedly ends her Facebook posts with messages such as “Life is cool, Man,” and “Breathe. Love. Be. Happy.”
“I never want to be complaining in public, ever, no matter what’s going on, because I think it’s not cool,” she says.
Instead, she channels her frustrations into her poetry and, especially, her music. “I’ve made a career out of catharsis, really,” she says. Naked has released five studio albums and had her songs featured on TV shows including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Charmed and Moonlight.
Through use of symbolism and open-ended lyrics, Naked can tackle a lot at once. Take the song “Sick,” from her 2009 album The Promise. Given that she was just emerging from her battle with breast cancer, many assumed it was about cancer, or chemotherapy. That was part of it, but not all.
“Being ‘sick,’ or something sickening us … it can be anything, anything that we’re passionate about,” she says. “And for me, it’s definitely animal wellness and animal welfare.”
During the making of The Promise, Naked notes, she was particularly concerned with the operation of puppy mills on Vancouver Island. As someone who believes in being an advocate for the voiceless, she speaks knowledgeably about terrible conditions that dogs endure in mills, as well as how even well-meaning people can perpetuate the system.
“People are busy and disconnected in many ways,” she says. “People will see a sweet puppy in a pet store and be pressured by a 12-year-old who’s been promised a dog for months, and they’ve tried to get a rescue, but this or that [has gotten in the way]. … It’s hard to do the right thing sometimes.”
Naked has seen the truth of that play out on the legislative level. For more than a year, she has been part of a large group pressuring Canadian politicians to ban cosmetics testing on animals. “It’s not necessary anymore,” she says. “There are so many great companies out there that are cruelty-free.” But although surveys have shown 81 percent support for a ban, Bill S-214 is still winding its way through Parliament.
Ultimately, Naked says, the key to progress is more people becoming better educated. And in regard to puppy mills, the most effective place to get educated is on the Internet. (At least, she says, until there’s an animal-welfare version of Cops, where millions of people see mill operators get busted on TV.) Case in point: Naked learned of the Lil Olive project when a friend shared a link on social media.
“I was just transfixed,” she says. “It unfolded as quite an amazing story. All too familiar … but I couldn’t help but fall in love with Lil Olive.”
Naked’s hope is that online, more and more people will encounter something that changes their perspective — and motivates them to change the lives of animals.
“People are afraid of activism; they think it’s anarchy,” she says. “… Do it anyway. Lose your fear. Do the click-through. Learn. Something’s going to resonate with you, and you’re going to be motivated.
“Your heart’s gonna break,” she adds, “[but] unfortunately that’s often what it takes.”
Copyright 2016 Shelter Island Films
A Voice for Lil Olive is a new documentary from award-winning filmmaker Pete Schuermann. The film explores the special bond between pets and their families, and how rescued dogs change lives. The film's mission is to make people aware of and to change attitudes about rescued pets through the telling of Lil Olive’s tale. In this way, she becomes the voice for so many dogs and animals in need.