Tuesday, September 02, 2014
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First Nations oilsands tycoon defies odds as Karaoke queen

Fort McMurray's Massey Whiteknife told he would never make it as openly gay business man

By Lisa Charleyboy, CBC News

ICEIS Rain is quite the belle of the ball. She is a fun-loving, empowered woman who likes to dress up, perform, sing, and be the center of attention.

Massey Whiteknife is a 34 year-old male living in Fort McMurray, Alberta who overcame childhood sexual abuse, bullying, and survived gang rape to become an award-winning entrepreneur operating a multi-million dollar business.

ICEIS Rain and Massey Whiteknife are the same person. They live in the same body, but each have their own passions, pursuits and presence.

Aboriginal people are two times more likely than non-Aboriginal people to experience violent victimization, and aboriginal youth between the age of 15 – 34 are two and a half times more likely to be the experience violent victimization than Aboriginal people over the age of 35.

These harrowing statistics give evidence of the sheer amount of Aboriginal people who have to overcome many issues and adversity to survive, much less to thrive.

Whiteknife, 34, from Mikisew Cree First Nation leveraged his trauma coping mechanisms so that they worked for him, rather than against him. When he was diagnosed with disassociated post-traumatic stress disorder in his early adulthood, he created an alter-ego named ICEIS Rain as one of his coping mechanisms.

In the spotlight as ICEIS Rain

ICEIS Rain received a lot of attention last year as she become one of the featured performers in the documentary Oil Sands Karaoke, which premiered at Hot Docs film festival in Toronto. This feature set ICEIS Rain into greater momentum as the public eye began to turn its spotlight in her direction.

Her goal is to become a singer and she’s working on recording her first album and has already released her first music video, The Queen, which is now available on YouTube.

“I was becoming somebody I wanted to become through ICEIS Rain. I was forgetting about Massey. I felt like I was very robotic when I was Massey. I was working, and working, and I would do was work. I was having more fun as ICEIS Rain,” he says.

“Through therapy, [I] realized that ICEIS RAIN was teaching Massey to be stronger and stand up for himself and face those fears, but of course, while still continuing to work.”

Finding success in the oil and gas industry

Massey built up his Fort McMurray business quickly, and it’s now known as the ICEIS Group of Companies, which includes ICEIS Safety, ICEIS Earth, ICEIS Enviro, and ICEIS Industry. This oil sands service business has doubled its revenue for the past three years to become a multi-million dollar operation.

The journey to the top is one that Massey will never forget. He started his company being told he could never make it as an openly gay male in an industry traditionally lauded for it’s masculine energy.

He initially bootstrapped his business, and created guerrilla style meetings with those who wouldn’t give him a chance.

“You can turn me away if I don't do a good job, you can throw me out of the building, but if you don’t give me a chance because of my sexuality, well, that just doesn’t make sense,” he says.

“That way, if I don’t do the job, then you can say at least you gave me a shot.”

Giving back, giving others a chance

Massey Whiteknife truly believes that everyone deserves a shot, despite where they have come from, and what adversities they have had to overcome.

Whiteknife has started two initiatives — the Massey Whiteknife Foundation and the Get Ready Program, and an annual anti-bullying drag show in Fort McMurray.

The Foundation is dedicated to helping at-risk youth through training and outdoor leadership, spreading the anti-bullying message, and inspiring Aboriginal people to follow their dreams.

The Get Ready Program provides Aboriginal and Métis people and communities innovative career placement, mentoring, coaching and training to help them thrive and prosper.

“I donate a lot of my money to the Get Ready Camp. I also donate a lot of money back to the community and into the region with sponsorships,” he says. “You can’t die with your money.”

“Who is going to be that person for the people who have been victimized, who’ve gone through that trauma and who’s going to stand up for these Aboriginal people who are trying to make it in the business world?”

Through his advocacy work, his alter-ego ICEIS Rain, and his business work in the oil sands, Whiteknife is standing up and making a difference to shine the spotlight on issues that matter.

“I’m willing to be a soldier for Creator. I would take all of the pain if I could, for everybody that’s going through, or has gone through, what I have, or can relate to what I’ve been through,” he says. “People need to know that this is happening and they’re not alone out there in the world.”

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