International speaker, and arguably one of the world’s most famous congenital amputees, Nick Vujicic once said, “I was never crippled until I lost hope.” This was the sort of inspiration that Talli Osborne, who was also born without arms and missing bones in her legs, was raised to believe and that her uniqueness should not hinder her life.
The year 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, has taught many to self-reflect and question what to do next, as well as lessons in staying hopeful and positive. For motivational speaker Talli Osborne, her brand is all about positive vibes, but she wasn’t above having her days range from rainy to down pour. Osborne caught up with The Edge about how COVID-19 has impacted her life and how she keeps a positive light in a dark pandemic tunnel. She shared what inspires her, how she inspires others and her connection to Virgin Group Chairman Sir Richard Branson.
Motivational speakers usually try to strike a balance between content, style, approach, and passion in their delivery. When speaking, do you focus on any of these elements more than the rest?
I definitely have passion and an incredible mix of personal stories that I can make relatable to anyone. People leave my talks thinking about times in their lives that were similar to my challenges and feeling positive about the future. My approach is definitely a positive one. I never claim to be the victim; I always try to turn a negative situation into a positive one.
How do you ensure that your speeches convey positivity, hope, and inspiration?
I always keep a positive mindset no matter where I am or what I’m doing. So, when I give my speeches—the moral of each story is always a positive one.
I’m very passionate about spreading positivity, and when my audiences see me smiling and laughing, even though my life has been challenging, they can’t help but smile and laugh too. My positivity is infectious!
Which of your previous speaking engagements do you consider to be the most memorable? What is your favourite type of audience?
Speaking at the TEDxToronto 2015 Conference was definitely a highlight. It was an incredible experience that I will never forget.
My favourite audience to speak to is usually teens – especially ninth grade students. They are so eager to listen, learn and ask questions. They also give great hugs!
What’s been happening in your life and career as of late?
If it wasn’t for the pandemic, I would say I’m a successful public speaker and I’ve been doing it since 2014. And I’ve been getting a lot more speaking engagements all over Canada and I’m getting busier and busier, which is great. [Before the pandemic] I was singing a lot, and speaking at schools, corporate events and wellness groups for women. I think it [wellness] is trending. It’s good for me because it’s part of what I talk about. Self-love, self-care, that’s really hot right now. Which I think is good because people don’t take care of themselves, they take care of others. It’s not just about going to the gym, it’s about what makes you feel good. I don’t love gender exclusive events, but I understand sometimes that women want to be women. Sometimes you don’t want men in the room, and for many reasons, people have body image issues and they don’t love themselves because of men. So if you want to heal, you won’t want men around, so I get it.
On your website you talk about self-love and self-care, as well. These days, we’ve all been feeling the psychological and societal effects of the pandemic to some extent. Are these concepts possibly more important now than ever?
Yeah, of course. Right now, I think people are isolating and going through this horrible storm in their own way. Some people are in a tornado, some are in rain, some are in a torrential down pour—we’re all going through this but in different ways but with a lot of similarities. As someone who’s had mental health issues their entire life, I’m feeling it. I’m not saying I’m depressed, but it’s trying. It’s a hard time and we’re all going through things we’ve never felt before. We’re going through experiences we’ve never felt and a lot of us are alone, so we need to take care of ourselves. For me, it’s remembering to take a nice Epsom salt bath and relax or to just have some time where I meditate. [Through video chats] trying to stay in touch with people that I love, that’s what gets me through every day. So, I think self-care is different for every single person on this planet.
How have advancements in technology and the emergence of social media affected your life and the work that you do?
Most of the advancements in technology excite me! Voice-activated software is now the norm and touchscreen devices make life much easier. The advancements in myoelectric limbs are incredible – but it’s not for me.
I’m often asked why I don’t wear prosthetics and how I feel about the advancements in this department. I used to wear prosthetics because I really wanted to be and look like everyone else. But now, I’d rather be me and be different. My prosthetics never helped me; they were just for aesthetic purposes and the person I have grown to be would rather stand out and be different than fit in.
You touched on video chat, technology, and keeping in touch with others in your personal life. Have you been able to convert some of your business and public speaking to an online platform?
Personally, I’m on video chat almost every day and I talk to a lot of different people. I’ll video chat with my mom and she’ll get so excited. It’s just been really nice. Music has been a big part of my life and bands and groups are doing a lot of live streams, so that’s been really fun and different. It’s obviously not the same as going to a concert but it’s still really cool.
Honestly, it’s been really hard to switch my business virtually. I’ve done one virtual speaking engagement; it was a company in the US, and it was really awesome. It was also very weird and different, because I feed off my audience and I feed off how they react to my stories. And with Zoom, everyone’s muted, so it’s like I’m talking to my iPad. So, it’s still wonderful because I get to share my stories and people wrote [to] me after to tell me how much it affected them or changed their lives.
I’ve also been focusing on my social media and my YouTube channel, just creating content and being positive and putting my positivity out there for my fans and just trying to keep people upbeat. And to be honest, I’ve had rough days because there were a couple weeks when it was really rainy and really dark, and I was feeling the effects of the heavy weather. And so I posted that “I’m having a rough time and I’m trying to stay positive and this and that” and it was received really well.
Having a personal brand, there’s little separation between yourself and the brand online. Have you found it difficult for you to stay on brand when going through challenging times?
It’s the most challenging [time] because I’m an honest, genuine person and I want that to show through but also my brand is positivity. I always have this thing in the back of my mind that I’ve got to stay positive, and my brand is positivity because of how I live not because someone put that on me—it’s genuinely really me. But lately none of us are ourselves and I don’t like not feeling like me.
I’m also starting to create content around my hula hooping and body positivity and just fun positive stuff. And even little clips of me on Instagram and [Instagram] reels of me hula hooping and saying really positive stuff. I’m just trying to put content out there, because people are online, people are alone and they’re reaching out to the Internet to help them cope. I am a lot of people’s “person” who keeps them afloat. There are people across the world that I don’t know that tell me my hula hoop videos make their day!
What has been your greatest motivation to help others? When did you realize that you could inspire others by being an instrument of change?
I have always lived my life like everyone else. I do things like grocery shopping, going to work, and taking out the garbage like anyone else would. I have received an incredible amount of positive feedback because of how I conduct myself. People see that I’m living my life, even with my physical challenges, and this makes them re-evaluate their lives and their way of thinking.
I’ve always been a good storyteller and I love being on stage, singing and entertaining. One day I thought, “Why not share my story and inspire as many people as I can?” After the first time doing it, I just knew that it was what I was put on this planet to do. The reaction from every single audience member reassured me of that decision. Everyone is inspired by someone and I’m so fortunate to be given a gift that can change lives.
You were honoured for being the “Best Customer Service Agent in the Americas” and received the “Virgin Stars of the Year Award.” Can you share the secrets to your success? How do you manage to accomplish more and more each day?
I think the secret to my success as a customer service agent is that I have the ability to be open-minded and see everyone as equal. I’m not judgmental. I know that everyone comes from somewhere, and we all have challenges in our lives. I’m not afraid to share my personal experiences to help my customers feel like they are not alone.
I want to live my life to its fullest and accomplish as much as I can every day. I worked super hard at achieving my independence, and now, I’m working hard at being a successful speaker and entrepreneur. I am really proud of what I have achieved so far and excited for what the future will bring.
How does it feel to be recognized and endorsed by Virgin Group Chairman, Sir Richard Branson? How has this impacted your career and life as a whole?
It feels incredible! Richard Branson has always been an inspiration of mine. It’s mind-blowing that he even knows who I am, never mind receiving his endorsement. He inspires me to work hard and to always stay true to myself.
What message can you offer our readers who might be struggling with personal challenges?
Always focus on all of the wonderful things that you have in your life. No matter what challenges life will bring, you always have positive aspects of your life to focus on. Use the gifts that you’ve got to help others. We all have special talents; use them to make a difference in the world, somehow.
Carlie Doan | Coordinating Editor