This week, local YouTube star Alexis Hillyard was featured by Google in a new YouTube video showcasing her efforts to create "a safe space to celebrate the amazing, unique ways we move through the world."
Hillyard, an LGBTQ+ and disabled chef known for her popular Stump Kitchen video series, has been producing videos on her YouTube channel for five years. In that time she has amassed more than 5,000 subscribers and nearly 600,000 views.
Hillyard credits a lot of her success to the city she is proud to call home.
"The community here is so vibrant," said Hillyard. "It's so small but it's so big; we have incredible local businesses and creators that I can learn from, and it's the kind of city where you can have an impact and be known and not get lost in the rumble of a big city."
The video feature came together quickly over the last few months. "Google googled me and said they were looking for creators to feature and they were looking for disabled or queer creators that were having a good impact," said Hillyard. "They found my page and loved it and knew they wanted to feature me right away."
Her videos highlight vegan and gluten-free recipes, often assembled using her stump as a kitchen tool. She uses her platform to celebrate limb differences, and more recently, after having a baby, focus on parenting with one hand.
Filming occurred over two days in April with strict COVID-19 protocols in place with Google staff in town from Toronto and Vancouver. Hillyard had a strong say in what content was filmed, including scenes with her partner and child.
"I was called a creative consultant on the ground because I got to shape what they caught on camera," said Hillyard. "It was not artificial."
Stump Kitchen creator Alexis Hillyard was featured by Google. (Google/YouTube)
Stump Kitchen started as a side project but has morphed into a nearly full-time job for Hillyard, who, as a trained teacher, still teaches one half-day a week at a junior high school. The rest of her time is spent hosting classes and workshops, conducting speaking invitations and social media gigs, and being a Canadian ambassador for the Lucky Fin Project. She also relies on her Patreon page for support.
The channel has grown its audience over the years, and while she has a significant fan base in the Prairie provinces, her reach is international including the US, South America, and Australia.
"[My audience] ranges from people who are amputees themselves, to families who have members with limb differences, and random people who like cooking shows or have found a different way in – I burp and swear and don't wear a bra," laughs Hillyard.
When restrictions lift, she hopes to resume travelling to continue to meet and highlight others with limb differences. While Hillyard isn't the planning type – she much prefers the joy of living in the moment – she does have one dream that she would love to fulfill one day.
"I could open a small café or restaurant called 'Stump Kitchen' made up of staff with limb differences and we would sit on tree stumps," said Hillyard. "It would be great to have a space to celebrate my local community."