A look back and into the future one year after the release of My Name Was January

My Name Was January was released on Film Freeway which is the film festival submission platform on September 26, 2018.

Little did I know, at the time, that nearly one year later My Name Was January would have garnered an amazing fifty (50) official selections at film festivals around the world, and pick up 12 international jury awards!

My Name Was January has been screened in Canada, USA, England, India, Norway, Spain, Cyprus, Taiwan, Lebanon, the Philippines, and Russia. 

Speaking of Russia, My Name Was January screened at film festivals in Sochi, St. Petersburg, and Moscow.  This was really unexpected considering LGBTQ rights are under threat and LGBTQ people are at risk in the country.  Perhaps, this is an indication of growing resistance within the Russian artistic community.

My Name Was January was directed by two women of colour, Elina Gress and Lenee Son, who were Journalism students at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Surrey.  This was their first film project and they were both recommended to me as two of the top students in their class by their Journalism professor. The film had a shoestring budget of less than $25,000 and was designed to share the real, authentic, true to life story of the late January Marie Lapuz. 


January Marie Lapuz was born on April 9, 1986, in Santiago City, Philippines and tragically and brutally passed away on September 30, 2012, in New Westminster, B.C. 

January was the Social Coordinator of Sher Vancouver and the first transgender person to hold an executive position with the organization.  Being the life of the party, she would make everyone laugh.  A kind, caring, generous and loyal friend, January was a great singer and dancer.  She was known as our very own “Beyonce.”

 January had many challenges and struggles as an immigrant, as a person of colour, and as a transgender woman living in poverty.  Nonetheless, she was a bright light and shining star in Sher Vancouver.  She was a fabulous MC on our Pride of Bollywood float in the Vancouver Pride Parade and the Bang Bang Bollywood club nights.

 Not a day goes by that January’s friends don’t miss her.  I feel that she is watching over us like an “angel in heaven.”


When a trans sister, January Marie Lapuz, is brutally murdered in her own home in New Westminster, BC, her community reacts and her friends and other trans women of colour come to share and voice their issues, concerns, and challenges. January was seen as a bright light in the lives of many. This is the story of January, a friend, a daughter, a person. This film will not only bring justice to January, but to all the women who have lost their lives. January had a beautiful soul, and now part of her soul rests in each and every one of us.

Sher Vancouver Founder Alex Sangha and Sher Vancouver President Ash Brar both produced and star in the film.  January’s friends Josh Soronow, Pam Hayer, Velvet Steele, and her mother Betty Lapuz, along with social activists Natasha Adsit and Kelendria Nation round out the short 26-minute documentary.   There is also rare footage of January Marie Lapuz herself.

Sher Vancouver President Ash Brar(left), January Marie Lapuz(middle),Sher Vancouver Founder Alex Sangha(right)
Directors- Lenee Son (left) and Elina Gress (right)

Below are some notable highlights of the film:                    

  • The Metro Vancouver Premiere of My Name Was January was held at SFU Surrey and sponsored by the SFU Department of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies.
  • The British Columbia Premiere was held at the Snakebite Film Festival in Penticton where it was the opening film of the festival.
  • My Name Was January won Best Short Documentary at the Emerging Lens Cultural Film Festival in Halifax, Nova Scotia which is a Canadian Screen Awards eligible festival.
  • My Name Was January screened at the British Museum in London, England this summer as part of the Queer Asia Film Festival.
  • My Name Was January was a Finalist at the San Francisco Sex Worker Film and Arts Festival where it is part of their sex worker film archives.
  • My Name Was January was an official selection at the National Screen Institute Online Short Film Festival in Winnipeg, Manitoba where it is permanently preserved in digital format as part of their Canadian short film collection.
  • My Name Was January was a Finalist in the Canadian Shorts Category at the Canadian and International Short Film Fest in Saint John, New Brunswick.
  • Local Surrey graphic designer, Vinay Giridhar, was even a Finalist for Best Film Poster for My Name Was January in Norway.

The official trailer for My Name Was January was screened at the huge international Women Deliver Film Festival and Conference in Vancouver.


The future is bright for My Name Was January!

  • MyName Was January is screening next at City Centre Library on Saturday, September 21 and 28, 2019 at 1 pm.  Both screenings are sponsored by Surrey Libraries.  Free tickets are available on Event Brite.  There will be free refreshments and panel discussion as well.  Both screenings are nearly sold out!
  • My Name Was January is an official selection at the New West Film Festival and will be screened in October 2019.
  • OUTtv has picked up My Name Was January for broadcast and the film will be made available on OUTtvGO which is their online subscription channel.
  • My Name Was January has also been picked up by Moving Images Distribution which is a social justice distributor in Vancouver.  The film will be available for sale in DVD and Blu-ray format, along with a wonderful discussion guide created by Surrey Social Justice Instructor Annie Ohana for high schools, colleges, universities, and the educational market.
  • Complimentary copies of the film has also been donated to Surrey Libraries and New Westminster Public Library, as well as the local archives in both cities.

DIVERSEcity Community Resources Society has come on board to be the “exclusive sponsor” of the annual January Marie Lapuz Youth Leadership Award.  This award was first given out in 2015 to youth between 16 and 30 who demonstrate involvement, commitment, and leadership in the LGBTQ community.  Winners receive cash prizes of $1000, $600, $400, and $200, along with a framed certificate and letter of congratulations.  In the past activists from India, Albania, and Canada have won the award.  Many prominent Metro Vancouver youth have won the award including Andy Holmes, Shilpa Narayan, Serene Carter, and Grace McDonell. 


Alex Sangha with City Councillor Brenda Locke at the Premiere of My Name Was January at SFU Surrey.


Sher Vancouver is currently lobbying the City of New Westminster to establish a memorial for January near 6th Street and the 500 block of 3rd Avenue where January lived. 

 A memorial for January Marie Lapuz could become a landmark in New Westminster.  There are likely not many memorials for transgender women of colour.  The memorial can help educate people on violence against all vulnerable peoples.  It can also reinforce New Westminster as an inclusive city where all lives matter, including January’s.

January did not come from a privileged background.  She was adopted, lived in poverty, was transgender, was a person of colour, and was an immigrant.  Yet she was loved by many and was a fabulous social coordinator in Sher Vancouver as illustrated in her wonderful documentary.  She helped mentor and support many people.  Despite her struggles, January was a bright light and uplifted many people. 

If you support January’s memorial please write to His Worship Jonathan X. Cote and New Westminster City Council at:  clerks@newwestcity.ca.  Please also send a copy of the letter of support to Sher Vancouver at info@shervancouver.com

 If you would like to make a personal donation towards January’s memorial or her youth leadership award please send an email transfer to info@shervancouver.com

You can also donate via credit card via Go Fund Me at:  https://www.gofundme.com/for-sher-vancouver039s-annual-fund

For more information on My Name Was January check out:  https://januarylapuz.net/ 

 To apply for the January Marie Lapuz Youth Leadership Award check out:  http://www.shervancouver.com/youth-award.html


Thank you in advance!

Alex Sangha (Author)

Founder of Sher Vancouver

Producer of My Name Was January  

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