Given the town’s roots as a purpose-built resort community, I’m always curious to hear people’s stories about how they ended up living at Whistler. Whether following their heart, escaping the vicissitudes of urban life, or looking for new adventures, the reasons local residents have given me for moving here are legion. But even among these, Cheryl Massey’s story remains unique. “You know,” says the popular actress/model/artist, “it was getting pregnant that got us to Whistler.” And then she laughs, high and happy and totally Cheryl-like in its lack of guile. “Yep. It was Tyler that got us here. No question about that…”
She stops speaking. Sighs. And then laughs again. “It’s not like we planned it or anything,” she says, “It was the fall of 1984. Binty (husband Vincent Massey) and I were living in a little cottage across the street from the West Van Yacht Club. I was still modelling some and taking acting classes and way too young to be a mom…”
And then in a rush of words, she’s off. All I can do is grab the hem of her magic carpet and follow along for the ride. “I never planned on becoming a model,” says the still-striking fortysomething. “But I also knew I wasn’t meant for a conventional 9-5 existence. Back in 1978, a friend convinced me to appear as the Sunshine Girl in the Northshore News.” She smiles, almost a little sheepishly. “The photographer told me ‘you work very well with the camera. You should do more of this stuff’.” She stops. Laughs again. “I knew nothing about modelling. After all, I was a jock in high school. But the money looked good. So I decided to take some courses and see some agents.”
Although short for a runway model — “I’m only 5’6’’, but I always said I was 5’7”,” she admits with a bit of a giggle — Cheryl’s fresh-faced West Coast look and positive demeanour was a big hit with booking agents looking for the next great star. And thus began a four-year modelling odyssey that took her from Milan to Tokyo by way of New York, Munich and Paris.
“Here I was, this innocent young thing from West Vancouver and traveling the globe,” she says. “I’d always had a desire to see the world. That was a big part of the reason for taking up this modelling gig. But I soon realized how fantasy and reality often collide. It was a very steep learning curve for me.”
On Cheryl’s first trip to Italy, for example, she was shocked by the lifestyle of her cohorts. “It was the late ’70s. Sex, drugs and rock-and-roll were rampant in the modelling industry. I had strong roots — good family ties, positive values and such — and that helped me keep my feet on the ground. But there was something about being a model in Europe that never made me comfortable. There was a real sense that you were always vulnerable. And I just wasn’t enough of a hardened urbanite to handle it long term…”