Profile: Elva Mai Hoover

by Jess Salgueiro

I met Elva Mai Hoover in rehearsals for a play called “Like the First Time.” She played my grandmother and on our lunch breaks we would go grab pho or sushi at some spot in the Annex. She never lectured me on life even though she very well could have (I was 23 and completely clueless yet thought I had figured it ALLLL out). But one day she told me in a serious tone, which she rarely ever took with me, “You’re at a very special time in your life. You’re beautiful just because you’re young. You don’t have to try. So many women spend this precious time of their lives being the most insecure. Please don’t. It’s a waste and a tragedy. You’ve been given a gift. Enjoy it while you got it.”

This passage has stuck with me and reverberates so deeply inside me that I think I share it with another young woman at least once a week, but probably more.

I knew this woman was fire and I needed some more bastions of wisdom.

Elva at 17.

Elva at 17.

what is the greatest lesson you’ve learned about power?  

Greatest lesson I’ve learned about power is that it’s pretty seductive. For me, having recently been elected to a position of relative power within an organization, I have to keep resisting the impulse to say Yeah, sounds good to me. Let’s do it! I have to keep reminding myself that consensus is the most important piece, and that things I feel strongly are the ‘right’ decisions, still need to be discussed and questioned. I’ve also learned that once that discussion has taken place, sometimes my opinion changes. So there you go.

what are you working on?

I’m working on retaining my positivity, my sense of humour and my lighter side. I’ve always had a tendency to go to the worst case scenario in situations and that generates a lot of fear. I’m fortunate to have people in my life who know me well, and who can tease me about this. Once I’ve managed a laugh, I'm ready to start looking at a more balanced view of what’s around me.

what would you say to your 30 year old self?

Elva (26) with her daughter.

Elva (26) with her daughter.

At thirty, I was the mother of a seven year old daughter, at the end of a marriage, had just had a hysterectomy, and was recognizing that I needed to find the strength and the wherewithal to find a way of living on my own, and supporting myself and my kid. Nobody marries thinking that it won’t be forever, and I carried a lot of guilt around the breakup of my marriage, and some of my behaviours during it. What would I say to my 30 year old self? Elva, there are a lot of changes ahead for you. You need to be strong, put one foot in front of the other and get on with it. 

what is a favourite failure of yours?

Probably going back into a relationship for a second time, when I knew it could never work. Doing that, having to go through the same steps all over again but even worse, even more humiliating and ugly, taught me that there were some really deep seated issues that I had to work through. It got me into therapy for a time, and the realization that the men who were attractive to me on a physical and emotional level were really, really bad for me. They were, in fact, my poor old alcoholic, glamorous, sexy dad, and I had to learn that I was never going to be able to redeem or save them.


what’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned about love?

Honestly, that romantic love is poison for me. I don’t do it well. The greatest love I’ve ever experienced is the love I feel for my daughter, and my grandson.


what’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned about beauty?

That physical beauty fades and disappears, and how important it was to me when I was younger. It still is. So much of my self worth was based on it when I was young. It was so hard for young women in my day to see themselves outside of it, and particularly in the profession I was involved in. I got my biggest accolades for being ‘pretty’ and ‘lovely’, and looking back, I spent a lot of my youth responding to that kind of praise, and in fear because of unwanted male attention. 


what is something you’ve come to love/accept about yourself that maybe you didn’t always?

I spent a lot of time thinking about myself in terms of what I wasn’t … ways that I didn’t measure up. Not pretty enough, not brilliant enough, not talented enough, not unique enough … the list of what I wasn’t was endless. Now, I know that I value loyalty, decency and fairness, and that if I commit to something, I will give it my very best shot and knowing that makes me feel good about being who I am.


when do you feel the most alive?

Probably when I meet a demand. Whether it’s work, responsibility, even exercise … doing something that scares me at first but I agree to take it on, work through the fear and come out the other side saying hey, you did it! Maybe it’s not ‘perfect’, whatever perfect is, but I took action, and that’s really important

Elva with her Grandson Cal at his Grade 8 grad.

Elva with her Grandson Cal at his Grade 8 grad.

Jessica Salgueiro