A Tribute to Nalie Agustin
The Concordia Alum’s Family Commissioned a Mural in Her Honour
A new mural in downtown Montreal honours the late Nalie Agustin—a Concordia alum, best-selling author, public speaker and cancer advocate—who touched the lives of many worldwide as she shared her cancer journey online, using her platform to inspire those with and without cancer.
In March 2022, Nalie passed away. To honour and commemorate her, her family commissioned a mural, located at the corner of Pierce St. and Police St., near Concordia’s Sir George Williams campus.
The mural was commissioned by Nalie’s brother Justin Agustin. As he was grieving the loss of his sister, he would look out the window of his Griffintown condo and see street art on the buildings. “It just hit me,” he said. He wanted a mural of Nalie on a Montreal wall.
Justin explained that he thought it would be great to do something “creative and artistic” in the city for Nalie. “I wanted her face and her portrait to be somewhere that people could pass by and continue to remember her.”
According to Justin, mural artist Jasmine Dearden “really captured Nalie and the essence behind her.”
Though his sister became famous worldwide, Justin explained that she still called Montreal home. The mural is located in the heart of downtown, where Nalie spent time studying at Concordia’s library and bonding with her friends and family.
Justin commissioned Dearden to paint the mural after seeing some of her previous work online, including a mural of Alicia Keys, Nalie’s favorite singer. “This was super symbolic to us because Nalie’s theme song was ‘Girl on Fire’,” he said. The song was also played at her memorial, Justin added.
“I feel like Nalie was sent to all of us in the breast cancer community by a higher power. She was never ours to keep.” — Alyssa Smith
Dearden, who garnered attention for her murals by music icons like Alicia Keys, Iggy Azalea and Sia, agreed to create the mural for the Agustin family as she had been a follower of Nalie for years. “She was just so strong, and she's so inspirational,” she said.
The artist explained that she decided to paint this specific photograph of Nalie because “she looks happy, strong and determined.”
According to Dearden, it took approximately 70 hours to complete the entire mural. “I don’t use projectors. Everything I do is freehand. It’s free paint, no brush,” she said. “I have to keep layering the spray paint until it looks the way it should.”
The mural is composed of Nalie’s portrait amidst clouds with a light glare over a part of her face, right by a cardinal bird.
The light radiating on Nalie’s face, the artist said, represented the light she was in people’s lives. The clouds symbolize “being above,” and the cardinal is a sign that those who have passed will continue to live on so long as their memory is alive within us.
The mural also contains a QR code, which, when scanned with a mobile phone, will bring passersby to a link containing Nalie’s YouTube videos, her social media platforms, her book, The Diary of Nalie, and more.
“I want people to continue absorbing her content and remembering her by what she put out into the world because that stuff is so valuable,” Justin said. “Just because she's not here physically, it doesn't mean that her work can't live on.”
“That’s my sister. That’s Nalie. She’s the angel of our city.” — Justin Agustin
Alyssa Smith, a breast cancer survivor and one of Nalie's followers, explains that on her darkest days, reading Nalie’s latest post or watching her latest video always made her feel better. “I feel like Nalie was sent to all of us in the breast cancer community by a higher power,” she said. “She was never ours to keep.”
Online follower Jennifer Ellson shared that Nalie’s online presence “is still felt, and her videos are still around to lift us when we’re down.”
Nalie’s content was real, raw and honest, reflecting the tribulations of living with a breast cancer diagnosis while simultaneously being an example of positivity and resilience.
Long-time follower of Nalie and cancer warrior Marianella Chavez said that, while she didn’t know Nalie personally, it “felt like she was a close friend [...] she made me feel like she was holding my hand.”
When he first saw the finished mural, Justin said his heart was full.
“I got super emotional. When you look up at it, it’s like that’s her. That’s my sister. That’s Nalie,” he said. “She’s the angel of our city.”
This article originally appeared in Volume 43, Issue 2, published September 13, 2022.