Natalie Bell might just be the most outgoing person in Winnipeg. The fast-talking, easy-laughing mother of three works in the human resources department of the city’s 28,000-employee health authority. She’s at virtually every food, culture and media event across the city, “with my selfie stick and my phone and good to go,” she says. When she’s not living her life, she’s writing about it on her blog, Peg City Lovely. When people ask her where they can find her, she jokes, “I’m everywhere.”
Natalie’s parents, who moved to Canada from Jamaica three years before she was born, probably knew they had an extrovert on their hands by the time she was three years old, belting Debby Boone’s You Light Up My Life for her parents’ enjoyment. “My dad recorded it and couldn’t believe, at three, I was singing on key,” she says. She performed publicly for the first time at 12 at Winnipeg’s Blackorama Festival, singing Whitney Houston’s I Want to Dance With Somebody. Music, like Caribbean culture, ran in the family; Lisa, Natalie’s younger sister, would later become a Top 20 Canadian Idol finalist.
Despite her public persona, Natalie says, as a kid, “I was a nerd. I had my nose in a book all the time.” Or a Commodore 64. “I love computers, always have.” It wasn’t until high school—when Natalie sat on student council and joined the basketball, volleyball and track-and-field teams—that she truly embraced her inner socialite. She studied computer science and applied math at the University of Manitoba on scholarship, but it wasn’t long before she realized the field was too cloistered for her liking. “I started working full-time in customer service and sales, and people were like, ‘Man, this is what you should be doing. You’re just so great with people,’ ” she says. Soon after, she switched into HR and has stuck with the profession since.
As a single mom for much of her two teenaged daughters’ lives, “I’ve always tried to be a role model for them,” she says. She dreamed of starting a mom blog—combining her tech know-how and natural gregariousness—but only found the chance after she met her soon-to-be fiancé at work in 2006. “We were co-workers for a couple of years and then all of a sudden, we were at a work event and people were like, ‘You’d make such a cute couple.’ ” Natalie was resistant to the idea, but “we went on one date in November 2008 and have not been apart since.” In February 2017, they’ll get married in Jamaica.
In 2012, the couple had a baby boy and Natalie, on maternity leave, finally found the time for that blog. It’s since been a repository for thoughts and personal stories—like her mom’s passing two years ago—and occasional interviews, like the one she did with Mr. T. Throughout the whole conversation, she was thinking, “Mr. T is talking to me. Me! Little old Natalie in Winnipeg. He probably doesn’t even know where Winnipeg is.”
If she put all her time into the blog, Natalie jokes, “I could be the next Oprah.” —Luc Rinaldi
(Portrait by John Woods)