Since entering the Miss Teenage Canada pageant I have been asked many questions and been given some strong opinions by others guised as questions. “What is a Miss Teen Canada Pageant? Why would anybody in this day and age want to compete in an archaic depiction of how a woman should look and act? Do you have to get in a bikini? Do you have to wear those super high heels? Do you put Vaseline on your teeth to keep smiling that long? Why do pageants place so much emphasis on physical appearance and not as much on personality and intellect? Do you all want world peace?” How do you answer these questions without actually participating in a pageant yourself? I don’t think I could have provided an honest portrayal of what a pageant can do for a community or a young woman until now.
I had never dreamed of being Miss Teenage Canada . In fact, it wasn’t even on my radar. I’m more of a mud and muck kind of girl than lipstick and platform shoes, however this experience has helped me embrace another side of myself. After two years of working four part-time jobs and attending college, I was burning out and started to look at scholarship and educational funding opportunities. I applied for Miss Teenage Canada because I saw it as an opportunity to step out of my gumboot comfort zone and do something that could help to promote a cause close to my heart, the inclusion of people with physical and mental disabilities. Shortly after filling out the application I visited their Facebook page. The Facebook page showed pictures of girls from previous pageants and what they had done with their titles and time as a Miss Teenage Canada. I saw that the pageant could really be a growing opportunity. I took the leap and went through the interview process with the pageant director and producer, Michelle Weswaldi (http://www.missteenagecanada.com/about-mtcw/meet-the-team). After talking to Michelle, I was excited and felt like the pageant experience would be an adventure of a lifetime.
The title of Miss Teenage Canada (formerly Miss Teen Canada World) is something that our parents may remember (I know my mom did) on TV produced by CTV that was the original along with Miss Canada but today pageants in Canada have changed and there are many, not just one “Teen Canada Pageant.” The largest Teen Competition in Canada is owned by MTC-W Inc. and produced by Michelle Weswaldi. Its first appearance was in 2008 with Katie Starke crowned as the winner of the title Miss Teen Canada World. This is the pageant that came up in my scholarship search. I further discovered that MTC-W Inc. is the only pageant to hold provincial searches before going national, ensuring girls receive the training they need to compete on a national and international level. The winner of the Miss Teenage Canada pageant goes to Miss Teen Universe (the equivalent to The Miss Universe pageant, only for teens). The organizers work above and beyond to ensure the delegates receive training and undergo a memorable experience. As stated by this Miss Teenage Canada’s webpage (http://www.missteenagecanada.com/about-mtcw/mission) the organizers of this pageant “want to ensure that every girl entering the contest has the opportunity to learn, grow, challenge themselves, and engage with a higher purpose.” The pageant wants girls to express “individuality, transform and realize their true potential while representing our country and taking an active role in the community.”
Each year the Miss Teenage Canada pageant supports a different charity provincial wide, this year the charity was Cardiac Kids (http://www.cardiackids.ca/). Cardiac Kids raises funds for children who have congenital heart disease. At the national competition the charity is Free The Children. The Miss Teenage Canada pageant (http://www.missteenagecanada.com/about-mtcw/charitable-alliances) has raised over $190,000.00 for Free The Children and I am happy to say that number is continually raising and I have contributed to it. Free The Children has over one million youth involved and believe in firsthand experience, because of this they reward “Me to We trips” to individuals in the pageant.
So to answer some of the questions posed to me, and I’m sure my pageant sisters, I say, take a look at the data. The Miss Teenage Canada pageant bases the decision of the title on criteria that does include evening gown and a fitness component, however 55% of this pageant’s overall mark is focused on blogging, social media, behaviour, interview and fundraising. As a Commerce Major, in my third year at UNBC, how is this any different than some of the courses I take? In fact, this opportunity has led to increasing my business network, my ability to connect with potential employers as well as boosting my confidence in areas such as promotion, technology and public speaking. Do pageants harm my self-esteem…I don’t think so. Before entering the pageant I was a confident young woman, however, the confidence I have gained from the pageant is from putting myself in an awkward situation and surviving, by being in the public eye and speaking about my past experiences and introducing myself to people and potential sponsors. I can imagine now what most of you are thinking, how does a competition where being on stage in a bikini and high heels (because those two fit together oh so well, right?) improve your confidence? My reply to that is it doesn’t initially, but it is where you grow. It can make you feel insecure and it will make you feel out of place. However, you learn not to compare yourself to others. You learn to stand tall in your skin and be proud of your physique. You learn to present yourself in a way that allows people to see beyond your skin and see your personality.
The Miss Teenage Canada pageant has provided me an opportunity to be heard, to present my ideas and promote my platform. It has allowed me to engage with business people and organizations that I would not have before, it has broadened my professional network and it has allowed me to connect more deeply with my community through fundraising events. I serve as a role model to others, with or without my crown and heels. Do we all want world peace? You bet we do!