By: Mariana Bockarova

I must have been seven or eight the first time I saw a beauty pageant on the television set in my family home. I remember thinking that I had never seen so many beautiful girls at once. Some were short, some tall, they varied in skin color and tone, but they each had a unique ability to mesmerize – a radiant beauty, both inside and out. With the final crowning of one girl, in a nation where queens are not had, but made, I was hooked:

“Before Miss Canada I wasn’t very skilled at makeup application or hair styling, so I really had to start practicing and looking up ideas on you tube helped me a lot!” says the current Miss World Canada titleholder, who placed amongst 40 other girls. “Beauty regime wise, I, of course, always wash my face and moisturize. Other than that, sometimes I wear no makeup at all and sometimes I use all my skills from YouTube for special events!” Annora Lee, who is now preparing to compete for Canada in Miss World, the oldest pageant which rivals against Miss Universe and Miss Earth for the most prestigious beauty contest in the world notes her commitment and attitude towards beauty are what likely won her the crown: “My biggest commitment was eating healthier and exercising before the pageant. I had been very active in basketball in high school and early university but began getting caught up in my studies and was less active. I saw this as an opportunity to get more fit so I took three classes a week – boot camp, spin, and yoga. It was so fun and I feel great…As for competing in Miss World Canada I went in with the attitude that no matter what, win or lose, I was going to have a fun week and make some new friends. I really think that positive outlook helped me be successful, I didn’t feel stressed or nervous- I was just being me!”

22-year old second-runner up, Pooja Anand, shares the sentiment of confidence as a key component to beauty: “I think the best beauty tip any girl can take and own on a daily basis, is confidence. Nothing is more beautiful or radiant than confidence. It speaks so loud, and with confidence, comes the ability to be comfortable in your own skin, which in turn, makes others feel the same.  The second best to confidence would be to smile. I believe everyone looks the most beautiful when they smile because it exudes their personality, especially when one smiles with their eyes and the best part, we all smile in the same language!”

For Pooja, competing for the title of Miss World Canada for the second time has found pageantry to be a remarkable platform to give back while raising awareness and sharing knowledge about important causes that are close to her heart in a unique way. She still maintains her beliefs despite the general perception of beauty pageants being antiquated and anti-feminist: “For me personally, my platform is to increase confidence in young women, and to inspire the youth to achieve their dreams while spreading the message of selflessness and kindness. Pageantry, as just about any other industry has its stereotypes, however, if you do your research and get the facts straight, you will find that most pageant contestants are intelligent, wonderful women who genuinely want to make the world a better place through their service and commitment. Don’t get me wrong, I adore the fashion, competition, and beauty aspects of it as well, but what really hones me into getting involved, is the difference one can make in the lives of others through compassionate outreach. When else are you able to be a leader for young girls, a positive role-model, public speak [sic], travel, and engage others while wearing beautiful gowns and looking your best?”

The idea of using a beauty pageant as a form of civic engagement seems to be at the forefront ideology for “pageant girls”, as they are called: “My Miss World Canada experience taught me a lot about myself and our world. One person displaying a single act of kindness can make a difference in our world because if we all do one kind thing, eventually there are a lot of people doing a lot of good. I am inspired by the enthusiasm and motivation of young people and I have learned that my crown is a symbol that demonstrates strength and empowers young girls and boys to work hard to achieve success,” notes Camille Munroe, Miss World Canada 2013. Her greatest beauty tip is “using a straightening iron to curl your hair! Simply curl your hair in an outward motion to create ringlette-type curls then using your fingers, comb through the curls to obtain a nice easy going wave that lasts all day into the night!”

With her cropped hair and bold attitude, for 20-year old national finalist Veena Singh, pageantry is less about conventional beauty and more about paving the way: “I was surprised [to be a national finalist], mostly because people don’t think of me as a “pageant girl”. But I really do believe in the slogan, “beauty with a purpose”, so I was honoured to be a part of a competition that had such idealistic views. I’m a little bit edgier than most pageant contestants. Being in the high fashion industry, my style is more inspired and influenced by abstract art and street style. I’m a little bit more experimental, a little bit more androgynous, and a little more…wild!” She maintains vitamins and hydration are essential to beauty: “All the makeup in the world won’t help you if your skin (or hair/nails) is the underlying problem. And drink plenty of water! Hydrated skin glows naturally and makes you look youthful.”

Other secrets of the stage: Exfoliating both body and face once per week and applying aloe vera and baby oil leading up to pageant night: “I have been doing it for years!” says contestant Laura Giorgiana Balan. Applying plenty of butt glue (yes, butt glue is real thing) – which sprays out of an aerosol can and requires vigorous rubbing with baby wipes to remove – lets swimsuits stay in place. Talc-based baby powders double as a cost-effective alternative to volumizing dry-shampoo, and height can be feigned by applying black electrical tape around a colorful platform shoe, as it “blends right into the stage!”  Perhaps the best secret of the queens, however, is feeling beautiful, whether you’ve won the crown or not.