Pageant participants say biggest prizes were self-confidence, empowerment


On Sunday, May 15, Grace Webb of Dokis Frist Nation won the Miss North Ontario Regional Scholarship pageant in Sudbury. Grace is a third-year student at Laurentian University, in the Law and Justice Program, and recently started a new job in her field. The 20-year-old explains that she got involved with the pageant when the Executive Director, Cheryl Kozera, called her to find out whether she wanted to participate. “Why not? I said I’ll give it a shot.”

She was one of 28 contestants aged 14 to 24, and among her sponsors was Teresa Fox of Sturgeon Falls. “In order to participate we had to get sponsors. I reached out to a lot of different companies I was already affiliated with… I reached out to companies operating out of Dokis FN.” The contestants also had to do fundraising for the Northern Ontario Families of Children with Cancer (NOFCC). “Combined, we ended up raising $10,000,” says Webb.

The pageant is called a “scholarship” pageant; among several awards to be won, the grand winner receives $2000 towards schooling. Webb says the prize will be very helpful for her education costs. “I’m hoping to give back to my community as much as I can…  When I went to this pageant, I knew from the beginning it was all about empowering women, that you take away self-confidence. That’s what they really taught, being confident in yourself and cheering on other women… I’m more mindful now of my own surroundings… more mindful of other people.” 

The event took place over the weekend of May 13-15 at Sudbury Secondary School, and involved a slate of workshops and guest speakers focusing on various aspects of life ranging from mental health to personal planning. “It opened my mind… to recognize signs of anxiety or depression, and how to offer words of encouragement to help someone going through those emotions.” Webb knows that pageants get mixed reviews, criticism for divisive competitiveness, but she insists this pageant is about cooperation and empowerment. “There’s mixed emotions and arguments about pageants. This one specifically isn’t a beauty contest. It’s not about what you look like outside but your inner beauty, about empowering women, that we feel confident in ourselves… it helped me realize my inner beauty… that will get me further than my looks.” There is no bathing suit portion of this contest, to eliminate any body-conscious stress.

The contestants arrived Friday, and began with a preliminary interview with the judges. “It was kind of like a job interview,” says Webb. What followed was each girl introducing their “platforms”, the things they care about and want to advocate for. Grace Webb’s focus was clean water in rural Indigenous communities. “The voices of these people need to be heard, and I wanted to portray that.” They had a fun fashion show. On Saturday there was a scholastics test, a 1000-word essay on a given topic. They had an optional fitness test, followed by a series of workshops offered by the judges. “The judges this year were very accomplished women. They have a lot to say within their field of work. One was a life coach… one was a motivational speaker… and we had a girl from the Mental Health Society, talking about depression and anxiety… Another girl was a business coach for women who want to start their own business. It was a long day of hard work but at the end of the day I felt very accomplished and satisfied.”

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