"Don’t be afraid of what others think. There are tons of other women out there who understand you, relate with you, and are here to support you.˝
It’s never too late to work on your dreams and focus on yourself. Sundeep Kaur Sekhon’s success is a testament to doing what really makes you happy. In July, Sundeep was crowned Miss BC World 2020. She went on to participate in the recently-held Miss Canada World pageant. The 28-year-old is an inspiration for many South Asian females who want to create their own path and not the one they are expected to follow.
Sundeep, fondly known as Sandy, always had a love for performing and the arts. “I’ve walked the ramp at Vancouver Fashion Week, participated in bhangra and giddha competitions, and emceed many events so it’s no secret that I enjoy being on stage,” she reveals. But growing up thinking she had to follow a traditional timeline of career, marriage and kids, she never fully immersed herself in other interests, and participating in a pageant was definitely not on her checklist. “As I grew older and thought more about the kind of life I wanted to live and what would make me content, my goals started to shift,” she shares. In the last five years, she did a lot of travelling, met many new people, started her own photography business Captured by Sandy, and began to explore her other interests. So when she saw an ad for Miss BC World 2020 back in March, it almost seemed meant to be.
“I don’t like to hold myself back anymore and I thought why not give it a shot! What intrigued me even more was Miss World’s Beauty with a Purpose initiative. I was excited that I could use a stage like Miss World to talk about something I’m very passionate about such as gender equity,” recalls the marketing professional.
Miss BC World 2020 was a two-day event with the first day dedicated to training and the next to the pageant itself. “I think the judges appreciated my confidence. I was happy to be on stage and because of my personal experiences, I could genuinely show passion for the message I was sharing,” says Sundeep about her experience. Her win as Miss BC World 2020 completely caught her off guard. “Having had no prior pageant experience, it felt like a huge win. Although I didn’t have any formal training, it was definitely a nod to the hard work I’ve put into my other interests in the arts over the years,” expresses Miss BC World 2020.
In October, Sundeep participated in the Miss World Canada pageant in Toronto. “It was a week-long affair with segments like a fitness test, fashion show, and a talent show,” states Sundeep who was happy to showcase her journey to inspire other women to enter. “I want to see more women and young girls that look like me on that stage; more Punjabi women.” When asked about her biggest takeaway from both pageants, Sundeep answers that it “is a reminder to never hold myself back again! You never know what an opportunity may lead to. I never imagined winning, let alone having an opportunity such as this to share my story and platform with others.”
Sundeep’s personal experiences and having a front-row seat to the experiences of many women in her life is what got her really passionate about gender equity. “I’ve advocated for it every day by voicing my opinions and standing up for what I think is right in my own life. I’m taking it a step further by opening up to other women and young girls by sharing my stories. I’m building a platform which will allow them to come together and share their own stories,” asserts the young lady. She is striving to create a space where females can inspire and empower one another to break free from gender norms and cultural expectations as a woman.
The Abbotsford-resident believes that gender equity in BC’s South Asian community has definitely progressed in the last 15-20 years, but there’s a long way to go. “There are new families coming to Canada every day and I think many still have those deep-rooted patriarchal values. Since we have quite a large South Asian community here in BC, it makes it very easy to get away with enforcing those values,” she explains. She feels that though women here are privileged to pursue an education, build a career and speak up and voice opinions, the cultural expectations are still there. “It’s important to recognize that a lot of these expectations exist in other cultures too. The fight for gender equity is global,” proclaims Sundeep who is currently working on a project to continue promoting gender equity, primarily in South Asian culture.
Her advice to young women is: “You’re the one that’s going to live your life, so make sure it’s one you want to live. Whatever path you decide to take and the decisions you make, make sure you’re doing it for yourself and not for others. Don’t be afraid of what others think. There are tons of other women out there who understand you, relate with you, and are here to support you.”
Photo credits: Erwin Loewen (@erwinloewen), Captured by Sandy (@capturedbysandy_), Mandeep Bhatti from blackbeardphotos (@blackbeardphotos)