Pageants have taught me to stay true to myself and my values and never to compromise them.
Pageantry is too easily dismissed by critics based on what’s seen on television. I entered the world of pageants and soon found that the many negative perceptions people held were an injustice to the ambitious, intelligent and talented women I met. Each and every pageant contestant I’ve met is so different from the last. I think that’s a beautiful thing – to not segregate people by dividing them based on their differences but rather finding what unites them, and embracing it.
Last summer, I was invited by the German Embassy to represent Canada at the European Youth Parliament Forum in Serbia to speak on the extreme circumstances faced by female Syrian refugees. The qualities I developed in pageantry were paramount to making this trip a huge success for me. I was confident each time I stood up to speak and was so incredibly passionate about the topic since it aligned with my platform of women and girls empowerment. Pageants have taught me to stay true to myself and my values and never to compromise them.
Aside from the discipline and drive that pageants have given me, the greatest gift I have received is to be the truest, most authentic version of myself. To radiate a joy of self love that people don’t only see but can feel too. Pageants have taught me to continue to encourage women to feel confident just as they are and to ask for opportunities. It’s all about respect and uplifting each other. I’ve become very self-aware, and much more confident in who I am and my abilities.
I seek to empower and encourage women to remember that their beauty and worth is not defined by what they see on TV or social media, but rather it is the inner power that they inherently possess that gives each one of us the ability to change the world. I have learned to uninhibitedly be myself, not a version that other people want
In March I had the opportunity to compete at the Miss Canada pageant where I was placed in the Top 5. I was the only South Asian contestant. It was an incredible honour not only to be representing British Columbia, but to be representing an ethnic minority. This pageant exists to empower women to be whatever they choose to be. They don’t care about how much you weigh, what colour your skin is, how tall you are, or what you look like in a swimsuit.
The women I was blessed to meet have amazing academic and career goals. I have met tremendous individuals, made valuable connections, and have developed a strong support system filled with people who are constantly pushing me to be my best. They’re passionate about service and change making. These are the girls that I choose to surround myself with. This is my tribe.
In the spirit of being myself, I couldn’t hold back when it came time to present my on-stage introduction. Rather than starting with my name and where I was from, I began with powerfully identifying myself as a feminist. I then went on to educate the audience on the extreme social pressures, objectification, and injustices faced by females across the
globe and within this country.
I boldly vowed to do my part to shatter the glass ceiling, and it was only after this, that I greeted the audience with a “Good evening ladies and gentlemen, coming to you all the way from beautiful British Columbia, I am Navneet Kaur Nanan and my heart beats for the justice of ALL women.” Before my name or where I was from, I needed it to be known that as women, “We are worth more than our looks.
We are worth more than our bodies. We are worth more.” I knew that it wasn’t my name that needed to be remembered, it was my message.
Pageantry has changed me and inspired me to continue to keep pushing myself beyond my comfort zone because that’s where I’ve found the truest, most authentic form of myself. Nothing will stop me from serving my purpose. That’s something that’ll stay with me forever, long after that stage lights dim, and the applause fades. I have pageants to thank for teaching me that I’m limitless in the pursuit of serving my purpose.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Navneet Kaur Nanan is National Canadian Miss British Columbia 2016 and Miss Northern BC 2015-16. She is a business student and is dedicated to community service and volunteering. She has worked with various charities throughout the Greater Vancouver area raising both awareness and funds for Cops for Cancer, Terry Fox Foundation, Apraxia-Kids, Leukaemia and Lymphoma Society, Variety - The Children’s Charity, Ronald McDonald House Charities, and the Canadian Red Cross.