Fun Fact #1: I entered my First Pageant when I was 48 years old.
Fun fact #2: I will be 50 years old when I am on stage in my first national pageant.

Mrs. Galaxy Victoria 2020/21

In August 2020, the global pandemic was hitting us very hard. I work in IMIT inside healthcare. Every communication device that was issued inside the Vancouver Island Health Authority crossed the desks of my very small team of four people. We had been slammed before the pandemic. The pandemic just made our work more intense. It wasn’t just the volume. It was the knowledge that every cell phone we left for the next day meant a COVID testing site couldn’t go live or a senior in isolation couldn’t call a loved one. My job had never required me to connect a device to my heart. I cried a lot.

I was torn in many directions. My union role overwhelmed me with calls. Reliable people had gone missing. They were too overwhelmed in their job to continue in a union role that demanded all their energy. At home, I wanted to see my daughter but restrictions ebbed and flowed. My step children added a dimension of burden best kept off my blog. I felt like I was getting lost in phone calls, demands, emails, meetings, and fear.

Fear.

I had a lot of it. I work in a COVID cohort site, meaning COVID positive patients would be sent to our site. In the early days of the pandemic, we didn’t know what that meant. Was hand washing enough? Would we carry it home on the bottom of our shoe? Could we accidentally infect our families because we touched the elevator buttons on the way home. In the early days, we undressed in the garage and walked naked into the house where we dropped our clothes directly into the washing machine. We didn’t know. We wouldn’t know for months more. So healthcare workers lived with the fear and the stressful added burdens of our extended families and we just got on with it.

Until the whole thing came crashing down and depression rolled into my brain like a black fog. At some point, I lost my ability to cope and I just cried all the time. It didn’t feel fair. The people around me, the ones not in healthcare or on the front line, they got CERB, an unemployment income specific to the pandemic, and took as much time off as the government would allow. Mass layoffs initially caused stress and panic, but for anyone who had a stable home base, CERB became a relaxing vacation. At one point, I was the only person in my entire family, which includes a husband, a daughter, two step children, and their partners, who was employed. That was the benefit of being in healthcare: we had guaranteed jobs. The downside was that a chasm split between those of us who were overworked, exhausted, and depressed in healthcare (this is now being diagnosed as a mass PTSD) were surrounded by people who were bored and having a nice summer vacation. While we spent the day fearful we would bring the pandemic home, our loved ones were inviting friends over or going out to small gatherings.

So what does this have to do with pageants?

In the middle of this foggy depression that was swallowing me, I got a phone call from a pageant director. She invited me to enter a national pageant happening in Toronto the following year. “But what about COVID?” I asked. “You can defer if you need to,” she said. From there, the conversation on my end went, “No, no. I couldn’t possibly. OK. Where do I sign?”

Then just like that, I was entered into Galaxy Canada Pageants. I became a finalist with the title of Mrs. Galaxy Victoria 2020/21. And suddenly… the dark black fog began to lift. Pageantry, with its glam and glitz, requires us to be our personal best. I began to feel lighter. COVID would not last forever. The proof was that I was in a pageant and a pageant meant the world is doing ok. I needed to start working out… and eating better… and maybe it would be a good idea to figure out where my smile went. A little lipstick wouldn’t kill me either. Or mascara. Did I even own a hair dryer any more? The pageant became my purpose. It was my anchor to the before and after world of the pandemic.

It wasn’t long before friends jumped on my bandwagon. Dress ideas. Hair ideas. Who was coming with me? A bunch of friends all got tiaras and wore them on #TiaraTuesday. I was blessed with a whole fleet of cheerleaders. My pageant became their escape as well.

Since I was accepted as a delegate and have become a finalist, I have felt, very simply, better. I have a goal bigger than myself. I stand for a group of women who have been looking for ways to feel magical and beautiful in the midst of this roller coaster. I have never been so grateful to a pageant for giving me something fun to focus on.

By the time I arrive in Toronto in August 2021, I will be 50 years old. I will have survived a pandemic. I will be in better physical health than I was in my last pageant. I will be in a better mental state than I could have predicted a year before. What a year it has been. What a gift to have found something that has brought magic into my life when I needed it.

Mrs. Galaxy Victoria 2020/21

Mrs. Self Worth – 2019

In late April 2019, I decided to apply to become a contestant in the Miss BC Pageant. This was one of the most unusual things I have ever done! Seriously! When in my life have I ever veered away from my political interests like this before? The more I read about the pageant, the more I liked it! It’s not a beauty pageant, but a leadership pageant that is actually a clever disguise for a Cops for Cancer fundraiser. So, I nervously sent in my application and waited. One interview later, I had been accepted as a contestant in the Mrs. BC category. After that, I began balancing my RVP responsibilities with my pageant training, which was interesting to say the least. (For example: during a week-long union event, I used my time in the evenings to work out and practice some of my pageant skills. Time management is my friend.)

My Mrs BC Candidate Photo

My first task was to find a pageant sponsor. This is an enormous task and not just because there’s a leap of vulnerability involved in asking people for a lot of money. There’s a second issue, which is that the main business who sponsors you is also the name on your pageant sash.

Now just think on all the businesses you know and ask yourself if they truly are what you want your good name associated to. Just think about that for a minute: your name, when called on stage will initially be, “Mrs. [Insert Business Name].” (Or “Miss” or “Miss Teen” if you are in that category.)

Still not sure what I mean? Have a look at this hilarious website with unusual business names and ask yourself which of them you’d like to be known as on stage.

But then I got lucky. I mean really lucky. A friend who owns a coaching and counselling business asked me if I would like to wear her name on stage. I didn’t pause. OH yes I would! And so, I am now Mrs. Self Worth. And frankly, I can’t imagine anything better than this to represent who I am in the Miss BC Pageant.

Mrs. Self Worth

So what was my pageant platform? It was “blazing a trail for women in the STEM fields.” Women representation in the STEM fields, namely science, technology, engineering, and math, is very low. According to some estimates in Canada, women represent 60% of graduating classes, but only 25% of the paid work force. In BC, that last number is even lower at 10 – 15% representation. There’s a lot of reasons for that and no single solution, but I have taken a stand on the one area that I can help make a difference. Young women look for role models they can follow. When they look into the tech field, there are some women, all marginalized by our gender. To advance, women typically “defeminise” (I may have just made that word up) and become as androgynous as possible, thereby conforming to the male standard of how a tech looks. By remaining true to my own idea of how I like to look, which is very feminine, I become a maverick in my field, but I also blaze a trail for other women to be themselves, which in turn can help pivot a male-dominated industry.

IT techs as whole are invisible. Yes, really, I mean that. Recently at a union event, we were broken down into job groupings. IT wasn’t on the list. I joined a random job group, group and added “IT” to the job list on the white board in red marker, then drew a female symbol around it. As usually happens, I was the only tech in a room of over a hundred people. So if techs as a group are invisible to the union who not only supports us but has me on the provincial executive, and women as a whole are only 15% of that invisible industry, it’s a bit of a standing dog fight to not be erased entirely. Other than the fact that I feel like the only female tech union activist in the entire labour movement, I’ve now added “Pageant Contestant” to the list. But – why be the same as everyone else when I can be me, right? Right.

Sister RVP and amazing friend, Monica Thiessen and I on stage after Miss BC 2019

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