Home > Culture > Miss Black Beauty Canada 2013

Miss Black Beauty Canada 2013

IMG_4456So I’m a year late to be posting this, but this was actually an article I wrote last year for an event that I covered. Unfortunately, the article was never used nor were the photos I took (probably because the person who oversaw the magazine was also a contestant– and did not win, at least that’s my theory). After remembering that I had a blog of my own, I finally decided to publish it myself, albeit a year after the fact. What can I say, I’ve mastered the art of procrastinating. Anyways, I felt that the participants had worked very hard for this one night and certainly believe that the young ladies who took the time to be interviewed at least deserved to have their stories told. So here it is, or was…

The joy and elation was clear on Anastasia DeLyon’s face as her name was announced as 2013’s pageant winner. A bouquet in her arms, a diamond encrusted crown set upon her head, a pearl necklace placed around her neck, Miss DeLyon will reign as Miss Black Beauty Canada as Monique Redhead did the year before.

Now in its second year, Miss Black Beauty Canada 2013 is more than just a celebration of glamour and physical beauty. The pageant is aiming to give young women of colour a voice to address issues affecting the black community. In a culture where black women are often sexualized or portrayed as unruly caricatures, these young ladies are literally stepping up to dismantle stereotypes with their intelligence and determination.

“We’re focusing on inner beauty, so it’s who you are,” says DeLyon, a Centennial graduate from Oshawa and now studying child youth care at Ryerson University. She dismisses the typical concerns of beauty pageants being more focused on physical appeal. “It’s not so much about what you look like on the outside but who you are on the inside and having that portrayed outwards. And that’s what’s most important; you have to love yourself and know where you’re going to find your purpose in life. That’s what I really want people to see when they came to this pageant.”

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This year the pageant consisted of 24 contestants, ranging from ages 18 to 28. “It’s different from other pageants because the culture is more diverse by mixing Caribbean and African culture together, and Canadian culture as well,” explains Olaminde Badmus, president of Fabliss World Entertainment Inc. and one of the organizers of Miss Black Beauty Canada.

As any of these young women would tell you, this experience was no easy road. When asked what were some of the challenges they faced along the way, Badmus laughs and says, “Dealing with a bunch of girls with different personalities.” She admits a lot of them were skeptical at first, but they succeeded in overcoming this.

“I noticed that there was a lot of competition,” says contestant Mirabelle Eze, an urban studies major at U of T from Mississauga. “All of the ladies were intelligent and beautiful, so I had to keep reminding myself that I had to be confident and that’s all that matters.”

As 26 year-old DeLyon put it, a lot of sleepless nights went into preparation for the event. Like many of the girls, she had to balance work, school, and life while getting ready for the pageant.   “I had my sponsors that really helped me with my talent,” says DeLyon who practiced at Sandbox Studios. “All of my sponsors helped me a lot with my dress and my shoes. I really couldn’t have done it by myself.”

IMG_4384The pageant’s judging criteria was split into five categories, including personality, community service, swim suit, evening gown, and talent being an important one. The ladies delighted the audience with skills ranging from singing, acting, dancing, spoken word, musical stylings, and inspirational speeches. Among the grand prizes DeLyon walked away with was a cash award, scholarship and an all-inclusive paid trip to the Caribbean – just to name a few.

Of course with all this attention, these young women seek to use the stage to address the many challenges plaguing the black community in Canada. This year the beauty pageant emphasized the importance of being screened for sickle cell anemia, the cause championed by Monique Redhead, pageant winner of 2012. “That’s one of the [illnesses] affecting a lot of black people,” says Badmus. “I know the awareness is all there and that is why we dedicated this pageant to sickle cell.”IMG_4354

For 24-year-old Eze, her platform was to draw attention to violence amongst youth. She aimed to create more after school programs that would keep kids away from negative influences, which our communities have been seeing far too much of. Eze’s inspiration was to do something different, as she had never done a pageant before. “I thought it was a great opportunity for me to be a leader in my community,” she explains. “There are a lot of good opportunities that come from Miss Black Beauty Canada, and I wanted to inspire younger girls like myself to go out and do something that they love.”

As leaders, the contestants see it as their mission to encourage others and be a positive role model. “I always wanted to motivate and encourage young people out there because I know it’s mostly young people who are discouraged,” says second runner-up Aleta Maida. The 21-year-old Zimbabwe native plans to study mathematics at the University of Manitoba. “I always wanted to let them know that no matter what, they could still achieve their goals, they could still achieve their dreams. They could still be the next president and not be held back [by what they think] is wrong with them.”

Indeed, there is much responsibility that women have to take on. This is especially true for women of colour who must contend with various stigmas attached to them. “As a black Canadian woman, my responsibilities would definitely be to portray myself in a professional manner, to show other young girls and everybody how professional and confident black women can be,” says DeLyon. “Sometimes in the media we’re portrayed so negatively.”  She stresses the importance of how black women must continue to show people how there is more to them than what people see on the surface.

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DeLyon, who worked at Toronto’s Afrocentric school, would like to build more initiatives that focus on bullying, as she found conflict resolution to be something that black kids tend to have difficulty with. Likewise, Maida would have liked to bring the issue of anger to the forefront, as she believes it’s the cause of the violence young people are facing. “People need to learn how to control [their anger],” she explains. “How to not use violence as a source of solving their anger management issues or situations. They could always calm down and talk about it instead.”

Whether they won or not, each girl walked away with their grace and integrity, but most importantly, each gained something from the experience. As Badmus explained, “When a lot of [the girls] applied they were like, ‘Oh my God, I don’t know if I could do it!’ They had low self-esteem. This pageant at least shows that anyone can become something in life. And they worked so hard and that was the result on stage.”

It’s a sentiment echoed by the young ladies who participated. “Honestly, from the day that I got here to now, I’ve grown into a very confident woman,” says Eze. “I wasn’t really this confident until now. And I know that organizers would have noticed the growth in me. So that’s what I’m taking away. Good things happen when you’re confident.”

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