On July 16, 2016 my life changed. I was crowned Miss Fuller Woman Canada 2016. I remember standing there, looking at all my fellow competitors, resplendent in their evening gowns, silently calling out my picks for the winners. Spoiler alert: I wasn’t on that list. When I tell people that I either get “Oh I knew you would win” or “What you didn’t believe in yourself?” While the leading sentiment is sweet, it’s also biased because who’s going to agree with you that you didn’t deserve to win (well I know a couple of people but let’s save that for a future post). As for the second, it wasn’t about believing in myself and a lot more about looking realistically at my competition. It was steep.
I entered the Miss Fuller Woman Canada Competition on a whim. I met the organizers at a clothing sale in March and I meshed with Georgia and Vicky quite well, and joked and chit-chatted with them all day. They mentioned the competition, gave me a flyer but didn’t try to sell it to me. I stuffed it into my pocket without looking and continued about my day. In the following weeks I found that damn flyer all over my house. I couldn’t stop thinking about the competition. I threw together a Go Fund Me page and my loved ones really came through for me. I raised the money in a few weeks and I booked my head shots and sent in that application. I’d like to say the rest is history, but it wasn’t quite that simple. It seems that I had just volunteered for the toughest, busiest, and most challenging but rewarding 10 days of my life.
I never thought about all the things I would need for the competition: an evening gown, a swimsuit, shoes, hosiery, and a talent. Oh boy! This is a lot to acquire in a small window of time. Because of the gruelling schedule for rehearsals I had five days to accomplish these tasks. I acquired everything I needed in two. I love my down time and I wasn't giving up more than I had to before the rehearsals started. Oh, and I am notoriously cheap. I found a store that sold discounted salsa shoes in North York, I arranged for a delivery of the hosiery, picked up my evening gown (thrifted) and 14 gross of Swarovski crystals to embellish the gown, found a one-piece swimsuit that I forgot I owned, made a hair accessory and embellished it and one pair of my shoes. WHEW! Exhausted just remembering it. My Fairy Drag Mother gifted me some lucky earrings and with that I was pageant ready…or so I thought.
At competition orientation we had cupcakes and played cute ice breaker games. I am a hairstylist and makeup artist by trade, beyond being able to beat your mug and fix your lid, I am fluent in body language. It was very interesting to meet the ladies on the first day. I knew by the end of orientation that I had gained a couple of new friends, a few acquaintances and at least one adversary. It’s amazing what people give away without realizing it. I digress. Day one of rehearsal I literally walked that runway until my feet bled. We hadn’t even gotten to the hard stuff. I thought I had a leg up because of my experience in Toronto’s Kiki Ballroom scene, walking runway for two hours every week, boy oh boy was I wrong. This was a whole new world. We hadn’t even gotten to the hard stuff and I went home exhausted. Over the next ten days we learned a runway presentation, stage spacing, how we were going to introduce ourselves, even how to hold ourselves to receive a sash a crown. Oh yeah, and a choreographed dance routine. Have you ever taken a dance or aerobics class? In heels? Yeah, it wasn’t easy. Luckily we had our secret weapon. JP is pure Super Hero. She was gentle with us but made sure we had the whole thing down in just a few rehearsals. A true leader. Something I don’t advertise is that I am hearing impaired. Not a lot, but enough that I can miss stuff in a loud, echo-y room. Like one single beat in a song. I struggled with catching the cue on one part of the routine for 5 rehearsals. I COULD NOT find the beat. It was frustrating to be that kid who kept screwing up, always a step early. But let me tell you….When I found that beat (thanks to headphones) I literally Whooped with joy, I had it now. Nothing was going to hold me back. I was In Formation.
Now, the 10 days wasn’t all gruelling practice, we had fun too. We had a fitness challenge at Riddim Fitness in Ajax. I know, I know, I said fun and here I am talking about a fitness challenge. Let me tell you, I had so much fun. Great Soca beats, a tiered routine to accommodate all fitness levels and fun work out gear provided by Bella+. I loved every second of it. I wish I could go every week.
We spent some time with the mom’s at Wings Maternity Home. I was happy to lend my skills to a couple of moms and cut their hair. Marion, the director of Wings, is a saint. What she is providing for these young moms is invaluable. I look forward to going to visit again and spending time in such a positive environment.
The most fun though was the No BS Boat Cruise aboard the Yankee Lady. Whitney Way Thore was there! She’s so amazing. I wish I could attack life with the joyful fervour that she does. I got to chat with her briefly and she is just a delight! I was nervous to attend the cruise because my chosen outfit fell into my usual clothing philosophy that I picked up from Shakespeare; “All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players”. If we are all on a stage than shouldn’t we be in costumes? I thought I’d taken it too far but I got an awful lot of positive reviews of my High Seas Ensemble. I even got to get my picture taken in the wheel house! I met so many wonderful ladies (and a few gents) on the cruise and it was nice to let loose after 9 days of competition prep, challenges and practice for my talent. It was a great distraction.
Pageant morning dawned hazy and humid. I had my suitcase packed and a stomach full of butterflies. We were required to be at the venue 8 hours before showtime. We had to do run-throughs, get last minute practices in and of course, pay a visit to the glam squad. I had fully intended on doing my own face but when my friend Larissa texted me that she was volunteering to do makeup and that she was waiting for me. It was so lovely to forget the pressure for an hour and just chat with a friend. I went back to our change room and stared at my outfits hung in a line. This was it. This is what I had sacrificed so much for. It was out of my hands now, all I could do was my best. I lined up with my competitors, took a deep breath, nearly threw up, took another deep breath and stepped out on stage.
The night blurred by in a haze of costume changes, nervous chit chat and hairspray and lipstick touch ups. Every time I stepped on stage I could hear my loved ones cheering for me (Just like that!) and I hoped I was as entertaining and I thought I was. Before I knew it we were in our evening gowns, lined up on stage awaiting the results of the evening. My feet were throbbing, my palms were sweating and my face was twitching from smiling but we were about to hear the winners. I was awarded two of the minor titles: Miss Fitness (YES! I had hoped I had won this one) and surprisingly People’s Choice (I shamelessly promoted myself for this but when you see how many followers and likes your competitors have I was sure one of the other girls got that one). Before they announced the runners up and the queen, they allowed us a second to relax. The curtains closed and aaaallllllll the shoes came off! I couldn’t get back into mine so I tossed them off stage and quickly arranged my dress to cover my bare feet. When the curtain opened I was ready to cheer for my pageant sisters. I listed my chosen 3 over and over in my head. Sure enough, two of them were called as first and second runners up, in the order I guessed them too. I was watching my chosen winner out of the corner of my eye, waiting to cheer for her when the unthinkable happened: MY NAME WAS CALLED!! I was in total shock. I blindly stumbled forward to accept my crown, all that crouching practice paid off. The reigning queen Sarah placed the tiara right on my head, perfectly. I couldn’t believe it. I turned to the audience and realized that everyone was on their feet cheering (ok maybe not everyone, but it looked like it) and flashes were going off, people were calling my name. My ballroom family were there, chanting our house chants for me. I was shaking, cycling on the verge of happy tears, and I kept touching the crown to make sure it was real. I can remember seeing my husband in the crowd, wearing the hugest smile. Another person had stepped forward for a photo and I remember asking if I could quickly kiss my husband (he had after all spent around 12 hours hand embellishing my thrifted gown) and he grounds me and supports me and I needed to hold his hand for just a second to know that everything was real. It was a strobing blur. I had won.