A beauty pageant queen seems like an unlikely advocate for body positivity or a healthy re-thinking of beauty standards. But Miss Universe Canada, Siera Bearchell, is just that. And her fresh thinking isn’t just influencing the pageant world, it’s teaching girls and women everywhere that they can be proud of their bodies.
Siera Bearchell’s Story
Hailing from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, second-year law student Siera Bearchell is no stranger to the pageant scene. She was the 2nd runner up in the 2009 Miss Teen World and 1st runner-up at the 2015 Miss Supranational pageant. But in the most recent Miss Universe pageant of 2016, Siera faced constant criticism in interviews and online about her size compared to the other pageant participants.
“I was recently asked, “What happened to you? Why have you gained weight? You are losing points” This was a reference to my body of course, ” she says. “While I am first to say I am not as lean as I was when I was 16, 20, or even last year, but I am more confident, capable, wise, humble and passionate than ever before. As soon as I started to love who I was rather than always trying to fit what I thought society wanted me to be, I gained a whole new side of life.”
Siera opened up to her Instagram followers this January, admitting that she tried extreme dieting to prepare for her earlier pageants:
“To be truthful, I restricted my food intake intensely at previous pageants and was miserable, self-conscious and I never felt good enough… there were days I would eat a protein bar, workout for hours and struggle to fall asleep because I as so hungry. My body is not naturally lean and that’s okay. I am healthy. I am fit. I am confident. I am me. This is who I am right now and I’m okay with it, so you should be too.”
In response to an altered image of her that was circulating around the internet, Siera posted this message to her Instagram followers:
Siera’s Message: A Healthy Lifestyle Is More Than Just Your Body
While Siera has always had a passion for fitness, teaching spin class and yoga, and being a pretty impressive golfer in a mostly male-dominated sport, she firmly believes that true health has to go beyond expectations about your body; true health will bring more to your life, not take away.
In an interview for Miss Universe Canada, Siera said, “A healthy body truly does lead to a healthy mind and overall happier life”. But she wants to strongly emphasize to girls and women everywhere that a health body doesn’t look the same on every person:” This physical body is NOT an indication of health-including physical and mental health.”
This physical body is NOT an indication of health-including physical and mental health. To call me lazy is an insult. To say I was healthier when I was more lean is ignorant. To define me by my body demonstrates the inadequacy of our society. I'm not saying these things just for the judgment directed at me personally. I'm saying them for every woman who has ever questioned her self-worth because of her physical being. We are not defined by our appearance. When we think about the people we love, we think about their character, their humour, their intelligence, their wit, their generosity, their kindness and humility…. we don't define our friends and family solely on their appearance. So please inform me why it's okay to belittle those we don't even know based only on what is seen on the outside?
Siera is definitely keeping busy. Even as she pursues her law degree at the University of Saskatchewan, she has a passion for charity, and has won multiple awards for her extensive volunteer work and service. Additionally, she co-owns Watered Down Apparel – a company that donates 30 days of clean water in Keyna, Ghana, Ethiopia, and Haiti for every item purchased. Yet she always makes time to send positive messages to the public about true beauty.
“I have a vision to redefine beauty. I have a vision in which women around the world will recognize that true beauty, validation and self-worth start from within. I have a vision that regardless of our age, gender, race, background and personal views, we will support and encourage one another to be comfortable in our own skin.”
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