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Shanelle Connell is Not Your Average Pageant Girl

March 15th, 2017

Photo provided by Shanelle Connell / Victoria Blaire Photography

Photo provided by Shanelle Connell / Victoria Blaire Photography

 

Prior to sitting down with Shanelle for an interview, I wasn’t sure how to approach our conversation, and had no idea what questions to ask her. My experience with pageants or those who participate in them is limited to what I’ve seen on TV, with the most notable being Steve Harvey accidentally announcing the wrong winner of the Miss Universe competition in 2015. However, I approached this opportunity as a way to learn from someone who engages in a community quite different from my own, and with International Women’s Day around the corner, as a way to celebrate a peer and a young woman who is challenging stereotypes.

Initially intending to major in computer science at UBCO, Connell left to pursue graphic and web design at Centre for Arts and Technology. She eventually transferred back to pursue a degree in psychology. Inspired by her mom’s participation in pageants as a young woman, Connell decided it was time to stop simply observing pageants on TV and to get more involved. The platform would give her a chance to advocate for social issues and charities that she was passionate about, as well as develop her own personal and professional skills. Now she’s a finalist for the upcoming Miss World Provincial pageant, and a potential contender for Miss World Canada and Miss World.

Miss World is the oldest and longest running pageant in the world, started in 1951 in the UK. Since then, it has evolved into a program that encourages women to advocate for causes that they are passionate about, and gives them a platform to share their ideas with the world. As a provincial finalist, Connell will be competing in Vancouver in the Miss World BC pageant in March. If successful, she will have the opportunity to travel to Toronto in July for the Miss World Canada competition. The winner of Miss World Canada then has the chance to compete for the title of Miss World. Women in the Miss World pageants are not only judged on their beauty and clothing choices throughout the competition, but also for their character and how they interact with other contestants and staff members who help make the pageant a reality. They are expected to answer questions that reflect their personal character and knowledge, and understanding of world affairs and politics.

“I underestimated myself and what I could do,” explained Connell. “But now I see how capable I am, and this experience was an opportunity to better myself and those around me. [Pageants] have given me a lot of confidence in school and in life.” For Connell, her love of psychology has played a major role in the cause she chooses to represent, and she actively promotes mental health initiatives such as Bell Let’s Talk day. Connell is currently advocating for the Miss World Canada charity of choice, Cardiac Kids, a charity that raises money to support children with congenital heart disease. “Becoming Miss World Canada would not only be a dream come true,” Connell explained to me, “but an amazing opportunity to spread awareness for mental health and programs like Cardiac Kids.”

For more information on Shanelle’s journey, you can check out her website: http://shanelleconnell.com/

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