I have loved pageants for as long as I can remember.

I remember sitting in front of the TV at age five, watching intently as Natalie Glebova graced the stage at the annual Miss Universe competition, later on in the program being crowned Miss Universe 2005.

I remember in grade six, walking into my classroom on halloween with a gown, sash, and crown on impersonating the current Miss Universe Canada, Chelsae Durocher. Blue dress and all.

I remember watching Miss USA 2012 with my mom, seeing Rhode Island before the top 15 was announced and instantly knowing she would take home the crown, and later rooting for her at Miss Universe.

I remember being 10 years old, searching around the internet for pageants for girls my age here in Ontario, and, even though I was still three years short of the minimum age, stumbling across the Miss Teenage Canada pageant and knowing I would be that girl one day. I just needed some experience first.


 

 

I think I was about 6 or 7 when I did my first pageant. It was recommended to my mom by my modelling teacher, so my mother signed me up. I don’t remember that much honestly, but I do remember having to go onstage in front of an enormous crowd (which probably wasn’t that big, but I was a nervous, shy five-year-old) and recite an introduction about myself that had previously been drilled into me by my mother and instructor.

During crowning, I listened for my name to be called so I could go and receive whatever prize it was. At last, my name was called and I went onstage to get my miniature trophy with the words “Regional Runner-Up” on it. I was ecstatic, although I still don’t quite know what place I actually received.

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The 2013 ambassadors after crowning.

Six Nations has a local ambassador pageant called Miss Six Nations. They have different age categories as well, such as Tiny Tot boy and girl, Little Miss, Miss Mini, Miss Pre-Teen, and Miss Teen. In 2011, I was in the age bracket for Miss Pre-Teen, so I took a leap of faith and entered. I was awarded 1st-runner up, as well as the year after. However, I was extremely determined to be crowned a Six Nations ambassador. The Pre-Teen category was ages 11-13, and though I was still 13, I would be turning 14 before the calendar year was over, so I was placed into the teen category, which was extremely intimidating due to the fact that I was up against 14-17 year olds. This was my year though, and I managed to take home the crown! It was an unforgettable year, and I cherished every second of it. Shout out to my fellow 2013 ambassadors! 😉

I started doing natural pageants around Southern Ontario when I was around 11. In total, I’ve probably done around 14, give or take a couple. I gained so much valuable experience the 3 years I competed in those, and I have so many great memories from those pageants.

And now Miss Teenage Ontario. What can I say? It was an unforgettable experience, and I’m sure nationals will be even better. Two more weeks! I still can’t fathom that 5 years ago I was browsing the Miss Teen Canada-World website and now I’ll be competing in the pageant I knew I wanted to win one day, only with a slightly different name now. I remember waiting for updates on the winners and the events they did. I remember watching Megha Sandhu be crowned, Jillian Martin, and this years Miss Teenage Canada, Francesca McFadden. I looked up to, and still look up to, all of these amazing girls. I want to be able to be in a position where I can be a role model for young girls and be someone they can look up to. Especially for the girls of different cultures and ethnic backgrounds who are told by society that they aren’t capable of the things they want to achieve simply because they have a different skin tone. I want to show them they can.

-Aleria

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“When defining Canada,

You might list some statistics

You might mention our tallest building,

Or biggest lake;

You might shake a tree in the fall

And call a red leaf Canada”

-Shane Koyczan, “We Are More”


35.16 million people.

All unique, diverse, not one coming from quite the same cultural background.

That’s my favourite thing about Canada. Our never ending diversity. Take a quick walk through my school hallways and you’ll see people of all different cultures and ethnic origins. Personally, I come from a (mostly) aboriginal background. I say mostly because the only lineage I know of that is European on both sides of my family is Scottish. Other than that, I am Cree, Anishinaabe, Dene, Metis, Haudenosaunee, specifically Onondaga and Tuscarora. I was born in Edmonton, Alberta and moved to Six Nations, Ontario when I was two.

truth and reconciliation

Truth and Reconciliation Poster

Admittedly, I initially struggled with this assignment. “Tell the world what makes Canada great”. This isn’t a question I can answer with ease. Probably not what you would like to hear, but you should understand my perspective and thought. Let me explain. Recently the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released their report. Many don’t even realize what the Commission’s purpose was. Briefly, they were collecting data on residential schools, their legacy and making recommendations to achieve reconciliation. To explain further, residential schools were used to commit cultural genocide against the Aboriginal people of Canada by the government and churches.  Therefore, to speak about the greatness of Canada it is important to discuss the Aboriginal People of this country. John Ralston Saul put it best in his article from the Globe and Mail, June 5, 2015.

There are good and bad things in our society, successes and failures. But there is only one fundamental reality that remains unaddressed. That is the situation of Indigenous peoples.

This is the single most important issue before us, whether we are recently arrived in Canada or have been here for centuries. This is the prime issue on which we should be judging governments and potential governments.

Mush-Hole-

The Mohawk Institute located in Brantford, Ontario, nicknamed the “Mush Hole” because of the mushy oatmeal the children were served.

The commission identified documentation that supported survivors’ claims about all types of abuse: physical, mental, emotional, sexual, and spiritual.  These were outlined in awful detail which isn’t appropriate for this particular blog. Remember too that many of these innocent young children were taken from their homes, by strangers, forcefully, with no choice from their parents.  The tragedy and intergenerational trauma resulting from the whole residential school experience is a dark place in our collective history.  However; from this darkness Canada truly has the opportunity to show the world just how great we are!

Canada is a very culturally diverse country.  What does this mean for Canada? Is it effective, and if so for who and in what ways?  It is important that the Aboriginal People are not left behind as Canada continues to grow and change in diversity.  We are and will always continue to be an important part of this “fabric.”  As per one of the 94 recommendations in the Commissions report to work towards reconciliation is through education.  Canada has a strong and dominant education system so I know that an articulate and accurate Aboriginal history can be portrayed.

Like many others I see Canada as thriving and an awesome place to live.  Unlike others I am unable to say my parents came from…my grandparents came from…my great grandparents came from.  I will never move to another country, ever, this is my homeland and my ancestors from thousands of generations ago are buried here. The connection to this land is strong for me.

Finally, we need to ask ourselves why it is that I would be ten times more likely to end up missing or murdered compared to the other candidates simply because I am Aboriginal.  Something is wrong with that but that’s not to say it can’t be “righted” so to speak.  The development of Canada has been heavily influenced by the sharing, kindness and generosity of the Aboriginal people and it will continue to thrive in this way.  The fact that I am simply able to sit here on my laptop writing this, in my living room while the sun quietly sets outside already shows that I am privileged to live in a country that allows people like me, people who are different, are female, are a different ethnicity, people who have strong opinions that aren’t always the most popular one, to thrive in our society.

There is always work to be done, but there is no place in this world I’d rather live!


canada

“Each life unravels differently,

And experiences are what make up

The colours of our tapestry.

We are the true north,

Strong and free

And what’s more

Is that we didn’t just say it

We made it be.”

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I would like to thank all of the businesses who have helped me to come this far with my journey to nationals!

THANK YOU TO:

Stricklands

Moose Winooskis

Monthill Golf Course

Greens at Renton Golf Course

Fescues Edge Golf Course

Sandusk Golf Course

Crystals Hair Care

Boston Pizza South Brantford

The Keg Brantford

Gus and Guidos

Best Western Brantford

Townline Variety

Eagle’s Nest

Bomberry Farm

Glenn Styres

Ohsweken Speedway

Dan the Mushroom Man

National Grocers Cash and Carry

Metro

Freshco

Carl’s Meats

Bowman’s Produce

RJM Computers

And special thank you to Robin and Lorraine from the speedway! I appreciate all your help!

As well, I would like to thank my wonderful PR Manager, my good ole father, Darrell McKay.

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Promotional poster for OUT at Night 2015.

Promotional poster for OUT at Night 2015.

“Egale’s OUT at Night is a national fundraising and awareness campaign to engage Canadians on the crisis of LGBTQ2S youth homelessness and to support Egale’s work towards a related national strategy. The campaign invites participants across the country to sleep outside on the night of May 30th, briefly experiencing the struggles that over 6000 LGBTQ2S youth experience in Canada every year.”

On May 30th, I had the amazing opportunity to participate in this event. I was not able to attend the national event in Toronto, since I was out of town, but I still got out a blanket, put on some warm socks and slept outside. It was actually really scary. I hate the dark. Nocturnal animals scare the poop out of me, and I was really cold. It was an eye opening experience, and it helped me to appreciate what I have even more. More importantly, I had the opportunity to raise money for this great cause. This event addresses two issues that I am insanely passionate about, homeless youth as well as issues surrounding the LGBT+ community.

I definetly plan on attending the national event next year, and hopefully I can surpass the amount I raised this year!

Thanks for reading :)

Aleria

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This is a long post, so be warned!

For as long as I can remember, I have loved the performing arts. Dance, music, theatre. At some point in my life, I’ve been involved in all three. I love them all, and it’s the performing arts I have to thank for having the confidence to get onstage! So here’s a (sort of?) brief overview of my history in dance, music and drama.

Dance

At the 2008 Showstoppers East Coast National Competition at Myrtle Beach.

At the 2008 Showstoppers East Coast National Competition at Myrtle Beach.

I’ve been dancing since I was two. I started with ballet at the local dance and modelling studio my mom went to for modelling classes when she was my age. Later on, I started tap as well. This past year, I took lyrical, tap, ballet and jazz. When I was about seven, I was recommended for the pre-competitive jazz team. That year, I started with pre-comp, and now, eight years later, I’ve competed around 20 times in Toronto, New York, Myrtle Beach and Anaheim. Thanks to dance, I found my passion of being onstage and performing. After 13 years of dance, I never have to worry about being nervous when I’m onstage and the centre of attention.

Music

I’ve played four instruments in my life (not very well, I might add). Instrumental music isn’t quite my strong suit, but it’s never stopped me from trying. I can barely count this, but when I was in grade one, for about four months I took recorder lessons every Wednesday for half an hour at 3:30. A recorder is that little squeaky front ways flute looking thing. I wasn’t very good, but I enjoyed it. However, needless to say, I’m not the recorder prodigy my family planned me to be. When I was about 10 or 11, I started taking piano lessons from one of my mom’s students. I kind of liked piano, but halfway through my mastery of piano (yeah…. right), my instructor went to college. So that was the end of piano for me. I still know a bit, but not very much. In grade nine, I took a huge leap of faith, and took a music class. I really wanted to play the saxophone. And I did. Tenor saxophone, and all I’m going to say is I am lucky to have passed the class. I actually really enjoyed it, but music theory and reading music was not a strength I had. At the beginning of grade 10, I really wanted to learn the ukulele. I still want to. I love the way it sounds and I love the fact I can buy a pink one. Unfortunately, I love having long manicured nails, and most instruments don’t go well with that, especially my little ukulele.

Drama and Theatre

Ahhh theatre. I love theatre. I first fell in love with theatre when I saw Fiddler on the Roof at the Stratford Festival a few years ago. When I started high school, I knew I wanted to be involved with the musicals. Unfortunately, the rehearsals would interfere with my dance classes, so I didn’t audition for either grade nine or grade 10.

Our group shot for Sears.

Our group shot for Sears.

At the end of grade nine, I heard an announcement about auditions for the Sears Festival plays my school would be doing. There were two plays being put on, a student written original and another one that would be a cast collective. So a friend and I put our names on the audition list for the latter of the two, and showed up to the first of two auditions. Just let me say, it was awful. I had never actually acted before that, so it was a whole new experience. I hated it, but for some reason I still really wanted to be chosen. The next day, the callback list was up, and my name was on it! My friend didn’t get through, but she was happy about that since during the audition she realized acting was not something she wanted to do. I went to the callbacks, and hoped for the best. About a week later, the list was up. I was super nervous to look, but I scanned the list, and my name was there. I couldn’t wait to be apart of something like that.

Before going onstage at Sears.

Before going onstage at Sears.

The next school year, for six hectic months, the cast and our amazing student director and stage manager worked our butts off so we would be able to perform at the District Sears Festival. We originally started with a collective called “7 Deadly Sins” and then we started a new one titled “Masked”, which was about insecurities and overcoming them. Around two months from opening night, we were given a whole new script, “Skin” by Dennis Foon, about racism in Canada. I was given the role of Jennifer, a Jamaican teen who had to face a racist teacher. We worked hard with that, and about a month from opening night, we had to be given a new version of the script. So this meant mostly different scenes, whole new characters and new monologues. And yet another wrench, two weeks before opening night, one of our main characters dropped out. Most of us were given new roles, thank god I wasn’t one of those people, but I did have new lines to learn either way. My new role was actually a native girl named Karen, who still had the racist teacher to deal with.

About to give our final bow.

About to give our final bow.

When opening night came, we were all surprised we actually pulled it off. A week or so later was Sears, and we had our best performance that night. We didn’t move on to the next festival, but we were all still so happy with how we did and everything we accomplished. With as much that went wrong (you just got an overview), we still did amazing. It was an amazing experience, and I can’t wait to audition for next years play!

 

Kudos to those who read this whole post! I hope you come back 😉

With lots of love,

Aleria (aka Karen)

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Decorating the cars!

Decorating the cars!

O Canada!

It’s 12 am and I am exhausted. I woke up 3 hours earlier than I usually do and spent approximately six hours in Port Dover today. Thanks to the Ohsweken Speedway, I had the opportunity to ride in one of their sports cars at the annual Port Dover Canada Day Parade! I’ve been to a lot of parades in my lifetime, and I have to say, I have never seen a larger crowd. There had to have been at least a thousand people watching, maybe more!

The day started when we arrived at the beginning of the parade route in Port Dover, about half an hour from where I live. The Ohsweken Speedway have a few cars in each year, and they invited me to ride in the Camaro this year. We decorated the cars for the theme (red and white, of course), and once that was finished, we had to sit and wait for another hour or so. Finally, the parade was going to start! I had a bit of a blunder though, trying to get into the car. We couldn’t open the doors because of the decorations, and I was wearing a dress so I wasn’t able to step in. So I sat on the side and in the process of trying to swing my legs around, I fell backwards onto the seats. Thankfully, there weren’t many people around to see that!

Riding in the parade.

Riding in the parade.

The actual parade took about an hour. Riding in the parade.The amount of people was overwhelming, I really wasn’t expecting it. I saw tons of people I know in the crowds, it was nice to see some of my friends after the school year ended, I even saw one of my teachers. Afterwards, I walked around downtown and got to have Port Dover’s famous fish and chips. It was great to see so many people out to celebrate our beautiful country.

Thanks for reading!

Aleria :)

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