Northern Ontario women claim top spots in national pageant

Women and girls around northeastern Ontario took part in national pageants held by Canada Galaxy Pageants in late August, with several garnering top spots in their age groups.

The Ms. Galaxy Canada pageant has unmarried women aged 28 and older compete, with single mothers from Sudbury and Timmins placing in the top five this year.

It was Natalie Levesque's first time competing in a pageant, deciding this was the year to attempt it on the recommendation of a friend who has competed internationally.

"I used to watch these when I was a kid ... I (always) wanted to be in a pageant," said Levesque, a 30-year-old mother of two in Timmins. She said she would admire girls who participated in local pageants.

"I didn't have the means to, I didn't have the confidence to, but I had always envied these women who were in these pageants, it looked so fun," Levesque said.

She said travelling to Vaughan, Ont., for a national competition was nerve-wracking. The itinerary consisted of an interview and competitions in fashion wear, swimwear and evening gowns.

Only expecting to have a fun experience, she said the greatest surprise came during the announcement of the top five participants.

"When they called my name, I started to cry because I couldn't believe that I actually made the top five 'cause it's my first pageant," Levesque said.

She placed fourth overall and obtained the highest score in the evening gown category.

It was also Sudbury's Sarah Edmunds' first attempt at a national pageant, having competed on and off for 15 years.

In addition to placing fifth overall, Edmunds gained special recognition for her punctuality, dedication and charity work leading up to the event.

'I had a great experience'

"I had a great experience," said Edmunds, a 33-year-old single mother of one. "I got top five and I came back with some, in my opinion, really meaningful awards and I was able to give back to my community."

She said one of her greatest accomplishments was being able to raise more than $3,000 for the event's chosen charity, Give Kids the World Village, and provide a positive example for her son while volunteering in the community.

"I did 200 hours, over 69 appearances. That was really important to me to have (my son) get involved in the community and see what my passion and my joy is," Edmunds said.

The two women said they appreciated being able to compete in a more inclusive pageant.

Most tend to have tighter restrictions on age, body type, marital status and children, but they said having a competition that's more open to different life circumstances gave them more confidence.

Levesque said while she initially intended this to be a bucket-list item, she loved the experience so much that she immediately signed up for next year's Ms. Galaxy Canada pageant.

"I definitely can do it and that was a huge thing for me," Levesque said. "It was a very rewarding experience."