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Beauty With A Purpose – 1 on 1 with Miss Ottawa World 2022, Lauren Pederson

From small-town Ontario to the world’s stage, Lauren Pederson takes us behind the scenes of her life as a pageant queen, her recent title, and how she uses her platform to give back.

Tell us about where you grew up. What were some of your favourite memories of your childhood?

I grew up in Osgoode Ontario, the rural outskirts of the Ottawa city. I was surrounded by the woods and my families sod properties. Playing outdoors with my brother Kent, tops the chart always when looking back at my younger years. I was also an avid sports player, and played ringuette for over a decade. Bonding with my teammates while travelling around Ontario in competitions and tournaments were so fundamental for me growing up. Learning to win, loose, and be apart of something. Such huge lessons were learned (and life skills!) through sports.

What was your dream career growing up? When did you first get into pageants and why?

My dream career was actually being a global humanitarian of some kind! In high school, I attended a Christian missionary trip to Guatemala, that still impacts me today. We worked on homes and building roads, and focusing on the local childrens well-being.

Into later adolescence, I stepped into child and youth care counselling and found my utmost passion. Empowering others (especially youth) through connection and kindness, fills my soul like no other.

I actually entered into pageantry from hearing about it during a photoshoot! I was talking about my schooling with the photographer, and all my dreams for mental health care in Canada. She paused, and exclaimed “you have to look into Miss world canada! You have all the elements and it’s focused on Canadian women making a difference with their beauty with a purpose projects!”. Legend has it, I ended up googling it… and here we are today.

What are some of the things you’ve had to do to train for the role? What goes into pageant work that people may not see?

Pageantry might be the most unique avenue to embark on. Many don’t realize, you have to be a humanitarian, a public speaker, a fitness guru, social media influencer, model, event coordinator and more. It’s such a beautiful combination however, because in training for Miss World Canada, I accidentally became the best version of myself. You must be the jack of all trades. Infact, my training went from runway walking to questions about my knowledge on world events. Majority of people cannot see that besides your main career, you now have a second one. Lastly, training your feet. It’s a very common thing in the pageant world, to wear competition heels every day while doing daily tasks!

Tell us about your family. What role have they played in your life and career?

My family is my foundation. They have played a huge role in my life and career. I grew up in a blended family, which taught me unconditional acceptance and adaptability from a young age. My mother is quite literally, the most selfless and kind woman I know. She keeps me in check with what my heart and soul tells me to do frequently. My father is the definition of resilient. He has shown me how to push through any obstacle thrown your way. He has practically always been my life coach, for anytime I walked astray or felt lost. This ultimately has lead me to a soul enriching, and creative career.

I’m blessed enough to say, I have a step- family and an older brother. My step sister and mother have felt like biological family since they walked into my life. Also if I do admit, My brother is one of my best friends in the world. This of course, has not come without obstacles or up’s and downs. However, I’m so complimentary towards them, because they’ve taught me unconditional love. Unconditional acceptance. And truthfully, it’s what I use in my practice as a counsellor today.

Photo by Sean Sisk

 

You represent Ottawa at a national and global level. If you were to explain Ottawa to someone from a different country, how would you describe it?

What an awesome question! I would explain Ottawa, as the place that feels like home. Ottawa has everything you need, is accessible, diverse, multicultural and unique. You have little cozy towns surrounding it, your close to the American border if you want an adventure, and it’s also filled with history from being the capital of our incredible country!

Perhaps I am biased, but I am a huge advocate for visiting our city. So much so, that many of the girls I competed with at Miss World Canada will be visiting me in the next year!

We simply are so lucky because Ottawa has international cuisine, remarkable nature landscapes, family oriented activities, bilingual character, and overall politeness from the community.

You are crowned Miss Ottawa World 2022. Tell us about your experience winning this title?

The actual experience has been life changing. From the second I felt the crown on my head, I felt a purpose placed there too. I told myself, I would do everything in my power to be the best representative of my home city. From being involved in local charities, to seasonal parades, to volunteer work with my cities youth. Every single day, I have reflected on receiving my crown and achieving a dream of mine. It is something magical in life, when you work so hard for something – and then you achieve it. It was humbling, and yet fuelling at the same time. It showed me that life gives you tokens, and what you do with those is what matters. It made me realize in life, it’s what you do with what you have today that helps you succeed tomorrow.

I also learned, your opinion of yourself is the most important one that matters.

How do you prepare for large, national pageants? Do you get nervous on stage, and if so, what are your tips on overcoming stage fright?

Preparation is a large scale endeavour, and the simplest answer is : organization and self awareness.

I am incredibly organized, with daily schedules, monthly calendars, and routines. You must be in a steady mental state while competing, and for me I know having every component or scenario planned for is what I need.

Knowing your strengths and weaknesses and prepping with that knowledge is integral.

As for on stage, I truthfully feel adrenaline more then anything. My ADHD brain goes into a hyper focus mode! Nerves are rare for me, mainly because I know everyone watching is simply a human too. There’s really nothing to be afraid of. I will say, Every time before I go on stage or into a competition, I still do a breathing exercise and tell myself certain quotes that ground me. For example, I even repeat in my head “I’ve done the hard work, I am worthy of success,” etc.

What was your experience like competing at the Miss World Canada pageant?

If I had to sun up my experience in three words, I would choose ; rigorous, invigorating and fulfilling. The actual week goes by in a flash. Every single moment from the minute you wake up, you are either prepping yourself, rehearsing, packing for the day, or in a competition. It’s interesting, because physically and emotionally you are pushed. Meanwhile, chaperones, waitstaff, or even hotel management are ‘behind the scenes’ judges. This could possibly be my favourite element from pageantry. It reminds you that you should always be the kindest and most patient version of yourself, even when facing trials or painful feet!

The experience taught me how much I can take, and how the feeling of accomplishment is invaluable. You gain a new level of unshakable confidence through an experience like this.

Photo by Sean Sisk

What is Beauty with a Purpose? What inspired you to start this project?

The beauty with a purpose element is the core of the Miss World Organization itself! Every delegate that is competing from / in their country, must have a ‘beauty with a purpose project’ that is a selfless, innovative and wholesome initiative that helps people in some way. They really can vary. From helping our food insecurity in the Canadian Arctic, to giving free dance lessons to at risk youth in the early evenings.

For me, of course my project was involved with Childrens mental health – as this is my life passion. I was inspired to create my free mental health website when I was in my ‘special education’ mental health classroom student placement a few years ago. It was during the peak of the pandemic, and children had little resources when they would go home after school.

I remember working so hard with my youth during the day with teaching them coping skills and strategies, but when they would go home – things looked a lot different and it was out of my control. This is where I felt a compelling need to give free, accessible and simplistic information online. For children to access wherever they are, at anytime. It was my way to give beyond my ‘working hours’.

You are also a Unicef Child Rights Advocate. Why is this cause important to you?

Children are vulnerable. Children depend on us. Being a Unicef child rights advocate, I feel I am at the very least, spreading awareness on global issues our children are facing today. Many people genuinely do not know the terrifying statistics of children marriage, slavery, malnutrition, etc. As a Canadian with resources, I feel it is my duty to be a voice for the unheard.

Truthfully, I feel everyone should be a child rights advocate. My mother always said “children are just young adults” and I think the quote speaks volumes. Youth, children, adolescents – are developing life long habits, core beliefs, and outcomes. We need to empower our youth to help guide them to a healthy adulthood. Our future depends on it.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from competing?

I have learned many lessons from competing in Miss World Canada. The one that sticks out however, is unique. You must fill your cup up, before your can fill anyone else’s.

Because the week Is filled with high stress and challenging scenarios, you naturally want to help others with any unprecedented issue. For example, if a heel breaks you want to help with glue. I learned however, if you give and give to others – you won’t have your outfits organized in time for the show. I mean this more metaphorically of course, because any time I helped someone else – I made a friend for life.

It is a principal I have taken back with me, and will for the rest of my life. You deserve to be a winner too. You can help others, but make sure you also are helping yourself.

If you were to deconstruct a stereotype about the world of pageantry, what would it be?

The first one that comes to mind, is the lack of intelligence stereotype. What is ironic about pageantry, is that legitimately every single participant is incredibly smart. Because you have to be. You have to have strong memory retention for the dances or for your speeches. You have to have knowledge on serious global issues, as you will be asked live. Emotional intelligence as well, is a huge component. The ability the regulate your emotions, energy. Any person involved with pageants, is already balancing a career and their endeavours – which is a huge commitment with many different moving parts!

What advice would you give to your 15-year-old self, with the hindsight of these years of experience?

That you know what your doing. I feel like adolescents are taught that they are wrong in their thought processes so often. We typically push our own ideals on this age demographic, meanwhile they know more then you’d think.

The reason I say this, is because if I had listened to my gut more around that age – I would have felt more peace and comfort in my skin. No one knows you better than you know yourself. Your dreams, thoughts, ideas – matter. Infact, they matter the most.

I would tell my 15 year old self “You’re fine. Life is a journey, and there is no specific way you have to live it. Stop stressing about the little things that come you way.”

What are you looking the most forward to in 2023?

I am most looking forward to moving for school! I will be returning to university, to finish my bachelor of social work. Likely, it will be across the country as well. I am craving this dramatic change, and to put my chin up and finish this degree. It will be a huge step for me, but I am ready for the challenge. I have hopes of going to graduate school afterwards as well, therefore I’ll be very focused on my grade point averages and extra curriculars.

What are your new year’s resolutions?

My New Years resolutions are mainly based off of health and wellness. If I do admit, I actually faced some physical health issues this last year that has forced me to change my lifestyle of over-working. I am beginning to define my own norms in life.

I will be focusing on more meditation, serenity and fulfillment from experiences rather then things of materialistic nature. Infact, for Christmas this year I decided to not gift anything tangible! Each gift is towards an experience – as this is what life is about in my eyes. I have learned this year that adventures feed my soul more then anything. Also, that prioritizing my health is literally the most important thing in my world.

Photography by Sean Sisk

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