Most people don’t get the chance to get to know someone with the prestigious title of Mrs. BC. Often, there are assumptions and misconceptions of pageants and the girls who choose to compete in them. A lot is left to the imagination, and many of us are probably curious as to who these girls are and what all the fuss is about. Well, your curiosity stops here. I had the unique opportunity to connect with Ami Muranetz, Mrs. BC of 2012. Ami is a diverse and well-rounded lady, with a degree in Environmental Design and interests such as philanthropy and female empowerment. Her first-hand account of what the Miss BC pageant is like definitely changed my views and proved that I was falling for a stereotype of pageants that is not necessarily true. For example, I never knew how much philanthropy work these girls do, which I think is pretty awesome. Check out our interview below, she’s a cool girl to get to know and I’m sure you’ll learn something new too.
What brought you into the pageant world?
I found out about the Miss BC competition on Craigslist, and was attracted by the opportunity to develop myself in philanthropy, confidence and self-esteem. One of my goals this year was to volunteer with an organization, and focus on giving back to my community through local charities and raising awareness about sustainability.
Having just graduated from an intensive university program in Environmental Design, I didn’t have much time to invest into personal relationships. I thought entering the Miss BC pageant would provide an opportunity to develop friendships with inspiring women from around B.C. and deepen my ideas of self-worth and confidence.
What did you learn about pageants that you never would have guessed beforehand?
I was surprised to learn that most pageants are organized by dedicated volunteers who are passionate about developing women and aren’t run by companies or funded organizations. The amount of work the volunteer organizers put into running a successful Miss BC pageant is almost a yearly full-time job, with many former winners coming back each year to volunteer their time and skills for the event.
It has developed into a Miss BC family who support each other in their goals, and who look to give that experience to other young women. From the first day of our training weekend where each woman shared a personal story, experience, or goal, I was surprised to find I was among women, some of whom had been through horrific traumas and hardships, yet still rose above it with a smile and unwavering strength. That first day showed me I was among an incredible group of women who will all make significant impacts in the world through their goals and vision in helping others.
What do you think the biggest misconceptions with pageants are?
The most prevalent misconceptions about pageants, which are generally fueled by media coverage, are that they are solely a looks based competition. This couldn’t have been farther from the experience that I had in the Miss BC pageant, though I can’t claim all pageants function in the same way as the Mrs. BC event.
The training weekend leading up to the event opened with a Heart and Soul Chat with the contestants, where each woman shared a personal experience, story, or quote that changed their lives. There were also Confidence and Self-Esteem Workshops, a Self-Defense course, Public Speaking Course and Etiquette Training. During the competition, women were judged according to their public speaking and presentation skills, talents, character and lastly what they chose to wear and represent themselves. There is no maximum age limit to participate and no height and weight requirements; it’s open to single parents and women with disabilities, and they have also eliminated the bikini portion. There is also the program category for married women, which is a recent addition for young women such as myself. Remarkable women in this world come from many diverse backgrounds, faiths, marital status and physical characteristics, and to limit their participation based on such factors truly engenders women to existing solely as objects of beauty. The Miss BC competition, in my opinion, is striving to change this archaic practice, and recognize women for the important and powerful roles they play in our communities.
Another misconception is that women involved in pageants are strictly concerned with their appearances, and lack intelligence, education, or strength. From single parents, women surviving abuse, young entrepreneurs, and philanthropists, I’ve never had the opportunity to be surrounded by such self-less, passionate and caring women than I did during that weekend. We’ve all become great friends, and are continuing to come together through charity fundraisers for organizations such Cops for Cancer, Orphans in Guatemala, and other local charities around B.C.
How have you seen pageants evolve over the years? How are they adapting to new technologies/media/culture that is emerging?
I never really followed pageants much before the Mrs. BC pageant. From what I’ve now experienced through being in the pageant, and from following former Miss BC Tara Teng in the Mrs. World competition, the focus is increasingly on philanthropy and giving back to the local and global community. The Miss BC pageant’s agenda has been to raise money for Cops for Cancer, which supports children’s programs, car share programs for families, and special events. Our 2012 Miss BC group as a whole raised over $37,000 this summer for the Cops for Cancer Foundation. Much of our fundraising success was attributed to utilizing social media tools such as Facebook Fan pages and Twitter to get the word out about our cause. This allowed us to join efforts in gaining support for our fundraising events, and create a call to action.
The fundraising speaker series event “BED Talks Victoria” (sponsored by Victoria United Carpet) that I organized was successful due to the likes, shares and comments from Facebook friends and on Twitter. Without their time, help and attention, I couldn’t have brought together such an amazing line-up of speakers, donors, and attendees to support our cause. Our speakers included Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin, Sunset Lab’s creator Jason Guile, UBC Professor Rob Sianchuk, Bellyfit founder Alice Bracegirdle, Musician and Coach Shine Kelly, Scientist Alan Ogden, MLA and activist Lana Popham, Ancient Rainforest Alliance founder Ken Wu, Activist and Author Guy Dauncey, entrepreneur and coach Fenton Eng, and our MC and Life Coach “Gratidude” Matthew Ashdown. It was an inspiring evening that I’m looking to recreate here in Vancouver later next year.
What do you like most about pageants such as Miss BC?
It’s an incredible and rare experience to spend a weekend with over 40 inspiring, down to earth, and ambitious women in a supportive environment to develop ourselves. As women, I believe we are generally taught by society and the media to compete with each other for men’s attention, though this is slowly changing. The team that has created this pageant has ensured the focus is on supporting each other, cooperation over competition and in developing rewarding connections with other contestants. The Miss BC pageant as far I know seems to be the most inclusive pageant, as there are no age, height or weight requirements.
Do you have any advice you would give to others who are interested in pageants themselves?
I would highly recommend women from all backgrounds to consider entering, regardless of the doubts they might have about participating in a “beauty pageant”. Be prepared to open yourself up to a unique experience in connecting with women from diverse faiths, experiences, and backgrounds, and understand the common connections we share as women.
Go into any competition with a down to earth attitude, not geared towards winning, but geared towards growing, and you will gain something regardless and far more rewarding than the bragging rights of a title. The title itself is a responsibility towards giving back to the community, and requires more hard work, determination, and faith towards your goals in making a difference, regardless of how big or small they might be.
I’m going to use my Mrs. BC title to help promote sustainable actions in community, and provide outreach to students both in Vancouver and China for environmentally sustainable causes. One of the small projects I worked on this summer was a pilot project I’ve named “The Kindness Project”. The aim of the project was teaching English to students in China, where they were given service learning projects based around giving back to the community and on raising awareness about sustainability. One project had students research the effects of deforestation in the Amazon, and spearhead their own campaign towards raising awareness. They then recorded this through video, which I’ve edited and will release on YouTube and the Internet. The intention is to create connections between students around the world in raising awareness and action in creating sustainable change. I’m looking forward to further developing an exchange between Vancouver and Chinese students next year, furthering their understanding and need to act!
The Miss BC pageant will be airing this September on Shaw TV, and you can check their website for times and dates. The Miss BC Pageant is already conducting interviews for the 2013 pageant, any interested applicants can visit the website and apply online. www.missbc.ca.