Ava Vanderstarren, 21, called it a “surreal” experience to be crowned Miss BC 2013 last week.
The GWG grad, who grew up in Chilliwack, said she “never dreamed” she would one day be participating in a beauty pageant.
‘It’s not something I thought I would ever do. There are a lot of stereotypes, and many women have body issues,” she tells The Progress.
But this one was a little different.
Vanderstarren said she was happy to discover during her interview that contestants are not measured solely on their looks or size, rather the Miss BC pageant puts an emphasis on healthy, natural beauty, self-esteem and confidence.
So she thought it over.
“I decided to give it a shot,” she says. “The focus was more on personal development and charity fundraising.”
They weren’t even allowed to wear bikinis during the sports wear event, and most of the women dressed in outfits that matched their favourite sport.
Her sports wear sponsor, Arc’teryx, outfitted her in climbing and hiking gear since she once climbed the Swiss Alps while in Guides. She also received support from her main sponsor, Scarecrow Ink of Chilliwack.
“It was all so overwhelming,” she says.
Overall she enjoyed the whole experience, thanking supporters on her Facebook page after the win. In the end she was honoured to have met “so many wonderful young women and spend a beautiful weekend together,” during the pageant events.
Furthering women’s rights and the rehabilitation of child soldiers are her goals during her Miss BC reign for 2013.
Vanderstarren graduated with honours from the Acting for Film and TV program at Vancouver Film School, and has been in short films and on TV.
The pressure to stay thin is relentless in the industry, but she says she considers her body to be in the “normal” range.
She’s walked the runway in fashion shows including Vancouver Fashion Week: FW13, SS13, ECO Fashion Week 2013, VALT 2012, Arc’teryx: SS14, FW13 and in 2013 she produced her own charity fashion show.
While modelling, she’s had professionals suggest she should lose weight.
“That’s ridiculous. I never want to change my body to please someone else,” she said. “And I don’t think Photoshop should be used in magazines the way it is since there’s no way women can look like that. It’s a vicious cycle.”
But instead of letting any of those issues get to her, she decided to dedicate herself to being the best she can be.
“It has allowed me to be happy with myself, to not feel judged and to accept criticism in a different way. I want to inspire all women to believe in who they are, and to know that they can accomplish anything they set their mind to.”
Vanderstarren was also proud she personally raised about $2000 for the Cops for Cancer effort through the experience.