While watching the Miss America pageant with her mom, 21-year-old dental hygienist Kristy Lee Stankewich couldn't believe how "made up" the contestants looked. Could the pageant really be like what she was seeing on TV? To find out, Stankewich, who had no modeling or pageant experience, entered the Miss World Canada pageant in Toronto, hoping to raise money for the SOS Children's Village charity, as well as her own expectations of "beauty pageants."
Kevin Henry, a contributing editor to RDH eVillage, caught up with Stankewich, one of just 45 women competing for the title, after her experience to see what it was like and what she learned from her one-time appearance.
RDH eVillage: Looking back on the Miss World Canada pageant, how was it overall?
Stankewich: It was a very cool experience and it gave me an idea of the pageant process, but it's something that I will never do again. I was hoping it would be different than I thought it would be, but it wasn't. I was there five days, and I really had to just make the best of it. Some girls were only there to win the pageant, but I knew I had my dental career and my goals, so this wasn't everything for me.
RDH: What did you see behind the scenes that surprised you?
Stankewich: I almost turned into the Mother Hen at the pageant. I saw a lot of cattiness and girls picking on other girls. I tried to be easygoing and supportive, and I think that's why I won Miss Congeniality. It was such an honor to receive that award. I was just trying to be myself, and I was voted Miss Congeniality by my peers who judged me for who I am. That means a lot to me and it's something I'll always remember.
RDH: You had never been in a pageant before, but competed with women who have prepared to be in pageants almost their entire lives. What was that like?
Stankewich: I really gained a crazy confidence. When it was time to perform at the pageant, there was a different kind of energy. I also saw girls who were just crushed when they didn't make the top 15. These girls had worked their whole lives for this moment, and when it didn't happen for them, it was the end of their dreams.
RDH: How did your dental colleagues react to your pageant appearance?
Stankewich: The dental practice where I work (McLeod Dental Care in Niagara Falls) was very supportive. The doctors provided me with $1,000 of sponsorship money. I was gone for almost four weeks because of the pageant and fundraising, so it has been very nice to get home and settle back into my life and work.
RDH: What first drew you to dental hygiene?
Stankewich: When I was in the 10th grade I knew I wanted to be a hygienist. I have been a patient in the practice where I work from the time I was 10, and the people who worked here really shaped my fascination with dentistry. I had an attached tongue, and the hygienists always worked with me and really cared about me.
RDH: So will we ever see you in another pageant?
Stankewich: (Laughing) No. I have my own dreams and goals, and they don't involve pageants. I want to keep working in dentistry and helping people.