She’s already a national finalist for an upcoming national teen beauty pageant and 15-year-old Shaina Stephens is determined to make her home community proud.
The Ksim Nisga’a youth will take on the Miss Teen Canada Globe pageant this August with the hope of making it to the level of international competition.
Stephens grew up in Laxgalts’ap in the Nass Valley and says it was a ‘why not’ moment that prompted her to apply to the pageant producers.
Now she is planning to take a message about cultural appropriation to the Canada-wide event.
“Cultural appropriation, it’s not perceived as the biggest problem, it seems almost silly to see it so seriously,” said Stephens.
“But when you look into the psychological aspect and the subconscious stereotypes it creates, it has very harmful effects.”
Her delegate platform is built upon a petition she started aiming to rid Canadian shelves of so-called ‘Native American’ costumes.
“It continues to sexualize Native American women, the way that Hollywood has been doing for years. And it also makes our people seem like we are fragments of history,” she said.
That’s something Stephens wants to see change and she said that starting small is one of the best ways to facilitate a shift in attitude.
“Those subconscious barriers and negative stereotypes will slowly deplete and the bigger changes won’t seem so drastic anymore,” she explained.
Stephens’ pageant experience also started small.
At the age of eight, she won the title of Snow Queen in her village pageant, but now she has her sights set on a much bigger goal in Toronto when the Miss Teen Canada Globe kicks off on August 3.
The competition starts with four long days of regional competition and training, she noted.
“We compete for our regional titles, and if I rank high, I’ll get Miss BC, if I rank low I’ll get Miss Northern BC – the higher you rank the more area you cover,” she said.
They’ll also practice their pageant walks, make-up skills and talents.
Then, the contestants move on to nationals and the real show begins.
“I think it’s going to be a lot of fun, especially with the appearances during nationals,” Stephens remarked. “Nationals has different appearances, [we’ll go] to Canada’s Wonderland for an appearance.
“If they don’t let me ride any roller coasters, I’ll be very upset,” she laughed.
Stephens will also compete to be one of the top 10 talent performers in order to be featured in the final ceremony in front of the judges.
And she hinted that it is no secret what her talent will be.
“Recently, I was given my Nisga’a name. It’s Hlgu Limx Gibuu – which means ‘Little Singing Wolf’ – so you can probably guess my talent,” she said.
Stephens will be largely paying her own way to the pageant. Her village government sponsored her initial application fee and now she is looking for sponsors to help her cover travel, accommodations and clothing.
Each contestant needs to have a certain number of outfits in particular colours, she explained.
Stephens also would like to bring her mom to the competition as parents do the crowning at the end of the regional competition.
In an effort to raise awareness about what she is doing, Stephens has been busy making appearances at events across the northwest.
In addition to attending Salmon Fest in Prince Rupert and the Aboriginal Day festivities near her home, Stephens will have a float in this year’s Riverboat Days parade.
“It is worth it to make appearances, get the word out about what I’m doing and where I’m from,” she said.
The pageant also has a live-voting component where online votes can promote the Peoples Choice winner straight to semi-finals.
Looking ahead to the competition, Stephens mentioned she is most looking forward to the experience.
“Even if I don’t place, it will be worth it,” she said.
You can contact Stephens through her Facebook page Shaina Stephens for Miss Teen Canada Globe 2016.