Take off Siera Bearchell’s Miss Universe Canada sash, and you’ll find beauty inside and out.

BY JESSSE MINTZ

 

If Siera Bearchell were an emoji, she’d be the woman with her hand high in the air.

You know the one I’m talking about. It says—in one perfect little cartoon—bring it on.

Law school, long-distance marathons, international pageants, nothing—not even body shaming trolls—can stand in her way.

The 24-year-old from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan was crowned Miss Universe Canada just days after running her first marathon. Active, fit and strong, she still faced hate for her size. To have continued success, she was told, she would need to lose weight. So, she lived on protein bars and little else, splitting one bar over the course of a full day.

Unhappy and running empty on energy, she couldn’t focus on her studies or workout.

That was then; now when you meet Siera, you’ll find a strong, confident woman—quick to laugh, shoulders back, head high, ready to meet the world.

It’s hard to imagine this woman caving to social pressure—but that just shows how insidious it is, while exposing the basic danger in societal stereotypes. Together, these things undercut the self-confidence of too many young women.

Realizing this, when Siera got to the Miss Universe competition—the first Métis woman to represent Canada at Miss Universe—she decided to compete her way. No more starving herself, no more changing herself to fit other people’s ideas of beauty.

She walked on stage smiling—beautiful and comfortable in her body.

She walked off stage to choruses of anonymous hate.

“I was told I was fat, overweight, promoting obesity,” she says of the social media posts that flooded in after the pageant. Standing up for women everywhere, Siera clapped back against the insults with self-love and positivity. Her message was then, and is now, clear: “We live in a world that profits from our insecurities, and now I want to be an advocate for women.”

She shared her story; she wrote honestly about the journey to love her body and her struggles with diet—and its relation to social pressure—over the years. She aired the criticism she faced, including being called fat and gordo—insulted for having cellulite and shamed for sharing pictures of her favourite junk food. From the dark corners of the internet, Siera dragged these comments into the light of day, where they were left to wither. And, by doing so, she reminded her growing community of followers that health is defined by neither a number on the scale nor the size of one’s jeans and—most importantly—that no one has the right to make you feel less than.

Quote. We Live in a world that profits from our insecurities and now I want to be an advocate for women. Unquote.

That’s the story most people know. It got picked up on CBC, Siera wrote about it for Elle and it spread across the web with the help of women and men around the world rallying under #bodyposi.

But there’s more to Siera than this familiar narrative. “WE Day was the start of my journey,” she explains. Long before the Miss Universe Canada sash was pinned to her, Siera spoke at WE Day Toronto. Only 16 at the time, she shared the stage with Ben Mulroney. Together, they talk about leadership and acting as a role model for young people.

Now, eight years later, she’s an inspiring role model motivating countless young women and men to accept themselves, starting by treating others with kindness. For Siera, the leader she is today can be traced back to that moment on the stage.

“I’ve done so much because of WE Day,” she says. “I was inspired by the speakers and performers to get involved in my community… to continue doing things I’m passionate about and to use that to not only help me grow as a person, but to change the community.”

From WE Day to the world stage, Siera is a leader, empowering young women and men to look beyond size when defining beauty. For her, normative beliefs are a road to nowhere, and so like her, she encourages others to simply, do it their way—with a side of kindness and compassion.

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