Miss Universe Canada is fighting body shamers on social media.
While in the Philippines to compete for the Miss Universe title late this January, Siera Bearchell spoke out about “self-worth and self-love”.
She made the move after receiving a number of negative comments online about her weight.
“We always focus on the things we wish we could change rather than loving everything we are,” she said.
The 23-year-old beauty is from Saskatchewan. She is a law student.
While the majority of the criticism comes from online haters, Bearchell said there is pressure from beauty pageant organizers in general to look a certain way.
While preparing for a different pageant, the show’s director asked her to take scale-selfies to prove that she was losing weight.
After she won the title of Miss Universe Canada, she was told that she’d have to give up junk food and get in “the best shape of her life” in order to compete on the world stage.
Beauty pageants have long been criticized for reducing women’s value to their waist size.
But that attitude is starting to change, Bearchell said.
Plus-size model Ashley Graham is hosting this year’s Miss Universe pageant, and a sign the contest is trying to change its own image.
“Being healthy, eating healthy, it doesn’t mean you’re going to look a certain way,” she said.
“While I am first to say I am not as lean as I was when I was 16, 20, or even last year, I am more confident, capable, wise, humble and passionate than ever before,” she wrote on Instagram.
“As soon as I started to love who I was rather than always trying to fit what I thought society wanted me to be, I gained a whole new side of life.”
Bearchell said she was inspired to speak openly about the online harassment because she wants other women to know that it’s okay to be comfortable with their body.
“I decided to stick true to myself,” Bearchell said.
It was a hard-earned confidence, she said. Last year while preparing for a different pageant, she said she subsisted on chicken and asparagus to try to stay slim.
“I caved in to the pressures of wanting to do well, I was eating very little and working out a lot and absolutely miserable,” Bearchell said.
“I was not happy getting the results I was getting because I was constantly being told there was more I could do, I was never good enough.”
Since then, she’s eased up on the dieting, although she says she still eats healthily and works out.
While she may no longer be stick-thin, she says she’s never felt better about her body.
“I’m certainly way more confident now because I’m being more myself,” Bearchell said.