“In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take.”Lewis Carroll
I am a strong believer in taking chances, working towards goals, and never giving up. Throughout my life, I have had goals I’ve dreamed of achieving to only have them result in what some would consider “failure”. At first, when I was younger, I took these instances to heart. I would come out of a dance competition, pageant, public speaking competition, wondering why I wasn’t good enough. I would always come back to the next contest or competition hoping for the top spot, and again, not succeed. I would react with disappointment, but despite this, I got up and tried again. As I grew and matured, I had a realization. I could come back to these competitions as many times as I’d like, but the outcome wouldn’t change unless I did. I realized that I needed to not only work for these goals, but I needed to work hard. So, I did just that, and I am thankful that I was able to see this early on. It has been my dream since I was 13 to represent Canada on an international stage, and what was once a dream for me, is now a goal. When I was 15, I competed nationally for the first time at the Miss Teenage Canada pageant. After not making the top 20, I worked hard for the next two years and competed again, winning the title of Miss Teenage Ontario, and later placing 2nd Runner Up at Miss Teenage Canada 2018. And now, as you likely know by now, I am so excited to say that I am a contestant in the Miss World Canada 2019 competition!
Let me introduce myself. My name is Aleria McKay, I’m 19 years old, and I am a proud Onondaga and Anishinaabe woman from Six Nations of the Grand River and Temagami First Nation. Although I was born in Edmonton, Alberta, I was raised on the Six Nations reserve here in Ontario. My culture and heritage is something I am extremely proud of, and I will take any chance I can to identify myself as a proud Indigenous woman. Growing up, I never had the chance to see people like me in the media, which is a large reason I am so vocal about my culture and background. I am currently working towards my Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Education at York University, majoring in theatre. I just finished my first year, and I am excited to see what I learn in the coming years. Performing has always been a passion of mine, as a dancer from ages 3-15, and as an actor when I entered high school. My love of the stage also led to my love for pageants when I was around 6, although it took another 5 years for me to convince my mom to let me participate in one. My last year of high school I had the opportunity to write and direct a play for the NTS Drama Festival, which I am honoured to say won awards for numerous aspects including writing, directing, lighting, design, and music. When applying for university, I knew that I couldn’t imagine myself in anything that wasn’t theatre, so I decided to follow my passion and continue my learning and growth in the realm of theatre. I’ve been lucky enough to experience first hand the power of the arts, and one day I hope to share this with the coming generations as a drama teacher. I also hope to have the chance to write a little more, and maybe one day have a play professionally produced!
Other than theatre, I have many other hobbies and interests. During the summers, I serve as a leader at Oneida Baptist Camp. I love kids, and being a part of the memories and experiences they will have for the rest of their lives is something I am incredibly thankful for. In my free time, I love to write, something I have been interested in for the past few years. Other than my play, I have written various poems and spoken words, having performed at various coffee houses, talent shows, and other events. I have a YouTube channel where I have videos of performances of a few poems I’ve done over the years, as well as a few short videos I made that I think are funny. I am also currently in the process of self-publishing my first poetry book and I’m so excited to see my words in print for the first time! Besides this, I always try and keep involved in my community, by either volunteering or supporting local businesses, events, or fundraisers in any way I can. Coming up, I’ll be volunteering at Run For Women, a run in support of women’s mental health, something very close to my heart.
The main reason I love participating in pageants is that it gives me the opportunity to be an advocate and a voice for the things I am passionate about. If you know me personally, you know I have a strong voice and I am not afraid to use it. Because of pageants, I have had the chance to promote my cause of suicide prevention among Indigenous youth, and awareness of the issue of Indigenous youth suicide in our country. When I was younger, I was drawn to pageants because of the crowns, sashes, and pretty dresses. As I got older, I realized that the women I was onstage were not only poised, beautiful, and elegant, but intelligent, passionate, and driven. I found that this was a way I could combine my love of the stage and my desire to change the world. Mental health and suicide awareness is something that I am not only passionate about, but something that has impacted me for a very long time. Growing up, I attended funerals for teens and children in my community, and because I didn’t know otherwise, I believed this to be a normal thing. As I got older and reached high school, I became aware of the issues native people face and the inequalities experienced by Indigenous people in Canada. Alongside this, I had my own mental illness that I struggled with, dealing with anxiety, depression, and PTSD. This all came to a head when I attempted suicide at age 17. Although this was only two short years ago, the person I was then and the person I am now are almost worlds apart. I still struggle with mental illness, but I am working towards recovery and I have transformed my way of thinking, focusing on how I can use my experiences to make the world a little better for the youth not only on my reserve, but for native kids across Canada. My Beauty With a Purpose project also revolves around my work in suicide prevention and awareness for native youth, and I will be revealing details about the project very soon!
In terms of Miss World Canada, I cannot wait to meet the other contestants from across Canada and to see what the pageant week has to offer! As for now, I am continuing with my work on my Beauty With a Purpose project as well as other things to prepare for nationals, and in the next couple months I will hopefully update the blog a few more times before I leave for Toronto!
Thank you so much for reading!
Til Next Time,