Interview w/ Miss Universe Canada

What does a social media company and Miss Universe Canada have in common? The mutual understanding of how various online platforms can be used to do good; help others, spread awareness and build a positive brand.

We reached out to Siera Bearchell, because we love her mandate and authenticity to be speaking out on bullying, in an arena where her body is constantly in the spotlight. With Siera, she has been the subject to much verbal abuse online. Not an easy place to be and we must commend her for her strength and frankness to help change the conversation around self-abuse and bullying. She educates on what it means to have the “perfect” body. We’re excited to share Siera's story from the perspective of the Miss Universe Canada role while using social media as her foundation, to widely distribute her mandate on self-love.

1. You are clearly confident in your skin and comfortable with sharing your point of view (and so you should be!). However, did you ever think ‘I don’t want to be highlighted on body image’ and be treated just like everyone else?

- When I competed for Miss Universe Canada (my second time) last year, I knew I was putting myself in a position in which my body would become a topic of discussion (especially in the traditional pageant world). I knew I was putting myself in somewhat of a vulnerable position and I was ready for that. I was also ready to use the platform of Miss Universe to encourage other women to be themselves and love the skin they are in. While I didn’t realize my story would take such a global stage, I was happy to use the media and exposure to relate to women around the world and be a voice for women. I was happy to put myself in an uncomfortable position to be able to create change in the Miss Universe world and help make it more “real” and relatable.

2. Before you entered Miss Universe Canada, did you ever consider that it could be used as a platform to discuss body image issues and bullying?

- Absolutely. When I competed in Miss Universe Canada for the first time in 2013, I was told to lose weight and try and attain a certain body type to win the competition. I tried to do that and lost myself in the process. I was eating very little and working out for hours a day. I was losing weight and losing myself. I ended up placing as 1st Runner-Up. I am grateful I did not win the title, because I would have won by trying to be something I was not. I made a goal for myself to one day aim to win the title, but do it MY way. I knew I would be criticised for my body, but I was ready to share my story and create a platform for women rather than just trying to win a title.

3. You have quite the following on Instagram! How has this platform allowed you to communicate your story? Is the response (both negative and positive) ever overwhelming?

- When I boarded the plane to the Philippines to go to Miss Universe, I had not quite 10,000 followers on Instagram. When I boarded the plane to come back to Canada, I had over 100,000! I didn’t care about the numbers, but I cared that my story meant something to so many people. The response was definitely positive and negative! With an increase in following, came an increase in negativity (but also positivity). People would make comments on my photos like, “fat,” “overweight,” “Miss Piggy,” “promoting obesity,” and the list goes on. However, I mostly received positive messages and comments from women telling me I have helped change their views of themselves and love themselves for who they are. Some women even told me I helped change their lives!

4. How do you handle the online bullying now through social media as you continue to make posts and share your story?

- Sometimes it can be difficult to read mean, hurtful and often ignorant comments directed towards yourself. However, I always remind myself that the bullying is a reflection of the individual saying it and not a reflection of who I am. I also use these mean comments to add fuel to my fire to continue speaking out against online bullying.

5. Now that you’re an influencer, how do you plan to elevate your brand (both professionally and addressing bullying) to the online community in the next few years – any plans?

- I have been doing a lot of public speaking and I think that will become my focus. I have been speaking to schools and women’s groups and that is where I feel I can make the greatest impact. In terms of social media, I am working on partnering with different brands that align with my message and platform. I don’t have any specific plans...maybe I should work on that!

6. Random question 1: Keeping Up with the Kardashians or Game of Thrones?

- Keeping Up with the Kardashians (mostly because I have never seen Game of Thrones!)

7. Random question 2: Sleep in or get up early?

- I love getting up early because I am more productive…but I love sleeping in without an alarm when time permits!

8. How would you like to see other spokespeople use social media to communicate positive body appreciation? Do you think a movement can be created together?

- I love following @iskra and of course @ashleygraham They both post “glam” photos that align with their careers and also the more “real” side to modelling and being in the public eye. We are starting to see a rise in more “real” posts by celebrities and social influencers and I think that is a movement in itself.

- JM -

Connect with Miss Universe Canada, Siera Bearchell here:

Instagram: @sierabearchell

Twitter: @SieraBearchell

Facebook: @sierabearchellmissuniversecanada

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