Amanda Vallieres, Chippewa from Aamjiwnaang First Nation in Sarnia, Ont., is a national finalist for the Miss Universe Canada 2014 pageant. Vallieres, 26, has the heart of a humanitarian. She advocates for the environment with her Toronto business and volunteers for a First Nations children’s program.
Miss Universe Canada, an annual national pageant, selects Canada’s representative to the Miss Universe pageant. The Miss Universe Canada pageant is a weeklong event starting May 17 with the final competition on the 24th at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, 27 Front St East, Toronto.
Vallieres connects to the First Nations community in Toronto by volunteering with the Little Embers, an afterschool program, at Toronto Council Fire Native Cultural Centre on Dundas Street East. The program provides culturally based activities to children and youth ages 7 to 15 living in the Regent Park area.
For the past year, she has participated in traditional and media art workshops with the Little Embers at Daniels Spectrum, along with swimming at Regent Park Aquatic Centre, and outdoor skating. The afterschool program acknowledges the importance of cultural activities to ensure the children feel grounded in their culture and in their community. Oftentimes, the group will start with a purifying smudge ceremony.
Vallieres carries the idea of purification forward with her company, A Clean Above, a residential cleaning business.
She started the company in January 2013, with her mother, Colette Vallieres. Their company is an eco-friendly cleaning business that uses 100% natural cleaning products. They want to reduce exposure to toxins thereby lessening toxins in the home environment as well as the greater environment.
She and her mom worked for a Toronto cleaning company for a few months when she first moved to the city. She found that they made a good team who received exceptional feedback from customers. The experience inspired her to create her own company but with a different approach.
“We want to help the environment especially in the home. We worked for a cleaning company before. I found I was coming home coughing or sneezing from the chemicals in the cleaning products we used,” said Vallieres. “I knew it wasn’t healthy to be working with these types of products and especially in the home where children or pets may be at risk.”
A Clean Above is eco-friendly because they use all natural cleaning products. They want to avoid products that say they’re natural but upon closer examination, hidden chemicals are revealed.
Their research for true eco-friendly cleaning products led them to Eco Mist Solutions, a local company whose product line is endorsed by David Suzuki.
They met with Ted Fagan, Eco Mist CEO, who taught them about his company’s eco-friendly brand. The Vallieres tried the products, found they worked well, and didn’t harm their health.
The website, acleanabove.ca notes, “We believe that by using these products we can make a positive change in the environment of your home as well as the environment around you.”
Another positive change that Vallieres hopes to initiate is for SOS Children’s Villages, an organization she was assigned to by the Miss Universe Canada organization. In the pageant, there isn’t a talent portion. Rather, the contestants are judged on humanitarian work along with their evening gown, swimsuit, final question, and interview competitions.
On May 9, Vallieres will hold a fundraiser for SOS Children’s Villages. The worldwide organization provides homes for orphaned and abandoned children and meets basic needs like food and education. The organization helps keep families together with skills training and community development to ensure self-sufficiency and prevent child abandonment.
“I want to make it a night of music and art to bring people together and spread awareness about this charity,” she said. The fundraiser will be held at Dovercourt House, 3rd Floor, 805 Dovercourt Rd. The evening will feature live musical performances, an art show, a silent auction, food and refreshments.
Many of Valliere’s artist and musician friends will support her by participating.
For the silent auction, she collected donations from different organizations like Toronto Council Fire which contributed a handmade hand drum and a hand-painted paddle by Waylon Goodwin.
Other contributors include Toronto artist Colin Stark, renowned Canadian artist Gordon Rayner, and jewellery by Ingrid Banovsky.
Her boyfriend Brad Park, formerly of Canadian rock group Big Wreck, is a drummer who plays in several local Toronto bands. He’s bringing together his musician friends, Roman Riccio, Stone River, and Roland Rascz, to provide entertainment for the evening.
The fundraiser is a public family-event. Tickets will be sold at the door for $10.
Her business endeavors and humanitarian work suits Vallieres just fine in the city. She has lived in Toronto for two years now.
After Vallieres graduated from Wilfrid Laurier University with a Bachelor of Arts in Kinesiology and Physical Education, her mother returned to school at George Brown College in Toronto to study fashion techniques. While visiting her mother, Vallieres found she liked the city’s energy and could see herself living in Toronto.
“I wanted to move to a bigger city and experience life here,” she said.
A family friend, Mike Derrada, suggested Vallieres start in pageantry. Derrada is a fashion designer who has a background in pageant training. The Toronto-based designer advised Vallieres to compete in Miss Earth Ontario 2013 to gain experience.
Since it was Miss Earth Ontario, the contestants were required to speak about an environmental cause. Vallieres spoke about A Clean Above and how she wants to educate people to use eco-friendly cleaning products instead of harsh chemicals. Her speech helped her win the Beauties for a Cause category.
Derrada designed Vallieres’ gown which won the Miss Earth Ontario’s evening gown portion. He is designing Vallieres’ gowns for the Miss Universe Canada preliminary and finals nights.
When asked if she’s nervous about the upcoming pageant, Vallieres said, “Not yet. I’m more excited. Once the week comes, it will be full of nerves and excitement. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Over 60 girls from across Canada will compete in the Miss Universe Canada pageant. The May 24th finals show will be streamed live on missuniversecanada.ca.
To contact A Clean Above, go to acleanabove.ca or call 647-460-2115.
Tickets for the Miss Universe Canada finals show are $109 and $89 on sale at missuniversecanada.ca/tickets. The finals will be Saturday, May 24, 8 p.m. at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, 27 Front St East, in the Jane Mallett Theatre.