Aleria McKay, Onondaga nation, Eel clan, from Six Nations of the Grand River, is in Toronto this week competing in this year’s Miss World Canada pageant. Aleria recently completed her term as Miss Six Nations.
Miss World Canada is the official preliminary to the Miss World pageant and has been held annually since 1957 to select Canada’s representative to the Miss World Contest. We caught up with Aleria a few days before she left for the show to gain insight into the world of pageantry from her perspective.
The competition is a week long. All the pageant contestants compete in preliminary rounds where they are judged based on several categories including, evening gown, fitness, personal service projects, blogging, and more. The Top 20 is determined from these preliminary scores and they then compete in several more categories. The Top 8 contestants are then selected and after a final question and answer period, the title of Miss World Canada is announced. Here is Aleria’s take:
“I’m so excited to get to know my fellow contestants, and update everyone on my preparations for nationals. You can follow more of my journey on my Instagram, @aleriamck,” Aleria McKay.
TRT: What was the process of applying, qualifying, and getting to where you are now?
A: The way the pageant works, I was able to be fast-tracked because I competed two years ago when I first became eligible. I was 19 at the time. I didn’t make Top 20 that year and it was a great opportunity for me to get a feel for things and see how the pageant is run. I’ve participated in pageants for roughly 10 years now. This is my last year competing though. I will be ineligible to compete again because I am getting married soon. I really wanted to try and go all out for my last year.
TRT: What other pageants have you participated in?
A: I just handed off the Miss Six Nations title to the incoming Miss Six Nations. I was also Miss Teenage Ontario in 2018. I placed second runner up at Miss Teenage Canada. And I was also Miss Teen Six Nations in 2013.
TRT: What did you learn from any of the pageants you did not place in?
A: When I was younger it was difficult because you pour your all into something and might not get the result you were hoping for. That was difficult for me. Over the years I realized that in pageants, it really all comes down to the day; different judges select different winners. You can have a good day or an off day. It’s all so situational. A judge could really like one girl and just not like the other. One time a girl did not make the Top 5 by a fraction of a point. Those things are really difficult. You have to go into it thinking there is a good chance you could leave with nothing.
TRT: What do you wish to take back with you from the pageant?
A: Even if I don’t leave with what I hoped for, I make new friends and see old friends at each pageant I compete in. There are two girls I met from pageants that are going to be in my wedding. It’s given me the opportunity to meet people I never would have met otherwise.
TRT: What are you going to have to do at this pageant?
A: For the talent portion? It is an optional portion but I’m choosing to participate and I have to do a private audition first. The Top 6 compete and then the Top 3 compete in the final night. I’ll be singing. Hopefully, I get past the auditions.
TRT: What are some positive and empowering aspects of pageantry?
A: One of the reasons I wanted to participate in Miss World Canada was because they place a huge emphasis on its Beauty with a Purpose projects. My project is the Six Nations Youth Suicide Prevention Committee. I created it a few years ago with my peers and it’s something I’ve been working hard on.
TRT: In what ways does your education in theatre help?
A: I am in the fourth year of my Honours BA, studying Theatre and Indigenous studies at York University. Being in theatre means being on stage a lot; depending on what area of theatre you’re studying. I was involved in extracurricular theatre in high school and that gave me a huge sense of confidence I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I actually used to be very shy. There are a lot of transferable skills within the realm of theatre and pageants. A lot of people don’t realize the time, preparation and organizing that goes into a show. Everyone sees the final product, but not the hours of rehearsal. Pageants are the same way. I get on stage. I do my thing. It looks easy because it’s supposed to. But those watching sometimes don’t realize the time and effort it took to get to that stage.
TRT: What is the charity you are fundraising for?
A: The pageant’s official charity is Make-A-Wish Canada. Everyone in the pageant has to raise $400 for the charity. A portion of your overall score comes from meeting that fundraising goal.
TRT: What have been some challenges you’ve faced while preparing?
A: I have some chronic injuries and health issues. Part of the pageant involves fitness. It’s only five per cent but it still plays a part. And especially with gyms being closed over the last year, I had a hard time. I can’t physically run because of my injuries so I had to find other ways to try and get active. I started biking but that was still hard on me. Once gyms opened, thankfully, I would get in there and work on my fitness a bit. Definitely was a challenge to overcome.
TRT: How has growing up on Six Nations helped you prepare?
A: I was born in Edmonton and live here on Six Nations now. But first of all, growing up here has given me many different experiences. It’s a different sense of community with a different understanding of what it means to be Canadian. Canadians have a large sense of patriotism. Representing Canada internationally, I had to comes to terms with the idea of competing for Miss World Canada; which is not how I identify. I wouldn’t say I am Canadian. First and foremost I identify as Haudenosaunee and Anishnabai. It’s something I had to come to terms with before I started doing pageants.
I think it is definitely different coming from a community that is so incredibly supportive. A lot of the girls I’ve seen that come from reserves have such a huge support system and following behind them. It makes me so happy that there are Indigenous people all across North America excited to see Indigenous representation in pageants.
TRT: In what ways could the community help?
A: There is a voting potion in our overall scores. I’ve been campaigning for votes and information for that is on my website.
To vote for Aleria visit, catchthecrown.com/pageant/miss-world-canada-2021.