Miss Universe Canada opens conversation on racism in pageant world

Controversy days before the Miss Universe pageant, and how Canada's delegate is opening up the conversation on racism in the pageant world. Arvin Joaquin reports.


VANCOUVER (OMNI TV) — Miss Universe Canada, Nova Stevens, called out people who flooded her social media accounts with hateful comments, sparking a conversation about racism in the pageant world.

Stevens is the second Black woman to ever hold the title, more than thirty years after the coronation of Juliette Powell in 1989.

In an Instagram post last week, Stevens uploaded screenshots of some of the messages she has received. She was called “scary,” received messages with racial slurs, and was inundated with other derogatory comments about her appearance and her ethnicity.

“Your hate takes away the fun and enjoyment from this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Is it really that difficult to spread love instead of hate?” she wrote.

“I’m sharing this as a teaching moment so that we can make Pageants fun and enjoyable for all. All the girls competing have worked hard for this moment and deserve to have the best experience.”

Based in Vancouver, Stevens was born in Sudan and moved to Canada when she was six. She’s a model, actor and activist, and has organized local marches and t and rallies in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“As I stand before you I want you to see me as a Black woman. I want you to see colour, because seeing colour does not mean you are a racist, it allows you to see the struggles experienced by people of colour,” she told the pageant judges from the stage.

In an interview with CityNews last year, Stevens spoke about the importance of speaking up and speaking out against racism.

“Your voice — and I’ve said it time and time again — is the most powerful weapon that you possess. But when you don’t use it, not only do you hurt yourself, you can also hurt others. Your silence can be violence.”

Adelynn Cupino is the director of Miss international of B.C. and Canada, she also represented the country in the 2004 Miss International pageant. She says she understands what it’s like to try to break barriers in the pageant world.

“There’s some that wonder, ‘How she did she win? She’s not even caucasian. There’s some racial ideologies there for sure,” she says.

“Representing Canada and not being Caucasian, not being six-foot-tall with light features — I think I just thrived in the diversity that I was able to represent as a full Filipina. I wanted to break that stigma of what the standard beauty is from Canada specifically.”

Cupino says she strives to diversify people’s concept of beauty in her pageant, and that this kind of backlash can be discouraging. But she admires how the Vancouver queen handled the heartbreaking incident.

“She’s turned it to a learning experience that we can learn from as supporters and viewers of her journey,” she says.

Stevens is set to compete for the Miss Universe 2020 crown in Florida Sunday. If she wins, she will become the first black Miss Universe Canada to hold the title.

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