Fashion. Inspiring Women in Business. Warm Smiles. The words that I would describe my time attending Hot Heels Fashion Show in support of the Ronald McDonald House of Southern Alberta. I first reached out to the EWI of Calgary (Executive Women International) to attend their event because of their values and morals. LEARN-LEAD-MENTOR. EWI embodies women leading women and making a difference in their communities, to foster the ability of women in business to grow with many platforms. Last year was my first year attending and I fell in love with the Calgary Chapter. I was asked to speak about my time as a young woman in business and the traumatic head I had sustained at birth and the repercussion of that on my life and education.
I was awestruck and honoured to be invited back for a second year to speak as Miss Intercontinental Canada!
The year prior I was so nervous to speak to a room of corporate powerhouses, who had broken their respective glass ceilings but also value giving back to those around them. I am beyond intimidated, what had I really accomplished in comparison?
Raffle tickets in my bucket and a hand of money and I was off to sell as many tickets I could in support of Ronald McDonald House. Proud to say I was very successful and a lot of the women were in a competitive mood that day. As the women and guest of the Calgary Chapter of EWI entered the ballroom of the Fairmont Palliser and seated for lunch, the Community Relations Coordinator of Ronald McDonald House of Southern & Central Alberta- Allie Acker gave a phenomenal speech on how grateful she was for EWI's support this year and spoke a bit about the families that stay at their location. She even had a video from one family that was from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan who's baby girl had learned to make friends, love the piano and at the same receive treatment at the Alberta Children's Hospital all at the same time while staying at Ronald McDonald House.
After being backstage with the models and speaking with some old and new pageant friends I was up to speak, my speech went something along the lines of:
Hello Everyone, my name is Mattea Henderson and I am the reigning Miss Intercontinental Canada. Last year I had the opportunity to speak at Hot Heels as Miss Calgary World 2017 about my experience as a woman in business and a traumatic head injury I sustained at birth and how that influenced my life. Clearly, things have changed since last year. Last July I went to Toronto to compete against women from all across Canada and walked away with this red and white sash that clearly says Canada. Definitely an upgrade in my mind.
Today, I am going to be speaking about how this last year has been one of personal growth, development and embracing the concept of gratitude and I owe it all to pageants. I originally started competing when I was sixteen and won my first pageant in this very room. I have held multiple titles and represented Canada internationally three times. This year has not been easy though, I had to make the decision that every 23-year-old needs to make: do I defer my undergrad when I am about to graduate or do I jet off across the world to represent Canada at a beauty pageant. Well, after a very long debate with my family I came to the conclusion that I have an opportunity that only a handful of women have each year and I know I will complete my undergrad this fall I did end up deferring.
I have always loved school. It hasn't always been the easiest, but the skill that I have been able to transfer between my education and pageants towards my future is unbelievable. How many 23-year-old women do you know that have the opportunity to share their personal story, their aspirations and what they dream of when they have no corporate business experience or are part of your organization. I have learned how to feel confident in professional settings when I am the youngest in the room, I have learned how to be the 'pretty girl' who blows men and women out of the water with my personality and demeanor when they judge me purely based on my looks and I have learned how to dominate a group interview or an interview one-on-one. None of that would have been possible without pageants.
With my semester, an entire academic year on hold I was off to Egypt. After flying for 38 hours I was at Miss Intercontinental finally. Pageants are a weird dynamic. You are there to naturally compete with women, to be judged on your outward appearance and intelligence, you average about 3-5 hours of sleep for close to 10-17 days; you're in a high-stress environment that most people couldn't fully grasp. But it was also one of the most empowering environments too.
You are surrounded by women who have their undergraduate degrees if not their masters. They are entrepreneurs, faces of corporations, they have founded their own non-profits and have earned the right to be an ambassador for their country. You can not feel anything except for pure intimidation but also empowerment in knowing how strong these women are and what they strive to accomplish just like how you do too.
If you don't know much about pageants I like to compare them to sports. Like how the NHL and NFL have their fantasy playoff pools, pageants have 'Hot Picks Lists' where people around the world who are fanatics do the same with beauty queens. I remember walking off stage the night of the finale after the top 18 were called and had girls telling me I deserved to place because I was so kind. I did not take it personally, I live by the expression in pageants "DIFFERENT DAY, DIFFERENT JUDGES, DIFFERENT GIRL." Anyways, after I was home I looked over these lists. They usually go something like "Philippines has the best fans! Brazil has the best face! Venezuela and Colombia have the best bodies!" Mine spoke of my personality and how nice I was to everyone and my infectious personality.
I went to give this same speech at Miss Teenage and World Alberta just over a month ago. I remember walking across the stage. I saw judges that have been judging me for years, my mom, my national director, parents who complimented me on how nice I was to their daughters and it all hit at once. I hysterically burst into tears after getting out about ten words. I was overwhelmed with realizing the influence I finally had, and what I portrayed.
Pageants have made me who I am. The nice, pretty girl with the infectious personality. I could not be more grateful for the opportunities that have come because of being grateful. For example, you have all taken time out of your schedules to make the conscious effort to support each other and Ronald McDonald House. I could have easily been one of those babies whose family stayed at Ronald McDonald House due to my head injury at birth, but we were lucky enough to be in a position when we had the support we needed and resources at our disposal I cannot imagine what some of these children and families go through, but because of Ronald McDonald House's gratitude, these children can be in an environment that fosters positivity and allow for their families to limit the emotional strain during these trying times.
Thank you all once again for being active members of your community that influence positive change, for embodying gratitude without realizing it sometimes. Thank you Ronald McDonald House for sharing the story of an amazing family, and thank you to the Calgary Chapter of EWI for allowing me to share my experience in pageants and how this year has been one of personal growth, development and understanding what gratitude is daily. Thank you!
EWI put on an amazing fashion show showcasing some local boutiques and designers too! Oddly enough you do not realize how small the pageant world is. An old alumni of Miss Teenage Canada was there with her mom, and I actually met the future Miss Teen Calgary 2018 via Patti Falconer Agencies. She was beyond sweet and at the time I did not realize that I would be judging her two weeks later! What a small world!
There were also some brilliant dancers who made me look like I was a two-year-old dancing in my living room!
All in all, the Calgary Chapter of EWI hosted a phenomenal afternoon in support of Ronald McDonald House!