Mattea Henderson is a compassionate woman who is driven by the principle of gratitude. Mattea considers herself a relatable Canadian girl, someone who loves the outdoors- weather permitting- and is just as happy reading a good book at home. She is upon completing her undergraduate degree in Marketing, minoring in International Business at Mount Royal University. Having overcome a skull fracture at birth that impacted her ability to process and retain information Mattea lives by the expression, "You are not a product of your circumstance, you are a product of your choosing." Rather than focusing on what limitations Mattea had, she chose to be an active member of her community through being an athlete, an ambassador, and volunteer.
Having experience on the international pageant stage, Mattea has represented Canada three times placing in the Top 20 at each in the United States of America, Nicaragua, and Egypt. Mattea has had the opportunity in her community to be an avid volunteer and role model through pageants and is excited to start the next part of her adventure being an ambassador for AARCS (Alberta Animal Rescue Crew Society) and several other organizations making a positive influences around their communities and across Canada. Mattea is grateful for each aspect of her life because it has caused her to overcome adversity and grow into a stronger and more confident woman.
This is what people read on a pageant website when they are looking over this year's batch of delegates. Usually, several sentences speaking about the woman's personality attributes, her academic, athletic, or artistic accomplishments, and what her aspirations are in life. Pageant bloggers, contestants, judges, fans and of course friends and family will try to decipher if this girl is real competition. This is after they have creeped her on Instagram and her official delegates photo that you usually click on to access the biography.
People have asked me more recently since I became Miss Intercontinental Canada 2017 why and how I decided pageants were for me. To be completely honest I started competing in 2011 and didn't fully understand until 2014. I've been blessed with those that have supported me since my first evening gown- which was a blue knee-length cocktail dress from Laura Petite, to most recently dealing with a woman's harsh opinion that was spoken candidly about me. This is not going to be me writing about how glamorous pageants are, or how if you dream big enough your dreams can come true. This is going to be my perspective on what pageants can do for a woman, what pageants mean to me and why.
When I first stepped into this world of glittering tiaras, colourful sashes and beautiful women I would never have imagined where it would have taken me. I am the woman I am today because of pageants ironically. I was a week away from sixteenth birthday walking into the office of Patti Falconer with my mother. Before I could introduce myself or shake her hand, Patti Falconer looked up from her desk walked over and said, "You're a pageant girl," there was nothing else to it. Six months later I won Miss Teen Calgary 2011 and that is when I started to experience what it meant to be a role model, to see successful women dominating their industries while learning about myself. I was the classic definition of a wallflower through high school, I wasn't popular or the star of the school play or the captain of a sports team. I was just kind of there. I attended classes, had a couple good friends, and kept my head down most of the time. High school wasn't the most enjoyable thing for me- and like most beauty queens- because I was bullied. I did not know how to stand my ground or speak my mind, I was quiet and went to classes. Being Miss Teen Calgary 2011 was what taught me to start to have self-confidence, how to walk into a room with my head high and not embarrassed of how I looked.
This was originally going to be about my times in pageant. Things change. In April of this year, I was on location at Marlborough Mall in Calgary, running to grab my traditional double-double before the doors opened for an event I was attending, GownTown, as Miss Intercontinental Canada. It's an event that sells gowns at $10 to girls who are graduating but do not have the financial means to buy a gown. This year, all profits made are being donated to The Boys and Girls Clubs of Calgary. One of my best friends who I watched compete and win Patti Falconer's Miss Calgary 2016 Pageant texted me. That text really did change things for me. I had my double-double in hand walking back and I found out my agent, my mentor and someone who I aspired to be passed away. The woman who discover me and literally knew I was a pageant girl before I would be able to introduce myself or say hello. Patti was family in my family's eyes, she worked closely with me and my little sister when we modeled- I use that term very loosely for myself, but my sister was a rock star; she had the look, the height and the international markets loved her. Anyways, I held it together at the event because Patti had taught me what professionalism was. I knew my job, I knew why I was there and I had responsibilities to fulfill. I called my family. My parents both at work and my sister in England. My sister had seen the social media posts about Patti and texted me, it was hard. Really hard. It's hard typing this and trying to hold it together.
Patti Falconer is the reason I learned what pageants were. Patti Falconer is the reason I do not compromise my character to get what I want. Patti is a woman who I did more than respected, she is someone who I considered to be family, someone who was a mother figure, someone who I dreamed of being.
Patti Falconer is the reason I pursued pageantry with Michelle Weswaldi and MTC-W INC. Patti had been on me for years to compete for Miss Universe- Canada, but I told her eventually. I ended up placing at Miss World Canada earning my most recent title of Miss Intercontinental Canada 2017. Patti was proud of what I have accomplished so far, and she made that clear to me. No matter what pageant system you do, what title you have, or how you place, each in an experience and you learn about life and who you are.
10 THINGS I HAVE LEARN FROM PAGEANTS:
1. PROFESSIONALISM .
Being a Marketing Student, I am constantly meeting clients, working on presentations, and studying how to represent a brand properly. This has been part of pageants too, what system you enter, what you portray on social media and how you act in private and public. Everything has an impact on your personal brand and people’s perception of you. I learned about professionalism when I was sixteen truly, more specifically the importance of getting the job done. I have a memory of one of my first 'fancy' events as Miss Teen Calgary 2011. I do not remember what it was for, but I was there with Miss Calgary and Mrs. Calgary at the time. We were asked to go around from table to table in a massive ballroom at the Westin Hotel asking everyone if they had submitted their raffle tickets. I swear, I thought I was going to pee my pants I was so nervous. I lacked self-confidence, I was the youngest person at the event and I did not really know what I had signed up for as a pageant girl. Patti has always taught me you are there to do a job, so do it the best you can, and I did.
Pageants have taught me no matter the situation, you are there to do a job. I am confident when I am giving a presentation or meeting someone important, pageants taught me that. I am confident in situations that my professionalism will not be questioned because I understand what it means to get the job done, to do it to the best of your ability, to represent your client and to represent yourself too.
2. DISCOVERING COMMUNITY.
Every title I have had I have been in Calgary. Either a city, regional, provincial, or national title- I have been here in Calgary. The Calgary Community is something that I treasure and how the world would aspire to be. I have attended events of all types, from galas and auctions to sporting events, concerts, fundraisers, or cultural days. Every time community comes together. A community can always be divided into sub-categories, but for me, it comes down to the beliefs and values that are shared among individuals that bring them together.
When I was Miss Teen Southern Alberta- World 2013, I was a week away from leaving to compete at nationals when the flood hit Alberta. Everyone came together with boats rescuing people trapped on rooftops and on the highs of golf courses. One night as the river broke, my residential community was evacuated from our homes at 2 AM. People were carrying what they could to their vehicles with their families as quickly as they could before the water reached us. Community centers opened their doors to evacuees, so they would have somewhere to stay. When I had my preliminary interview at Miss Teen Canada World (Miss Teenage Canada now) the judges all asked how Calgarians and Albertans were doing, how was the community supporting each other, and how I was personally. I learned that community comes together to support each other and even if you do not want to be part of your community, they will be there for you without asking because that is what community does. I really do hope though as a titleholder you are an active part of your community because you could influence positive change within yours.
3. CONFIDENCE IS SELF-LOVE.
Like I said above, I was a wallflower. I did not raise my hands in class, I avoided eye contact with the boys I liked, and I kept my head down. To this day, I still lack self-confidence in some social situation, but who doesn't. I usually have my music in when I am walking between classes or on public transit, I am naturally a shy person. I told you I was going to be honest, do you believe me know? Stepping on stage each time in nerve-racking, let alone walking into that first day of competition or believing in yourself when you start sizing yourself up to the competition- ladies we all do it, don't lie to yourself. Pageants have taught me that I have to believe in myself and that I have an unwavering ability to achieve what I am dedicated to if I work hard enough.
I remember going into Miss World Canada 2017 I had scratched my eye badly, I had a chest infection and my legs were so swollen that the chaperones were concerned and were considering pulling me from rehearsals. To put it all in perspective, my shoes were about a size or so too big, the day of the Rachel Sin Fashion Show and the finale the following day my shoes fit perfectly. It was bad. I felt horrible about how I was literally feeling and looking, my self-confidence was dwindling by the minute. In an interview with Pageant News, I spoke about this experience, "I was not disappointed in the fact people would have an opinion on my body, I was disappointed I allowed my self-doubt to influence my confidence in my abilities. I literally shook myself. I said to myself, “It is what it is. It is something that I have been dealt and I can deal with it. I am so happy with the person that I am and what I can offer this world- having swollen legs is not great, but I can still walk.” I believe having a strong sense of self and self-love is what allowed me to overcome this form of disappointment " and overall learn to love yourself is confidence.
There is a stigma that pageant girls starve themselves during competition week. I have never done it, I love food too much personally. Second, the emotional and physical stress that you put yourself in during that time of pageant week your body needs proper nutrition. You are up at dawn getting ready, you have breakfast around 7 AM or 8 AM, next lunch is around 2 PM or 3 PM and dinner and be anywhere from 8 PM to 1 AM when you are back in your rooms. There is uncertainty. If you have dietary restrictions or are a fussy eater bring snacks! Bring snacks anyways! For Miss Intercontinental the food was great! Always a buffet and cuisines from all cultures. But the days were long, and I knew I needed to keep my blood sugar up, I packed protein bars, dried fruit and nuts, juice crystal packets for travel and then we were given fresh fruit in our rooms too. Be realistic, you are a human being and you are going to get hungry on location, pack a granola bar in your bag and break it out when you're hungry. Fainting is not an option.
5. BECOMING A ROLE MODEL.
When I think of strong Canadian beauty queens that have made an impact on those around them and the world I think of Siera Bearchell, Lauren Howe, Natalie Glebova and Adwoa Yamoah. Each offer something unique but all have become someone's role model. A crown and sash hold power in the means of gaining attention online and in life, having your voice heard on a national and international scale, being a role model and being acknowledged as someone who has accomplished a wonderful thing. You can inspire young women to find their voices, gain self-confidence and become an active member of their community. Having a power, you do not or may not realize, you have, is a weapon in itself. If you are an athlete, student, musician and most importantly you- you are someone's role model. What you do matters, think about that.
One thing that I am constantly doing if you haven't seen my Insta Stories is planning my weeks. I take all my titles seriously and try to make the most of each experience. I have always been a full-time student, a volunteer and I work on top of that. When preparing for a pageant or an event or travel, I make sure I create lists upon lists to stay on top of everything that I am doing so I do not overwork or stress myself out. When I was preparing for Miss World Canada, for example, I was a full-time university student, I was working and attending events every month. I learned quickly that planning ahead was my best option for success. From budgets to timelines and simply weekly breakdowns these are all things I have learned to embrace from pageants that I have adapted into my daily life.
7. EMBRACE THE EXPERIENCE.
Yes, you are in a competition, but it is also an experience. There is only one winner, in my case three titles at Miss World Canada, so make the most of your time competing. You are there to win and you've worked hard but embrace your time there to celebrate what you have achieved thus far! It is a once in a lifetime opportunity and you do not know if you will have it again. You get to spend a week or two with like-minded strong women. Yes, be professional but know things change constantly. Rehearsal are serious but have fun, smile when you walk! Get to know the delegates around you! Be a bit silly! Let people see the real you and enjoy your experience. There are always two types of girls in pageants that I have seen: the delegates that talk about how mad they are that the schedule wasn't followed, they didn't place, they say the girls were not approachable and the negativity goes on during and after the pageant. The second type of girls are the ones that I love to surround myself with; the delegates that are constantly smiling and laughing, who are flexible and know that things are out of their control and to go with the flow and who are there just as much to win as they are to make friends. Overall, each experience is unique and what you put into it you'll get out of it. That is my two cents on that.
8. WHAT YOU DO WITH YOUR CROWN AND SASH MATTERS. IT'S A JOB.
In my mind though if you do not do anything with your title - well are you really the best representation of the women you stood on stage with? You not only represent your region but the women who stand on stage beside you and the organization's ideals that crowned you. I think it goes back to women supporting women in my mind. If these women are all positive influences in their communities and have a desire to leave the world a better place than it was before and knowing winning a title can be a platform for growth and greatness, you know they will continue to do this if they win. But it a woman wins and does nothing with her time, that personally breaks my heart. It is a sisterhood of strong women influencing amazing things. A crown and sash give that greatness you possess exposure to a bigger world and bigger change. Make it your job to leave the world a better place when you have been given a finite amount of time to do so.
What does winning a crown and sash mean to you? What have you done to make the world a better place? Or do you just like to look at it collecting dust on a shelf until you crown your successor?
9. THE ONLY OPINION YOU REALLY NEED TO CARE ABOUT IS YOURS.
Let's be honest, pageants are judgement in its simplest form, you are putting yourself out there for everyone to judge. When I was a couple of months into my reign as Miss Intercontinental Canada, I was profiled on Pageant News. I was asked a question that all contestants are asked when they are competing in their first pageant, an international pageant or their last:
You will represent Canada at the Miss Intercontinental Pageant. How will you prepare the contest? What inspired you on the course of beauty pageant?
"...Preparing for Miss Intercontinental, I plan to continue to focus on my mental ‘game’. Realistic, the selected judges judge us, but we will also be judged by the world. People are entitled to their opinions and can say what they want on social media, and their criticism can be hurtful at times. I am hoping that people will be supportive and kind because it takes a lot of commitment, courage, time, and faith in yourself to get up on a stage. I believe in being authentic to yourself, and I would never misrepresent my character, morals and values, or waver when questioned about who I am, so I am preparing for the worst and the best things that can be said about me when I am competing and representing Canada."
10. THE RELATIONSHIPS YOU MAKE
My closest friends are from pageants. The best jobs I have had are because of the people I have met during events or pageant related opportunities. The support I have in my life are from pageants. Without pageants, I would not have the people in my life that I do. I choose to surround myself with positive people. This is one of the most important things I have gained from pageants. My first pageant, to bring things full circle, Patti Falconer asked me “What is the most constant part of your life?” I answered with my family. As time goes on people’s likes and interested can change, social media allows us to instantly like something or delete it from our lives. I am blessed by the relationships that have because of pageants because they have been tested repeatedly but are constant. I wouldn’t be who I am without the people I have met along the way because they hold me up, cheer me on, force me to think and push me to grow and be the best version of myself.