Miss World Canada is a national beauty pageant that has been held annually in Canada since 1957. The winner gets to represent Canada at Miss World—a highly anticipated international pageant. Prior to this competition, there are provincial qualifiers across multiple regions, one of which is the Miss Ontario World and this year, Neisha Ghanie, a fourth-year student of the University of Toronto Mississauga, is one of the contestants.

Having no prior encounter with the pageant world, Ghanie tried her luck after coming across an Instagram advert and was thrilled to find out her application got approved. Although Ghanie has never been involved with beauty pageants, she does have some experience in the fashion industry. Ghanie currently works as a colour consultant at Sephora, has worked in the style and profile department for fashion shows in previous years, and has some modelling experience.

Recently, Ghanie qualified as one of Miss Ontario World’s national finalists and will get to represent her city in the upcoming nationals at Toronto Hyatt Hotel in July.

Ghanie’s background in leadership, performance, and public hosting of events from high school makes it easier for her to cope while performing in front of judges, although sometimes it requires her to step out of her comfort zone. Early on in her journey, Ghanie did have a minor struggle building confidence after meeting other contestants and contemplated her decision to compete. Luckily, her friends who serve as her support system alongside her sisters aided in boosting her morale and she ended up qualifying for Miss World Canada.

Describing how she balances school, two jobs and volunteer work along with her pageant preparation, Ghanie says the key is time management. She makes sure to prioritize her school deadlines and meticulously constructs her calendar to ensure she gets all her work done. Importantly, Ghanie mentions that she finds time to take care of herself to avoid getting overwhelmed. Her self-care involves activities like listening to music, watching YouTube videos, reading books, taking time alone to reflect, and spending quality moments with friends and family.

In regard to her future plans, Ghanie hopes to pursue a medical career and specialize in either ecology or dermatology. In preparation for this, she currently works as the head course promoter for MCATPREP 101—a preparatory course for the Medical College Admission Test which she plans on taking after the pageant is over. Additionally, she volunteers at the William Osler health centre where she assists doctors and nurses in daily activities such as delivering blood samples to the laboratories and changing beddings.

Though the process so far has been fun, Ghanie acknowledges that the amount of work required caught her off guard. Perfecting poses, body composure, and learning to smile at all times has been taxing but nonetheless an exciting experience.

In defence of the negative stigma often attached to pageants, Ghanie admits she once bore the same sentiments but now, due to her experience, she knows more about what it takes to compete in a pageant and what judges want to see in a contestant. Qualities such as confidence, high self-esteem, community involvement, and learnedness are a few factors the judges look out for. This goes against the common stereotype that pageants celebrate only the superficial.

As her advice to other young women, Ghanie says “do what you want to do. Follow your dreams and aspirations. There will always be people who try to break down your confidence and self-esteem, ignore them. You’re the only person that can drive your success, so always stay true to yourself.”