New West-based Patricia Celan made international news in 2013 when she got on the Miss BC pageant stage and shaved her head to raise funds for cancer. In fact, she had raised the most funds compared to any other Miss BC contestant that year ($10,000) — a feat that won her the Miss Charity BC title.
Celan, who was once a Top Teen of Canada and Miss Teen BC contestant, never stopped competing in pageants. After she got married in 2014, she simply explored beauty pageants for married women. "Pageants are the best place to find a loving sisterhood of strong women who often remain friends for life after a pageant ends," she said.
In the past few years, among other awards (like People Choice Winner in Mrs. International 2021, and fourth runner-up in Galaxy Canada pageant), Celan won the Mrs. Canada title in the summer of 2020 — one that gives her the right to compete in Mrs. Universe contest that’s to take place in Seoul, South Korea, in December 2022.
While Celan is training for the big event with a pageant coach, she is also putting in hours as a psychiatry trainee and student. Her tight routine also includes daily hot yoga sessions, a run a few times a week, and an all-vegan diet.
The Record chatted with the former Hyack Princess on how she does it all.
You will be representing Canada in the Mrs. Universe contest in Seoul. What kind of preparations do you have to do for it?
I need a national costume. I'll be making a costume that represents Canada. I also need to have an evening gown and a fitness wear outfit (no swimsuits). The most important part is the interview component. A lot of people don't realize that for pageants, there's behind-the-scenes interviews that happen before anyone ever gets on stage. And that is the most important part.
The purpose of the (Mrs. Universe) pageant is to raise awareness about domestic violence, and fundraise to support programs that prevent domestic violence. So I'll have to do either a presentation, a speech or a video about the topic of domestic violence.
Each pageant supports a cause. For Miss BC, it's Cops For Cancer (it's part of the Canadian Cancer Society); Mrs. Galaxy Canada champions Give Kids the World, a charity for children who are critically ill — for them to have a make-a-wish experience.
You have been raising awareness about domestic violence…
My platform for pageantry is raising awareness about domestic violence. It actually works out well that that's what Mrs. Universe champions — because that has been my personal platform for the Mrs. Canada and Mrs. International pageants.
I grew up in an abusive environment. And it did make me grow up too fast. That’s why it's something I want to raise awareness about — the things that happen behind closed doors, the domestic violence that people often don't know about, and that people stay in for a really long time because they don't know how to get out of it.
So I made a website isthatabuse.com, which is part of my platform for raising awareness for abuse victims, and it's focused on abuse of different types —there's abuse in domestic situations, there's intimate partner violence, there's also abuse of children, abusive adults, elders, animal abuse... human trafficking is also a form of abuse that I have put on the website, as well as abusive therapy relationships.
These are all part of this overall idea of human beings abusing others. This is something that we need to all be more aware about, and something that we all need to learn to see the signs of and prevent it... and help people who are stuck in abusive situations.
If I win Mrs. Universe I would use the title to continue to raise awareness about domestic violence, and expand my website so that it would reach more than just Canada.
You won Miss Hyack Princess in 2010; was that your first exposure into the world of pageants?
That was one of my first pageants. It was a great way for me to get to know New Westminster more because there was a historical component to it. And I actually won the ‘Historical Award’ that year, because I did a historical speech and there was a historical exam.
It just gave me a lot more pride about being from New Westminster and it taught me what it's like to be in pageants. It was a great experience to get to know my city and to experience the world of pageantry in a very supportive environment.
Were you born in New Westminster?
I actually immigrated to Canada (from Romania) when I was three years old, and I lived in New Westminster from then until I was 25. I went to Richard McBride Elementary School, Glenbrook Middle School and New Westminster Secondary School. I went to Simon Fraser University, for an undergrad in psychology and then to University of British Columbia for my medical degree.
Right now, I'm in Nova Scotia for postgraduate psychiatry medical training. But I'm definitely planning on moving back to New Westminster once I am done with my training.
Growing up, did you ever imagine that one day you would be Mrs. Universe Canada?
No. I didn't even think that I would ever compete in something like the Miss New Westminster pageant. Winning the New West 'Hyack Princess' title when I was 17 in itself felt like a big deal at the time — I didn't think that I would ever even get to that point. So, winning Mrs. Universe Canada was a shock.
I definitely was a little girl who liked princesses. I loved Disney and I did love watching pageants. I just never thought that I would be one of those girls.
What was it like to shift from watching pageants to being in one?
When you watch a pageant on TV, it kind of looks like it's just modelling, right? But in real life, there's so much more to it. So the person who wins a pageant is not necessarily the most beautiful person, not necessarily the person who's the best model, but the person who has the most good on the inside.
You can see it when you're interviewing a pageant contestant — I've been a judge as well — you can see who are the people who have good genuine spirits, who really care about other people, about their community and about making a change in the world. Those are the people who actually tend to succeed in pageants.
So that's a part that I didn't realize when I was watching pageants. Growing up, I thought it's just modelling but it's actually more of a competition about personality and being a good well-rounded person.
How different is competing in a ‘Mrs’ beauty contest from a ‘Miss’ beauty contest?
There are a lot of similarities but the main difference is of course that all 'Mrs.' contestants are married. So, there's more maturity I would say in that regard, because a lot of women who are married, they're competing in pageants as an opportunity to be involved in their communities, for personal growth, and to meet other women and develop personal networks.
There isn't really that competitive spirit that there is in those younger pageants. I found when I competed in Miss New Westminster that there was a lot of competitiveness, and in the world of Mrs. pageantry, people have kind of grown past that competitive spirit. It's more focused on the relationships you build within pageantry and the good that you could do in your community as part of the pageant.
That being said, I don't want to completely throw teen pageants under the bus because I did have good experiences being part of them — they helped me come out of my shell and become a more confident and less shy person.
Pageants, per Celan, rely on sponsorship to succeed. Sponsorship would involve a marketing opportunity for businesses, and obtain advertising that can be written off in their taxes as part of their annual marketing budget, she said. Anyone interested in sponsoring Celan's trip to Mrs. Universe can contact her at patriciacelan.com/contact.