Patricia Celan, who was crowned Hyack Princess in 2010, has turned into an international celebrity since.
Most recently, she represented Canada at the week-long Mrs. Universe pageant, where she competed with 100 other contestants in Bulgaria to win the Diamond Heart Award for “resilience.”
“The plaque on the diamond-shaped trophy says, ‘Diamonds form under pressure. The Diamond Heart Award is given to the delegate who has maintained a pure heart while demonstrating resilience and integrity in the face of adversity’,” writes Celan in an email interview.
“When I spoke to a judge after the domestic violence forum and after the pageant, she told me they were very impressed with my personal story of overcoming adversity. It's my understanding that this award was (given to me) because they were inspired by my speech and my character while I was being assessed throughout pageant week,” said Celan.
Though the Mrs. Universe title went to Mrs. Universe Udmurtia, and the runner-ups were from Vietnam, Venezuela, Indian Ocean and Korea, for Celan, the opportunity to exchange ideas, to make friends, and to represent her country on an international stage were worth the experience.
Here are some excerpts from the interview with The Record:
When you last spoke to the Record, you were just crowned Mrs. Universe Canada 2022 and were gearing up for the international pageant. How did it go?
I had a great time meeting accomplished women from around the globe while we were all there representing our countries with pride. There were several fun events during the pageant week that allowed us to foster friendships — like dinners, tours and a karaoke event.
I also learned about the differences in cultures and issues in different countries. For example, I found out from Mrs. India's presentation during the pageant's Domestic Violence Symposium that marital rape is legal in India, which shocked me.
Raising global awareness about critical issues like that is an important first step in putting an end to it.
How many rounds did the competition include, and which ones did you find the most challenging?
The competition judged the contestants on week-long personal presentation, the Domestic Violence Symposium presentations, national costumes, and on two different evening gowns.
I personally found the domestic violence forum to be most challenging, both participating and observing because of the difficult subject matter. I was the first speaker and that's a lot of pressure for someone who struggles with anxiety.
Putting myself in uncomfortable situations, like giving a public speech on an emotional topic, is always a behavioural experiment to challenge my anxiety in order to overcome it.
Thankfully, my speech went well and I received a lot of supportive comments from the audience and judges.
I also opened the national costume parade, which was high-pressure in a different way, partially because the timing and stage cues were not very clear and I was afraid I would make a mistake at the very start of the show. It worked out in the end though, and we had a great national costume parade with beautiful and elaborate costumes from dozens of different countries.
Which rounds did you enjoy the most?
I really enjoyed wearing a national costume to represent Canada, because I'm so proud to be Canadian and it was fun to show my pride!
My costume was custom-made by Canadian designer Team Ekaj, and the concept was myself as the maple leaf, with some white accents to represent our flag. It was a glittering red and white bodysuit with a cape and small maple leaf in the center, paired with white boots and white gloves.
Worn alone, this part of the outfit was intended to be like a Canadian Wonder Woman. I also paired it with maple leaf "wings", as a large backdrop adds more stage presence to any national costume.
What do you miss most about the experience?
I miss the excitement, the sisterhood, and I miss the fact that it was a unique break from everyday life. Competing in a pageant feels like a dream, where you're an entirely different person while in the pageant zone. Nothing else matters except that week, and it's like the rest of the world fades away and stops while you're in the pageant bubble, forging strong friendships with like-minded women.
Coming back from that can be a jarring experience and "pageant withdrawal" is an oft-discussed issue in pageant circles, where women do often get the post-pageant blues. Thankfully, the pageant sisterhood bond can be quite strong, and relying on each other is important to get through the transition back to regular life.
Now, international pageants are exhausting too, where we often average four to six hours of sleep per night all week because of busy schedules every day, so I don't miss the physical exhaustion!
You mentioned in an Instagram post: "The purpose of my life is to end suffering." How do you plan to use your experience and title to achieve that?
Mrs. South Africa and I were talking about starting up our own international pageant system. Our intention is for that pageant to be very transparent in scoring, a force for social change in the world, a real avenue for community involvement, and inclusive to women of all ages and any marital status. This is in the works, and it may be a while before it comes to fruition, but if it works out, I am very excited about the prospect.
Outside of possibly founding and being a director for a new international pageant, I am looking at competing in more pageants in the near future. My goal is to continue to raise awareness about abuse and advocate for governments to support victims and survivors of any kind of abuse, to create more consequences and mandatory rehabilitation for abusers, and to put an end to the ways human beings can hurt and take advantage of one another.
Even outside the world of pageantry though, my career in psychiatry will revolve around ending suffering. My dream is to open a trauma therapy clinic when I graduate from residency, and I hope to cure the suffering of those who have experienced significant trauma.
My idealized vision of a world without any abuse whatsoever may not be realistic in my lifetime, but I can do my part to make the world a better place through my personal choices, advocacy, and my job in a helping profession.
I encourage everyone to think about how they can also contribute to making the world a better place.