My Story: Model Nova Stevens on Beauty Pageants, Activism and More

Photo by Kate White. Design by Daniel Campbell.

Welcome to my story, our weekly series Theater Creations and their road to success.

As a model and actress, Nova Stevens has not eased her current career. She was born in Kenya to parents who, after fleeing the civil war in South Sudan, decided to send her to Canada at the age of six, with the hope of giving her a better life and more opportunities. She hasn’t seen her parents in 22 years, but lived with other family members in Alberta and Ontario until she was 15, when she decided to move out and live on her own. Modeling gigs started coming to her at the age of 16 and after a brief stint in New York, she moved to Vancouver in 2014 where she began working as an actress as well as a model.

This weekend, Stevens will compete for the Miss Universe Canada 2020 crown and we teamed up with him to find out how important it is for him to win this beauty contest, his work with various nonprofit organizations, and racial His commitment to justice.

On her challenging past and success journey:
“I think it definitely made me more resilient. I have to thank my past experiences because they really shaped me and who I am. If not for the struggle, I think I would I think I will be as strong as I am. I do not think I will have the ability to overcome obstacles arising from somewhere. I am convinced that what does not kill you makes you stronger. It is a motivating factor to move forward and chase my dreams. Not only do I have to live for myself but also for my family who are in a war-torn country with very few resources. “

On her volunteer work with non-profit organizations:
“I have always said that I am going to pay it forward any way I can. Canada has essentially raised me. Its organizations and people have given me resources and support while living in Africa with my family So giving back to the community was always something I was going to do, whatever it was. Keep 6ix Is an organization based in Toronto, whose mission is to help young people who are underrepresented, get back on their feet, rehabilitate them and give them resources that integrate them back into society To do and live a better life. Then there is Operation Smile, which provides free life-saving surgery to children with cleft lip and cleft palate and forwards it, whose mission is to eliminate food wastage and help make food unsafe. What I have learned through them is that 58% of all food produced in Canada is destroyed or wasted and 1 in 5 Canadians are food insecure. Many people do not know this. You never think that people in your backyard are suffering. “

At the Independence March event in Vancouver last summer:
“I went to an art gallery previously to protest against Black Lives Matter and at the time I was not interested in speaking, I was just marching in solidarity. But when I got there, I got the impression, There was a voice in my mind telling me that I had to speak. I didn’t know what I was going to say, but I knew I had to go there. So I just spoke from the heart, nothing was rehearsed. Shamika Mitchell [an actress/activist] Reached me and said ‘I heard you speak, you have inspired me, let’s march together.’ And so Shamika and I started the freedom march [which brought together over 15,000 people in the streets of Vancouver on June 19].

We are also in the process of setting up a non-profit with a mission to continue the conversation and to help people of color with black, indigenous, and resources that are often lacking in our communities. What is important to me is education and financial literacy. Part of what I want to do with my organization is to provide a scholarship fund for children and business grants to black entrepreneurs. Empowering yourself is important and I think business really does that. “

Nova stevens model
Image courtesy Nova Stevens

On racism in the modeling industry:
“I was modeling in Milan and I remember doing a casting where the casting director said ‘what are you doing here, we told your agent – no black girls.” In my mind, I was like, ‘which is not right, you can’t say that to anyone.’ I was a grown woman who didn’t really impress me that much, but if I was a 16 year old girl, imagine listening to someone say that I’m still trying to find out if I Who am This can cause great harm to someone. “

On hair and makeup artists who do not know how to work with dark skin and textured hair:
“All my life I’ve been told to bring my own foundation and do my makeup, and it’s very hurtful. If you’re a makeup artist, you have to be able to put makeup on all people, not just blondes. Ko. It’s a problem that schools are not teaching makeup artists and hairstylists to do hair and makeup on people of all backgrounds. They are essentially saying ‘This is what you have to focus on because This is what matters and is considered beautiful by society. ‘ It is painful but if it is your career, then you should learn it yourself. ”

Why is she competing for the crown of Miss Universe Canada for the third time:
“The first time was in 2014, and my second time was competition 2018. At that time I competed with short hair. It was very important for me to represent myself by competing with my natural hair on a national stage, to show other girls that we do not need to conform to be beautiful. You can be beautiful just like you are. When I didn’t win, I was devastated and I stopped the show. But something happened when Zozini Tunzi won the Miss Universe pageant in 2019. I saw myself in the hair. She is a black woman in Africa who has short hair – the texture of my hair, the same texture as mine. This is why representation is so important. When you see yourself in someone else it inspires you to be the best version of yourself. That’s what he did, he inspired me. So I told myself, if she can win Miss Universe, if Miss Universe can see her, maybe Canada can see me too. “

On the fact that Miss Universe Canada has crowned only one black winner:
“In 1989, Juliet Powell was the first (and last) black woman to win Miss Universe Canada. It was over 30 years ago. It is disturbing to me that in the last 30 years another black woman has not been good for the crown. I would not believe that. Because I do not believe it should be so. Canada is a land of immigrants and it is our diversity that makes us so beautiful. But I think that in some industries too many times — too many industries — it is always a face that is being portrayed as the face of Canada and I am tired of it. We need to show the world that Canada is truly diverse and a land of equal opportunity. “

She is sexist in response to what people call beauty pageants:
“I disagree with those people. Beauty pageants empower women. The skills you use in the competition are the skills you are going to use for the rest of your life. You are giving a public speech in front of thousands of people, with great courage. Preparation- You have to be mentally and physically prepared. It is not as easy as people think it is. The questions we are being asked on the forum are not easy. There is a lot more to it than ‘world peace’. You should be able to answer the questions while remaining diplomatic and within 30 seconds. I don’t think a lot of people can do that. These are women who are strong and confident, they are flexible, they are diverse and they are leaders. There is a trace of leadership to exclude oneself. These are leaders who have worked hard and are using their voice. I want to win so badly because I want to use that platform to not only encourage others to use their voice but also to advocate for change. “

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