Competing in a pageant made Natalie Levesque realize how strong, intelligent and confident she is.
Levesque, 30, recently participated in the Ms. Galaxy Canada pageant held in Toronto where she placed fourth overall. Out of 15 contestants, she also scored the highest in the Best Evening Gown category.
This was her very first pageant experience.
“When I got called for Top 5, I started crying and freaking out because I was so excited,” she says. “I really wanted to try to make Top 5. I’m honestly very impressed with myself, I think I did really well.”
Taking part in a pageant has been her dream since she was a kid but she never had the confidence, Levesque says.
Born and raised in Timmins, Levesque has always had a passion for the arts including dancing, singing and community theatre. She was involved with a choir for 15 years and plays the guitar, piano and ukulele.
Volunteering is a rewarding experience for Levesque, who was involved with the Canadian Cancer Society for over a decade, made hygiene kits for the marginalized population and did a Facebook live concert for a South Porcupine Food Bank that suffered from a fire in June.
“I’ve always been very interested in volunteering and just giving my time. I’ve just always done that,” Levesque says. Ever since she started doing community service as a high school student, she has never stopped. “I realized I loved helping, so I kept doing it.”
Levesque’s friend, who’s competed in pageants worldwide, told her about the Galaxy Canada pageants. This system has no age, size, height restrictions and allows girls and women regardless of their marital status or whether they have tattoos or children to compete.
As a single mother of two children, with tattoos, Levesque felt the system was tailored specifically for her. She signed up in January of this year and had several months to prepare, although with the uncertainty around the pandemic, she didn’t have her hopes up.
Levesque recalls feeling nervous at the finals, but everyone was very welcoming and there was a sense of camaraderie. The finalists were helping each other backstage, and the amount of bonding that happened within that short time frame was “insane.”
“It’s just a huge weekend of girl-time bonding where we all hang out in each other’s hotel rooms, practising the dance number, showing each other our gowns and pumping each other up,” she says. “It’s honestly one of the most uplifting experiences.”
One of the key takeaways she’s learned from her experience is to put your phone away and be in the moment. On the first day, Levesque was getting used to the atmosphere and wasn’t fully present. On Sunday, she started bonding with people, creating friendships and just having a good time.
She has already signed up for next year’s competition. The experience has “100 per cent” boosted her confidence, Levesque says laughing.
Levesque is currently in the fourth year of pursuing a bachelor’s degree in nursing.
She’s always wanted to go into the medical field because it fascinates her. But she wasn’t sure if she’d be able to do it because for a single mother, going to school is a big change.
“You have kids, you have a life, and then kids go to school, you’re working. Then, one day I was, ‘I’m going to try it, we’ll see how it goes.’ And I tried. So far, so good,” she says. “I do love it.”
Being francophone is very important to her. French is Levesque's primary language and up until university, all of her education was in French. Her children also go to a French school.
"My knowledge in French has helped me in life. I have gotten a multitude of job opportunities because I am bilingual and it has helped me gain a leg up in employment," she says. "It also allows me to reach and connect the French population in my nursing education."
Levesque encourages anyone interested in participating in a pageant to go for it and enjoy the journey.
“I’ve learned so much about myself on this journey. It’s crazy and it’s so positive,” she says. “How strong I am, how confident I am, how intelligent I am ... I've come quite a long way."
Levesque, who plans to stay in Timmins, looks forward to graduating and starting her nursing career.
Dariya Baiguzhiyeva, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, TimminsToday.com