For Siera Bearchell, pageantry has always been about advocacy and inspiration, rather than glitz and glam.
Before being crowned Miss Universe Canada in 2016, her pageant journey began as a teen, after losing her family home in Moose Jaw, Sask.
Amidst the tragedy, she began volunteering for the Canadian Red Cross, using her experience with grief to help others in need.
Shortly after, she came across an ad for Miss Teen Saskatchewan. Bearchell thought it was the perfect opportunity to spread her positive message and share her love for humanitarianism.
"When I entered the pageant, I had no idea what I was doing," Bearchell, now 30, told Yahoo Canada. "I showed up, shared my story and my volunteer work, and it resonated with people."
After winning Miss Teen Saskatchewan, Bearchell went on to win Miss Teen Canada World in 2009.
Years later, Bearchell was crowned Miss Universe Canada, which gave her a ticket to represent Canada at Miss Universe, held in the Philippines in 2016.
"When representing Canada, I wanted women to see me as a real person, not something that's unattainable. I was healthy and happy, but before Miss Universe I was told I needed to work on my body," Bearchell said.
'I proved everyone wrong'
Hearing she needed to lose weight before the pageant was jarring. In her eyes, she didn't need to change her body to represent the ideals of the competition — courage, intelligence and leadership.
Due to the criticism, Bearchell decided to prepare for Miss Universe on her own, without a mentor.
Women need to be celebrated for their uniqueness and what they bring to the world.Siera Bearchell, 30
"People called me Miss Piggy, Miss Whale — and it was outrageous. But I let my true self shine and stood up for myself and what I believed in," Bearchell said.
"I ended up placing in the top nine at Miss Universe, so I think I proved everyone wrong."
To the self-love advocate, true beauty starts from within and has nothing to do with size, age or appearance.
It's this message the influencer is keen to share.
"Pageants taught me a lot, but mainly that women need to empower women. Women need to be celebrated for their uniqueness and what they bring to the world," Bearchell said.
Taking care of herself as a mom
To look after herself amidst these comments, and in stressful times, Bearchell turned to physical activity.
"The endorphins released during exercise are a huge part of my mental health routine," she said. "Moving my body, or going out and getting fresh air definitely helps me reset."
With two young children —Lily Jaymes, born in 2019, and Iver Thomas Scott, born in 2022 — finding time to work out can be difficult.
In addition to movement, Bearchell also focuses on short breathing exercises, meditation and stretching that she can fit in-between her children's naps, feeding and appointments.
One of the most challenging parts of motherhood is maintaining my identity outside of being a mom.Siera Bearchell
While Bearchell is loving the experience of motherhood, the journey has come with challenges. Like many new moms, she experienced exhaustion, fatigue and uncertainty, she said.
"For me, one of the most challenging parts of motherhood is maintaining my identity outside of being a mom," Bearchell said. "In addition to the sleepless nights."
When it comes to advice for new mothers, Bearchell wants people to trust their instincts.
"There's so much information online and it can be overwhelming, but deep down, do what you feel is right for you and your baby," she said.
On social media, Bearchell has made it her mission to share the realities of parenting.
As many accounts often glamorize motherhood, she wants to show people that things aren't always perfect — and that's OK.
"Let's face it, being a mom is hard. And no one really teaches you how to do it. So I want people to feel less alone and hopefully my content helps them," she said.
Showing up for herself
In the future, Bearchell is stepping away from pageants and turning her attention to content creation.
She said she aims to create relatable content about her life for her own channels, but she has a goal of helping businesses develop content strategies as well.
Talk positively to yourself, and show up for yourself.Siera Bearchell
"I have a lot of experience in the online world, and I'm really excited and passionate about helping businesses with great products get their name out there thorough social media. It's really the way of the world now," Bearchell said.
Although Bearchell's journey has been filled with ups and downs, she feels she's finally hit a good balance between work, parenting and self-love.
The influencer wants women everywhere to know that while life can be tough, you have it within you to succeed.
"Talk positively to yourself, and show up for yourself," she said. "It takes work, but I promise you got this."