Siera Bearchell was feeling a mix of excitement and relief after being crowned Miss Universe Canada in Toronto over the weekend.
The 23-year-old native of Moose Jaw, Sask., beat out more than 60 national finalists in order to represent Canada at Miss Universe 2016 later this year.
"I knew coming into the competition that I had a good chance at winning, but you never know what can happen. I just kept telling myself to be myself, enjoy the moment on stage," said Bearchell.
Her win didn't come without some adversity. Bearchell had been battling tonsillitis that she had contracted about a week before she was scheduled to compete. She thought her immune system broke down after running in the Saskatchewan marathon.
Bearchell refused to let her ailment get in the way of participating in an entire week of photo shoots, interviews and speaking engagements for the competition.
"I was a bit shaky, but I still had a sense of calm," Bearchell said. "But I thought if this was meant to be, it's going to happen."
Breaking down stereotypes
Bearchell just completed her second year of law school at the University of Saskatchewan. She's also an entrepreneur, having launched her own brand of clothing, Watered Down Apparel.
She said that with every purchase, 30 days of clean drinking water is provided for people facing a lack of clean water. She's partnered with the Water Is Life organization in order to make that happen. Bearchell said the idea came from a trip to Kenya, where she helped build a school for children.
"I care a lot about the environment, sustaining what we have and helping to regrow what we've taken away," she said.
The former Miss Saskatchewan title holder said that she wants to break down stereotypes and misconceptions surrounding pageant participants.
"For me, it's making the most out of these opportunities, showing people that you can be interested in business and politics and world economics, and still be a pageant title holder."