Meet Beenu Bajwa , a biology student from UBC, who entered into pageantry to break the stereotypes associated with it and recently won the title of Miss Canada, first runner-up
By Beenu Bajwa
I am a full time student at the University of British Columbia majoring in Biology with a focus on neurology. Education has always been a top priority for me and my family. In my fourth year, I am in full gear to finish strong and fulfill my lifelong dream of becoming a physician, in specific a general body surgeon.
Pageantry was initially out of the question, due to my busy schedule. I stumbled upon a unique opportunity when I was asked to participate in the Miss BC pageant, something that was outside my comfort zone. I initially turned down the offer as I had never participated in a pageant before. My comfort zone was definitely within the four walls of the library. However when my parents found out about this opportunity, they encouraged me to participate. My dad reminded me that comfort and growth do not co-exist.
The pageant I hesitated about participating is the same pageant in which I won the regional title of Miss.Greater Vancouver 2017-2018, and utilized this title to actively volunteer and empower women to break stereotypes.
I have always had a soft spot for stereotypes. Being raised with a pre-medical background, I remember shying away from telling family or friends that I was competing in a pageant. I wanted to step outside my comfort zone and further challenge my abilities but the societal view and stigma around pageantry made me afraid of being judged. And when I did talk about the competition, a recurring question was — “Do you still want to become a doctor?”
I was surprised by this question, since if I were to join a sport, no-one would question my end goal, yet entering a pageant did. Instead of letting this hinder my participation, this further motivated me to participate and break through the box society has built which prohibits many from being a well-rounded individual.
After winning the regional title, I was asked to compete in Miss Canada 2018 competition in Montreal as a British Columbia representative. I soon realized that this platform will help me motivate the young girls in our Indo-Canadian society to further push themselves. Therefore, instead of declining this opportunity, I embraced it and was in Montreal this February to compete in my first national competition. Upon arriving at Montreal, I was faced with a few obstacles such as language barrier, adapting to the new culture and environment and missing my family. However, I wanted to utilize the Miss Canada platform to empower the women around me and raise awareness of the stereotypes that box the women in our society. This was my aim for the competition and with more than 30 contestants from across Canada, I won the title of Miss Canada 2018 First Runner up and am extremely happy to be bringing this title home to BC.
My advice for other women who may be on a similar journey is “do not let the fear of failure discourage you from pursuing your dreams. The words from the former President Barack Obama always come to my mind: “We did not come here to fear the future; we came here to shape it.”. So set high goals and give it your 100 percent”.
I set high goals for myself too. I wanted to excel in school along with being an active leader in the community and by stepping outside my comfort zone and into the pageantry world. I am also an active volunteer in my community. I co-founded a non-profit organization with my younger brother called Unified 4 change.
Just after a few years of starting this organization, it was able to attract over 450 members from elementary schools, high schools, and post-secondary institutes all across Canada who held the same passion about helping local charities and tackling issues such as the fight against homelessness.
Along with my involvement in Unified 4 Change, I am also serving as the President for UBC’s Young Women in Science and Engineering (young WISE). Growing up, many of my math, physics and science classes were dominated by my male peers. And that is when I realized that some initiative must be taken to encourage women to also pursue these fields. Thus, being involved with UBC Young WISE gave me a great opportunity to motivate the young women around me to pursue their dreams, whether it be going into engineering or the sciences”.
I also volunteer for BC children’s hospital for over 4 years now and currently works in the child-life at the Emergency department. She also volunteers at Evergreen Hamlet, a Brain Trauma Injury center. Health –care has always fascinated me, and being able to help others has become a hobby. I am involved in research at the BC Children’s Hospital on the effects of physical activity programs for children and youth with neuro-developmental disabilities.
Maybe in the end, it’s not about the destination, it’s the journey. So enjoy the process and believe in your abilities.