Hello everyone!
Tonight, the Miss Teen Canada-World delegates were fortunate enough to be visited by 4 amazing and successful women. We had the opportunity to here their incredible stories; we learned a lot from them.

Mentor #1: Melani Chong

Our first mentor was none other then Ford Canada model, Melani Chong. She shared with us her journey in modeling, and several career changes.

When Melani was in high school, she was very athletic. She had no intentions of becoming a model. One day, Ford was having model try outs at Melani’s local mall. Knowing she wouldn’t be interested in going, Melani’s dad tricked her into auditioning. Surprisingly, she achieved a call back, and was signed on with Ford Modeling. She then decided to embrace the modeling career, even though it meant losing focus in her sports. Melani became the face of MAC cosmetics, and dedicated 18 years of her life to modeling. “Don’t forget your dreams” Melani reminded us over and over. And she didn’t. Melani became a stylist in many fashion shows and a variety of big events.

Melani speaking to the delegates.

When Melani became pregnant with her first son, she realized she may never be able to model again. But instead of of looking at the situation negativly, she decided that “health [was] as important as looks” and began her own organic cosmetic line, Soya Boutique. In order to do this, she went back to school to gain the technicians degree necessary to begin her cosmetic line.  Soya Boutique is all about longevity and beauty in simplicity. Melani uses organic, local products in her line to guarantee health and beauty.

Melani warned us that as young beautiful women, we may not always be taken seriously, and that we can’t always rely on our looks. “Have integrity in your ambitions” was the advice she gave, “and you will go far.” This is a quote she shared:

Wisest is he who knows what he does not know.

– Socrates

“Sometimes when you don’t know everything, more oppurtunities are made known to you,” Melani told us. Her equation to life is passion=drive=core actions. Grasp the oppurtunities that are made know to you, and along the way, you will find your core values, and live them to the fullest.

Mentor #2: Katrina Hadden

Katrina Hadden

Katrina is a size 12 model, “and proud of it.” But it wasn’t always like this; Katrina struggled with an eating disorder because she “didn’t fit into any category.” She wasn’t a petite model, but she wasn’t a plus size model either. Growing up, Katrina was always the “tall one” in school and suffered a lot of bullying. This also contributed to her lowered self esteem later in life. But she overcame her eating disorder and learned to love her body, and herself. She became a trainer and gained back her health.

After much deliberation, Katrina decided to try modeling again; she took a leap of faith and moved to Toronto. She’d set a new goal and was going to conquer anything in her path to reach it. After going to different auditions, Katrina was discovered by Ben Barry Modeling; they hire on diverse groups of people to give a more accurate portrayal to viewers. Why did they choose Katrina out of a room full of other beautiful women? Because of “the energy [she] brought to the room.” It’s not always the thinest or the most beautiful that get chosen. It’s the one who has confidence and light in her or himself.

Sunny Fong Cashmere

Katrina hit her big break when Sunny Fong from Project Runway desinged a dress for her to wear in Toronto fashion week. So even though Katrina was teased and bullied in school, she used what she had to build herself up. “Everyone has a place in this world,” so be confident in who you are. This is a poem that Katrina’s mom used to say to her and has helped her counter many obstacles:

Don’t Quit

 Don’t quit when the tide is lowest,
For it’s just about to turn;
Don’t quit over doubts and questions,
For there’s something you may learn.

Don’t quit when the night is darkest,
For it’s just a while ’til dawn;
Don’t quit when you’ve run the farthest,
For the race is almost won.

Don’t quit when the hill is steepest,
For your goal is almost nigh;
Don’t quit, for you’re not a failure
Until you fail to try.

 -Jill Wolf

I learned from Katrina that confidence can overcome almost anything. Having confidence, and the courage to let it shine

Katrina and me

Mentor #3: Alex Orlando

Alex Orlando speaking.

Alex is a highly decorated, world class rhythmic gymnast. This young Canadian athlete told us her story of growing up and facing the struggles of youth, while at the same time, maintaining intense gymnast training.A widely spread notion is that Olympic athletes are very strong and put-together people, but Alex told us she was just like every other teenager.

Alex`s main message was “you are not alone.” Everyone faces the challenge of teenage hood and all of its firsts; “first love, first

Alex Orlando

failure, first heartbreak…” they all make us stronger in the end. Alex is a very strong person today, but she had to hit rock bottom first: When Alex didn’t make it to the Olympics with gymnastics she felt like her whole world was gone. Gymnastics was her identity, and it was gone. After a time, Alex realized that gymnastics didn’t have to be her identity;

Alex at the Olympics

even though she didn’t qualify, she did gain a lot of knowledge over her years of training. “It`s the journey, not the destination; not making one did not take away 12 years of her life! So Alex surrounded herself with positive people, began training in rhythmic gymnastics. Today, she is an Olympian in her sport, but her life isn’t consumed by it.

“Make sure you stay a well rounded person. But don`t hold back, give life your all. Just go for it!”

Mentor #4: Dr. Natalie Archer

The first thing this  “proud dentist” said to us was “you are not fully dressed without a smile.”

Dr. Natalie Archer

Natalie is a dentist as well us the mother of two children; these are both full time jobs! She is an outstanding woman and we were very fortunate to have her speak to us. She started off by reassuring us that if we didn’t know what we wanted to do for the rest of our lives, that ok; it is normal.  In fact, not knowing allows you to embrace more opportunities as they come your way! And this doesn’t mean you’ll be wasting precious years of your life because “no one can ever take away your education.” Natalie gave us an analogy in how we should look at our career life:

“Spiders select specific locations to build there webs. They build them with intricacy and precision; angled and strong because you never know where you’re going to catch that fly.”

Natalie speaking.

As women, our society makes it difficult for us to pursue professional careers. But society needs women make high risk business decisions. Women are predisposed to excel in certain areas of technology but not many women enter the field. This is because some women let

Natalie at work.

stereotype or expectation hold them back. Only 38% of women are the money earners in the family. Before you settle down, Natalie told us, make sure you know it is with a partner who will support you in all your endeavours, but also know how to put themselves on the back burner.

Whether having a family is important to you or not, “make having children a priority before it is too late.” Women can succeed in family and business life if they choose do to so.

Natalie’s words were very encouraging and inspiring. As were all the women we heard from on sunday. I will treasure their advice because they have all lived full, well-rounded, and happy lives. I hope to lead a similar life as I grow out of teenagehood. Thank you ladies for taking the time to speak to us.


Written by: Somer McNeil

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