The Miss Universe Pageant, an international beauty pageant, took place in the Philippines this past Sunday and Siera Bearchell of Moosejaw, Saskatchewan, also known as Miss Canada, made it to the top nine out of more than 80 contestants. Prior to the official start of the competition, she faced criticism on social media for her weight. Called ‘overweight’ and ‘plus size’ by some, Bearchell weighs only 135 pounds at 5’9”, according to Global News. According to Health Canada’s Guidelines for Body Weight Classification, this puts Bearchell closer to the low end of healthy body mass. While Body Mass Index is not always an accurate indicator of health —there are far more serious indicators of physical health such as risk of diabetes and heart disease— The downward trends in BMI of Miss Universe contestants seems to show a preference for very thin winners. According to a report by Superdrug, a UK pharmacy and beauty retailer, winners of the Miss Universe pageant tend to have a BMI of lower than 18.5, placing them in the underweight category.
In a post on Instagram, Bearchell says that people questioned why she was gaining weight, saying it would affect her scores in pageants.
“While I am first to say I am not as lean as I was when I was 16, 20, or even last year,” wrote Bearchell, “I am more confident, capable, wise, humble and passionate than ever before. As soon as I started to love who I was rather than always trying to fit what I thought society wanted me to be, I gained a whole new side of life. This is the side I am trying to bring to the @missuniverse competition. The side of life that is so rare to find: self-worth and self-love. We always focus on the things we wish we could change rather than loving everything we are.”
Bearchell told Global News that she used to struggle with her weight.
“There were some days where I’d have a protein bar and I’d have half at one point, half at another point. And do hot yoga twice, go for a run. I was running my body down. I was miserable, exhausted,” she said. She has since changed her mind.
“I can truly say I am not competing here at @missuniverse just for myself or my country. I am here for the women of the world. I am here to be a role model for women who have struggled to find someone to look up to”.
Bearchell did not allow negative comments to sway her. “Regardless of the outcome, I am so proud, motivated and moved by the countless messages and comments from all of you,” she said on Instagram. “I cannot count how many young women have said, ‘You helped me love myself for who I am,’ or ‘thank you for finally helping me find happiness within myself.’ This is what @missuniverse is all about.”