Miss World Canada pageant touts beauty with a purpose

Miss World Canada pageant touts beauty with a purpose

SURREY — Miss World Canada stands out in a crowd – and not just because she’s a youthful bombshell who looks good in a bikini. Although it probably helps.

Miss World Canada, part of the world’s longest running pageant organization, has been operating since 1952 and is the only beauty pageant that includes philanthropy as one of its main tenets, according to Miss World Canada Chairman and CEO Ike Lalji.

"Miss World organization is the world’s largest and oldest pageant… and 147 countries are part of this pageant," Lalji told the Now. "(It) is different in the sense that it is a philanthropic and charitable pageant. All around the world – year round – our contestants are basically helping different charities and raising funds."

The annual pageant comes to Surrey on Mother’s Day (this Sunday, May 11), with pre-gala events also happening at Pacific Inn Resort in South Surrey.

In its 62-year run of hosting bikini competitions, crowning galas and talent shows, the organization has raised and donated a hefty chunk of cash to charities helping children – the largest share of that going to Miss World Canada’s primary charity, Variety. Miss World Canada has donated around $300,000 to Variety in the last 10 years alone, which helps the children’s charity focus on providing support to children with special needs, including health care services, educational programs and mobility assistance.

Katie Zeppieri, third runner-up in last year’s Miss World Canada pageant held in Richmond, attests to the idea that the pageant really carries the motto that it touts: "Beauty with a Purpose."

The 24-year-old beauty pageant contestant – formerly crowned Miss Italia and again as Miss Fiesta – said that compared to all the other pageants she’s been a part of, Miss World Canada was the only one looking for someone with "more than a pretty face.

"When Miss World Canada came along," added the Toronto resident, "their focus on humanitarian effort stood out amongst all the others, and I can honestly say from beginning to end, my experience with them was that they really were looking for a wellrounded package, someone who can be a positive role model."

And indeed, Zeppieri is. The former Miss Italia launched her own social enterprise called Make Your Mark in 2012, which aims to empower young people to make a difference in the world and educate against bullying. As CEO and founder of Make Your Mark, Zeppieri speaks on anti-bullying at elementary and high schools and has penned a teacher’s resource manual, which has been published by her local school board.

"I wanted to reach out and help people who were going through (bullying, isolation and gossip) as well," she said. "I just saw that there was a need, and I wanted to do something about it."

Being a part of Miss World Canada, she said, gave her the opportunity to voice her platform. Zeppieri is just one of the ambassadors who continues with philanthropic work long after the year in which she appears on the Miss World Canada roster.

Miss World Canada brings its crowning ceremony to Surrey’s Bell Performing Arts Centre on Sunday, May 11, with special appearances by Real Housewives of Vancouver star and ex-beauty queen Mary Zilba and co-star Robin Reichman. Preliminary events are being held at Pacific Inn Resort’s Costa Brava conference room; tickets for an event there Friday, May 9 are $15 at the door, from 7:30 to 9 p.m.

For details, visit missworldcanada.ca/tickets.