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How Miss Wheelchair Canada Is Breaking Beauty Misconceptions

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This past August, the Wheelchair Dance Sport Association of Canada held an event called Miss Wheelchair Canada, a beauty pageant celebrating women of all cultures and abilities, specifically women who use wheelchairs. The heart and soul behind Miss Wheelchair Canada is Olesya Kornienko, the president of the Wheelchair Dance Sport Association of Canada. Kornienko first came across the concept of “Miss Wheelchair Canada” from a friend in Poland, who hosted Miss Wheelchair Poland. Kornienko decided that Canada should have one too, and so Miss Wheelchair Canada was born.

I thought I knew the concept of a beauty pageant, which was to look amazing and be able to do brilliant things for your community. I never imagined myself competing in a beauty pageant, let alone a beauty pageant for women in wheelchairs. There’s a stigma attached to using a wheelchair, which includes the idea that you are unkempt, unattractive and incapable of being a productive member of society. Anyone who knows me can and will object to this.

On August 25, 2018, I was put to the test. Despite being a Creative Writing major at Douglas College, I’m constantly trying to find innovative ways to make a character be in a wheelchair because why should I hide the best part of myself? The idea of using a wheelchair is associated with such a negative perspective, and many people automatically consider you a weak person. I feel extremely blessed to be part of a movement that showcases women in wheelchairs as fierce and confident, because that’s who these exceptional women truly are.

The experience was incomparable to anything I’ve done before. Six women including me were participating in workshops at the Gathering Place Community Center where we tried on our gowns, had a hair and makeup team and received dance lessons from Lana Shahar. Shahar showed us dance moves, adapted accordingly for everyone, demonstrating that women in wheelchairs can dance like anyone else would. The grand event took place at the Roundhouse Community Center, with an audience of approximately 100 people. Bean Gill, an Edmonton woman won the prestigious crown of Miss Wheelchair Canada 2018. Gill embodies what it means to be Miss Wheelchair Canada as she is a co-founder of a rehab center.

This story originally appeared on The Writing Side.

Originally published: September 24, 2018
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