The building was filled with anticipation. A group of girls was crowded around the front desk, waiting.
“When is she going to be here?” One little girl asked several times, bouncing up and down on her toes. One of the Club Staff replied that the lady would be there soon.
When she walked in, the girls abandoned the desk to crowd her, asking if she really was from a beauty pageant. She laughed and said she was and their anticipation changed to excitement.
It was Tuesday night at the first Go Girls! Program at BGCBigs’ West Club and the lady was Kiki Chen, contestant in the Miss World Canada 2014 Pageant. Kiki, along with her friend and fellow nurse Weyinmi Lori, came to talk about beauty and self-esteem.
Go Girls! is a group mentoring program that focuses on physical activity, balanced eating, and self-esteem. According to the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada website, the most important goal of the program is to positively shape the lives of young women and girls by helping them build a positive self-image.
The program seemed like the perfect opportunity to bring in Kiki. “With the pageant, we are encouraged to work with organizations and try and use this title for good,” Kiki explained. “It’s really important to me that girls understand that they are beautiful no matter what and that society’s idea of beauty shouldn’t hold them back.”
Once the young girls (seven of them) settled down, one asked when they would be able to get their makeup done.
“I think you’re all a little young for makeup,” Kiki responded, wearing very little makeup herself. “You’re beautiful just the way you are. We are going to let you try some Mary Kay products and paint each other’s nails, but first I want to tell you why I’m here.”
The room was completely silent with everyone’s attention focused on Kiki.
She started by telling the girls about the meaning of self-esteem and the things that can stand in its way. For Kiki, those barriers were the media and her friends. She was always reading fashion magazines and watching shows about models. She told the girls that when she was their age she often felt ugly. Her friends made comments in passing about her weight. Their judgments hurt so she started dieting. In relatively little time, the diet turned into an eating disorder.
But refusing to eat and losing incredible amounts of weight didn’t make Kiki feel any prettier.
“Dieting didn’t help my confidence – it made it worse. I wasn’t able to accept and be happy with myself,” Kiki said. “After 10 years, I’m just now really able to focus on my self-esteem.”
Since recovering from her eating disorder Kiki does her best not to read too many magazines or let the other women in the pageant shake her self-confidence.
Kiki ended her personal story by telling the club girls that they are each created uniquely. “You don’t need to compare yourself to someone else because there is no one else like you.” She advised them about the influence of magazines and pressures that can come from their peers; they need to put their own health and self-esteem first. “If the people you spend time with or the magazines you read make you feel bad about yourself then you need to walk away.”
Before the girls got to try Weyinmi’s hand cream and lip balm, and put some colour on their nails, Kiki said one last thing: “Let who you are on the inside shine through, and that will speak louder than any looks. You are what makes you beautiful.”
Click here to view more photos from the program.