Like many young girls, Abby VanderMeulen dreamed of being on stage in a pageant.
But she never thought of herself as worthy of trying.
“I was always that kid who got picked on in school, bullied. I was not one of the popular kids. I wanted to do this, but I never thought I was good enough,” says VanderMeulen.
Years later, VanderMeulen is returning to her childhood dream by entering the Mrs. BC pageant, which is sponsored in part by Black Press, who operates this newspaper.
She is also hoping the people of this area will step up to vote for her online for the People’s Choice Award, which can be done here or go to directly to the Observer’s website at www.saobserver.net and click on the contests tab.
In addition, the event supports the Cops for Cancer charity effort and online donations can be made as part of VanderMeulen’s effort.
“I saw the ad in the paper and I thought it was time to give it a try… It’s a once in a lifetime thing for me, to do something I really wanted to do when I was much younger. It’s a big step out of my comfort zone.”
VanderMeulen is open about her struggles with depression as an adult. It has been a difficult journey to wellness and VanderMeulen believes this is another step in her healing process.
“I talked it over with my family, with my psychiatrist and they have all supported me doing this. It’s something for me, for my self esteem, to help me grow and feel empowered. There’s a lot of busy things in my life and doing stuff for everyone else. I did this to make myself a priority for one weekend.”
VanderMeulen’s platform is going to be as an advocate for mental health. Her sponsors include Rob’s Office Doc and Blaine Ready from Shoppers Drug Mart, who she notes has been a helpful source of support during her journey with depression.
After seeing the newspaper ad, VanderMeulen sent an application and then had to participate in a phone interview before being told she was accepted into the contest. Since then she has begun her preparations in earnest for the event, which takes place on Canada Day weekend in Langley and Surrey.
First on the agenda is learning to walk in high-heeled shoes.
“I never wear heels, so I’ve got three weeks to practice,” laughs VanderMeulen.
She’s also working hard to prepare answers to possible questions which will be posed during both private interviews with the judges and on-stage questions. And she’s working to put together her outfits for the event, including casual, office wear, sportswear and evening wear. On a tight budget, VanderMeulen has been scouring thrift and consignment stores in search of an evening gown.
“Brand new, those dresses are just way too expensive, so the hunt is on for something that fits and will look good,” she says, noting she had some concerns about the clothing expectations going in.
“There’s nothing in bathing suits,” she says with relief. “Instead you pick a sport and dress in that. I’m doing yoga.”
There is also a talent component, which has to be completed in two minutes. For this VanderMeulen will be using her skills from selling Tupperware to bake a cake in that time.
“With the help of a microwave, it can be done,” she says.