A crown for her causes

Miss BC 2011 contestant Natalie Hilder isn't only after a title – she wants to make the world a better place.

Miss BC 2011 contestant Natalie Hilder toured this medical centre/hospital in Kenya during a work study tour organized by her TWU professor.

By Jennifer Lang

She’s overcome a fear of public speaking, launched her own business, worked at a group home for developmentally disabled people, spent a month in Kenya, and paints.

And now Cloverdale’s Natalie Hilder, 22, is ready to add another achievement to her resumé– Miss B.C. 2011.

It’s not such a stretch. Langley’s Tara Teng, recently crowned Miss Canada, claimed the Miss BC 2010 title first.

“I’m definitely not your typical pageant contestant,” she cheerfully confesses.

The red-haired, green eyed beauty – blessed with a glowing complexion – is taking a break from her studies at Trinity Western University this year.

Win or lose the July pageant, she plans to complete her degree in international politics.

Until then, she’s keeping busy. Really busy.

She created her own line of natural skin care products, recently launching a fledgling company called Viridis Naturals – Viridis is Latin for “green”, and she describes the products as Earth and human-friendly.

She uses all natural ingredients to create moisturizers, lip balms and toners. “It’s actually all I use now. I don’t buy product from the store.”

She’s also organizing a charitable hike up the Grouse Grind June 18, with the proceeds going towards microfinance projects in the developing world.

“I’m kind of training for it because I don’t want to lag behind if I’m leading it,” she says.

Her fitness regimen consists of time in the gym for cardio and strength training combined with lots of walking. She also drinks three cups of green tea a day, and plenty of hot water with lemon.

While healthy living is important, she says her life is centred around her faith and passion for human rights – especially women’s and children’s rights. She volunteers at Ten Thousand Villages, a fair-trade store featuring merchandise created by people all over the world.

The crown and the title don’t come with a cash reward. But she’s not concerned with that.

She’s focused on the opportunities the role of Miss BC would bring in terms of reaching people with the things she is passionate about.

It’s surprising to learn she had to overcome her fear of public speaking, a skill she’ll put to the test in July.

“If you spoke to anyone who went to school with me, they’d be like, ‘Oh, that’s the girl who never talks.’”

Talking isn’t a problem for her anymore.

“I was tired of being afraid. I wanted to change. Over the last year or two, I decided I need to be braver now.”

Pageant contestants will all have to perform in an opening dance number.

“Besides public speaking, dancing was another fear of mine,” she reveals.

Undaunted, she’s taken up ballet classes in preparation. “I’m facing my fears.”

A modeling course helped. And in the summer of 2008 she spent a month in Kenya as part of a work/study tour organized by one of her university professors.

The medical facilities, clean water projects, orphanages and schools they visited left a deep impression on her.

The experience was hopeful and uplifting, leaving her with a deeper appreciation for how capable Kenyans themselves are.

“It really taught me to open my mind and not stereotype Africa,” she says. “We met people who were doing wonderful things and were so passionate. So much good can come out of it.”

When asked about the two summers she spent working with developmentally delayed adults, she breaks into a huge smile even as she recalls changing adult diapers and other duties that might not be everyone’s idea of great summer job.

She says that’s when she really learned what it meant to have compassion for other people – until then she hadn’t really understood it in her heart.

“It’s made me much more passionate about human rights,” she adds.

In fact, her main reason for becoming a contestant is the prospect of all the public engagements that would come her way along with the crown and the title.

“I really hope to just talk about the issues of human rights, microfinance and the status of women around the world.

“People don’t view women as people with status,” she says. “Women all over the world are dealing with this,” she says, expressing dismay that in some countries in North Africa the practice of female genital mutilation persists and at the savage treatment of young girls who develop fistulas because they were married and had children too early.

“Issues like that are really important to me,” she says.

Battling sexual slavery and human trafficking are too.

She says Canadians have a responsibility and a moral obligation to help others. She hopes to become a broadcast journalist so she can speak to the issues she feels so passionately about.

The Miss B.C. 2011 pageant takes place July 1 to 3 in Fort Langley. Along with workshops on martial arts and etiquette, the contestants will wear gowns and sportswear, but there’s no swimsuit competition – another factor that sold her on this particular pageant.

As a feminist, she’s come to terms with the beauty aspect that’s “certainly a part of it,” but insists it’s not the main focus of the forum.

It’s something she’s thought about a lot, she says, explaining she finally realized that a pageant is a great opportunity for a young woman.

She was drawn to this particular pageant because of its emphasis on charitable causes.

Last year, the pageant raised $33,000 for Cops for Cancer, an annual campaign involving police and other emergency services personnel.

Contestants are urged to encourage supporters to donate to the charity while pledging support for contestants.

– Natalie’s Twitter page is twitter.com/NatalieHilder. You’ll find a link to her Facebook Page there. The Miss BC website is missbc.ca.

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