For Stephanie Solem, entering the Mrs. BC pageant is an opportunity to inspire others who struggle with anxiety and push past her own challenges in life.
This Canada Day weekend, the Surrey resident will take a second shot at winning the pageant.
“I entered Miss BC when I was younger and unfortunately I had to drop out because my mom was diagnosed with cancer,” said Solem. “So this is kind of like a second chance for me, and when I got accepted I was over the moon.”
It’s particularly meaningful since the charity pageant involves raising funds for Cops for Cancer, and supporting children who have the disease.
“I know how much it can change your life,” she said of the disease that took her mother’s life. “Honestly I’ve always had a drive to make a difference. To live a meaningful life. Losing my mom at such a young age I learned how short life can be. I want to make a difference while I’m here.”
The pageant is also an opportunity for Solem to face her anxiety, which she says is the result of childhood sexual abuse.
“I have suffered from anxiety most of my life and it does stem from the abuse I suffered when I was a child,” said Solem. “But I’m a survivor.”
Talking about it helps, she added.
“The reason I shared that about myself in my biography was to raise awareness and inspire other women who have been abused,” said Solem. “It doesn’t encompass who you are, and there’s no need to bottle it up.”
But she acknowledged the anxiety she battles with makes it hard to put herself out there.
“Being a part of this pageant I really had to push myself,” she said, “and become comfortable in situations I normally wouldn’t be.”
In addition to inspiring others who have anxiety and are overcoming abuse, she hopes to inspire her two children, ages two and five.
“I just want them to see it’s important to have a voice and be active in shaping the future,” Solem said, “and what you can do if you put your mind to it.”
Solem, now a wife and stay-at-home mom, was a trained nurse for five years before having children.
She grew up with foster parents, and 10 siblings, in Tsawwassen.
“It was absolutely a wonderful experience,” she recalled. “I learned so much from my parents and the children in my life. To love unconditionally. I really learned compassion.”
“They have clothing for the curvy plus-size woman, which I am and proud to be,” she said.
The Miss, Miss Teen, Jr. Miss and Mrs. BC Pageant will run from June 30 to July 2 in Fort Langley, with the pageant finale set for 6:30 p.m. at the Chief Sepass Theatre (9096 Trattle St., Langley) on July 2.
Visit missbc.ca for more information and to see a complete list of contestants across the province.