Ottawa’s Samantha Pierre, while smart, well-spoken and beautiful, is far from the stereotypical pageant queen, writes Tracey Tong.
Meeting Samantha Pierre at the University of Toronto, you might not realize at first that you’re speaking to Miss Teenage Canada.
She’s beautiful, smart and well-spoken – all qualities you would expect from a winner of the illustrious competition. Yet there is nothing about the 19-year-old Ottawa native to suggest she’s a stereotypical beauty pageant queen.
She’s down-to-earth, doesn’t spend hours in front of a mirror – “most days I never do my makeup and my hair goes up in a ponytail,” Pierre says – and has a great sense of humour to boot. She’s in school studying International Relations, with an eye to becoming a corporate entertainment lawyer.
“It is interesting actually,” she says. “When I got to university here in Toronto I didn’t tell anyone I was Miss Teenage Canada up front. Most people figured it out through tags on my Facebook and Instagram.
“It became a fun and friendly joke as I was different, they said, from what they thought of as a ‘pageant queen.’ We don’t look flawless 24/7.”
But aside from the social media tags, there are certainly things that set Pierre – known as Sam or Sami to her friends – apart.
She speaks English, French, Spanish and German fluently, and is competent in Italian and American Sign Language. She’s trained in opera, musical theatre and jazz vocals, and has worked professionally in Ottawa.
Her talents have manifested in a slew of arts awards. An honours graduate of the drama program at Canterbury High School, she received a silver medal in her graduating year. She’s earned more than a dozen musical, dramatic arts and dance scholarships, and over 100 awards.
While many of her peers are seasoned pageant competitors, Pierre is a relative newcomer to the circuit. With the prompting of photographers who assured her she’d do well, she entered her first competition last January, after learning about the pageants on Facebook.
To her surprise, she won the Miss Teenage Ottawa title and later, was first-runner up in the Miss Teenage Ontario pageant, which advanced her into the Miss Teenage Canada competition.
Her family is very close, which made her move to Toronto earlier this year difficult.
She calls her parents her greatest support system. “My mom is my biggest fan. (We) are as different as two people can be and of course we fight but we have that wonderful relationship where we’ll yell and scream at each other, and five minutes later be best friends again, watching Downton Abbey,” she says.
“My mom knows all my secrets, whether I want her to or not. It’s really nice to always have someone who knows you like that.”
Her father is the one she goes to for logical and well thought-out advice. “I can always have interesting conversations with my dad.”
Despite driving each other crazy the way siblings do, Pierre and her younger brother have each other’s backs. “He kills the spiders for me, fixes the TV when I press a button and … one time he even let me curl his hair for $5 so I could practise with my new curling iron.”
Even with the distance between them, she manages to stay in touch.
“I still call my mom once every few days,” she says, “and only some of the time is it to ask about how to use the laundry machine,” she jokes.
Her experience with pageants has been all positive, and she wants people to know that it’s not the shallow, all-out catfight that movies often depict it to be. “There is no sabotage.”
She describes her fellow competitors as “truly the nicest and most compassionate girls I have ever met. Forgot a bobby pin? They got you! Blister or cut anywhere? There are three people offering you bandages. Homesick? Don’t even think twice, you’ll have a mob of girls on you,” she says.
“Throughout the (competition) week, we lifted each other up, helped each other out, learned, cared and bonded with each other.”
Aside from meeting people from across the country, Pierre says being Miss Teenage Canada has given her something very valuable: vastly expanded opportunities with having new credibility and support.
Being Miss Teenage Canada has allowed her to organize and run her own successful charity events with politicians from Ottawa. “Without the title, it would have been a little more difficult,” she says. And with her positive attitude, she’s sure to make a difference.
For the young people who look up to her, Pierre says it’s important to work hard while being selective. “Make every day count,” she says.
“Every day you have to be smart about the choices you make and what jobs you want to work hard on because there are only so many hours in a day.”