Kourt­ney Lake break­ing new ground

Bay Roberts woman to be first sin­gle mother to com­pete in long-run­ning pageant


A young woman with pale skin and long, straight black hair spends a sig­nif­i­cant part of her day tak­ing care of her three-year-old son in Bay Roberts.

The am­bi­tious 20-year-old will be­gin school in Oc­to­ber to be­come an in­te­rior de­signer.

On top of her al­ready busy life, this sin­gle mother will be­gin a jour­ney no other woman in the prov­ince has ever done be­fore.

At the end of this month, Kourt­ney Lake will be the first mother to com­pete in the Miss New­found­land and Labrador pageant at the Trin­ity Con­cep­tion Fall Fair in Har­bour Grace in the event’s 55 years.

Many Changes

In March the pageant be­gan a tran­si­tion that has brought about some big changes to the an­nual week­end. Two new di­rec­tors were an­nounced for the Miss NL com­mit­tee — Miss NL 2006 Aimee Power of Bay Bulls and Har­bour Grace na­tive Chan­dell Vinnicombe — and they had plans of their own.

The two de­cided to mod­ern­ize the event with a more for­mal at­mos­phere, said Vin­ni­comb.

Power added it was im­por­tant to keep tra­di­tion but there were def­i­nitely some big changes that needed to take place.

The SW Moores Me­mo­rial Sta­dium — the long run­ning venue of the fes­tiv­i­ties — will get a facelift Sept. 29 to trans­form the in­side of the arena into a gala-style event with black velvet cur­tains and for­mal dé­cor. But that is just the be­gin­ning. When the ap­pli­ca­tions were re­leased in April, the dy­namic of the pageant in­dus­try in this prov­ince changed when a very tra­di­tional and wide­spread rule was re­moved from the con­tes­tant cri­te­ria.

The pre­vi­ous rule stated that a con­tes­tant must never have given birth to a child. How­ever, the rule pro­hibit­ing prospec­tive can­di­dates who are mar­ried or di­vorced re­mains in place.

Now, sin­gle mothers are al­lowed to com­pete and Lake will be the first.

Why change the rule?

The com­mit­tee is try­ing to main­tain an all-inclusive pageant, and both di­rec­tors agreed if the rule stayed, they were lim­it­ing a young woman from hav­ing the op­por­tu­nity to rep­re­sent their prov­ince at events.

“If a con­tes­tant is an adult with a child, then we have to as­sume they made a con­scious choice to be a par­ent,” said Power. “No one deserves to be ex­cluded be­cause they have a child.”

Trin­ity Con­cep­tion fall fair com­mit­tee chair Dale Coombs said the en­tire com­mit­tee was be­hind the pageant for the rule change.

“It shows us mov­ing for­ward with the times,” Coombs ex­plained. “It’s not about beauty, it’s about well-rounded young ladies.”

“Be­ing a mom is not go­ing to hold some­one back from be­ing a ti­tle­holder.”

The pageant has added a fundrais­ing por­tion to their scor­ing this year and the pro­ceeds will be go­ing to the Sin­gle Par­ents As­so­ci­a­tion of New­found­land and Labrador.

“We are so happy to be help­ing out such a pos­i­tive or­ga­ni­za­tion,” Power, who is a so­cial worker, said.

The con­nec­tion of the rule and the cho­sen char­ity weren’t in­ten­tional. In fact, the com­mit­tee had no idea when they chose the char­ity that there would be a sin­gle mother com­pet­ing.

First mom to com­pete

Lake was un­aware of the pre­vi­ous rule for the pageant be­fore sub­mit­ting her ap­pli­ca­tion. She told The Com­pass her friends said she wasn’t al­lowed to com­pete.

“I joined the pageant be­cause I told a few peo­ple about it and they asked if I could be­cause I had a child,” Lake ex­plained. “I said of course I can. And be­cause peo­ple thought I couldn’t made me want to even more.”

The pageant com­mit­tee did not think of the change as some­thing that would be largely ac­knowl­edged and were quite ex­cited to break that bar­rier.

“When (Lake) came to us and said she had a child, we were ex­cited to have her,” ex­plained Power. “It’s a great way to show other young women they can do what­ever they want to, no mat­ter their cir­cum­stance.”

Coombs also added, “Our fam­ily unit in so­ci­ety has changed and we de­cided we were go­ing to change with it.”

World­wide rule

Most pageants from all over the world have a stip­u­la­tion that pre­vents young mothers from com­pet­ing for a ti­tle in the “Miss” di­vi­sion – ages 18 to 27 for Miss NL.

In fact, the big­gest pageant event in the world, Miss Uni­verse, specif­i­cally states in their cri­te­ria that a con­tes­tant must not be preg­nant, have a child or par­ented a child. Most of the pre­lim­i­nar­ies fol­low the same set of rules, in­clud­ing Miss Uni­verse Canada.

The Miss World Canada or­ga­ni­za­tion also has the same rule.

In fact, the only pub­licly an­nounced pageant that The Com­pass found that al­lowed sin­gle mothers was the Miss BC pageant in Bri­tish Columbia.

Pageant di­rec­tor Kelsey Nichols replied to an email from The Com­pass.

“We do al­low con­tes­tants to have chil­dren in our pageant,” wrote Nichols. “We also have a Mrs. cat­e­gory for those who are mar­ried. We feel all women should be able to com­pete no mat­ter what their sit­u­a­tion.”

There has been some back­lash in re­cent years about the strict rules in main­stream pageants.

Last year a con­tro­ver­sial rule that all con­tes­tants must be a nat­u­rally born fe­male was chal­lenged by Miss Uni­verse Canada’s first trans­gen­dered con­tes­tant, Jenna Talack­ova. The rule was re­moved and she was al­lowed to com­pete.

Could this change at Miss New­found­land and Labrador also bring about change in the pageant in­dus­try? Only time will tell.

Photo by Melissa Jenk­ins/Spe­cial to The Com­pass

Kourt­ney Lake is a 20-year-old sin­gle mother of three-year-old Oliver. The Bay Roberts res­i­dent will be the first con­tes­tant with a child to com­pete for the Miss New­found­land ti­tle Sept. 29.

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