New beauty queen is something to behold
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Those beholders — judges — last weekend chose Lauren Howe as the most beauteous of them all, from a roster of 65 belles, decorating her with sash and tiara as Miss Universe Canada 2017.
“If it were purely about beauty I would not have won, honestly,” Howe tells the Star.
But she is extraordinarily pretty, in a conventional way, as were all the contestants.
I do not begrudge the women their good looks. It’s an asset, like a sharp brain or the ability to hit a curveball.
A few years ago, Howe fell just short of the prize, coming in as second runner-up at the same pageant.
Which did not preclude the former Miss Teen Canada from entering again.
“I found myself this year saying, why not give it one more go? It’s something I’ve always believed in. And it ended up working out this time.”
In 2017, beauty pageants are an anachronism, the utter objectification of females. But I won’t belittle Howe for pursuing the title. There’s entirely too much of women slamming other women over variance of opinion and choices when no harmful consequence can quantifiably accrue from an individual’s value judgments.
No skin off my nose if Howe is dandy with sashaying across a stage in a bikini.
“I’m very difficult to offend,” the 24-year-old says, in a pre-emptive alert about where this conversation might be headed. “There are stereotypes about pageants. There’s aspects of pageants that I myself sometimes have a hard time with. But I’ve been on the inside of it and there is another end to the spectrum.”
Howe’s personal spectrum of accomplishments and interests would likely surprise many. That engineering ring on her finger has been hard won. “I’ve had people ask me, oh, nice ring, did you buy that?” No, she earned it with a degree in industrial engineering from the University of Toronto.
“Regardless of pageants, I’ve always faced stereotypes in my life simply because I was a white blond woman. People don’t assume that I can be smart. When I say I’m an engineer, people are surprised. And I want that to be different for my future daughters. Taking engineering was my point to prove I can do it, I can talk the talk, I can walk the walk. I’m definitely more interested in the business side of things, but I wanted to understand what business engineers do. So when I work with engineers, I’ll have credibility.”
At the moment, after leaving her job in sales strategy for Adidas, Howe has turned her considerable intellect to technology consulting and creating her own start-up company. “I’m working on my own algorithm — it’s like a financial app for people’s phones.”
See, I don’t actually even know what that means.
Also on Howe’s resume: Travel to all seven continents, volunteering with non-profit organizations in- ternationally, from India to Nicaragua, public speaking and mentoring — particularly encouraging females to pursue engineering as a profession.
“I really want to spark a lot more conversations about getting women into engineering, science and technology. After graduating, when I first started interviewing for jobs, I remember walking into certain office cultures and thinking, I can’t see any women here I would connect with. It kind of turns you off wanting to enter that field. And that feeling should not be there.
“Hence, the more we can encourage women, the more we can expose them to the knowledge of you can connect with mentors, they do exist. So let’s built this community and allow young women to build the skills they need before it’s too late. Because it’s important that we have young women doing computer science and math and technology in this day and age.”
Howe is probably most recogniz- able from her two years as in-arena host at Toronto Maple Leafs home games. That gig arose from a TV chat appearance on Off The Record. Somebody sent her the link, she auditioned and got the job. Howe credits her beauty pageant experience for the poise and self-confidence that must have impressed those doing the hiring.
“I was comfortable with being uncomfortable. Comfortable going into a situation where I had no idea what to expect and outside of my educational background. That’s what I picked up through pageants. It’s all what a girl makes of it. Some might go into it because, hey, it sounds cool. But if you go into it with the right mindset, I genuinely believe you can learn a lot about yourself and skills that can be used in a professional sense.”
Kind of like not freezing during the question phase of a pageant. Howe’s speaking moment was a (lame) query about what it means to be Canadian. She cited all the usual stuff about diversity and embracing multiculturalism. Can’t blame her for the dopey question.
At the recent Miss America pageant, judges got a lot more edgy in their probing. Miss Texas gave an unequivocal response to her question about white supremacy, Donald Trump and Charlottesville. “I think that the white supremacist issue, it was very obvious that it was a terrorist attack. And I think that President Donald Trump should have made a statement earlier addressing the fact and making sure all Americans feels safe in this country. That is the No. 1 issue right now.”
So much for droopy statements about world peace, etc.
Raised in Toronto by a single mom, Howe fell into pageantry for practical reasons. Howe was casting about for university scholarships when her mother spotted a news story about how Miss Kentucky had paid off her tuition debt by winnings from his Miss Teen USA title. “It was pretty much a joke from my mom. Like, hey, you can help me with university payments.”
A means to an end, except Howe genuinely enjoyed that environment, made friendships and exploited the opportunities. Who’s to chastise her for that?
As a part-time model, she also points out the dissonance between how that profession and pageantry is viewed. “The one thing that’s always confused me is why pageants get a strong reputation for setting women back. When pageants allow women to have a voice and speak to issues, versus modelling, where you don’t have a voice. You stand and pose. But there’s no criticism among that industry like there is against pageants.”
In November, Howe goes off to the Miss Universe contest — previously owned by Trump — in Las Vegas. Toronto’s Natalie Glebova won that title in 2005.
Perhaps she’ll wear the same dress from the gown portion of this Miss Canada, a sophisticated highnecked white and gold number, which, Howe laughs, channelled her inner Daenerys Targaryen from Game of Thrones. “Mother of dragons! Breaker of kings! It was just this moment of feeling elegant and strong and beautiful.”
You go girl.
Miss Universe Canada 2017 Lauren Howe fell into pageantry while casting about for university scholarships.