‘I AM FROM WINDSOR, ONTARIO, CANADA’
’71 Miss Dominion of Canada winner always put Windsor first
When you envision an international beauty pageant, an RCMP uniform – hat and all – is not quite the attire you’d expect one of the participants to be wearing.
But Lana Drouillard wore it with pride as she represented Canada competing for Miss Universe in Miami and Miss World in London, England, just days after being crowned Miss Dominion of Canada on Canada Day 1971.
The whirlwind of winning and competing came with shock and surprise for Drouillard – especially since she hadn’t even entered herself into any sort of pageant in the first place.
“I was instructing at a local business college and my students submitted my name to enter the Miss Windsor Jaycees Pageant without my knowledge,” explains Drouillard.
Once entered, she had decided to go through with the local pageantry and won. She was then automatically entered to represent Windsor in the Miss Dominion of Canada pageant.
“Realizing I needed to see this commitment through, I took a short leave of absence from my workplace to participate for one week at the national pageant in Niagara Falls,” says Drouillard. “So when I won, it truly was a total surprise to me and not expected at all.”
Drouillard, then 20 years old, had never left Windsor-Essex, with the exception of the occasional trips to Detroit. But after being crowned, she says she then began her “oneyear reign,” travelling more than 60,000 kilometers in one year across Canada – including northern regions like Yellowknife – and to more than 40 cities in the U.S. and in Europe.
Days after winning Miss Dominion of Canada, Drouillard was daunted by representing the nation on an international level for the Miss Universe and Miss World titles. She called the competitions interesting, but “a little terrifying ” at the same time.
“I was your typical, 5-foot-5 girl-next-door type in an official Royal Canadian Mounted Police hat and uniform competing with ladies that were absolutely stunningly beautiful – many who were professional models, exotic looking, extremely tall and very much the qualities judges in an international pageant were looking for,” describes Drouillard.
“This didn’t deter me, though. I decided to enjoy the experience and had a ball, and I had nothing to lose because I stayed focus on the very exciting experiences of travel and appearances I had before me over the next year, which the majority of contestants did not,” she adds.
Drouillard says the “experience of a lifetime” allowed her to see firsthand the beauty and diversity of Canada in terms of landscape, customs and cultures. The Windsor native says she realized how lucky and blessed she is to live in such an amazing and safe country as Canada. “I remember on many occasions arriving in one of our provinces and being somewhat overcome with joy at seeing such beauty – the mountains, the ocean, the whales – and I would have tears in my eyes,” says Drouillard.
Although she got the chance to travel extensively across the United States and into Europe, Drouillard says her “love affair with Canada” remained.
At each city she visited, in Canada and abroad, she would request that time be allotted for her to either visit a school or a hospital children’s ward. She calls them definitely a highlight of her travels.
“I would place my tiara on the heads of small little girls much to their delight and always showed them where Windsor, Ontario was on my map, while answering the many, many questions they had about our country and my hometown of Windsor,” says Drouillard.
Amidst the celebration, her Miss Dominion of Canada title also came with some sobering moments in her yearlong worldwide journey. She recalls in several cities in the U.S., as the Vietnam War took place overseas, women would give her bracelets with MIA – missing in action – inscribed alongside the names of men who were their brothers, sons or husbands.
“Those instances – when those women handed me those bracelets – definitely stand out in my mind when I think back to all that I experienced as Miss Dominion of Canada,” recalls Drouillard.
Throughout her travels, Drouillard was inspired by the responsibility that came with her Miss Dominion of Canada title.
“Throughout Canada and other parts of the world, they referred to me as ‘goodwill ambassador of Canada,’ and I approached this role very seriously as a very important job to promote my beautiful country – as well as my city – with pride,” explains Drouillard.
She says she has now gone full circle in her life, and is now a goodwill ambassador in Windsor-Essex in her role as director of marketing and communications at the WindsorEssex Economic Development Corporation.
“I represented and promoted Canada, and to now have the privilege of promoting our beautiful Windsor-Essex region is an honour,” says Drouillard.
Her responsibilities in her current role include: the development of strategic marketing and communications plans and strategies to support local business development teams to strengthen existing businesses, advertising and marketing externally the WindsorEssex region as the ideal location to invest and live, and communicating locally about the excellent programming and support that’s provided for entrepreneurs and small businesses.
“Windsor-Essex is a beautiful, affordable and a welcoming place to live,” says Drouillard, who spent more than 25 years working and living in western Canada and Toronto before returning to the region about 10 years ago.
“I love it here and wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. Living elsewhere made me realize and appreciate all that our region has to offer and what I was missing.”
A long growing season was one of the things Drouillard says she missed while living outside of
Windsor-Essex. As an avid gardener, Drouillard takes pride in her backyard, an “outdoor oasis” as she describes it, with a multilevel deck, pool, pond and plants of all types of varieties colourfully scattered about.
In her bedroom, in a glassed frame and laid out on royal blue fabric, is some of her Miss Dominion of Canada memorabilia, including her tiara and several of the sashes she wore during her reign.
“I remember these days fondly because I reflect on the many opportunities the people I met provided to me,” says Drouillard.
Just like anything in life, you will get out of an experience the efforts you put into it, says Drouillard.
“Let your inner beauty - all those good qualities like confidence, passion and caring – be an example of who you are and demonstrate in everything you do,” says Drouillard. “Outer beauty may get people’s attention, but it’s your inner
beauty that will be remembered. Just keep everything in perspective, work hard, be a proud Canadian and absorb the experiences that you will remember for a lifetime. Just be yourself, stay honest and enjoy.”
Let your inner beauty be an example of who you are and demonstrate in everything you do.
Lana Drouillard, posing next to a framed picture of her as Miss Dominion of Canada, says being a ‘goodwill ambassador of Canada’ meant she could promote her city of Windsor too – a role she continues today with the WindsorEssex Economic Development Corporation.
Clippings from her days of competing in beauty pageants fill up Lana Drouillard’s photo albums.
Next Saturday: Amber Bernachi, two-time finalist for Miss Universe Canada and Miss Eco International 2017 winner.