‘I AM FROM WIND­SOR, ON­TARIO, CANADA’

’71 Miss Do­min­ion of Canada win­ner al­ways put Wind­sor first

Windsor Star - - CELEBRATING WINDSOR’S 125TH& CANADA’S 150TH - RE­BECCA WRIGHT

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.

- RE­BECCA WRIGHT

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.

- RE­BECCA WRIGHT

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.

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