By Katia Livshiz
Natalie Glebova never dreamed of becoming a beauty queen. Growing up in her native Russia, the fourth-year ITM student was too busy playing piano, practicing gymnastics and getting ready for a career modelling in magazines and catalogues.
When she saw the Miss Universe pageant on television last year, she though ‘why not?’
Even though she had no previous pageant experience, she filled out an online entry form. That’s how it began.
“I always believe we should take ourselves out of our comfort zones to experience new things,” she says. “By doing that, we learn a lot about ourselves and you’ll thank yourself later because you’ll learn so much more.”
Now, the 22-year-old will be competing for the title of Miss Universe Canada.
Her online application led to her being named a contestant in the regional GTA and Central Ontario Search for Miss Universe Canada.
Out of the 24 hopefuls, Glebova and 11 other contestants were chosen to go on to the final Miss Universe Canada pageant which will be held at CasinoRama on January 25.
If she wins, she’ll be representing Canada in the Miss Universe 2004 pageant. However, she says that winning isn’t even on her mind … yet.
“When I was at the regional competition I forgot about winning. The whole night I was just focusing on having fun,” Glebova says. “I had the best time of my life and I did the best I could.”
Her best was good enough to make the finals. She’ll find out January 25 if it will be good enough to give her a shot at Miss Universe 2004.
The girls are pumped, Glebova says, but all of them are battling nerves.
The pressure can get to some of them, she adds, recalling a contestant backstage at the regional pageant who was nervous before the show and nearly flamed out in spectacular fashion.
“One girl managed to set her hair on fire. Before we knew it, the fire alarms were going off, we were rushed outside, so was the audience, into the freezing cold,” she says. “[The fire department] told us that one of the girls had put oil in her hair and I guess the crimping iron made it start to smoke. But she was okay. She managed to get on stage that night, and she’d gotten her hair fixed so you wouldn’t know it had just been smoking.”
Glebova also admits to sometimes getting nervous on stage and before the show, though not to such an incendiary degree.
“I’m sure you can imagine that being on stage in a swimsuit in front of the judges and an audience is very nerve-wracking.” She says, though she adds that she understands it’s an important part of the competition.
“Physical beauty is a big aspect, I’m not going to lie. But a swimsuit competition promotes poise and body health. They want Miss Canada to be someone who’s fit and healthy.”
Glebova emigrated to Canada nine years ago from her native Tuapse, a small beach town in south-western Russia. After learning the skills in Russia, she has since won several regional gymnastics competitions, which she regards as a good experience for her life today.
“Being involved in sports at such a young age pushes me now and keeps me active,” she says. To keep fit she rollerblades, swims and does aerobics.
Currently, Glebova works as an office manager, which gives her the opportunity to apply her ITM knowledge and demonstrate that beauty queens are about more than bikinis, breasts and booty.
Nonetheless, she is also well aware that not everyone sees beauty queens that way. While Glebova says her family is very excited about her participation in the contest, she has received mixed reactions from her friends.
“Some people think pageants are outdated and demeaning. I can’t help people for thinking that, but I’ve met many of the girls (contestants) and they’re not only beautiful but also intelligent.”
She can certainly say that about the current Miss Universe Canada, Leanne Cecile, who has several university degrees and is now working on a Ph.D. in Pharmacy. Cecile emceed the regional pageant in which Glebova participated and she thinks of her as a very down-to-earth person, not a Barbie.
When Glebova arrives at the hotel at CasinoRama on January 17, she says she is looking forward to being assigned a roommate whom she has never met before, and she expects to have a great time, once again. Throughout the week, the contestants will be rehearsing for the final night and touring Toronto.
“I don’t even realize yet how big this will be. For me, it’s almost like going to Miss Universe, because the show will be in a huge theatre with a large audience,” Glebova says.
To get ready, she has been exercising with a personal trainer and working on her hair and outfits for the pageant.
“Before the pageant even begins, there’s a lot of work involved. Every girl needs a gown, hair colour, hairstyle, a lot of workouts, eating right,” she explains, “There’s months of preparations involved.”
But despite the mishaps that result from nervous situations backstage and the competitive environment of some pageants, Glebova is calm and believes she will be ready.
“I have a lot of things to prepare, but I think I’m going to be ready at the end of this,” she says.