Volume No. 2 Issue No. 52 - Monday September 2, 2008|
Glenora Joseph: Plus-size Advocate
By Nicole Georges-Bennett
Dominican- born Glenora Joseph loves pageants: The glamour, the glitz, the fashions, even the impassioned cries for world peace. She entered her first pageant at age 9, as a contestant in the Miss Jupe competition.
Glenora Joseph produces the Miss Canada Plus Pageant.
After moving to Toronto, Canada, she was encouraged by a relative to enter the Miss Black Ontario Pageant. “My sponsors were House of Lorraine, founded by Dominican designer, Lorraine Delsol, who also designed my beautiful white mermaid gown, and another Dominican ex-patriot, V.J from VJ Graphics.” Joseph recalls.
Although the overall experience was very rewarding, she did feel uncomfortable being one of the larger girls competing. “I was a size 12, and I was often referred to as the ‘chubby contestant’. I was very uncomfortable with my size in the pageant but I wanted to showcase myself as I was.”
Because of her Dominican roots, Joseph had not experienced this type of self doubt before. “I had never looked at a voluptuous woman in Dominica in a negative way, because that is definitely who we are: Curvy, strong, healthy, beautiful and fit all over.
I started experiencing this negativity in Canada, watching it on television and main stream magazines.
I would never see a plus-size model in a magazine. It has not changed the way I think, which means in a positive light, but I haven’t seen the media give a fair message about curvy women or people in general. It always comes off negative.”
Joseph set out to combat the negative perception of plus-size women in Canadian society, and in 2003 she founded the Miss Canada Plus Pageant; a pageant designed to raise the self-esteem and self-worth of voluptuous, curvy women.
“I wanted to put an extraordinary effort into a unique event for the advancement of plus size women. Miss Canada Plus redefines the thinking behind pageants. MCPP is a platform for bold, beautiful, BIG, intelligent, fashionable, talented young women to showcase themselves; to build and have self confidence and to be professional.”
Glenora ensures her message of self-acceptance remains the core of the pageant, by donating part proceeds of the show to charities that promote healthy self image.
However the appeal of Miss Canada Plus, has attracted mainstream sponsors as well as clothing lines geared towards curvy women.
There have been four editions of the show, and Glenora is preparing for the fifth pageant scheduled for December 2008. She says the feedback from the public has been overwhelming.
“Wow! Words can’t express the positive gestures we have received. People are excited to know there is a plus size pageant in Canada. We get emails from all over Canada and the US, from people applying to participate.”
She adds that parents of young teens are asking her to start a Mini-Plus pageant for adolescent girls. “We also hear from men who love what the pageant does –empowering curvy women,” she reveals.
Joseph, as a female producer of a pageant, says she does not see these contests as degrading to women. “I don’t see pageants in that manner, as reducing women to sex objects.
It’s about the organizations’ purpose, its mission and objective and the scenes which are presented on stage on the night of the show.” She points to the Miss Canada Plus show’s format as an example.
“One of our segments is in Career attire, and that’s about a profession the contestant is pursuing and states her goals in life for her future.
Another segment is about Lifestyle and fitness; about wellness and feeling good about oneself, from the inner self and outer voice.” The show’s other segments include talent, communication, and evening wear.
Attracting an audience to a plus-size pageant has never worried Joseph. “When I competed years ago, I will always remember the crowd support.
They gave me confidence to be on stage and to feel great about myself. People want this type of pageant, it’s needed and they look forward to it every year.”
She is particularly proud of the four MCPP queens who have reigned thus far: Denise Azeez, Daniella Taurasi, Cindy Bourassa and the current queen, Stephanie Conover.
Professionally, Azeez is a social worker and plus-size model Taurasi, is a professional singer, and Bourassa is a regional manager within the banking sector. Conover is an aspiring vocalist, about to launch her debut album in October.
“I have seen so many of the contestants develop their confidence and poise. They continue to make me proud to see them blossom into role models, and enjoy their life, for the sky’s the limit for all of them.” Joseph says.
To ensure the quality of the show, Joseph is hands-on at every stage of production. “I certainly love to produce and see pageants. It is a passion for me. Being the president and producer of the Miss Canada Plus Pageant, I am not afraid to be backstage on my hands and knees pinning a contestant’s talent costume or her evening gown.
I drape and pin sashes, glue buttons on costumes and assist the stage manager or host from back stage.” She explains she is not content to be merely a spectator at her shows.
“I like to know things are flowing and are happening in a positive way backstage. I want the ladies to be comfortable, because it is a very important time and experience for them.
I am not a shy person, I love the camera but I want to empower young plus size women with the right tools to feel comfortable in their own skin.”
In the future, Joseph has a number of projects planned: To launch an online newsletter and a Television show to address plus-size issues, to host similar pageants in at least two other cities and to set up seasonal fashion shows at mainstream malls and workshops, for plus size young women and men.
Joseph is committed to forging ahead as a pioneer in the curvaceous movement, “Most of all I want to continue to be true to the Plus-Size Revolution! It is my passion.”
The 2008 Miss Canada Plus Pageant will be held at the Shriners Banquet Hall in North York, Toronto on December 7th from 7:00pm.
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