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Xeni Gwet’in woman brings home confidence from Toronto pageant

Sierra William said she gained experience, sisters and self-confidence during two-week competition
Sierra William during her participation in the Miss Canada Globe Petite pageant in November of 2022.(Shannon Stump photo)

Xeni Gwet’in pageant contestant Sierra Chi?ela William returned from the Miss Canada Globe Petite pageant in Toronto with jet lag and some new sisters.

William was raised in the community of Xeni Gwet’in First Nation, located 180 kms south west of Williams Lake.

Originally from a family with three older brothers, she said she has now experienced “sisterhood” thanks to the bonding of the young women at the pageant, many helping one another out behind the scenes as each category would go on stage.

One of the highlights for her was a fashion show.

“At the beginning of the week I didn’t really have the confidence to walk in heels,” confessed William, who fell during competition early on in the pageant. Another contestant ran out and gave her a hand up.

“It was honestly a great environment for me to learn to be in a pageant,” said William.

She went to the pageant after her friend and fellow Indigenous contestant, Hailey Wilson had messaged her about it, and Wilson is someone William admires.

“I love how dedicated she is to her work,” said William.

William was awarded the title of Ms Petite of Southern British Columbia and Ms Canada Charity.

The competition included fashion show categories of evening gown, cocktail dress, pyjamas, hoodie and swimsuit.

“It did cost quite a bit of money but it was worth the experience,” said William, who appreciated the support of her family and friends in helping her fundraise for the competition.

She also appreciated being able to showcase her own designs, and some other local creators such as Loretta Combs, Whitney Quilt, 4 Generations Creations and Charlene Remer.

Pageants are often critiqued for their patriarchal origins and as perpetuating the objectification of women through the male gaze but William said she felt empowered by the experience and is now inspired to pursue work in the fashion industry.

“I want to show that Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth out there can do anything you want in life, you’ve just got to believe in yourself,” she advised.

Currently working on her human services diploma at the Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, William said after she completes her diploma and before finishing her social work degree, she is considering attending fashion school for one year to further her sewing business Chi?ela Designs.

William said she is planning to turn down the title of Ms Canada Charity, because she went to the pageant to gain experience and wants to focus on school and her business, which she still loves.

She did win a sash for her advocacy work for the Orange Shirt Society during the pageant and said she was able to highlight some residential school survival stories.

William plans to return to Xeni Gwet’in in Nemiah Valley again for the summer to work for her community.

Read more: Tsilhqot’in woman hoping to bring Miss Canada Globe Petite title to Xeni Gwet’in

Read more: Nemiah Lodge represents a return, forward momentum for First Nation

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Ruth Lloyd

About the Author: Ruth Lloyd

After moving back to Williams Lake, where I was born and graduated from school, I joined the amazing team at the Williams Lake Tribune in 2021.
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