“Canada is the land of immigrants and it is our diversity that makes us beautiful, but I am the one face that is often seen as the face of Canada in certain industries (many industries) and I am tired of it.”
Nova Stevens’ current career as a model and actor was not easy. She was born in Kenya, fleeing the civil war in South Sudan, and was born to parents who decided to send her to Canada at the age of six in the hope of giving her a better life and more opportunities. Although she hadn’t seen her parents for 22 years, she lived in Alberta and Ontario with other families until she was 15 years old. Modeling performances began at the age of 16, and after working briefly in New York, he moved to Vancouver in 2014 where he began working as an actress and model.
We overtake Stevens ahead of the Miss Universe Canada 2020 competition. Victory—Speak with her about why winning this beauty pageant is so important to her, her ongoing work with various nonprofit organizations, and her dedication to racial justice.
Her challenging past and journey to success:
“I definitely think my resilience has improved. I have to be grateful that the past experiences really shaped me and who I am. I think it wouldn’t be as strong as I was if it weren’t for the challenges I faced growing up. I don’t think you have the ability to overcome obstacles that arise suddenly. I’m a firm conviction that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Keeping pushing and pursuing my dreams is a motivating factor. Because I have to be in a place with few resources, not only myself, but my family in a country torn by war.”
Volunteer work with non-profit organizations:
“I always said that I would pay for it any way I could. Canada essentially raised me. While my family was in Africa, organizations and people provided me with resources and support. So giving back to the community was always what I was trying to do, no matter what. 6ix maintenance I’m a Toronto-based organization I work with, with a mission to provide resources to help detained youth stand up and rehabilitate, reintegrate into society and make life better. after that Operation SmileOffers free, life-saving surgery to children with cleft lip and cleft palate. Feed forward, His mission is to eradicate food waste and help unsafe food. What I learned through them is that 58% of all food produced in Canada is lost or wasted, and that food is unsafe for 1 in 5 Canadians. Many people do not know it. I don’t think there are people suffering in their backyard.”
About organizing a free march in Vancouver last summer:
“I went to the first Black Lives Matter protest held in the art gallery and at that point I wasn’t interested in speaking, and I was going there to support everyone who marched for solidarity. But when I got there I felt this urgency, and there was a voice in my head saying that I had to go and talk. I didn’t know what I was trying to say, but I knew I had to go up there. So I said sincerely and didn’t practice anything. Shamica mitchell [an actress/activist] Reach out to me and say,’I heard you say. You inspired me. Let’s march together.’ So Sha Mika and I started a free march [which brought together over 15,000 people in the streets of Vancouver on June 19].
We are also in the process of establishing a non-profit organization with a mission to keep the conversation going and help blacks, natives and peoples of color as a resource, which is often lacking in the community. What matters to me is education and financial understanding. Some of the things I want to do with the organization are getting scholarships for kids and offering business grants to black entrepreneurs. It’s important to empower yourself and I think your business really does. “
Racism in the modeling industry:
“I modeled in Milan, and the casting director said,’What are you doing here, we told the agent. I remember the casting when I said,’No black girl can’. In my mind, I thought,’It’s okay, I just can’t tell someone that way’. It didn’t make much of an impact because I was a grown woman, but at the time I’m still trying to figure out who I am, just imagine that someone was a 16 year old girl who was listening to me like that. It can do a lot of damage to someone.”
Hair and makeup artists who don’t know how to work with darker skin tones and textured hair:
“I have been told to bring my foundation and put on my own makeup throughout my life, and it hurts so much. If you are a makeup artist, you should be able to do makeup to everyone, not just whites. It is a hassle for schools not to teach makeup artists and hair stylists to do hair and makeup to people of all backgrounds. They essentially say,’It’s something you need to focus on because it’s important and what is considered beautiful in society.’ It’s annoying, but if it’s a career, you have to learn it yourself.”
About why she competed three times for the Miss Universe Canada Crown:
“The first was in 2014 and the second in 2018. At that time, I competed with short hair. It was very important to compete with my natural hair on the national stage to truly express myself and show other girls we don’t have to acclimatize to be beautiful. You can be as beautiful as you are. When I didn’t win, I was devastated and I swore to a beauty pageant. But when something happens George Beanie Tunge Won the Miss Universe competition in 2019. She is a black woman from Africa, with the same texture as my hair and the same complexion as mine. This is why expression is so important. It inspires you to be the best version of yourself when you see yourself in others. That’s what she did. She inspired me. So I told myself that if she could beat Miss Universe, if Miss Universe could see her, finally Canada could see me too.”
About the fact that Miss Universe Canada only picked one black winner:
“In 1989, Juliette Powell was the first (and last) black woman to win Miss Universe Canada. It’s been over 30 years. It’s annoying to me that in the last 30 years there hasn’t been another black woman good enough to wear a crown. I would not accept it. Because I don’t think it’s true. Canada is a land of immigrants and it is our diversity that makes us beautiful. But I’m often the one face seen by the Canadian face in certain industries (many industries) and I often find myself tired of it. Canada has to show the world that it is so diverse and the opportunities are equal.”
Her reaction to those who say the pageant is sexist:
“I disagree with their opinion. Beauty pageants empower women. Skills used in competitions are skills that will be used for life. You’re public speaking in front of thousands of people who need a lot of courage. Ready-Be prepared mentally and physically. It’s not as easy as people think. The questions we get on stage are not easy. There is more than’world peace’. You should be able to fluently answer questions within 30 seconds while maintaining diplomacy. Many people don’t think they can. They are strong, confident, resilient, diverse and leaders. Revealing yourself is a sign of leadership. These are hard-working leaders and they use their voices. I want to win because I want to use that platform to advocate change as well as encourage others to use their voices.”