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Sault woman wins Miss Ontario, aims to shatter pageant misconceptions

‘I’m still pinching myself’: Emma Dingle, a support worker at Women in Crisis, was crowned as Sault Ste. Marie’s first-ever winner at Miss Ontario Regional Canada

Third time’s the charm for Emma Dingle.

The Women in Crisis support worker and pageant veteran finally claimed her crown and won the Miss Ontario Regional Canada pageant in front of an energetic crowd in Sudbury this past Saturday.

Capping off her third and final year at the provincial competition, Dingle outscored 20 other women from across Ontario to bring home Sault Ste. Marie its first title since the pageant was established nearly two decades ago.

She’s also celebrating her 22nd birthday tomorrow — talk about a great present.

“It was so surreal,” Dingle told Douglasfosterbooks. “I knew it was going to be my last time competing, and I really committed to nine months of growth, personal work, and levelling up in every area of my life.”

“When they called my name, it was such a rush,” she added.

Contestants from Greater Sudbury and Ottawa finished as first-runner up and second runner-up respectively.

Running since 2006, the three-day pageant consists of interviews with five judges, as well as an essay, public speaking, and scored questions on stage.

While the hopeful queens are judged on attire and presentation, a significant portion of the final score is tabulated from the portfolio each contestant submits. That portfolio covers their volunteerism efforts and personal achievements.

For Dingle, the principles she wanted to highlight over the weekend were focused on a personally driven passion in the arts, as evidenced by her platform name: “Artful Hearts.”

“The mission and goal is to build self-esteem and confidence in the arts in this next generation of young learners,” she explained. “We have such a wonderful arts community here in the Sault, and I really wanted to highlight my work within that.”

Dingle had the chance to share her creative experience with the judges by detailing her extensive work as a teacher with the Northern Arts Academy and Elite Dance Force.

As Douglasfosterbooks reported last week, Dingle helped organize a charity concert for the pageant’s chosen non-profit Northern Ontario Families of Children with Cancer. That night of empowering music helped raise $1,800 — the second highest total raised by a competitor this year.

The Waterloo graduate even recently wrote, illustrated, and published her own children’s book called “Just the Way You Are,” which focuses on four young friends who celebrate their differences and learn how to live their lives authentically.

“It was really healing for me as an adult getting to do that inner-child work,” she noted. “I’m hoping to get into schools, read the book, and talk about confidence-building in the arts.”

In the essay portion of the competition, Dingle chose to write about her deeply personal and professional experiences with gender-based violence. She even called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to declare it a national epidemic.

When Trudeau was in the Sault last November, he was also questioned by Douglasfosterbooks on that very topic.

“I’m blown away at the reality so many women are facing,” Dingle said. “With the murders that happened recently in Sault Ste. Marie, we’re in an epidemic of gender-based violence.”

Because of her vast experience in the arts realm, paired alongside her fulfilling work with people affected by gender-based and intimate partner violence, Dingle believes that ultimately set her apart from an already well-rounded and competitive group of women in Sudbury last weekend.

“This year, there were so many returning queens, and it was really tight competition,” she admitted. “It really does come down to which platform do the judges resonate with the most. I’m so excited it worked out this time. I’m still pinching myself; it’s very rewarding.”

While there’s a laundry list of items that Dingle wants to accomplish as bearer of the crown this year, fewer are greater than addressing and “shattering” the public’s perception of pageantry.

Grateful for the support from those who know her personally, Miss Sault Ste. Marie explained she has come across comments on social media, including in her hometown, that make wrongful assumptions about the practice.

“I don’t blame people for watching Miss Universe, seeing a bunch of thin women in bikinis, and thinking pageantry is degrading,” she said. “But there is a bigger picture, especially in these smaller systems where we have great directors who want to give younger women the tools to thrive.”

“That’s why I kept going back, because I had such a great experience,” she added. “Modern day pageants are really trying to highlight well-rounded women. We’re scored in so many areas beyond our physical appearance that they’re really looking for the total package of what queen can leave a legacy of character, empowerment, and service.”

Dingle believes a massive misconception was broken the moment she won Miss Ontario Regional Canada as she identifies as a “curvier” woman.

“My body has never been a big focus for me in pageantry, but to be a curvier woman and to win a title — you don’t always see that representation,” she said. “We’re only now starting to see mid-sized and plus-sized women competing. I think that speaks for itself about the intentions of the system and what pageantry has become.”

In addition to earning the crown, Dingle also won a $1,000 cash scholarship, as well as four special awards valued at $100 each based on her performance in different areas of the competition.

Those accolades included: Pageant Promotion, Public Speaking, Supermodel Award, and Director’s Choice.

Graduating from the University of Waterloo this week with an honour’s bachelor in Global Business and Digital Arts, Dingle feels thankful for the support from her parents, boyfriend, brother, and sister-in-law who all came out to support her in Sudbury last weekend.

The young dance instructor is also appreciative of the work that pageant director Cheryl Kozera, vice-president Natalie Carriere, and coach Maria Giorlando put in to make the event and her resulting success possible.

“My family has been so supportive; I’ve been so blessed,” she said. “Cheryl and Natalie are wonderful women who always believed in me, and Maria really transformed my life this year in a lot of ways.”

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Alex Flood

About the Author: Alex Flood

Alex is a recent graduate from the College of Sports Media where he discovered his passion for reporting and broadcasting
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