When one thinks of beauty pageants, images of sashes, crowns, elegant gowns, and breathtaking smiles come to mind. But for Airdronian Emily Marston, the 'beauty' part of a beauty pageant is only a sliver of what it means to be a beauty queen. Marston is hoping that during the upcoming Miss Canada Beauty Pageant competition that will be held this weekend in Toronto, she will be able to focus on advocacy that is near and dear to her heart.

Marston explained that in beauty pageants such as the Miss World Canada pageant, contestants must bring forward a Beauty with Purpose Project which highlights how they have made their communities a better place. For Marston, it was her mudpie project.

"It's all about getting your hands in the dirt, getting back to our roots and being able to grow your own food so we can have food security. We recently partnered with the City of Airdrie and we're making plans to move ahead for next summer," she said. "We've donated over 400 pounds of food to the Airdrie Food Bank through respective groups, volunteers and donations."

Marston, who is 27 years old, has been on the pageant circuit since she was named Miss Rodeo Airdrie in 2016 and would be inspired by Miss Alberta World, who asked Marston if she'd be open to running for Miss Alberta World in the future.

"I thought about it and said sure! I loved my experience as a rodeo queen, so, why not try something different? And so I ran for Miss Alberta World in 2021 and I placed as the first runner-up. I was completely surprised and so thrilled and that was my qualifying involvement for me to be able to run at Miss World Canada."

But preparation for pageants is not just about qualifying events. The work that goes into all that she does is hard, and gruelling, and has taken Marston hundreds of hours over the past few years. It is both a physical challenge, but more importantly, a challenge of self-reflection and introspection. 

"I am at the gym for two hours in the morning, starting at 5:30 a.m. and I get home around 8 and that is a huge portion of my physical fitness because we are tested on physical fitness as well. But also the fact that you really have to take a look at yourself, what do you believe in? What do you do in your community? What do you see for your future? It sounds very silly and very easy but when it comes down to it when you're on the spot, and somebody asks you a question about what you believe in, you need to know yourself to have a true answer."

For her, letting down her guard and truly looking inwards at what her stances are, whether it is politics, the community or globally has meant Marston has taken time and energy into realizing what is important not only to her but the community she represents. 

Airdronian Emily Marston will be competing in the Miss Canada beauty pageant, but for this local gal, beauty is only skin deep. (Photo provided by Emily Marston) Airdronian Emily Marston will be competing in the Miss Canada beauty pageant, but for this local gal, beauty is only skin deep. (Photo provided by Emily Marston) 

"[I've done that] by knowing my country and knowing my community getting out and volunteering. I think I've spent probably close to 400-600 hours over the past two years, volunteering in my community with my fashion crown on and getting out and understanding where I come from; knowing Canada and representing Canada. Having that responsibility, it takes a lot of preparation, believe it or not."

But this Miss Canada hopeful is about much more than just her sash and her crown. She is also an environmental scientist whose passion lies in exploring environmental science, food security, and reducing, reusing, and recycling all that we consume. When asked if Marston thinks her passions are not what one would immediately think a beauty queen would be interested in, she countered by saying that the crown and the title are what one makes of it.

"[There is] also a title I could win called Miss Earth Canada and she represents Mother Nature and sustainability and sustainable practices and that is the title obviously that really pulls close to my heart my heartstrings," Marston said. "I thought these girls [in beauty pageants] travel around, they wear a lot of makeup and buy a lot of clothes and fill up our landfills with waste. It's your personal accountability and how you use the title or how you wear the crown."

Marston also remarked that she has in fact been crowned Miss Congeniality twice and was of course asked whether the famous movie starring Sandra Bullock resembles what beauty pageants are like. She admitted that when she first entered the beauty pageant circuit, she fully expected the claws to be out.

"I thought that the girls were going to be cutthroat and nobody talks to one another and nobody helps one another. I can confidently tell you, I have never experienced that in any of the pageants. My roommate from last year, Jessica Bailey, Miss Super Canada 2022, is one of my best friends. We lived together for a week, and she is one of the most incredible women," Marston said. "When you enter a pageant, you meet a strong group of strong like-minded women and they are really there to support one another. it sounds so cheesy, but Miss Congeniality is so real, and I've met quite a few of them. They are incredible, incredible girls."

Marston will be flying to Toronto with other women from Alberta who also qualified. She will be in Toronto for the week competing and different events and will face preliminaries on November 11, while the final five crown winners will be announced on November 13. 

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