“Canada’s a land of immigrants and it is our range that makes us so stunning. However I discover that always instances in sure industries—a whole lot of industries—it is all the time one face that is being proven because the face of Canada and I am uninterested in it.”
Nova Stevens’ path to her present profession as a mannequin and actress hasn’t come straightforward. She was born in Kenya to folks who, fleeing the civil warfare in South Sudan, determined to ship her to Canada on the age of six with the hope of offering her a greater life and extra alternatives. She hasn’t seen her mother and father in 22 years however lived with numerous different members of the family in Alberta and Ontario till the age of 15, when she determined to maneuver out and stay on her personal. Modelling gigs started coming to her at age 16 and after a short stint in New York, she moved to Vancouver in 2014 the place she started to pursue work as an actress in addition to a mannequin.
We caught up with Stevens forward of the Miss Universe Canada 2020 competitors—which she went on to win—to talk together with her about why profitable this magnificence pageant is so essential to her, her ongoing work with numerous non-profit organizations, and her dedication to racial justice.
On her difficult previous and journey to success:
“I feel it undoubtedly made me extra resilient. I’ve to thank my previous experiences as a result of they actually have formed me and who I’m. If not for the struggles I skilled rising up I don’t assume I’d be as sturdy as I’m. I don’t assume I’d have the power to beat obstacles that come up out of nowhere. I’m a agency believer that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. It’s a motivating issue to maintain pushing and to maintain pursuing my goals. As a result of not solely do I’ve to be there for myself but in addition my household who’re in a war-torn nation with little or no assets.”
On her volunteer work with non-profit organizations:
“I’ve all the time mentioned that I’m going to pay it ahead in any method that I can. Canada basically raised me. Its organizations and folks have given me assets and help whereas my household’s in Africa. So giving again to the group was all the time one thing I used to be going to do, it doesn’t matter what. Keep 6ix is a corporation I work with based mostly in Toronto whose mission is to assist youth who’ve been incarcerated get again on their toes, rehabilitate them and provides them assets that permit them to combine again into society and alter their lives for the higher. Then there’s Operation Smile, which offers free life-saving surgical procedure for youths with cleft lips and cleft palates, and Feed it Forward, whose mission is to eradicate meals waste and to assist the meals insecure. What I’ve realized by way of them is that 58% of all meals produced in Canada is misplaced or wasted and that 1 in 5 Canadians are meals insecure. Lots of people don’t know that. You by no means assume that there are individuals struggling in your personal yard.”
On organizing the Freedom March in Vancouver this previous summer time:
“I went to the primary Black Lives Matter protest at an artwork gallery and at that time I had little interest in talking, I used to be simply going to go there in help of everybody marching in solidarity. However after I obtained there I had this sense of urgency, I had this voice in my head that instructed me I needed to go converse. I didn’t know what I used to be going to say however I knew I needed to stand up there. So I simply spoke from the center, nothing was rehearsed. Shamika Mitchell [an actress/activist] reached out to me and mentioned ‘I heard you converse, you impressed me, let’s do a march collectively.’ And so Shamika and I began the Freedom March [which brought together over 15,000 people in the streets of Vancouver on June 19].
We’re additionally within the means of organising a nonprofit with a mission to proceed the dialog and to assist Black, Indigenous and folks of color with assets, which regularly instances are missing in our communities. What’s essential to me is schooling and monetary literacy. A part of what I wish to do with my group is to have scholarship funds for youths and to provide enterprise grants to Black entrepreneurs. It’s essential to empower your self and I feel enterprise actually does that.”
On racism within the modelling industry:
“I used to be modelling in Milan and I bear in mind doing a casting the place the casting director mentioned ‘what are you doing right here, we instructed your agent – no Black ladies.’ In my thoughts, I used to be like ‘that isn’t okay, you may’t simply say that to somebody.’ I used to be a grown girl in order that didn’t actually have an effect on me as a lot however think about if I used to be a 16-year-old lady listening to somebody say that to me, at some extent after I’m nonetheless attempting to determine who I’m. That may trigger a whole lot of injury in somebody.”
On hair and make-up artists who don’t know methods to work with darker pores and skin tones and textured hair:
“All my life I’ve been instructed to convey my very own basis and do my very own make-up, and that’s so hurtful. In the event you’re a make-up artist you need to be capable of do make-up on all individuals, not simply white individuals. It’s troublesome that faculties are usually not educating make-up artists and hairstylists to do hair and make-up on individuals of all backgrounds. They’re basically saying ‘that is what it’s a must to deal with as a result of that is what issues and that is what’s thought of stunning by society.’ That’s troublesome but when it’s your profession, you need to take it upon your self to be taught.”
On why she competed for the Miss Universe Canada crown thrice:
“The primary time was in 2014, and my second time competing was 2018. That point I competed with brief hair. It was crucial to me to signify myself authentically by competing with my pure hair on a nationwide stage, to indicate different ladies that we don’t have to adapt to be stunning. You may be stunning simply as you’re. Once I didn’t win, I used to be devastated and I swore off pageants. However one thing occurred when Zozibini Tunzi gained the Miss Universe pageant in 2019. I noticed myself in hair. She’s a Black girl from Africa with brief hair—the identical texture as my hair, the identical complexion as me. For this reason illustration is so essential. While you see your self in another person it evokes you to be the perfect model of your self. That’s what she did, she impressed me. So I mentioned to myself, if she will be able to win Miss Universe, if Miss Universe can see her, possibly lastly Canada can see me too.”
On the truth that Miss Universe Canada has solely ever topped one Black winner:
“In 1989, Juliette Powell was the primary (and final) Black girl to win Miss Universe Canada. That was over 30 years in the past. It’s bothersome to me that within the final 30 years there has not been one other Black girl adequate for the crown. I can’t settle for that. As a result of I don’t consider that to be the case in any respect. Canada’s a land of immigrants and it’s our range that makes us so stunning. However I discover that always instances in sure industries—a whole lot of industries—it’s all the time one face that’s being proven because the face of Canada and I’m uninterested in it. We’ve to indicate the world that Canada actually is numerous and a land of equal alternative.”
On her response to individuals who say magnificence pageants are sexist:
“I disagree with these individuals. Magnificence pageants empower ladies. The abilities that you just use within the competitors are expertise you’re going to make use of for the remainder of your life. You’re public talking, in entrance of 1000’s of individuals, which takes a whole lot of braveness. Preparation—it’s a must to be mentally and bodily ready. It’s not as straightforward as individuals assume it’s. The questions that we’re being requested on stage are usually not straightforward. There’s extra to it than ‘world peace.’ You may have to have the ability to eloquently reply questions whereas remaining diplomatic and inside 30 seconds. I don’t assume lots of people can do this. These are ladies which are sturdy and assured, they’re resilient, they’re numerous they usually’re leaders. To place your self out there’s a mark of management. These are leaders which have labored laborious they usually’re utilizing their voices. I wish to win so badly as a result of I wish to use that platform to not solely encourage others to make use of their voices but in addition to advocate for change.”