APTN National News
For 17-year old Laila Andrew, entering a national teen pageant is more than a personal step, it’s a way to shine a positive light on her Innu community.
The shy, soft-spoken grade 11 student lives in Sheshatshiu, Newfoundland and Labrador.
“Beauty to me is personality,” said Andrew.
She doesn’t consider herself a role model but does have a message for other youth in the community.
“I want them to feel inspired to do something. Just go for it,” she said.
Andrew’s motivation to apply for the Miss Teen Canada Globe pageant came out of her own struggles with depression after a close friend took their own life two years ago.
“I didn’t want to do anything. I had no hope. I didn’t think I’d get over it,” said Andrew. “Before my uncle passed away a few months ago, he asked me, ‘why are you like this? Why are you doing this to yourself?’ I never really left the house, I stayed in bed.”
So Andrew decided she need to put herself out there and the pageant was a good way to do it.
“I’m hoping to gain more confidence,” said Andrew. “Just to be able to be comfortable with myself.”
Meeka Qupee has been friends with Andrew since the girls were five years old.
“I was very excited for her and I’m proud of her for doing something big like this because she’s not very into doing big stuff like this,” said Qupee. “Like, the girl that committed suicide, Laila was always close to her. Then her uncle passing away, I think it really made her devastated. I don’t think she sees in herself what she’s capable of. But I see a lot of potential in her.”
Qupee is excited for her friend, but also sees a ripple effect for the Innu community.
“It is really important because a lot of time in the news all you see if bad stuff about this town,” said Qupee. “I’d like to see more people on the news for good things.”
The Miss Teen Canada Globe pageant will be held in Toronto in August. Andrew isn’t the only young woman heading there from Labrador.
Victoria Burden and Tamara Anthony, both of Happy Valley-Goose Bay are also contestants.
Andrew is fundraising now to help cover the costs of her trip. She has her eye on a scholarship grant the pageant offers.
“I’m very nervous and scared. There’s so many emotions,” said Andrew, adding she doesn’t know what to expect, but is up for the adventure. “I’m mostly going for experience.”
She said win or lose, this has already helped her turn a corner in her own emotional wellbeing. “I have my good days and my bad days and I’m okay with that.”