While her competitors at the Miss Canada Globe Pageant were picking out shoes and having their hair done, Miss Yukon was still struggling just to get to Toronto.
But a late arrival to the pageant is far from the worst hindrance Whitehorse’s Naomi Geddes-Helm has faced over the last few years.
Geddes-Helm made it to the recent pageant to officially receive the title of Miss Yukon despite financial hardships and even long-term injury.
“It was tough for me because I had to work really hard for the sponsor money, as I was a student,” said Geddes-Helm. “I spent my graduation money - $1,200 - just to get there, to go do something positive with my life.”
In a way, Geddes-Helm’s journey to Toronto started three years ago. The 20-year-old model applied to compete at the pageant in the Miss Teen Canada category at 17 when disaster struck.
Geddes-Helm was injured in a car accident and still suffers from a prolonged neck injury.
“This is me just going back into modeling after my accident,” said Geddes-Helm.
“My mom, she’s a hairstylist in Red Deer, and I was four years old modeling hairstyles. She even had my brother on the runways.
“I’ve always been interested in modeling. I began modeling as a career when I was 17 ... That’s when I applied for this Miss Canada Globe Pageant.”
It wasn’t the only time her injury kept her out of the spotlight. Two years ago she had to withdraw from the World Championships of Performing Arts in Hollywood.
“I wasn’t able to work, to save money, to go to Hollywood because I was hurt in a car accident right after I found out I was going, so I had to go to Hollywood with whatever money I had,” said Geddes-Helm. “I had to drop out when I made it to top 10 and that was really sad for me.”
Geddes-Helm, who is originally from Carcross and is Tlingit, had difficulty securing support from her First Nation government.
The Carcross/Tagish First Nation initially agreed to sponsor her up to $5,000, then withdrew the offer, and finally - at the very last minute - offered her half the original amount, she said. That was the day before the start of the pageant.
“I used my $1,200 from graduation money that my mom was giving me for a down payment on a car,” said Geddes-Helm. “When I finally got to Toronto it was 11 o’clock at night and I had missed the first day of the pageant.”
Geddes-Helm competed in the petite category for contestants under five feet, six inches in height.
Other contestants wore dresses worth thousands while Geddes-Helm bought hers for about $40 in Vancouver on a layover on her way to Toronto, she said.
For the talent portion she gave a presentation of her modeling and he photography skills with a slideshow.
“I am looking to start my own business in photography looking to work with First Nations, especially youth,” said Geddes-Helm. “I would say that is my mission and to raise awareness on not only my (neck) condition but on mental health the Yukon needs to recognize that our people were not just introduced to the new age but put through a lot of hurt. I am living proof you can turn negatives into positives - to turn your hurt into strengths.
“Whether it is to just inspire youth to get into modeling or they want to take up photography for themselves… I would like to create photography workshops to help youth ... Anything I can do to help others I will try my best.”
Geddes-Helm isn’t the first Miss Yukon in recent years.
Whitehorse’s Jennifer Perrin competed at the same Miss Canada Globe Pageant - also in the petite division - in 2012. The next year she went for the Miss Canada Charity title and was named First Princess (runner-up). However, last year she was promoted from princess to queen when the 2013 winner was stripped of her crown for failing to fulfill the duties that come with the title. Perrin has since gone on to represent Canada at two international pageants.
Following the 2013 pageant, Perrin set out to find a successor to represent the territory. She found Whitehorse’s Alissa Budzinski, who was named Miss Teen Canada Charity at the Miss Canada Globe Productions last September.
Geddes-Helm plans to go for her own charity title at next year’s pageants in Toronto. In the meantime she is required to make two public appearances each month as Miss Yukon and to search for a possible successor.
“I didn’t win any titles, but I’m OK with that,” said Geddes-Helm. “I feel like a winner already and I’m more than happy with myself.
“I did my best, really gave it my all, but it was a tough experience. I learned a lot, I can do a lot with my title as Miss Yukon, but it was really tough.”
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