Stephanie Photopoulous is a substitute teacher with the Simcoe County District School Board. Photo courtesy Stephanie Photopoulos

Teacher competing in pageant sends beautiful message to students

By 
  • April 30, 2017

Stephanie Photopoulos always taught her students at school and at the dance studio that their bodies should be loved and cherished. Now, the young Catholic hopes to prove it to them on stage.

Photopoulos, 24, will be competing in the Miss North Ontario 2017 pageant in Sudbury, Ont., May 12. Each pageant delegate has their own platform to advocate and she hopes to use her platform to teach young girls to love themselves.

“The whole purpose behind me doing this is because as a teacher, I feel like there are a lot of students, especially female students, that need to hear that they are beautiful,” said Photopoulos. “I felt for so many years that I couldn’t experience certain things fully because I would be so insecure of what I would look like doing it and that just breaks my heart and that’s what I want to tell my students and other young people in Ontario.”

Photopoulos works as a substitute teacher at the Simcoe County District School Board and a full-time dance teacher at the Barrie Dance Conservatory. She wanted to participate in this pageant to show her students about self love.

“I’ve been a leader for young women for a long time,” said Photopoulos. “I found that I was putting a fake confidence on because I wanted my students to be confident themselves ... but I would go home at the end of my night teaching and I would realize I wasn’t practising what I was preaching to my kids.”

As a practising Catholic, Photopoulos said it is important for her to teach her students compassion for themselves as well as for others. She said she sees a lot of herself in the young girls she teaches and she wants them to have role models that remind them that they are worthy of this love.

“The whole idea of loving one another as Jesus loves us is huge and that’s my main focus, I think,” said Photopoulos. “I’ve tried to inspire my students to look at each other and see each other as individuals, as humans that need support, that they need to be celebrated.”

Since she applied to be a candidate for the pageant in November, she has discussed her experience openly with her students. Photopoulos said her experience has been nothing but positive.

In preparation for the main event in May, she and her fellow pageant delegates have worked alongside each other at workshops and fundraising events. She said there is no competitiveness among the group of women.

“What the Miss North Ontario pageant seems to be about is the beauty within,” said Photopoulos. “Anything that anybody has said has been so positive and building each other up, rather than competing with each other. I’m really surprised because I really didn’t expect it. It’s a great, great group of women and I love it.”

Photopoulos comes from a long line of pageant women.

Her mother and grandmother both competed in pageants as young women. They told Photopoulos stories of how inspiring and intelligent all the women contestants were and those stories stuck with her.

“All of (the stories) is what inspired me to apply to the pageant,” said Photopoulos. “Because I felt like I wanted to do something for myself that was along the lines of what everybody else had done.”

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