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Kelowna woman wins Miss Okanagan and preps for Miss Universe

Kelowna's Shanelle Connell has been selected to represent the province at Miss World Canada in Toronto this summer. However, she's turned it down in order to take on another opportunity. She will be competing in the Miss Universe Canada beauty pageant instead.

The two separate beauty pageants both occur in July and Connell has chosen to compete in Miss Universe.

Her most recent win as Miss Okanagan took place last month at the Miss World Canada provincials.

This is her first year of competing in beauty pageants, but it runs in her family. Her mom competed in pageants and Connell grew up watching the pageants on TV with her mom.

<who> Photo Credit: Alisha Khan Photography

"I had always wanted to," said Connell. "I'd watched the miss universe pageants on TV with my mom for as long as I can remember."

Being accepted as a national finalist for miss universe Canada is a huge deal for Connell.

"I am very excited," she said.

Miss Universe is one of the most publicized beauty pageants in the world. One woman is chosen to represent their country.

It is held in more than 190 countries worldwide and seen by more than half a billion people annually. (SOURCE: Wikipedia)

Miss Universe has run since 1952, and in 1957, Miss World started.

<who> Photo Credit: Shanelle Connell Instagram </who> Shanelle Connell poses with her Miss Okanagan World 2017 crown.

At Miss Universe Canada, the 21-year-old will be judged on several categories, including the swim suit section, evening gowns followed by an interview on political views and knowledge of current affairs.

For the swim suit section, Connell says it's about ensuring woman representing Canada are the epitome of perfect health, she said.

The next judged event is evening gowns and represents how you display your personal style, she said.

"How you would represent and be an ambassador for your country? So the gown that you choose is very important to the judges, as well as the confidence that you portray. Because the miss universe slogan is confidently beautiful."

Then contestants undergo an interview process with either a panel of judges or one-on-one questioning.

"Questions that are very politically charged and emotionally charged like abortion or even like Syrian rights, those kinds of questions - we are expected to answer," she said.

<who> Photo Credit: Victoria Blaire

Connell says she loves talking about politics and it runs in her family.

"My mom loves reading up on what's going on in the middle east, so I'm always hearing about what's going on," she said.

Her grandma who recently passed away, was also an influence on Connell as she loved to talk politics at the dinner table.

"So I've had my fair-share of intellectually stimulating conversation as well as being able to be democratic." she said.

She's also in the middle of studying for finals in University and is also speaking at an event called Elevate Kelowna next weekend.

"I like to do it all," she said.

At her public speaking engagements, she talks about facing rejection and build community.

At 16 years of age, she and her family moved from Calgary to Kelowna and according to Connell, it was a difficult time for her in high school.

"When I came to Kelowna, I faced a lot of bullying," she said.

"I moved in high school, so being the new kid on the block was definitely a challenge for me, especially at that age group, it was not a good time."

"I've grown from someone that wanted to move back within three months to Calgary to someone that would never want to leave Kelowna.

So I am in love with this city and the Okanagan."

Coming from a marketing background, she's recently transferred into psychology and hope to one day be a marriage and relationship counselor.

And while she is familiar with the negative opinions that people often voice about pageants or the superficiality of beauty pageants that the film Miss Congeniality represents, that has not been her experience.

<who> Photo Credit: Victoria Blaire

"It's not as much of a superficial environment as people might expect it to be," said Connell.

"A lot of these girls work very hard to be where they are; it takes a lot of work to market yourself, to make sure you that you are staying current on political affairs."

"And for anyone that would say, 'Oh isn't that superficial - prancing around in a bikini' - I would tell them: if you have the confidence to do it and you are proud to say this is me, this is what I've worked for...I don't think there's any other explanation that you need to give someone."

Connell will be representing B.C. at the Miss Universe Canada beauty pageant this summer in Toronto, Ontario in July.

Over the next couple of months, Connell will be training for Miss Universe at workshops held in Vancouver.

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