Charmaine Laride

As the Miss BC pageant turns 15 years old I reflect upon my journey that has led me to become a part of a very special family. For this reason, the Miss BC pageant holds a very special place in my heart. Over half a decade ago I entered the Miss BC pageant a week after my 18th birthday and high school graduation. Next thing you know I'm standing on stage clapping for “Charmaine” and I hear my mother from the audience scream “ She's Miss Teen BC!” Only then did it finally hit me that the girl I was actually clapping for was myself. Rewind two months prior to this when I had initially signed up for Miss BC, never did it cross my mind that I'd actually win.

I was honestly feeling so lost my last year of high school and overwhelmed with all these decisions that I suddenly had to make. Miss BC couldn't have entered my life at a better time. High school was over and I had no idea how to cope with the road ahead of me or even where to begin. I remember walking into the first day at Miss BC absolutely terrified that I had just made a huge mistake. Telling myself I was just going to embarrass myself, then I finally met Gloria and all that melted away. Gloria is our pageant mother and I never would have survived that weekend without her. She hugged me and told me she was so happy to have me there. Just her warmth and kindness reassured me that maybe this wasn't a huge mistake. That weekend was a whirlwind of excitement and self-discovery. It defied all the preconceived ideas I had about pageants and opened my eyes to a whole world of strong and empowering women.

All these years later and I still refer to the Miss BC weekend as pure magic. I have so many amazing memories with my Miss BC family, and I know many more are to come. But one thing that has always rung true year after year is that we don't remember the title or the crown; it's the people that have changed and enriched my life that I will cherish forever. Granted, I'm sure I'll be that 80 year old grandma one day telling anyone who will listen about my days as “Miss Teen BC 2012”. The 18 year old Charmaine that walked into Miss BC so lost, left believing in herself for the first time in her life.

My year as Miss Teen BC was filled with meeting so many wonderful people and fun events. I was able to get very involved with community events throughout the year and give back to the children in my province. Through my platform as Miss Teen BC I was able to spend a lot of my time volunteering at BC Children's Hospital, which is where my heart has always been. As I started getting more involved with the hospital I realized how much I loved everything about it. The kids, their resilience, the medicine, it was all falling together and I didn't even realize it. At the end of my reign as Miss Teen BC I had finally realized this was what I wanted to do with my life. That September, I enrolled at Langara College and completed my diploma to be a Medical Office Administrator. Shortly after I completed that, I started working for family doctors, who not only enriched my knowledge but inspired me to continue my studies. I've been working in the medical field now for almost 4 years and in that time my love for pediatric medicine never changed. It became evident that I wanted to learn so much more and I finally realized it wouldn't be enough for me until I did what I truly wanted; to be a pediatrician.

I worked hard and hoped that one day I would go back to children's hospital and work there. Last week I got the call and was offered a position at children's hospital, after 3 months of waiting. It honestly couldn't have been planned any more perfect as we approach the Miss BC weekend and I get to return to the place where it all started. I still have years ahead of me as I work towards my dreams of being a pediatrician, but I know that I'm surrounded and loved by the most incredible family and boyfriend. My life will forever be blessed through the Miss BC pageant that these words seem hardly enough.

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