From an interview with Miss Teenage Southern Alberta 2015, Shelby Lewington of the Lethbridge Alberta East Stake
The late President Gordon B. Hinckley’s admonition to “Stand for Something” didn’t specify where you might find yourself standing. As one southern Alberta young woman recently found out, standing on the platform of your faith could leave you standing alone in the spotlight.
“I really didn’t expect to win” Shelby Lewington said of her recent title, Miss Teenage Southern Alberta 2015. “I was as surprised as anyone when they called and asked for an interview, even more surprised when they invited me to be a contestant. I’m from such a small village. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision to even enter. I love new experiences and challenges, so when Mom suggested I apply, I did. I believe you can make personal change much faster when you push yourself and this contest pushes me outside my comfort zone.”
Shelby is no stranger to pushing herself. An active 16-year-old, her involvements include; Young Women’s Laurel President, Activity Student Council Member, Trek, piano, volleyball, basketball, track & field (100M, Triple, Long), school play, work, reading, TRX/Circuit training, training for the Spartan Race, boating, wakeboarding, tubing, skiing, snowboarding and travel. With the recent regional title win, Shelby moves on to the Miss Teenage Canada Pageant in August.
“Most people view the pageant as a 'beauty' contest. There is definitely a portion of that, but there are many other factors involved,” Shelby says. “The pageant’s purpose is to showcase talent and ambitious young ladies from across the country, to award scholarships and raise awareness and funds for our selected platforms and official pageant charity, Free the Children. I believe that the best way to approach the purpose is to get out into the community, be involved in local events, support charities and be a positive role model to those around me,” Shelby states. She’s already co-hosted a fundraising event for Free the Children and hopes to double the funds already raised before August 2 for the Miss Teenage Canada pageant .
“From the very beginning, before the regional Alberta event, I realized this was going to be much different for me, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” Shelby states. “For example, I needed dresses for the required presentations, interviews and stage shows. I received instructions about a few outfits I had to wear for an event. I explained that they were not acceptable and asked to choose something else. A few people reacted with distain and I heard a few comments about my needing to grow up, but they allowed me to choose my own clothes for the event. I had to find someone willing to alter my outfits, so I could maintain the dress standards to which I am committed. The official Pageant Dress sponsor was amazing and handed me a phone number right away of someone that could assist me,” Shelby reports. “Are there some really beautiful dresses and outfits that are too short or too low or too little? Yes, definitely! I choose to make it an adventure to find something just as beautiful that shows my dignity and allows me to shine without lowering my standards.
“We were also instructed to ‘clean up’ our social media sites and remove any pictures or questionable activities that would put us in a ‘bad light’. I found I had nothing to remove or alter. My posts might seem boring to some, but as some of my new pageant sisters mentioned, I look like I’m having more fun than anyone!”
So what other types of things distinguish Shelby from the other contestants? “The biggest thing is my testimony and the light that I believe I carry with me because of it. I hope that taking a stand on swimwear choices, dress standards and my language will show that being a Christian is an amazing and awesome blessing, not a hindrance. It doesn’t matter so much whether or not I take the crown at Miss Teenage Canada, but I do want to leave a strong impression on the judges and those that watch me compete, that it’s empowering and possible to be happy and successful when you: ‘Stand In Your Truth, Even If It Means Standing Alone,’” Shelby says of her platform message “The head judge hadn’t heard of anything quite like my platform message before. I explained that I think it is important for girls to understand and develop their internal self-worth, so they can stand for their values and beliefs when hard decisions and situations arise,” Shelby explains. “I’ve had both very positive and very negative reactions to that, but that is to be expected. Many people don’t understand the meaning or they think I picked it because I think I am better than they are, but that’s not true. Even though people may think my standards are a set of ‘rules’ that restrict me, they are quite the opposite. I have no hard choices. I simply have standards. The decisions are already made! I choose it to be easy! “ I have had several girls reach out to me for personal life advice. Some are unsure of who they are. They tell me that it seems like I have it all together. I’m like any other 16-year-old and definitely don’t have it all figured out, that’s a journey, but I am extremely grateful for the gospel and the Church standards. It has given me that strong foundation on which to stand. While many girls were focused on the partying and other activities, I was explaining my goals, my faith and where I wanted to go in life.”
Shelby’s parents, Christine and Trevor Lewington, and brother, Justin, support Shelby completely. “It takes confidence to put yourself out there and be judged, not only by strangers, but by family, Church members and friends.” Shelby says. “At first, I wasn’t telling people I’d entered because I feared the judgment and stigmatism I thought might come with being in a ‘beauty’ pageant. But, I’ve had the exact opposite experience. Everyone’s been great. I have had many members of my ward family congratulate me and wish me success. People purchased tickets, attended my fundraisers and constantly ask what else they can do to support me on my journey.” Shelby’s created a blog so supporters can follow her.
“If you’re a Mormon girl who wants to be in a pageant, go in knowing that it will be a challenge, your standards might cost you the crown. The pageant world’s expectations and standards don’t always align with what the Church teaches. It is what it is. I am doing this to gain confidence, strength in my own convictions and to show that no dream is too big.
Presently, Shelby is preparing for the National competition of Miss Teenage Canada to be held from August 2 to 9 in Toronto where she will compete against approximately 70 other girls from across the country. “If I place well, I can represent the official charity, Free the Children by building schools in a third world country. Winning Miss Teenage Canada would qualify me for Miss Teenage Universe in the fall,” she says. “This is my first true experience completely outside the Church in such a large and over-reaching capacity. I have been placed in some very unique situations already, but each situation has brought me closer to knowing exactly who I am now, who I want to be and what I stand for. I have met some amazing and wonderful people and I hope my example leads them to ask questions and gives them a positive example of a Latter-day Saint, showing that we, too, like fun, impactful activities like pageants--that we, too, want to do good.” Shelby testifies, “I believe that there are many ways to impact the world for the better. The pageant is an opportunity to stand up for what I believe and show others how happy you can be living these standards.”