Ben Stein, the American writer, lawyer, commentator, and sometimes actor, once said, “It’s amazing what ordinary people can do if they set out without preconceived notions.”
Shaquiera Hamilton is determined to make her own dreams come true, regardless of what anyone else thinks a young, black woman can accomplish.
Hamilton, 16, is competing in the 2016 Miss Teen Canada Globe Pageant, something she hopes to use as a stepping-stone towards her dream of becoming an orthopedic surgeon with Doctors Without Borders.
“If I were to win, it would show people of colour that just because you aren’t white, doesn’t mean you can’t achieve things,” Hamilton said. “When people hear I want to be an orthopedic surgeon, they’re shocked. Their first notion is I can’t achieve something like that. If I were to win this competition, it would show younger kids that no matter what people think of you, you can still achieve something, accomplish something and be something.”
Until recently, Hamilton attended Sir Frederick Banting Secondary School, but recently transferred to North Middlesex District High School, just outside of Parkhill.
She remains connected to London, however, as her three younger siblings still live in the city where she continues to spend a lot of time.
It’s a community she still considers home.
However, Hamilton is the first to admit the Forest City has its obstacles for people of colour.
“It’s a bit of a challenge in London to be black and be proud of your black heritage, have people understand it’s OK to be black and that it’s a good thing,” Hamilton said. “I think when I was younger I was more blind to everything; I didn’t really pay attention. Now as I’m getting older, I’m starting to see and understand the comments people are making. I’m recognizing it more than I did before.”
Hamilton said there is “definitely a lot more discussion about race these days,” even in her own household where it’s not uncommon for her family to talk about what they see in the community and what’s been happening in the news.
There have been, she adds, a lot of conversations around how racism is overrated or doesn’t exist.
In her opinion, however, it certainly does exist and the wider public needs to pay attention to it.
“I find a lot of people are trying to brush it under the rug, trying to get people to stop talking about it. Now, as I’m getting older, I realize this stuff does exist and it’s happening to me,” Hamilton said. “When someone does something wrong, I tell them why it’s wrong. People need to understand how their words or actions affect others. Either they don’t know better or don’t understand, often because they weren’t educated about it.”
One responsibility Hamilton has with the pageant — along with launching a Go Fund Me page and looking for sponsors to help cover her entry fee — is creating a platform she wants to speak to as a Miss Teen Canada Globe contestant.
For her, it made sense to focus on a message of self-esteem and confidence and overcoming those preconceived ideas as to who anyone is supposed to be and what he or she can do.
Ironically, Hamilton had her own preconceived ideas of what a pageant is all about.
She believed these competitions were, “very girly-girl, all about dressing up.”
Instead, she knows first-hand how busy and hectic a contestant’s schedule can be as she needs to fundraise, find a charity to support, build that platform, and decide just what kind of pageant-representative she wants to be, whether she wins the crown or not.
“This started off as something to do on a whim and then I ended up a finalist. So, my biggest goal is to have fun and get my message out there,” Hamilton said. “The idea of winning a scholarship is amazing, but the experience itself is also really meaningful.”
The 2016 Miss Teen Canada Globe Pageant takes place Aug. 13-23, in Toronto.