Colwood resident Carol Scheidl isn’t who people picture when they hear the term “beauty pageant winner.” She’s the first to admit that.
Then again, the pageants she’s been winning aren’t what most people think of when they hear that term, either.
Sheidl is 52, a four-year survivor of ovarian cancer and a beautiful human being making her way in the world the best she can.
It all started about four years ago, when her daughter Robyn was in Grade 11 at Belmont secondary.
“She had been bullied really badly and we needed to do something,” Scheidl says. “Her self-esteem level was really next to nothing.”
A friend suggested they enter Robyn in what are known as “natural pageants” that were gaining in popularity over on the mainland.
A natural pageant isn’t like what you see on TV, Sheidl explains.
“There’s no makeup – or very little and only for the older girls – no fake hair, no fake lashes, no fake tans, none of the big cupcake dresses or anything like that.”
They entered Robyn in one and Sheidl says the atmosphere was so welcoming and supportive that her daughter took to it immediately, “and she really started coming into her own.”
By the next year, Robyn was trying out for school musicals, making friends and actually enjoying life. She went on to be named Miss Vancouver Island 2013/14 at the Miss BC World pageant, and is now in Vancouver attending university.
Someone then suggested to Scheidl that she enter a pageant, as well.
“And I said, ‘Oh, seriously. You’ve met me, right?’”
She has always been self-conscious of her appearance, she says, and the thought of entering a pageant would have been mortifying if it weren’t so ridiculous.
Scheidl thought about it for a while, laughing at the thought itself, but eventually decided it wasn’t as ridiculous as she’d originally thought.
“I’m no longer going to live a life of regrets,” she decided. “I’m not going to live a life of ‘I could have’ and ‘what if?’”
So she entered. Just for fun.
She wanted to see firsthand what it was like to be on the stage her daughter had come to love.
Pageants have age categories. Sheidl was placed in “18+.”
“I was the oldest one on that stage by 30 years,” she says, laughing.
But she had the crowd in the palm of her hand. She brought something to her performances that most do not – the fact that she wasn’t taking herself so seriously and was obviously there just to enjoy the experience.
Her “Sleepwear” category routine, for example, was her in a big fluffy robe and giant bunny slippers with her hair in curlers.
And then the accolades started rolling in.
She was happy when she placed third in “Talent,” for which she performed some Shakespeare. Then it was announced that she got the top score in “Rock Wear” out of all 60 competitors, “and that was pretty cool,” she said. “I kinda liked that.”
She picked up a few other awards along the way, but the kicker was when she won “Miss Palooza,” which was the top prize at the event – called Pageant Palooza, a combination of a group of pageants held in Vancouver.
Amber Snow of Surrey, who has become friends with Scheidl over the past few years – their daughters were in pageants together as teenagers – says watching Scheidl break onto the stage was simply inspirational.
“I have issues with self-esteem and public speaking, myself,” Snow says, “so to see her get up there so confident, and then win, makes me feel as though my own insecurities really are silly. Watching her be so fun, carefree, natural and comfortable with both her age and her body, well, it was just very empowering. “I want my own daughter to be as happy and comfortable with herself as the woman I saw on stage that day.”
When Scheidl shared her story about battling cancer and other health issues, Snow says, the audience was in tears while Scheidl herself was calm and composed.
“I aspire to let go of my own insecurities and learn from strong women like Carol.”
So what does the future hold for Scheidl?
Well, she’s going to continue to attend natural pageants here and there, just for the fun of it, but she’s hoping to focus more on her career as a character actor.
“I’ve had a few bit parts in things and done a few commercials,” she says, “but I’d really like to pursue it more. I guess we’ll see how things go.”
She also would like to get into anti-bullying advocacy and self-esteem-building.
“It would be great if I could get into some classrooms and tell my story, so that people can see firsthand that life isn’t about being beautiful, but about the attitude you have.”
With an attitude like Scheidl’s, nothing can keep you down.