Interview with Ms Somerset Atlantic, Sarah Kana-ah
Photographer Charlotte Clemi
Firstly thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions about your pageant journey for my pageant lockdown blog it’s lovely getting to know fellow pageant queens and more about the systems that they represent.
What made you enter pageants ?
My dad was my inspiration to start pageants. He was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and become very unwell. Due to the location of his cancer, he had to have all his teeth removed, so for him every day was a constant reminder of his illness. I hated seeing my dad so upset and struggling, so I decided to raise money for him to put towards a set of implants to help take away that constant reminder. Whilst I was fundraising I noticed on Facebook Miss Galaxy 2016, Bella Normand. I thought wow, she looks absolutely beautiful and so confident. I then noticed another pageant girl, Romy Simpkins, who continuously did so much charity work, which was so inspiring to see. I noticed how beautiful, inspiring and confident they both were which I admired so much. I struggled a lot with my own confidence and self-esteem due to going through several years of mental, physical and sexual abuse. My confidence was something I really wanted to work on and I wanted to feel comfortable in my own skin again. I also wanted to make my dad proud too. Anyway I plucked up the courage to enter Galaxy in 2016 and I loved being on stage and meeting so many new people.
My experiences have now shaped me as a strong person giving me the drive to build my career and giving me the focus to help and inspire others as much as I can.
Can you tell us about your pageant journey so far including any previous titles ?
My first ever pageant was Miss Somerset Galaxy in 2016, and I was so proud to represent my county. I had no experience at all; I just had fun and met so many lovely supportive women. It was such a great system. I ended up placing top 12 and winning the Miss Popularity award.
I then went on to compete in Ms Royal UK in Blackpool in 2016. I was so proud to take home the Ms Congeniality award.
In 2017, I competed in Miss South West Inspiration. I was so happy to place in the top 5 and won Miss Style Queen and Miss Popularity.
I went on to compete in the national system of Miss UK Inspiration, which was held in Wales.
What made you decide to compete in the Atlantic System ?
Atlantic seemed like the best system for me. Atlantic isn’t a charity pageant, it’s a pageant which focuses solely on the qualities each individual can bring in their own unique way. The beliefs and aims of Atlantic were something I agreed with and knew this was a system I would feel honoured to represent. The director is also Romy, which as I mentioned above, is someone I have looked up to for many years, so I feel very grateful to take part in a system that combines both her experience and knowledge.
I did take a break from pageants for a few years to really work on myself, and focus on what and where I wanted to be in my life. During that time I knew I really wanted to help others, so I ended up creating my own mental health platform.
I was really inspired by this elderly lady in my local pub, who started to open up to me about her struggles with anxiety, I could relate to her so much so we both got really emotional and had a little cry together. From that moment on, it really got me thinking about how many people sit at home by themselves struggling with their mental health. This was when I created my own mental health platform and started volunteering for MIND the mental health charity. Atlantic also is a system that raises money for MIND too, so it just felt right for me to enter a pageant, which I am passionate about on many levels.
What the best thing that pageants have taught you ?
Pageants have taught me to accept who I am, to love myself and most importantly to not compare myself to others. It has helped me build back my confidence and given me the opportunity to discover who I am and to be the best version of myself. I have learnt that beauty doesn’t mean being the most popular, intelligent, flawless person. Beauty is about accepting your insecurities and really letting the real you shine through.
What’s your pageant platform and why?
I have two platforms. My first platform as mentioned above is mental health. Two years ago in November I created ‘Somerset Anxiety Support’, a friendly, safe, confidential group which aims to guide educate and support those affected by mental illness. Within the group I have nearly 500 members who share their stories and coping mechanism with others, as well as strongly relying on the guidance and support I give through video content, guest speakers and group sessions .I organise face-to-face / virtual peer support sessions where various guest speakers will come along to offer support – these include councillors, therapists or motivational speakers.
I feel very happy that I have created a platform which has brought together this network of people, who rely and trust the support and guidance I can give. Many of the members who come to the group sessions have now created lifelong friend’s which gives me a real sense of purpose and makes me feel very proud. My passion is helping others, so my platform has now become a huge part of my life.
My second platform is all about empowering woman. I can’t say too much as I’m in the process of creating a really exciting project. Watch this space.
What’s your dream title ?
I would absolutely love to win Ms Atlantic. To be given the opportunity to represent my country at a national level is something I’ve been working so hard towards and will continue to do so. It would be a dream come true.
If you were to win Ms Atlantic U.K. what would it mean to you ?
It would be an absolute dream come true. I am truly passionate about what I do and I have worked so hard over the years to build my own platform and work on my own inner self. Before signing up to Atlantic, I already had a strong platform formed, which really shows the passion and love I have for what I do. Winning would give me the opportunity to present my platforms at a higher level and raise more awareness, which would mean everything to me. Before competing I struggled with self-love, so as I titleholder I would encourage others to become their best possible self and to love the person they truly are.
What’s the best advice you have for fellow pageant queens ?
Photographer Charlotte Clemi
Be authentic. Be the same person on stage as you are off stage. Love the person you truly are and believe in yourself. Don’t try and be what you think the judges are looking for. Be you and let the real you shine through.
Take care of yourself both mentally and physically, as the finals can be a long day. Get as much sleep as you can the night before, keep hydrated and eat something throughout the day to keep your energy levels up. Remember to have fun and really enjoy the experience.
What have you been doing in the run up to the final of Ms Atlantic U.K. ?
I’ve created a few of my own online campaigns, as well as taking part in as many other pageant girls’ campaigns as I can. I recently created a Mental Health Awareness Video for Mental Health Awareness Week. The video features a mix of pageant girls, therapists and mental health sufferers who all share that one piece of encouragement for someone who might be struggling. The video got shared across mental health wards and care homes within my local area. Alongside this I’ve been working as a community volunteer in my local area, delivering essential goods to people who are in isolation. And I have a Domestic Violence online campaign, which aims to help people spot the early warning signs of abuse.
But most importantly I have adjusted my platforms regular face -to-face support meetings to a virtual support system throughout lockdown.
How has covid-19 effected you in relation to pageantry ?
The lockdown has definitely impacted stuff for me. I haven’t been able to do as much stuff as I planned to do in terms of appearances and fundraising, but I’ve been working really hard to do as much as I can. I recently did a 25k charity cycle ride in aid of MIND, and I’ve been supporting the other pageant girls online appearances and raffles and campaigns as much as I can too.
Is the final of Ms Atlantic delayed or given you time to develop your platform or start a campaign?
At this moment in time the pageant is still going ahead next January. If it has to be moved then I trust our Director will make the best and safest decision for us all.
What makes a good pageant role model ?
Someone in our lives who give us inspiration, hope and keeps our spirits up through positivity and empathy. It’s someone who is authentic, kind, caring, and confident, has self-love and encourages others to become the best version of themselves. I also think it’s so important for a role model to be dedicated to their title and pageant system. A good role model is a leader, who teaches, encourages and informs others.
What’s your favourite pageant round ?
If I had to choose one I would have to say the swimwear round. Simply because, when you come off that stage in swimwear you feel absolutely amazing, the confidence you get from walking out in front of all those people wearing just a bikini or a swimsuit is incredible.
How do you deal with pageant nerves ?
I make sure I am as prepared as I can be. I will try and get as much sleep as I can the night before, drink fluids to keep me hydrated and I eat regularly throughout the day so I am looking after myself both mentally and physically the best I can.
Before I go out on stage I always get very nervous as I suffer with anxiety but I try to deal with it by doing the 7/11 breathing technique. I also try and have 10 minutes to myself before I go on stage. Pop some headphones in and have that time to really ground myself and prepare for when I go out on stage. It is important to remember though, that nerves are positive as it means you are excited and have worked so hard for something that really means something to you. It is natural to be nervous though; even the most famous stage performers and actors get nervous before going out on stage.
Thank you so much for answering my questions it’s been lovely getting to know you better and more about your platform. I wish you all the best at the finals. Much love Charlotte, Ms Diamond South Yorkshire 2020.