March 14, 2007
The next Miss Universe?
By JOE WARMINGTON -- Sun Media
If they make a movie about Miss Universe Canada 2007 it could be called From a Shelter to The Show.
It would be based on a true story since newly crowned Inga Skaya did in fact find herself for two years in her teens living with her mother and three sisters in a Toronto shelter for battered women.
It was a difficult journey from moving to Canada at age 2 from Moscow to now being in contention for Miss Universe and hanging out with people like potential U.S. president Sen. Hillary Clinton, who she met in New York.
But this is Skaya's reality show.
"Dream big" was her advice yesterday at the Canadian National Exhibition grounds. "And never underestimate how far you can go."
The 21-year-old model is living proof.
This is going to be a fantasy year for her. She's living the Canadian dream in "the country I love."
Just last week in Montreal she was given the prestigious title of Miss Universe Canada, and later this year in Mexico will vie for Miss Universe.
In this next year she'll wear Canadian designs from Antoniette Catenacci, Pat McDonagh, Arthur Medoca, Ines DiSanto, Rod Philpott and Foxy Jeans, and down the road a career in the movies is not far-fetched.
But it's her decision to shine the light on domestic abuse that sets her apart from a lot of beauty queens.
"As a child I was a victim of abuse," she said. "And I would like to be the face of hope to many children out there and let them know that if you stay strong, confident, focused and poised there are many things you can achieve in life."
She was careful not to elaborate on exactly the form of abuse she and her family endured, other than to specify it was "domestic."
It's those low times that she feels compelled to tell children they can overcome. She said she has become an ambassador for SOS Children's Villages organization. "It works," she said. "Basically it helps to support children, orphans and families in distress."
As a 13-year-old living in the shelter, she said, she had that kind of support from a 17-year-old camp counsellor, Simone. "It was a very difficult time of my life for sure."
She said Simone really helped her visualize future success. "I always had that confidence within me that one day I would do something big with my life."
Winning a beauty pageant is big, but in my estimation helping kids in need to aim high is even bigger.