Stephanie Fortier has the kind of blonde good looks that people notice when she enters a room.
She doesn't appear to be shy but she has always had a fear of public speaking. To overcome that fear, she took part in the Mrs. Ms. Regional Canada Empowerment Pageant at the Northbury Hotel last October.
"I never liked public speaking. I don't like being on stage. I decided to participate in the pageant because even 'at my age,' I had self-imposed limiting beliefs about my abilities," she said.
"Being on a stage? Public Speaking? Oh, the absolute fear that instilled in me."
The empowerment pageant, designed for women over the age of 25, is not a beauty contest. Participants were challenged to give speeches on a variety of subjects, and they attended workshops that promote self-confidence.
Workshop topics included how to deal with success, failures and disappointments, time management and mental health tips.
Of course, learning how to make the most of one's appearance and how to make a good impression were part of the three-day event because they boost self-esteem.
That's something Fortier, the owner of The Spa at 61 Elm, understands and has built her business around.
There were 30 participants from across the province.
“Wow! What a weekend! It was full of positivity, new friendships, stepping outside my comfort zone and bravely facing my fears," said Fortier.
"I am so proud to say I received the titles for Ms. Elite Photogenic (over 40) and Ms. Elite Supermodel. How’s that for growing beyond my limiting belief that I have stage fright?"
Cheryl Kozera organized the 2022 Mrs. Ms. Regional Canada Pageant, which raised more than $30,000 for Northern Ontario Families of Children with Cancer (NOFCC).
Kozera, from Capreol, is the producer of the Miss North Ontario and Miss Greater Sudbury pageants, which over the past 17 years have helped to raise $380,000 for NOFCC.
"I dislike the word ‘pageant’. It is about self-empowerment,” Koreza said. "The girls and women who participate are ambassadors for their communities."
Registration for the 2023 Mrs. Ms. event are now open.
"I would encourage any woman (over 25) who wants to challenge herself and grow into the best possible version of herself to sign up for this year's pageant … I guarantee you it will change your life,” said Fortier.
Fortier grew up in Sudbury and attended Lo-Ellen Park Secondary School. About 12 years ago, she returned home from Toronto and opened her downtown esthetics salon.
"I enjoy the people I meet. It has been a positive experience," she said.
She is pleased to say business is better than ever after the challenges of the past three years when her salon was closed or open for reduced services for months.
When asked to describe what success means to her, Fortier said, "Freedom. It is having time to do what you want to do, when you want to do it, and being able to afford to do it."
The mother of a university-aged son, Justin, Fortier appreciates the support he and her partner, Dale Taylor, give her.
"Dale was here the other night at midnight with his backhoe removing snow from my parking lot.
"I think all success comes from teamwork, whether it’s a mentor, colleagues or anyone who helps in some way. No one achieves success alone."
Fortier's advice for other women who want to be their own boss: "Believe in yourself. Don't listen to naysayers. Live your dreams."
Vicki Gilhula is a freelance writer. Success is made possible by our Community Leaders Program.