Nova Stevens, 2020 Miss Universe Canada and Founder of the Go Supernova Foundation believes we are all flawed yet perfect masterpieces in our own way.
“You were created by God, which means you are beautiful and should feel confident and comfortable in your body because you were made to look just as you are,” says the unstoppable and inspiring Black Canadian model and activist gunning for the title of Miss Universe. “Start by loving and accepting yourself for who you are.”
According to Stevens, a beauty pageant isn’t just about outer beauty. It’s about empowering women by teaching young girls to be confident in their own skin and use their voices to speak up.
The South Sudanese-Canadian left her immediate family behind during the Sudanese war at six years old, and after living in different parts of Canada eventually settled in Calgary.
Nova Stevens has drawn inspiration from her circumstances that have allowed her to forge her own way forward.
“Growing up without my family, I often moved from one relative to another, which is how I learned about life’s challenges at an early age,” Stevens explains.
After being shuffled from place to place, she decided at 15 years of age that the best person to care for her would be herself. After earning a basketball scholarship to attend university, Stevens eventually dropped out to find work to support her family back home.
“I want to make their lives better, which motivates me to pursue my dreams,” says Stevens.
She credits her success to her second home – Canada. “Canada essentially raised me, and I’m particularly grateful to a Youth Transition program in Alberta that supported me through my teens and later employed me as a manager for the program,” Stevens says. “Had it not been for them, I don’t know where I would be today.”
Although Canada has been good to Stevens, she has a few concerns about people always questioning whether she belongs due to her skin colour.
“They assume that I’m not from here just because I look different, but I would like to remind these people that, except for the Indigenous population, we’re all immigrants here,” argues Stevens.
Stevens has had multiple lifelong ambitions. As a child, she was interested in teaching but became more interested in fashion and television as she got older. She also became more interested in activism and using her voice to bring about change.
Stevens had aspirations to be a model from a very young age and once she seized her opportunity, she found work in the fashion capitals of New York, Paris, and Milan. She was the 1st runner-up in the 2017 Supermodel show held in Canada. Still, Stevens has faced her fair share of difficulties throughout her career.
“In my early days, they would tell me I was too young, too tall or they already had a Black model, which was obviously for the sake of appearing inclusive.” shares Stevens. “It simply wasn’t possible to do a show with only Black girls.”
As a Black model, she always carries her own makeup because most people don’t carry her colour. This also applies to her hair.
“It shouldn’t have to be your job as a model to bring your own makeup but very few makeup artists know how to work with our skin and hair type so we’re forced to do it ourselves,” bemoans Stevens.
Stevens believes that the judges of beauty pageantry look for the whole package, not just looks.
“They look at outer beauty as well as inner beauty because I think they want someone of substance who isn’t afraid to use their voice.” Stevens insists. “Someone who wants to make a positive change.”
Stevens emphasizes that pageantry is no longer old-fashioned and beauty pageants can provide contestants with valuable skills that force them to become better versions of themselves. She points to skills like public speaking that lead to feeling more confident in oneself.
“Pageantry is like staring at your reflection in a mirror and seeing all the flaws in the nicest way possible, which allows you to look at who you are and work on your weaknesses,” says Stevens.
Miss Universe Canada 2020
Stevens is the second woman of colour to win the title of Miss Universe Canada and the first woman of Sudanese descent to be competing for Miss Universe 2021. She competed in her first beauty pageant in 2014 and made it to the top 12.
“I didn't even practice and had no prior experience with pageantry,” explains Stevens. “After promising myself I would return and win, I did even worse in 2018, which was devastating because I felt I deserved better.”
In 2019, a Black South African model, Zozibini Tunzi, won Miss Universe and reinspired Stevens.
“I realized that if Miss Universe can crown a Black African woman with short hair, then why can’t I be that for Canada,” says Stevens.
She trained relentlessly and persevered against all odds to finally win the crown. “You have to first convince yourself before you can convince others, so I told myself I’m not getting anything less than the crown,” recalls Stevens. “I went in with the attitude of knowing exactly what I wanted and believing I was worthy of it, so by the grace of God I was able to win the crown.”
Stevens will forever remain grateful to Canada for opening so many opportunities for her. Most importantly, she believes that this title is going to encourage other young Black women to pursue their dreams.
Miss Universe 2021 – the 69th Edition of Miss Universe Pageantry Competition
Stevens is now doing all the preparatory work to compete for Miss Universe 2021 with around 70 participants from around the globe. The Miss Universe 2021 competition will take place on May 16, 2021, at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, FL. Stevens and her team want to do more than just take photoshoots and videos. They want to enrich lives by trying to find different ways of helping the community grow.
“God has brought me here so far so I'm going to trust that God will carry me towards my final destination.” She says before adding, “the best thing you can do for yourself is to connect with the other girls and develop relationships with them, because if you don't get the crown, at least you can leave with those lifelong friendships.”
Her Source of Passion
Stevens believes her strength is the ability to connect with people.
“I think talking is a source of strength for me because I’m fascinated with my voice and think all our voices are powerful,” explains Stevens.
She uses her voice to advocate for others and advance her humanitarian work through the recent launch of her Go Supernova Foundation. Go Supernova draws its inspiration from the African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” To this end, Go Supernova aims to reunite youth with family members who have been separated from each other. It also teaches them about education, business, and scholarships.
Since February 2021, Stevens has been an ambassador for The DNA Brands, which has a mission to improve the lives of others. She also mentors young women who are enrolled with various programs in DNA Brands.
Since 2018, Stevens has been a spokesperson for a nonprofit organization called Keep6ix, which helps rehabilitate incarcerated youth and offers them resources so they successfully integrate back into society.
In addition, Stevens is an advocate for inclusion, diversity, and equity for all people across the board; regardless of their skin colour, sexuality, religion, or creed.
“I will speak for anyone who needs a voice and I will fight for anyone who needs representation,” Stevens emphatically states.
She is one of the co-founders and spokespeople for Freedom March Vancouver and the Black Freedom Society. Stevens advocated for August 1st to be proclaimed as “Emancipation Day” in Vancouver and is also passionate about supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.
“How could I not support the liberation of my people and how could I not support fighting for our rights?” she asks. “We all have seen innocent Black lives lost to police brutality and hate crimes, so I'm an advocate for their rights so that we don’t become hashtags and those incidents don’t happen again.” Stevens sums it up this way. “We just want to be seen, heard, felt, and deemed as equal.”
Stevens is a passionate feminist who strongly believes in social, economic and political equality of the sexes. She is a strong proponent of equal wages for women and believes that women are meant to help each other. As such, Stevens is collaborating with a Mexican woman designer to launch her own line of jackets.
Her message to all the aspiring girls who dream of winning beauty pageants is simple...
“Don't be afraid to dream big but first, believe in your dream and try to find a reason you're doing it.”