Life pitched Michelle Saine curveballs from the first inning.
Her grandparents adopted her at birth. They cared for her until she was six when their health failed and she was placed in care of her biological father. He suffered from bipolar disorder, and she and her brothers moved multiple times.
Without the continuity of a stable home, Saine struggled with forming long-term relationships and a strong sense of family and security.
Saine promised herself if she were to ever marry, she’d provide a loving, secure home.
“My dad … was a really good person, but he struggled…” she said. “He did the best he could, for sure, but it made me who I am and it made me strong and it made me want to have a different life.”
Saine, now 54, has been married 29 years – she met her husband 35 years ago on the day she arrived in Nanaimo – and has three grown children and has had a 25-year career with the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction and is Nanaimo’s Mrs. category contestant in this year’s Miss B.C. pageant.
In her work, Saine faces societal issues. Social housing and working with young people are are important to her and she plans to complete her degree in social work. She’s also trained in suicide prevention and credits much of her success to the positive influences from people who appeared at critical times in her life, including her grandparents and her stepmother Liz Reddick.
“My dad was with a woman who was a saint,” Saine said. “She took us on – myself and my two brothers – and she was an amazing role model for us and I miss her a lot … she made a total difference … at pivotal moments, at the beginning when you’re a teenager. There were really positive people in my life that guided where I was going.”
Those influences will also guide Saine’s future.
“What I’m hoping to do when I grow up is work with families … work with children, integrating families that are struggling, working with children and parents and keeping families together,” she said.
The pageant happens in Fort Langley on Monday, July 2, but in the days leading up to it, contestants participate in workshops on public speaking, interviewing, etiquette and manners, self-defence, personal expression, self-esteem awareness, modelling choreography, on-stage presence, lifestyle and leadership. With a lifelong interest in education and personal development, the pageant is up Saine’s alley.
“When I was 17 I lived in Calgary and I was at a mall and they were asking for contestants for Miss Teen Calgary,” Saine said.
A friend of her’s had competed in a local pageant and loved the experience. Saine, being shy, wondered if she could do it too.
“I was in the second or third from the table to sign up and I jammed, I just couldn’t do it. I thought, no way, so here I am, years later and I thought, you know, this might be a really good thing to do. Face your fears,” she said.
This time around she has support from her family and her friend and sponsor Sybil Worthington, owner of Xcessoreyes Cosmetic.
“To me I look at she’s representing everybody,” Worthington said. “She’s a wonderful representation of a female … she’s just a beautiful person inside and out.”
Saine admitted she’s as terrified facing the prospect of walking across a stage in high heels and speaking publicly as she was when she was 17, but pushing through the fear is part of her message.
“Don’t be afraid of who you are. Don’t be afraid of who you think you are. Don’t be afraid of what people think of you. It’s how you feel about yourself and having the courage to stand up and do something that scares you, that you’re afraid to do and do it anyway,” Saine said.