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Lauren Howe: Industrial Engineer by Day, Miss Teen Canada by Night

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Toronto chapter.

Lauren Howe is a charismatic and driven industrial engineering student at the University of Toronto. In addition to keeping up with her heavy courseload, this busy 21 year old was previously crowned Miss Teen Canada in 2011, placed in the top 5 at Miss Teen World and won the Congeniality award, as well as winning second runner up in Miss Universe Canada 2014. On top of being a seasoned Beauty Queen, Lauren holds the title of Executive Vice President of the University of Toronto Sports and Business Association, and was the host and co-writer of the University of Toronto Varsity Sports Show, before beginning her job as the In-Arena Host for the Toronto Maple Leafs. She has appeared on TSN’s Michael Landsberg’s show Off The Record as a panelist discussing multiple topics in the sports world. She also holds the Gold Duke of Edinburgh award and has volunteered with a wide range of organizations and causes, such as Free The Children and Buddies R Us, and has even traveled to various destinations like India, Ghana, and Peru to build schools and community buildings. 

I have had the privilege of having Lauren as a mentor while I competed for Miss Teenage Canada 2014, and now she’s back to share with Her Campus on what she’s been up to recently, and her plans for the upcoming future.

How do you like being a University of Toronto student, and what is your favorite thing about the school?

Being a University of Toronto student has a very special feeling. Not only are you a part of one of the top institutions in the world, but it is truly incredible to share classes with people from all over the world and listen to the different perspectives each individual has based on their experiences and cultures. If that wasn’t enough, being in the heart of Toronto allows for opportunities for students to get involved outside of campus. I wouldn’t be able to have my job with the Maple Leafs if it wasn’t for being in this city! 

I saw that you were featured in an article in The Varsity back in October! What was it like having a page spread all about you? 

Very weird to say the least. In all seriousness it was an honor. I did not expect many people to really see the article or take the time to read it but it was nice to receive messages from friends who had read it. (You can read the article here!)

Tell us a little bit about your job as the In-Arena Host for the Toronto Maple Leafs. What made you so interested in the position in the first place, and what have you gotten out of the experience so far?

It’s funny, a friend of mine sent me the link for the job application and at first glance I kind of laughed and thought “could you imagine?!” I definitely didn’t think I would have been qualified for it. This is a dream position for a ton of individuals who want to either enter into the sports broadcasting world or are simply Toronto Maple Leaf fans. I hadn’t explicitly thought about a career in broadcasting prior to this posting (weird right? Don’t most engineering students take that path?). Since I’m the kind of person who doesn’t shy away from an opportunity and holds more of a ‘why-not’ perspective on life, I decided to apply. It wasn’t until I was putting my application package together with a demo reel that the realization hit that my extra-curricular experiences really did make me a qualified candidate! (See Lauren’s demo reel here!)

So far, this job has honestly changed my life. Does that sound too cliché? Oh well! I’m incredibly grateful to have been accepted into the MLSE family and the Toronto Maple Leafs Game Crew, a part of the Game Operations department. One of the best parts has to be interacting with the fans. There is something to be said about helping create notable memories for a Leafs fan, especially a child, and making their experience that much more special. There are too many stories to share in a single article. These experiences range from a young fan get an authentic puck from the Toronto Maple Leafs at their first ever game to seeing children at Sick Kids hospital light up when they meet their favourite Toronto Maple Leafs players during the Leafs’ annual visit.    

I’m taking it back a few years ago- what was your greatest memory during your reign as Miss Teen Canada 2011? 

Wow it’s already been nearly four years – starting to feel a little old! Honestly it was meeting girls like you at national and provincial pageants. The biggest issue that I wanted to tackle during my reign was the concept of stereotypes. It was important for me to contribute to breaking stereotypical moulds of women, especially in pageants. I got involved with pageants for scholarship reasons and immediately was placed into a mould that I aspired to be a model or actress. It was one of the first few questions asked from people upon meeting them, along with if I believed in world peace. It became my goal to encourage individuals to redefine the concept of beauty from something that was skin deep to a definition that focuses on an individuals accomplishments that not only advance her self-worth but also aid in assisting those around her. In that case, ‘beauty’ comes naturally to those who are willing to work hard for the right causes and do not limit her to a career focused on appearances. Hearing how some of the contestants from future years were deeply impacted and motivated from this concept was my greatest memory from being Miss Teen Canada. 

Now, we would all love to know about your experience competing in Miss Universe Canada 2014 (you were absolutely flawless on stage by the way!).

Well thank you very much! Competing at Miss Universe Canada was a very nerve racking experience for me, as it is the ‘big league’ in the pageant world. I’m incredibly grateful for the experiences that arose post-pageant, including visiting Operation Smile and SOS Children’s Villages across Nicaragua, and the incredible, accomplished individuals who I met in the short two weeks of the competition. (See Lauren’s video interview here!)

What are some challenges that come along with competing in a pageant?

The biggest challenge for me was balancing time between school, rehearsals, fundraising and following a healthy lifestyle. During the competition itself, it is easy to start doubting yourself when you are surrounded by incredible, strong, inspiring women. When people start taking the competition too seriously and they start comparing their own accomplishments to other, they get in their own head and do not enjoy the overall experience. Realistically, there is only one winner. You have a far better shot at doing well in a pageant when you take in the experience as a whole. Enjoy making new friends! Some of the best relationships I now have arose from meeting these inspiring women. We did not see each other as competitors but rather individuals with a mutual interest. 

What got you involved with pageants in the first place? Why do you think they’re so important? 

I got involved strictly for scholarship purposes and was honestly quite unsure what it really entailed. They are one of many ways for young women to help discover things about themselves which they might not have previously known including their passions, likes, dislikes, motivational factors, how to act under pressure, etc. 

Why do you think pageants hold such a negative stereotype in today’s society, and what do you think we can do to change that?

Pageants hold a negative stereotype in today’s society for multiple reasons, the most obvious being that it is superficial and sexist, but they are not the only industry to be criticized for these reasons. These factors are prevalent in multiple industries and we are starting to see change in society and campaigns. On that note, there still are things that can be changed in pageants. For example, there are some pageants that no longer use the swimsuit competition as a degree of measuring a women’s fitness but rather they have a day dedicated to a fitness competition measured in the gym. Many people do not realize that there is a charity component included in an individual’s score that assesses their involvement with various charities within the community. It is critical that pageants ensure that there is as much transparency as possible to the judging system to help discourage the idea that scores are solely determined by an individuals outer appearance.  

Having such great successes in the past, are there any tips or advice you can offer to our readers out there who are thinking about competing in a pageant?

Honestly, this advice appeals to anyone, especially not just individuals looking to compete. Do not be afraid to say “yes” to opportunities and do not be afraid to seek them out. The only way you’ll discover your passion is by experiencing it first hand. 

I know that you’re very passionate about volunteering and giving back to the local and even global community. What are some of the initiatives you have participated in the past, and are there any events that stood out for you, or made a large impact on your life?

Volunteering overseas opens your eyes to a number of different causes, but this is not always an accessible option for individuals. That is the beautiful thing about living in a highly connected world, there are ways you can always learn about different nations and causes through individuals online while you support your community at home. My first hands-on experience volunteering overseas was definitely the most memorable and impactful. We spent time with Round Square International, building stairs and a fallen community centre in slums outside Lima, Peru. The people in the communities being helped are truly grateful for the work being provided and it really strikes you how much others appreciate being helped. After your first community project, overseas or not, there is a contagious feeling that sticks with you. It’s a desire to want to continue helping others at every available opportunity. 

I’m sure at this point, many people are wondering this how you possible manage it all! How can you balance your job, volunteering, so many extra curricular activities, and still be on top of all your school work? 

Coffee! I really don’t know how to not be busy.

Many people, myself included, look up to you as a role model. Does this pressure you to hold some sort of standard all the time? What do you think makes a good role model?

Wow, first of all I’m honoured but don’t sell yourself short. You have some outstanding accomplishments under your belt. There isn’t really a standard to hold when you feel like your being yourself.  Nobody is perfect, I certainly am not, but I’m a 21 year-old student who is figuring it out still. In my opinion, a good role model is respectful of others, confident in their decisions, has the best intentions in their actions and strives to make a positive difference. From there, there are an endless amount of characteristics that an individual can process that will appeal to different people.

What advice do you have to other university students who are struggling to find their way, and still don’t have a clear idea of their future path?

Get involved and don’t be afraid to reach out to individuals in an industry of interest to you. You’d be surprised how many people respond to curious messages over LinkedIn and are willing to share their wealth of experience. 

Where do you see yourself in 10 years? 

In ten years, I will hopefully have established a career in an industry I am passionate about, maybe have started a business and a charity as well. I definitely hope to be living on the ocean where I can surf year round (my vice!)

Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us Lauren! It was so great to have you!

Below: A photo of me, Odeta (left) and Lauren (right), the night of preliminaires at the Miss Teenage Canada 2014 pageant. 

Odeta is a first year student at the University of Toronto, working towards a degree in Kinesiology. She's passionate about fitness and nutrition, volunteering, and body image empowerment. She spends her time volunteering at Sick Kids Hospital, working out at the gym, flowing through yoga classes, and writing poems (and articles for Her Campus of course!).