York’s Miss Universe Canada will talk about self-esteem

The York University student who has won Miss Universe Canada will be speaking about the importance of self-esteem and self-confidence to school children during her term.

Alice Panikian (left), a second-year student at York University, was selected as Miss Universe Canada 2006 on March 21. When she was a child, she was teased about her height, but has gone on to become a professional model and now stands a proud 6’1″. During the coming year, she will appear at various speaking events and official engagements, including stops at schools where she will share her message on the value of believing in yourself.

The Faculty of Arts student was selected from among 48 young women from across Canada at the competition held in Montreal. In July, she will go on to compete with young women across the globe for the Miss Universe title. She will also serve as an advocate for AIDS and HIV education in Canada.

Panikian, 20, was born in Bulgaria but moved to Canada when she was five years old and has grown up in North York. After winning the competition, she said she was “completely shocked” and checked her pulse just to make sure she wasn’t dreaming. “I never expected to win. I was just thrilled to be there in the first place. I went into it for the experience, I met a lot of terrific people, and it’s all been really exciting.”

Panikian took a year off between first and second year for some modeling opportunities that took her to New York, Milan and Paris. An English major, she loves writing and communications, and hopes to become a broadcast journalist. As Miss Universe Canada, Panikian succeeds another Toronto woman, Natalie Glebova, who went on to win the global title of Miss Universe in Thailand in 2005.

When she returns to York in September, Panikian is looking forward to taking more writing and language courses. “The people I’ve met and the experiences I’ve had at York University have helped to shape me as a person,” she says. “I give York a lot of credit for my win, as well as for my decision to enter into the competition.”

Panikian’s friend Matt Lippa, a third-year political science student at York, talked with her when she was deciding whether to enter the pageant. “When Alice was thinking about pursuing this, I told her to go for it. She is beautiful, but she also has something deeper than that. She has a genuine desire to help people, whether it’s volunteering or doing something on a humanitarian level, or acts of kindness, I felt that she would be a great candidate to represent others and to promote Canada.”

“On behalf of the York University community and the Faculty of Arts, we wish to congratulate Alice Panikian on winning Miss Universe Canada, and wish her well during the next year of her term and on her travels,” says Bob Drummond, dean of the Faculty of Arts.