Miss Teen Manitoba World 2013 Alyssa Wyspianski wants to make her celebrity count.
The 18-year-old had never before thought of entering a pageant, and the provincial competition in March was her first at any level. Entering it could be called a whirlwind social media accident.
"I actually found it on Facebook last November and we did an interview and they accepted me. It all happened very fast," Wyspianski said.
She won the provincial title in an eight-girl competition, and in July will compete in Toronto with about 60 girls vying to become Miss Teen Canada World.
The West End teen, a graduate of Collège Sturgeon Heights Collegiate, says she views her new role as an opportunity to help others.
The Miss Teen Manitoba organization requires title-holders to make three appearances, Wyspianski said. She was at the Special Olympics Manitoba Spring Games in April, and attended a Girl Guides meeting last week to talk about bullying. She also raised more than $400 for Free the Children through a bingo-bowl.
The Special Olympians were thrilled to have her there, she said, and it was a lot of fun for her.
"They called me their little celebrity."
Wyspianski has fulfilled her required title-holder duties, but she sees an ongoing opportunity to give back.
"I want to do more. I want to show people that a pageant girl isn’t just a girl with a lot of makeup on. I want to help out as much as I can."
Bullying, something that affected Wyspianski’s life, is one issue she will continue to focus on, and she wants to share a message of strength and hope with victims.
"I was a former victim, so I know how tough it is for those kids."
In Grade 8 Wyspianski said she started hanging around with the "wrong group of people," and they began to bully her.
She turned to teachers for help but the abuse didn’t stop. Eventually it escalated to online threats, she said, and police stepped in to stop it.
Wyspianski counts herself lucky that her mom, Rhonda, was perceptive enough to see something was troubling her and get her to talk about it.
"Mothers always know that something is wrong," Wyspianski said.
Without that, she says, she might not have shared the turmoil she was living through.
"Bullying can make a kid feel like there’s something wrong with them," Wyspianski said.
It’s traumatizing, she said, and some young victims can be "really good at hiding it. They need to speak up (and) just know in themselves that there is nothing wrong with them."
Bullying was Wyspianski’s chosen platform for the Manitoba competition, and she’s keeping it the same for the national.
Wyspianski maintains a Facebook page and Twitter account as Miss Teen Manitoba (@MissTeenMB2013) and has a blog on the Miss Teen Manitoba website where she updates her activities.
Her initial April blog entry ends with "I will be donating blood this month and helping out to make chili for the less fortunate (chili from the heart). My crown and sash motivate me to go farther and explore new paths. So I hope you follow me and experience my journey!"