FROM IMMIGRANT TO MISS UNIVERSE
Recently I had the privilege to interview Miss Universe Canada finalist, Monika Horvat. As part of her preparation for the pageant, Monika is following a workout regime from Peak Nutrition CA, and The Imaginary Chef Diet.
Monika was born in Belgrade, Serbia, and moved to Calgary, Alberta, Canada at 3 years old. She will graduate with a bachelors in Economics from the University of Lethbridge in the spring. After graduation, she plans to get her Masters degree in Economic Development, with dreams of working for the United Nations. As a dual citizen, Monika has a strong passion for helping immigrants and addressing global issues. I met Monika a couple years ago in Germany, and found her to be such an inspiring person.
How does it feel to be representing Serbia AND Canada in the Miss Universe Pageant?
“I feel very honored. I would identify as a Canadian since my family immigrated to Canada when I was very young, but I still have deep Serbian roots. My desires to promote change and economic development in Serbia are an excellent way to influence the global community via the Miss Universe Canada Pageant. My unique cultural mix reiterates the heterogeneous cultures we have in Canada, allowing me to guide other immigrants as they pursue their dreams. I’m a strong and proud Serbian woman, and I’m even more proud that I’m a Serbian Canadian woman. I have been allotted many opportunities in Canada, and would like my accomplishments to help others achieve their goals.”
How did you get involved in the Miss Universe Canada pageant?
“After many friends told me that I should apply for the National Pageant, I took their advice. I was very pleased when I got a phone call saying that I had been chosen as one of 60 finalists. For a long time I didn’t think I had a chance at making it into Miss Universe Canada but I was wrong. The opportunity to compete in the pageant has given me great confidence and allowed me to meet some amazing people.”
Along with The Imaginary Chef Diet, how are you preparing for the pageant? (diet/exercise)
“I have been trying to eat as clean as possible. I moderate myself with portion control – eating all the things I love, but in moderation. I’m trying to focus on eating adequate amounts of fruits, veggies, and protein. One of my tricks is drinking freshly pressed beet and carrot juice every morning. In regards to exercise, I’ve continued doing cardio workouts, and added weight training. I’m beginning to enjoy it more because I can see the change in my body.”
What do you hope to gain from this experience?
“I hope to grow mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. I’m currently working with the Calgary Education Immigration Society and their subsidiary the Welcome Centre for New Immigrants. Personally reaching out and helping immigrants has always been a dream of mine. I recently had a fundraiser at Cowboys Calgary where we raised over 500 dollars for the charity. I am now confident in myself and in my abilities to promote socio-economic change in my community. My goal is to become an ambassador for every person whose life I am fortunate enough to touch, and really make a difference in their communities.”
Wow, you go girl!
You’re such an inspiration. Let’s let’s talk a little bit about food & culture. What is your favorite Canadian dish?
“I love Canadian pancakes, they are very different from the ones in Serbia. The pancakes in Canada are much thicker, with a variety of flours, veggies, and fruits. My favorite pancakes are pumpkin pancakes. I love fall and fall vegetables, so any type of food that has pumpkin or squash will be enjoyed by me.”
What is your favorite Serbian dish?
“Serbian food is hearty. However, Serbian sweets are very light. Serbians eat a lot of soups and stews; this would explain why I’m such a lover of any kind of soup. My favorite dish is chicken liver with mushrooms. Liver is a very nutrient dense food and it is great for your health. Since many people do not like it, I get to eat the leftovers!”
How has growing up in two different cultures influenced who you are today?
“Serbian people are hospitable and life is very important to us. My family and friends in Serbia are very genuine and that has shaped who I am as a person. I truly do want the best for everyone and I try to befriend everyone that I meet, as I see the good in them. Canadian people are very polite and it has been a welcome environment for immigrants that desire to achieve social equality. I think that both cultures are amazing and I feel fortunate to be both Canadian and Serbian.”
How has traveling shaped who you are?
“I’m a keen world traveller and it has opened my eyes to the diversity in the world. Seeing how different culture’s values vary has made me look at my own life to see what changes I can make to better myself. I like being exposed to new languages and new cuisines; they help me to understand more about my own cultures. I speak Serbian & English fluently and conversational German & Chinese. Traveling has taught me patience and open-mindedness about how others conduct themselves under their belief systems. I look forward to exploring further corners of the world, and learning more about myself.”
How will your travel experiences help you to win the title of Miss Universe Canada?
“My knowledge of languages and international cuisines will give me an advantage in the pageant. Traveling has given me an understanding of my true self, and that is key in being an ambassador for women following my journey in this competition. I’m very open-minded and patient which is important for the position of Miss Universe Canada 2015.”
One final question, what advice would you give other immigrants with big dreams – like competing in a national level pageant?
“I would tell these women to always believe in themselves and that there are no boundaries they can’t overcome. Believing in one’s self is the most powerful tool for succeeding in life. Every dream is possible to achieve.”