Winnipeg mom surprises daughter with Miss Universe nomination

A Winnipeg woman never expected to be representing Manitoba in the Miss Universe Canada competition, due, in large part, to the fact she never entered herself in it.

Paris Musaphir among 50 finalists out of more than 800 entries across Canada

Tenacity is a trait shared by Majda Ficko and her 19-year-old daughter, Paris Musaphir. (CBC/Gary Solilak)

A young Winnipeg woman never expected she'd be representing Manitoba in the Miss Universe Canada competition in August — due, in large part, to the fact she never entered herself in it. 

Paris Musaphir, 19, is an honours university student, taekwondo competitor, swim instructor and volunteer, with aspirations of going into medicine. Pageants were the furthest thing from her mind — but not her mother's. 

'When I saw that there was an opportunity — they were asking for delegates for Miss Universe Canada — I figured: You know what? She can take that. She can take that on," said Majda Ficko.

She had kept the entry quiet since January, but when she got a call from Miss Universe Canada last month asking for an interview with her daughter, she had to confess.

"Better tell Paris, I should tell her," she said she thought to herself.

'Kind of shocked'

She shared the news over dinner one night, which did not go over well initially. 

"I was kind of shocked, just because I didn't know, and it was just another thing she threw on my plate and I'd never done pageants before so it was just very, very new to me," Musaphir recalled. 

"I understand the trepidation. I understand that she was not that happy with me, because not only did I not speak about pageant or tell her, I basically did it without her knowledge," Ficko concedes now. 

In time, Musaphir came around.

"Major bribes," said Ficko somberly. 

"No, no, that's not true," Musaphir quickly interjects, laughing.

"It is, it is," her mother replied.

Now it's about the impact you can make on people, the positive role model you can be, all the change that can come from it.- Paris Ficko on the changing face of beauty pageants

Regardless, Musaphir is now one of 50 finalists — the only one representing Manitoba — out of more than 800 applicants across Canada.

Her profile highlights her Slovenian culture, her black belt in taekwondo, but most prominently, her dream of becoming a pediatrician.
Paris Musaphir aspires to become a pediatrician, taekwondo master and Miss Universe Canada (CBC/Gary Solilak)

"Like a lot of people I had a lot the misconceptions about what pageants were about," she said.

"I still thought that in this day and age it was kind of more about outer looks and beauty, and it's all about the glitz and the glam but obviously now I've changed because I"m entering and I'm excited to do it," she said.

"Now it's about the impact you can make on people, the positive role model you can be, all the change that can come from it."

Service to the vulnerable

She says she is looking forward to adding the competition to her list of life experiences, and using it as a platform for what she's most passionate about: service to the vulnerable. 

Ficko agrees that pageants have evolved to be less about appearances and more about the person and their capacity for leadership, but beauty was still a factor when she filled out the forms.

"Beautiful inside and out, and that's the reason I entered my daughter," she said. 

Medical school will always be there, Ficko says, but the chance to travel the world and have a voice was why she decided to slightly alter her daughter's summer plans: "Because I think she can win."

The Miss Universe Canada competition takes place in Toronto Aug.16-18.