Cleft palate, bullying overcome by beauty pageant contestant

A 20-year-old woman from Corner Brook who was bullied for years because of her looks — is now a competitor in a national beauty pageant.
Katie Barrow, 20, will compete against 11 other young women in Toronto this summer for the title of Miss Canada Globe 2014. (CBC)

A Corner Brook woman bullied for years because of her looks is now a competitor in a national beauty pageant.

Katie Barrow, 20, was born with a cleft lip and palate. She had the first of four invasive surgeries as an infant.
Katie Barrow was born with a cleft lip and palate, and since the age of six weeks, has had surgeries to correct it. (CBC)

In August, Barrow will represent Newfoundland and Labrador, walking across the stage at the Miss Canada Globe competition in Toronto. There are 12 contestants.

It's Barrow's first pageant, and she said she can't wait to wear the dress, heels and crown.

"I always dreamt of it, but I never thought I was pretty enough ... or good enough to do something like that," she said. 

"Being born with a facial difference, I had to deal with a lot of bullying and teasing, and go through all the surgeries.  They had to break my nose and reconstruct it, because I had a curve at the end of the bone. I had to miss a lot of school, and have bandages on my nose. I'd get teased, people would stare at me, ask questions, and I just felt alone."

Barrow said because of the bullying, she didn't have many friends. 

"I didn't have much fun growing up, but my mom put me in camps that dealt with people born with facial differences. That gave me a lot of courage and self-confidence ... we would go over how to cope with bullying and things," Barrow said.

"This past summer I went to Toronto to do a leadership program with the same organization. It had to deal with adults all around the world — and after hearing everyone's stories, I didn't feel alone anymore because I realized that there were other people born like this. I felt after hearing their stories, I want to do something for other girls, other people, so that they can have someone to talk to." 

Katie Barrow with her parents in their Corner Brook home. (CBC)

Donna Barrow, Katie's mother, said after the camps and leadership program, her daughter was walking a little taller. 

"It's surprising for me, because Katie is a very shy girl. For her to do something like this is very overwhelming."

Katie Barrow has a message for the bullies she grew up with:

"I just want to say thanks, because I wouldn't be the person I am today because of it. It gave me so much courage." 

The Barrow family's next big obstacle is getting Katie to the Miss Canada Globe pageant. They need to raise $3,000 to cover the associated costs for flights, dresses and competition fees. 

The Barrows are attempting one fundraiser a month from now until August.