Beauty queens with a cause

Three young Canadian women have some notable things in common: concern for social justice, success in beauty contests – and faith in Christ.

Miss World Canada

Nazanin Afshin-Jam In VancouverBorn in Iran and raised in West Vancouver, Nazanin Afshin-Jam grew up with a desire to help people in need. As she became directly involved in such work, she wondered how she could communicate with a wider audience – and decided to try her luck as a beauty contestant.

“I felt people were listening more to sports stars and celebrities than they were to politicians. So how could I get a title for myself? I learned about the Miss World contest, and their motto: ‘Beauty with a purpose.’” She was chosen Miss World Canada in 2003.

Afshin-Jam is especially concerned with human rights issues in the land of her birth, which she said struggles with “state-controlled media, persecution of ethnic and religious minorities, many political prisoners and a gender apartheid that values women’s lives at half that of a man.” Her main focus is her work with Stop Child Executions.

Afshin-Jam also has an artistic side, reflected in the various songs she has recorded for an upcoming CD.

Miss Pakistan World

Naomi ZamanNaomi Zaman was born and raised in a Christian household in Ontario. She has performed at various charity events. In 2005, she won the Miss Pakistan World contest. She is now a recording artist, and recently participated in DesiFest – an event celebrating South Asian culture in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.

“I was always singing in church or on stage,” she told Options, “and this made me want . . . to help bridge the gap between cultures throughout the world.” She also hopes to “empower young women and children to have faith in God, never give up on praying and following their dreams.”

Zaman wants to honour her own cultural heritage, in practical ways. “I have faith that I will one day be able to go into Pakistan, and do a lot of volunteer and social work … with the strength given from God.” Commenting on the disastrous August flooding in Pakistan, she said: “This is the time where relief is crucial.”

She hopes to uplift people through her first single, ‘Rock Desi.’ She also plans to produce gospel songs; an album in multiple languages; and a song designed to raise funds for non-profit groups.

Miss BC

Miss BC - Tara Teng of Langley“I’ve never done pageants before,” said Tara Teng. One gets the impression that this is not false modesty, but rather an indication of her priorities.

Since childhood, the pastor’s daughter has volunteered to serve in various missions and sport camps. “I grew up in a family where we care about ministry,” she told Options.

Now a Trinity Western University student, she is pursuing broader interests through the Trinity International Social Justice Club. She also co-founded a group with a whimsical name and a serious purpose: Undies for Africa, which operates through Nectar Lingerie in Fort Langley, B.C.

The company’s website states: “In many parts of Africa, women go without bras and panties because they simply can’t afford them.”

Teng intends to use her platform over the next several months, to speak out on social issues such as human trafficking.


  1. I would just like to reply to Mitch’s comment. I personally know Tara Teng, and she purposely switched pageants as she did not believe in the idea of the swimsuit competition. She is SUPER Successful, and impacting this country in more ways than you even know. I would say before judging and commenting for all to see that YOU personally get informed about these incredible young women who are CHANGING THE WORLD AND PEOPLE’S lives before you decide to rip them apart and judge them publicly. I’m proud of these women, and every thing they are doing.

  2. Young women contestants in beauty pagents must – among other things – appear before an audience wearing a swimsuit. This on the one hand and the Christian faith on the other appear to be mutually exclusive given the sexually charged atmosphere of these contests and the “beauty industry” in general.

    I don’t doubt the sincerity of these young women; I’m convinced however that they are seriously misinformed and misguided and the example they set is at best a most dubious one.

    1. You women also appear in swimsuits in front of an “audience” for a much longer time at the beach…

      Guess young women who go to the beach wearing a swimsuit in front of men are seriously misinformed and misguided and are at best setting a most dubious example.

      I tire of this kind of comment, focus on your own relationship with God and the example you wish to set, and appreciate that these women have their own relationship with God and stop judging the way they are choosing to express themselves. There is nothing “sexually charged” in what they are doing (except perhaps in your own mind), I am sure you haven’t been to any of the shows mentioned here.

      What young people need is more successful young women in these industries who will stand up for God and declare their love for and faith in God. These are the examples needed.

      1. I stand by what I wrote. Beauty contests are first and foremost about physical, sexual beauty and the exploitation of women. A young and sexually attractive woman appearing in a swimsuit for the purposes of a beauty contest would be/is hard pressed declaring her love for and faith in God and be taken seriously. On the other hand equally endowed yet modest women who refuses to make compromises and “not succeed” as a result set a significantly more credible example.