Sahar Biniaz rises above a school bullying past to win Miss Universe Canada

Sahar Biniaz, 26, will now represent Canada in the 2012 Miss Universe contest.  - Nicholas Allum/ photo
Sahar Biniaz, 26, will now represent Canada in the 2012 Miss Universe contest.
— image credit: Nicholas Allum/ photo

Richmond’s Sahar Biniaz is now Canadian pageant royalty. The 26-year-old won the crown at the Miss Universe Canada 2012 contest last Saturday in Toronto.

“It was absolutely amazing. The feeling of it is like winning a lottery: you buy a ticket hoping to win, but you’re never ever prepared enough mentally, emotionally and physically for all these things that will go with it.”

Biniaz is now planning a tour of South America to work with the charity SOS Children’s Villages. In B.C. she’ll be helping raise awareness for B.C. Transplant, an organization close to her heart ever since a 25-year-old cousin died in a car accident—but not before he saved someone’s life with a heart donation.

Born in India and raised in Iran, Biniaz came to Richmond at the age of 10. She studied performing arts at Stella Adler Academy in Los Angeles and is working as an actress in film and television.

Biniaz graduated from R.C. Palmer, but school in Richmond wasn’t an easy road.

In Grade 8 at Richmond High, Biniaz said two girls beat her up in the school bathroom, sending her to hospital. She moved schools, but even in her graduating year, when she started modelling, bullying persisted.

“I never got to enjoy the real setting of a school,” she said.

In 2005, Biniaz was inspired to compete for the Miss Universe title. At the timSahar Biniaze she was in Thailand volunteering at an orphanage. She saw an advertisement for Miss Universe and decided to go. Canada won after going decades without a crown.

“That really inspired me. That’s why I decided to give it my all, give it my best.”

Sahar will now represent Canada at the 2012 Miss Universe competition, scheduled for mid-December. In the meantime she’ll split her time between Vancouver, Toronto and South America.

Two other Richmond residents, Carla Bradstock, 26, and Elana Wu, 22, were also among the 63 women from across Canada who competed for the title.

Sahar said she’s promised them she’ll visit all the contestants in their provinces.

Sahar also competed in the pageant in 2008, finishing as first runner-up. But with persistence, she found the stage again this year—this time winning the title. She wants to encourage young girls to have the same persistence—and don’t let a second-place finish drag you down.

Said Sahar: “I think it’s the background that I come from, the bullying, that helped me to be able to keep going for what I want—not care about what people think or say.”

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