"It is Never too Late to Dream a New Dream" Tanya Scarvaci Mrs Australia International
It was New Year’s Eve 2014 when Tanya Scarvaci had made the decision that 2015 was going to be the year of fulfilling and accomplishing personal goals that she had set herself a long time ago. Tanya expressed how it only seemed like yesterday that she was a 22 year old, bright-eyed, enthusiastic and driven young high school teacher ready to pave her career and vocation into full-time teaching. After graduating with a Double Degree in Education Tanya was able to teach in some of Perth’s most prestigious schools. After 5 years of teaching in single-sex private colleges and embarking on a Masters Degree in education, she realised that she was spending so much time developing and progressing in her career that she was losing her own sense of personal identity. Growing up, Tanya definitely knew that she had one talent that made her stand out from the rest and that talent was singing. As she got older, that dream of becoming a professional singer grew more distant and was thrown into the “I’ll do it one day” pile that we often tend to put dreams and other ideals into. Fast track 15 years later and Tanya found herself wishing that she had been more proactive about all of the things she wanted to do, instead of focussing on the ambition that came with a promising career in education.
In May of this year Tanya entered Miss Country Girl Australia in Mandurah and took out the title of the Talent Category in singing against girls that were young, beautiful and fresh out of high school. Tanya remembers when she made it to the first set of auditions and how nervous she became when she saw “18 something year olds” hit the stage with their guitar riffs, long blonde locks and youthfulness. Tanya said , “There I was, at 28, thinking to myself, why didn’t I give this a shot when I was younger? Why was I so scared to just get up on stage and show people my voice that I knew was strong, powerful and would make people sit up and listen”? When Tanya got up onstage on the Finals night in her sparkling Ruth Tarvydas dress and sang Rihanna’s song Stay in front of a packed audience, that’s when a quote by C.S Lewis finally made sense to her; “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream”. Even though Tanya had thought that it was too late, that she was too seasoned in comparison to these young, fresh faces, it became evident to Tanya that this epic moment in her life was just the beginning of greater things to come this year.
As June approached, Tanya was in the midst of marking Year 12 exams and working arduously to keep up with the deadlines, programming and assessment tasks that come with the day -to day- life of a high school teacher. High school teaching is a highly demanding yet incredibly rewarding profession. Tanya quoted that “if you want to be a great teacher, you have to pay the price of making sure that your lessons for each class, in my case, 6 different classes and year levels per day are prepared thoroughly so that you can greet and teach over 192 faces each day to the high standard and calibre that you would want your own child to be taught”. Tanya continued to discuss how at times, teaching can be copious and challenging and that most teachers end up burning out by their 4th or 5th year. However, what makes Tanya keep coming back everyday are the moments that she has with students called the “light bulb moments” where they grasp a new learning concept and the times when she connects with them on a level that can help them improve or better themselves. Tanya’s passion for education has led her to a beautiful 6 year vocation where she is able to connect with her students and build rapport with them. Tanya truly admires her students at Mercy College in Mirrabooka in WA and it has always been her goal to serve as a positive role model to each and every one of them.
Tanya spoke of her desire to enter the Mrs Australia International pageant with great enthusiasm. She mentioned that it was a cold and rainy day when she entered her Year 9 class to teach her students about healthy human relationships and personal identity. “I walked in, greeted my students and wrote the word “Beautiful” on the whiteboard. I then handed over a few whiteboard markers and asked each student to brainstorm on the board what this word implies or means to them”. Tanya continued to describe how each student made their way to the board and how saddened and dismayed she was by some of the words that her students had chosen to typify this contemporary ideal of what it means to be “beautiful”. Illustrious words such as “thin”, “sexy”, “hot”, “thigh-gap”, “skinny”, “tall”, “blonde” were strewn all over the whiteboard that was once a blank canvas. Tanya said that she turned to the class with a serious look on her face to which one of her students asked, “Miss, why do you look so sad”? To this she replied, “Is this what you all really think?” Tanya said she was dumbfounded. She couldn’t believe how a group of 14 year olds thought that to be beautiful simply meant to be good-looking. This moment ignited and propelled Tanya to ask her class further questions. “Can you find me a positive, young role model in the media today that reinforces a positive body image”? This question served as Tanya’s challenge to them in an effort to help them understand that beauty is far beyond one’s physical appearance and should be based on an individual’s accomplishments, talents and by what they have contributed or given back to society in a positive way. Tanya wanted this lesson to be a breakthrough lesson where her students could see past the stereotypical mould of beauty that was being dished out to them through the social media.
Tanya also decided to embark on her own Internet research as the students were on a quest to find young, positive role models within the celebrity world. She got a few names by the end of the lesson such as Jennifer Lawrence, Emma Watson, Hilary Duff for various reasons such as their intelligence and through playing respectable roles in films. However, she then decided to look up beauty pageants as a means of showing her students how young people can be led astray and made to think that physical beauty is all that matters. Tanya had the intentions of showing a few beauty pageants that she had heard of to show her students how superficial, shallow, materialistic and degrading these pageants are for women. In her efforts to downplay, ridicule, criticise and pull apart beauty pageants, she came across a page called Mrs Australia International. The website appeared showcasing women from all different ethnicities, of different body shapes and sizes. Tanya was intrigued. Her understanding of a beauty pageant and all of the misogynistic, negative perceptions that she had held about beauty pageants prior to coming across this site were shattered as she stared at my computer screen. This was how Tanya’s Mrs Australia International journey began.
After reading about the pageant, Tanya commented on how impressed she was by the premise of it and what it stood for. The contestants for the pageant ranged from teenagers, to young, single women and married women. The pageant focused on different elements such as charity work and grading was based on your selected charity platform and on you as a person, rather than solely basing it on one’s physical beauty. The pageant screamed out self-esteem, confidence and female empowerment. Tanya knew that she wanted to be affiliated with a pageant that uplifted women and made them feel confident within themselves. Beauty was just one aspect of the pageant. After much contemplation, Tanya sent through her application form and was shortly contacted by Ferial Youakim, the National Director of Mrs Australia International. Her entry had been accepted along with only a handful of other entrants! Tanya couldn’t believe it! This moment reignited her passion for the creative arts. It made her realise that it wasn’t too late, that she could still fulfil her dreams and still teach at the same time. This truly was a breakthrough moment for Tanya. From there on, Tanya was determined to take out the title of Mrs Australia International and that she did! Out of the other contestants, Tanya was determined to stand out by simply being her “true, authentic self” and by taking a leap out of her comfort zone. Pageantry and modelling were all new to Tanya and by throwing herself into the deep end Tanya was able to learn new skills.
From that moment she started working on her charity platform which is a UNICEF sponsored appeal called the Back to School Appeal that enables young children in certain villages within the Central African Republic to have access to equal educational opportunities. UNICEF is the United Children’s Fund, working in over 190 countries for the survival, protection and the development of every child. Tanya chose this appeal not only because it tied in with her own teaching profession, it also gave Tanya the opportunity to reinforce to her students the importance of “giving back” and how beautiful this concept is.
Personally, Tanya believes that education is a basic human right and it had always been a lifelong dream of hers to host her own charity event for a campaign that she knew would be life-changing, not only for her but for millions of children around the world. After her proposal to fundraise for her charity event was approved, Tanya sought out staff members at Mercy College and asked them what kind of charity event they would attend. 1950s themed glamour appeared to be popular and this is how the idea for “A Night of Glamour” came to fruition. Tanya was able to get a burlesque troupe called the Sugar Twins to perform roving acts, an acclaimed magician, musicians and an acrobatic troupe all performed at the glamorous event. The event was a huge success with over 100 guests attending and after months of publicity shoots, a TV interview on The Couch promoting the event and after months of attaining sponsors and gifts to give away on the night, Tanya was able to achieve a lifelong goal. Tanya successfully fundraised over $3000 from this event to her charity.
After much persistence and through networking, Tanya was able to secure 2 respectable businesses to sponsor her charity; Melissa Pisconeri, hair stylist and owner of Volume Control and Carlos Nanino of Victoria Jeweller and Watchmakers were able to make her dream a reality. For that Tanya remains forever grateful. She was also given gift vouchers from Rockabella Beauty in Alfred Cove along with over $500 worth of meats donated from the Corner Butcher Store to help her with running the buffet styled dinner that was a part of the event. Overall, Tanya had proven to herself that through diligence, commitment and through never giving up, she was able to accomplish something she had never thought she could have achieved in her lifetime.
Tanya is so proud and happy of her achievements and said that she is still floating on “cloud 9” after winning the prestigious, national beauty pageant which is ranked in the top 5 of major international beauty pageants for women. With the new title of Mrs Australia International under Tanya’s belt, she was able to prove to her students and to herself that it is never too late to set a new goal and to fulfil it.
Tanya cannot wait to see what the future holds in modelling as new doors and opportunities are opening up for her in Perth and Sydney. Tanya cannot wait to embrace the sisterhood and sense of collegiality that comes with competing in Mrs International 2016 and looks forward to flying out to Jacksonville, Florida to compete with women from all over the world for the prestigious title of Mrs International. We wish Tanya all the best of luck in her future endeavours and in the words of Dear Pageant Girl, hopefully this “Baby Jessica Simpson” look alike will take out the crown and represent her country well on an international level.