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Date Posted: 12:37:09 03/08/11 Tue
By MELISSA DI COSTANZO
CORNWALL -- When she was a young girl, Sheri Cuillerier and her sister, Sarah, used to play dress-up with their aunt's scarves and hats.
"We would also sing into hairbrushes," Sheri recalls.
She pauses and smiles.
"You know those plastic high heels? I used to walk around the house in them," she laughs.
Sheri's mom, Connie, chimes in.
"She's always had an attraction to clothing and makeup," says Connie.
Sheri, 20, has modeled in two shows at Cornwall Square and danced for 12 years (and was an instructor for two of those years).
She's not a girlie girl, nor is she a glam girl, she says.
"I like wearing ball caps and jogging pants," says Cuillerier, who works as a waitress at East Side Mario's. "I work a lot, so a lot of the time, I'm in uniform."
What she never thought was that she would be a delegate for Miss Universe Canada 2011.
"For this to happen to me is huge," says the social service worker grad from St. Lawrence College. "If you told me I would be doing this, never, ever in a million years did I think I would be here, at this point. It's opened my mind to so many things I can do."
Connie is happy for her daughter, who is the baby of the family.
"I hope she can get as far as she can go," she says.
Dad John is excited for Sheri. "I'm happy she's trying something different," he says.
Cuillerier was watching TV one day, when her attention was caught.
"Something came up about the delegates from (the pageant from) 2010," she explains.
So she went on the Internet and looked up the previous years' delegates. But they were not what she expected.
"They were just normal girls," she says. "I was like 'I can do that. They sound like me.'"
Cuillerier decided to fill out an application.
She applied to the pageant late last year and found out earlier this year she had been invited for auditions.
Auditions took place in February in Montreal. The day consisted of an interview, a lesson in pageant walking and questions from national director, Denis Davila.
A sampling of questions Cuillerier was asked include 'do athletes get paid too much?' and 'What is the difference between wisdom and intelligence?'
"They were intense questions," she says.
Cuillerier admits she wasn't sure she wanted to be a part of the process on the day of the auditions.
But with a little help and encouragement from her boyfriend, she pressed on.
"We were in a giant room, and they showed us poses; how to stand, how to walk," she says. "They told us to dress for an interview. So I wore a suit : a jacket, pants, a turtleneck and high heels. And all of the other girls wore heels, miniskirts and tight dresses. And I was like "OK. This should be interesting.'"
But Cuillerier thinks what separated her from the rest of the crowd was her honesty in answering questions.
"I wasn't intimidated at all," she says. "I thought : 'I'm just going to do this. I'm just going to be me,' and at that moment, I loved exactly who I was. I was very empowered at that point."
Following the day, Cuillerier says she was happy she went through the process.
"At least I did it," she says.
Within days following the auditions, she found out she had made the cut, along with roughly 60 to 70 other Canadian girls.
"Part of me wanted to see if I could make it," she says. "I wanted to do it for the people who didn't think they could do it and the small-town girls."
*** In the coming months, Cuillerier has a pile of preparation to complete. She has to research the background of the pageant and current events, fill out paperwork and raise funds to attend Miss Universe Canada.
By March 15, she has to raise $500. By March 30, she has to raise an additional $1,000. And by April 31, she has to raise another $1,000.
She's looking forward to the pageant, but says the idea that she has made it this far hasn't quite sunk in. Nevertheless, she is excited.
"I haven't left Cornwall at all. I went to Quebec City with the school in Grade 8 and Meaford," she says. "I think this will be a good life experience."
Cuillerier will be spending one week in Toronto in June, where Miss Universe Canada is taking place. In the meantime, she will be fundraising to cover costs of the pageant.
Delegates must purchase five cocktail dresses and one evening gown. In addition, they must pay $2,500 (this cost covers hotel, food, hair and makeup, a customized swim suit and evening gown and To ronto transportation fees) and Cuillerier will be paying for her own transportation.
She hopes her community will support her in this next chapter of her life.
"I was born and raised in this house," she says, from her parent's Ontario Street home. "I love Cornwall. This is my hometown."
In the end, she says even if she doesn't win, she'll be happy to have participated.
"I want to make my family and community proud," she says. "It's all a life experience I'm going to learn."
For more information or to sponsor Sheri, call her sister, Sarah, at 613-330-3349 or, visit the Facebook page called "Sheri Cuillerier for Miss Universe Canada 2011."