The first thing you notice about Monica VonGaza is her gorgeous thick, curly hair. Then it’s the 19-year-old’s beaming smile and her physical confidence, which stems from the years she spent on a basketball court. “I liked to play the game because I was passionate about it, and it was something I was comfortable doing,” explains Monica, who hails from Edson, Alberta. “I had always been the chubby one at school, but on the court that didn’t matter. I was confident when I played, and that helped me to be confident in the rest of my life.” That’s not to say there weren’t some very dark moments when Monica felt left out and depressed.
Her two tattoos—a biblical scripture and a cross—are visual reminders of what she experienced and, most important, what helped her move on. “Depression is something I’ve struggled with for a long time,” she says. “It runs in my family, and it was associated with the bullying I experienced in school. Growing up, I struggled with learning to accept who I was. I got tired of always thinking I’d be happy when I lost weight or I’d be happy when I had a boyfriend. I wanted to be happy now!”
She got her first tattoo when she was 16. Taken from the Song of Solomon 8:6, it says: “For love is as strong as death; its devotion is unyielding as the grave. It burns the blazing fire, the brightest kind of flame.” “At the time, I had convinced myself that nobody loved me, but that’s not the case and this verse reminds me of that,” says Monica. “I got the second tattoo—the cross—after my first year at university because I saw so many people going down the wrong path. The cross reminds me that I’m not in control; God is in control of my life and although bad things may happen to me, I simply must move on and hope for the best.” Monica has taken a year off school but wants to return to become a hairstylist because she loves the confidence she feels when she walks out of a salon. “You’re strutting your stuff, and it makes you want to reach for your phone and take a selfie! I want to make women feel that way regardless of their size! If women everywhere learned to love themselves, it would be revolutionary.”
Read on to find out which finalist is Tiffani Thiessen’s doppelgänger. Read more…