In a youth-obsessed society, we tend to view aging as something that makes us less attractive. Wrinkles are looked down upon, not-so-tight skin is unpreferred, and gaining weight is something to fear. But these are all physical (and inevitable) aspects of growing older. We’re fixated on the outside and not recognizing any of our growth on the inside.

Former Miss Canada of 1974, Blair Lancaster won the title at just 19-years old. A retail fashion student from Burlington, she says her view of beauty back then was solely based on physical appearance. Now, a mom of three, a former business owner, and a politician, she reflects on her past as a beauty queen and what it means to be thought of as beautiful at any age.

What was your definition of beauty before you became Miss Canada?

I really started thinking about beauty when I was 10-years old. I had a girlfriend who lived down the street, and I always used to think, “Wow I wish I had skin and hair like her.” At that age, I always thought about the differences between us and who was better. One day, she came up to me and said how much she wished she looked like me. I was shocked and asked her why she would say that. That was when I realized that beauty was subjective.

How did your view of beauty change after you won the crown?

Once I became Miss Canada, I was really subjected to everyone else’s opinion of what I should be. I felt like people were always very critical. They would see me and thought I wasn’t skinny enough. They would constantly comment on my appearance. They would nitpick at so many things like my hair colour and my height, and it always made me feel inadequate. But I knew I had to get a handle on it so it couldn’t affect any more of my self-esteem and self-confidence. I realized very early on that other people’s expectations were different from mine. I also learned that their critiques were never about me and more about themselves.

How did your definition of beauty change as you got older?

Certainly at the top of my mind for me is to age gracefully. I like to look at beauty from the inside. I’ve also come to terms that beauty has no size. Maturing is a natural thing, and some gain weight naturally, while others don’t. I believe if you have that light in your eyes and the joy in your smile, the weight starts to mean nothing.

Do you think beauty is skin deep? And why?

Beauty is skin deep because it comes from within. It’s really about the light you have inside yourself, and the joy you bring into other people’s lives and your own. It’s not so much in your features. It’s when you radiate that good, positive energy that makes people want to be around you. That’s what beauty really is.

Why do you think people focus more on their physical changes as they become older, rather than the beauty of their mental and emotional maturity?

If you look at beauty only through your features or constantly wish away your wrinkles, your beauty ideal will be impossible to achieve. I’ve aged myself, and I like to think that I’ve got wrinkles because of all the successes in my life. I’ve recently suffered nerve damage to my eyes, and because of it, I can’t wear makeup anymore. It’s been hard to adjust to this new normal because I usually wouldn’t want to be seen without it. But again, it’s all about maintaining the light in your eyes and doing the things you love to do. The other day, my husband said I was beautiful just because he saw me gardening, which was something I always liked doing.

Given everything you’ve experienced over the years; everything you’ve done for your community, for others, and for yourself. How do you think one becomes more beautiful as one ages?

You have to take care of yourself. You’ve got to respect yourself and eat well. While also scheduling in some time to take care of your skin with beauty products that suit it best. Staying mentally active also contributes to that. That includes reading, staying up to date with current events, and staying connected. If you don’t, you’ll feel desolate and isolated from the light you can offer and the experiences that come along with it.

What would you say to those who are struggling to see the beauty within themselves as they grow older?  

Find your joy in something that makes you truly happy. You have to live your life like there’s no tomorrow. So many of us beat ourselves up for our past mistakes. And those are exactly what makes us not like ourselves very much. We have to acknowledge what it is we’ll do better next time. That’s what will help you through your journey to self-acceptance. No matter your age, or what you’ve accomplished in life. If you don’t feel it’s enough today, make it enough tomorrow.