Leeann Tanaah is a 24 year-old young woman who has grown up in the Jane and Finch community her whole life. During the week she is a youth worker at Promoting Education and Community Health (PEACH) working with young boys and creating safe spaces and on the weekends Leeann has spent her time training to be the next Miss Africa Canada.
“I always wanted to do a pageant and I told myself 2018 is going to be the time I do many of the things I want to do with my life.” Leeann explained that the pageant means “really bossing up and having tenacity.”
With the help of her coaches, Ama Deidra, Ms. Folu, Zeeba Enebeli, and Fatou alongside the owner of the Miss Africa Canada competition, Mr. Ibrahim Adekale, Leeann has been able to connect with her competitors as both competition and friends as they navigate what Miss Africa Canada pageant means and win the title.
“To me, Miss Africa Canada means being a woman who is not ashamed of being a woman and all that it comes with. It means being tenacious.”
Leeann explained that tenacity is a word she lives by and has created the concept of “Tanaahcity” – a combination of her last name and the word “city” to inspire her and remind her of her own strength.
“Tanaahcity, or tenacity, inspires me. Tanaah City is a metaphor – it’s a city set on a hill. It’s about being able to see things clearly and to have better discernment in your life,” Leeann explains. This metaphor of the city on the hill – which is also a passage from the Bible – has helped Leeann be tenacious in the face of self-doubt and doubt from others.
Leeann describes that sometimes it’s difficult to be a woman – often left navigating being “too this” or “too that.” Training for Miss Africa Canada has built the confidence she needs to make decisions that center her and encourages Leeann to pursue goals she before would have shied away from.
“I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels” is a Maya Angelou quote that happens to be one of Leeann’s favourites. The competition requires discipline and commitment – from fine tuning one’s walk, to honing your talent, to continuing your participation despite self-doubt and criticism. Leeann notes that the Miss Africa Canada competition has helped her build the confidence she needs to take control of her life and her future. The competition reinforces Leeann’s tenacity.
“I’m done with counting myself out – I am not counting myself out. Over the years people have – ever since I was younger, people have been counting me out. But nope. This year I am counting myself in.”