TORONTO, Ontario - Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach made her first visit to Canada this week where she shared her personal experiences as a victim of bullies.
Wurtzbach talked to students of the International Language Academy of Canada about how she was bullied as a young actress growing up in the Philippines, and while she worked in England.
"I experience bullying in different forms. I experienced it in school. I felt like I was the odd one out growing up in the province because I was half-Filipino and half-German, so I wasn't full blooded Filipina and of course I was the tallest in my class and I felt kind of awkward. I went through an awkward phase and even when I was an actress, there was a lot of scrutiny there as well," Wurtzbach said.
Even now, she said winning the Miss Universe crown doesn't safeguard her from cyber bullying and harsh criticisms.
"What we need here and the rest of the world is a change of values…to accept our differences. That is a fact of life. And the more we become accepting, the more we become tolerant. And the more we care," she said.
Her message drew an applause, even inspiring some of the audience.
"She was the person who started working at the age of 11, and she was the breadwinner as she said, and someone who worked so hard to get her success, so she's a great inspiration," said City Councilman Tom Rakocevic.
A fan of the beauty queen, Eva Reyes added, "Telling her story about all her hardships, all of the trials she has gone through in order to be where she is, it's very inspiring."
The anti-bullying talk was followed by a fundraiser dinner that raised about US$7,000 to benefit the Sick Kids Foundation.
While her trip to Toronto was very short, she said it was a worthwhile stop on the year-long journey she has ahead of her as Miss Universe.
"I definitely matured over the last two months and I can't believe it's only been two months - just because so many things have happened already," she said.
Wurtzbach said her best motivation is failure. It took her three attempts at Binibining Pilipinas to win the third Miss Universe crown for the Philippines, learning valuable lessons to propel her toward success each time.
Read more on Balitang America.