Jan 28, 2008 04:30 AM
She might be a witch, but Stephanie Conover says that's no reason for officials at an upcoming Toronto beauty pageant to reject her as a potential judge.
Conover, who was crowned winner of the Miss Canada Plus Pageant last year, said she was recently invited to be a judge at the Miss Toronto Tourism pageant on Feb. 2.
"I said I'd definitely be there," Conover told the Star yesterday.
"Then, last week, on Monday, they asked me for a biography. I told them everything I do, how I'm an entertainer and a singer and a dancer. I talked about my charity work and I said I also have hobbies, including songwriting, knitting, painting, yoga, reiki and tarot cards."
That's where things got sticky.
"We just got her bio a week ago and we don't agree with it," said Karen Murray, Miss Toronto Tourism pageant director. "We want someone down to earth, not someone into the dark side or the occult."
"We need a judge who has an upright reputation and we would be proud to introduce to the audience," noted a Jan. 24 letter to the Miss Canada Plus group from Murray and another official with the Miss Toronto Tourism pageant.
"Our board of directors has eliminated her as a judge as tarot card reading and reiki are the occult and is not acceptable by God, Jews, Muslims or Christians. Tarot card reading is witchcraft and is used by witches, spiritists and mediums to consult the dark world."
The letter went on to quote a couple of passages from the Bible, including one from the book of Leviticus that warns, "Do not turn to mediums or seek out spirits for you will be defiled by them."
"We hope that Stephanie Conover will turn from these belief systems and will repent from her practice of them," the letter reads.
The Miss Toronto Tourism pageant was established in 1999 and is independent of the city of Toronto's tourism branch.
Conover said she was stunned by the letter."I was fuming. They said tarot cards are the occult and that I use them to commune with dark forces," which she insisted is not the case. "They're completely benign. I use them for healing, to give guidance. You can buy tarot cards at Chapters or the CNE."
She also said reiki is a well-known Japanese healing system that allows people to transfer positive energy to a sick person. "It definitely goes against convention, sure, but anything that helps avoid use of prescription drugs is a bonus, I think."
Conover said she practises Wicca, which to some means she's a witch. But she said the Miss Toronto Tourism people didn't know that and that they based their rejection of her on tarot cards and reiki.
"Some would call me a witch, yes. But we don't believe in the devil. There's no devil in Wicca. We believe whatever you send out, good or bad, comes back to you three times. Ninety per cent of those who practise witchcraft or Wicca do it for the betterment of themselves or others. It's a religion and we're trying to get it recognized by higher-ups in government."
Conover said she also promotes diversity and multiculturalism as her mother is black and her father is white. Murray insisted Conover is "trying to stir up trouble" by raising the issue in the press. "She's obviously a very vindictive person," she said. Murray said her group doesn't get government funding and has the right to decide who acts as a judge in their pageant.
Asked if her group is a religious one, Murray replied, "We adhere to God's principles. We're God-fearing. I wouldn't say we're religious."
Conover said she's looking into challenging the Miss Toronto Tourism pageant in court, or at a human rights tribunal.
"They said they wouldn't be proud to introduce me and that I don't present an upstanding character. I'm a very open-minded person and a very loving person. To say I'm not of upright character, it's blasphemous."