When Jiaxin Sun of Beijing was crowned Miss Universe China in December 2020, it was a victory not only for her but also for Toastmasters.
Sun joined FM Toastmasters in Beijing only a little more than a year before beginning on her initial pageant journey. The 21-year-old—a student at the Capital University of Physical Education and Sports in Beijing—wanted to overcome stage fright and learn confidence and leadership skills. She overcame that fear and grew so much that for the talent portion of Miss Universe China, she chose to give a speech.
That speech helped propel her above the 86 other contestants to win the crown, which qualifies her to compete in the Miss Universe competition against winners from each country.
Her club has been with her every step of the way on her road to success. She readily acknowledges that she couldn’t have accomplished any of it if it weren’t for the skills she learned in Toastmasters and the support of her Toastmasters club, particularly club member Mason Wang, who introduced her to Toastmasters and has mentored her from the beginning.
“Before I joined Toastmasters, the words ‘public speaking’ never crossed in my life. I was afraid to even have conversations with my classmates,” she explains. But her club members encouraged her to deliver speeches, and offered helpful feedback, and bit by bit, she fell in love with public speaking.
In addition to communication skills, Sun feels Toastmasters has also given her the confidence and leadership skills necessary to even sign up for a pageant.
“I’ve seen many excellent speakers on the Toastmasters stage who had 100% confidence,” she says. “I wanted to be like them. I worked to gain that confidence by giving speeches and serving as President.”
Path to the Pageant
Sun had just finished her term as Club President when she saw a fellow club member post a picture of Mr. Universe 2019 on WeChat. Afterward, her club members encouraged her to try out for the Miss China regional contest. “It was like a dream,” she says. “Members accompanied me to contest, they helped me rehearse the speech that I had prepared for the talent show session, and when I was about to get on the stage, I saw them in the audience. They looked so excited, and they gave me a nod, which gave me the courage to step on the stage and succeed.”
"I wanted to show them that I am the best speaker in the room."
After winning the regional contest, Sun grew serious preparing for the national one. She had to pick dresses, write speeches, and practice walking and posing. But first she made a plan. She spent time talking to people who had experience in the pageant world, she listened, gathered information, and made decisions. “All of the leadership skills I learned in Toastmasters work!” she laughs.
Toastmasters Skills in Pageant Life
Part of being a contestant is interacting with the organizers. “Before I talked with organizers, I was just a contestant like everyone else, but after communicating with them, I became a seeded player and left a really good impression on the judges.”
Knowing that giving speeches around the world—and doing so clearly and eloquently—is the most frequent and important activity of the Miss Universe role is one of the reasons Sun chose to give a speech as her talent. “I wanted to show them that I am the best speaker in the room,” she explains. Her topic was “Make the World a Better Place,” and the speech helped propel her to the crown.
“I want to be a role model for young women and inspire them to become a better version of themselves.”
“Giving that speech was a fantastic experience,” she says. “I couldn’t see faces, but I could hear cheers and applause. I gave my heart and soul when I delivered the speech.”
The final part of the Miss Universe China competition involved answering questions. Sun watched as the other four contenders nervously answered their questions. But the confidence she had gathered on the Toastmasters stage readily translated to calm on the pageant stage.
Today she interacts with beauty queens from all over the world, an unbelievable opportunity she doesn’t think would have ever happened without Toastmasters.
And it’s not just onstage where Toastmasters has made a difference. “My Toastmasters skills have helped me handle all types of relationships; they’ve improved my efficiency in learning, and helped me make decisions.”
Going forward, she sees herself growing in three areas: Toastmasters, the Miss Universe pageant, and eventually, the United Nations.
“I want to be a role model for young women and inspire them to become a better version of themselves."
The Miss Universe 2020 competition was postponed due to the pandemic, and is now scheduled for May 16, 2021. Women from 74 countries and territories will be competing for the crown. Sun will be the 19th woman to represent China.
Laura Amann is magazine supervisor and editor for the Toastmaster magazine.