Beauty Queen and Boxing
West End Athletic Club is the official fitness sponsor of Miss Supranational Canada 2023, Rachel Murgel.
Imagine this: You’re walking around the streets at Taste of the Kingsway, South Etobicoke’s largest street festival, with your family and you pass by a booth for a boxing gym that’s doing some demonstrations. Your interest is piqued but there’s no way you could get up there and box, you’re too shy and you don’t want to be judged.
Rachel Murgel had no problem stepping in for a demonstration at Taste of the Kingsway 2022 after she had been crowned Miss Ontario 2022.
As families tend to do, your parents give you a nudge and say “Why not? Give it a shot, you’ve got nothing to lose.” Encouraged by their support, you join the demonstration and even put your name in the ballot box to win a prize. Feeling empowered by your courage to try something new, you spend the rest of the street festival laughing and enjoying time with your family. Much to your surprise, you later find out that you have won a 1-month free membership to the boxing gym, West End Athletic Club, and just like that, without even knowing it, a new journey to finding and nourishing your strength has begun.
This is not a scenario that Rachel Murgel, Miss Ontario 2022 and, recently crowned, Miss Supranational Canada 2023, has to imagine as it is her story of how a Beauty Queen ended up in a Boxing Ring.
Boxing Class with Coach Niles
“When I went to my first class, I had no idea what I was doing. I couldn’t hurt a fly!” But there Rachel was taking a boxing class with Niles Santos. Rachel remembers that despite it being a fitness class, Coach Niles incorporated a lot of technical knowledge for her learning. She felt nervous but was comforted by other members who were participating in the class. “There was a member that told me not to be scared. That at first they felt the same way and didn’t come back for 6 months, and now they can’t imagine not working out at West End AC.”
Much like beauty pageants are laden with stereotypes of being superficial and out of date with current times, boxing faces its share of labels: You have to be tough or willing to fight, have big muscles, and be mean or intense. Rachel was really cautious at the start, but as she got to know the members and staff, she wanted to attend classes for more than just the workout.
Rachel Murgel is ready for whatever training session Coach Niles has prepared.
Rachel Murgel won her first title as Miss Ontario 2022.
“It was a huge transition for me; it was so different from anything I’ve ever tried. But as a woman, boxing is important for so many reasons. It’s great for fitness, but more importantly, it is a self-defense tool; I have the skills to protect myself and just knowing that makes me more confident. Working out at West End AC has helped reinforce that I am strong and that I know I can accomplish what I want if I’m willing to push beyond my comfort zone.”
Rachel Murgel’s Path to Pageantry
Pageantry wasn’t always on Rachel’s radar. A graduate of McMaster University’s Arts and Science program, with a double minor in Business and English literature, she now works in Human Resources. She did cheerleading in high school and university and taught ski lessons at Blue Mountain Resort. As a child, she loved the idea of being on a stage and performed many skits for her family at home. “I was confident and extroverted as a child, but I always feared judgement, and because of that I often didn’t have the courage to go for what I wanted. It was more recently when I saw the adverts to compete and thought to myself, ‘Who cares what others think, if not now then when? I’ve just gotta do it.’”
Being isolated from so many people during COVID-19, and not being able to do the things people were used to really made Rachel reflect on what she wanted from her relationships and in her life. Competing in a pageant was something she didn’t want to regret missing out on because of what other people said or thought. Now, not only has she competed, but she has won and was crowned Miss Ontario 2022 and, on August 19th, 2023, Miss Supranational Canada 2023!
Being crowned Miss Supranational Canada 2023, Rachel feels honoured to represent her country.
Competing in pageants is a lot more complicated than people might think; it’s more than just fancy dresses, swimsuits, and makeup. In the Miss Canada National Competition 2023, the challenges of the competition focused on social media, fitness, an interview, and her charity work, in addition to the on-stage portions.
Rachel is partnered with CODE, a non-profit organization that is dedicated to providing children access to the necessary tools for learning to read and write regardless of socioeconomic status. Reading has always brought joy, comfort, and an escape to Rachel, and she is passionate about helping children thrive as young readers, an invaluable skill for growth and development.
After competing in last year’s national competition and placing top 15 of 50, she wanted to give another shot at the opportunity to represent Canada on an international stage, and this time, she was successful. As Miss Supranational Canada 2023, Rachel reflects on her plans for the year and says: “People are what drive me, I love connecting with others and being authentic to who I am. Oftentimes people think that pageantry is surface level but authenticity and integrity are my highest values and it’s what I hope to bring to the pageant community and world.”
Pageantry and West End AC Embody a sense of Community
Competing in pageants is about women empowering other women, they don’t see it as trying to beat or be better than the other contestants but rather they’re focused on being the best version of themselves. That can also be said of the members and staff at West End Athletic Club. From competitive, world-class athletes to the mom of 3 kids just trying to get her workout in, everyone is there to support one another and encourage individual growth.
“What I like most about West End AC is the sense of community they have established. It’s family-owned and they do a great job of making sure that everybody who’s a member feels like family too. When I go to class, everyone knows everyone, and they go out of their way to say hi. I feel supported there, comfortable; even when I was practicing my stage routine in 6-inch heels on the gym floor, which is a bit different from the usual scenery.”
Boxing is hard, that’s what Rachel likes the least about it but, it’s also what drives her to go back and do more. “I love that it’s different and it’s constantly pushing me out of my comfort zone, you’re not growing if you’re not going out of your comfort zone. It’s exhausting but that’s also why I love it!”
Confident and comfortable in the boxing ring, Rachel Murgel feels like family at West End Athletic Club.
Working hard is what Rachel knows how to do, there is never a dull moment while training at West End AC.
For the most part, Rachel attends Coach Niles’ classes where she warms up, does a short weight workout, some heavy bag work, and her favourite, pad work. Coach Niles has even suggested that Rachel do a sparring class and perhaps even compete in an amateur fight in the future. “As intriguing as it sounds, that’s not what I’m in it for right now, but who knows what could happen.”
“Boxing has taught me so much. I am stronger physically than I thought I was and I didn’t realize how truly capable I am. I’m more confident in my own strength. It has also taught me to be more resilient, boxing has challenged both my mind and my body to go beyond what I think I can do.”
Rachel is grateful for the support West End AC has provided her from the first day of her first boxing class to walking on the stage and earning her newest title. The staff and members at West End have embraced her as family and are her official fitness sponsor. Rachel isn’t intimidated walking in the door anymore, she’s ready to embrace the next, newest member and show them that they are stronger than they may believe.
Learning and Living from Pageants and Boxing
“Today’s society is so peer-led; we are often afraid to do something different, and not caring what others think has been a major part of my life’s journey. Honestly, people are so worried about themselves that they really aren’t thinking about what you’re doing. Allow yourself to feel the fear and then go and do what you want anyway. The right time doesn’t really exist, you have to choose to make it right so that you don’t look back and regret your choices.”
“I’m proud of who I am today. I haven’t always been able to say that, and pageants have helped me to be confident in who I am. Sure it’s hard to see others succeed when you don’t, but I know that we all have something different to offer and that their success doesn’t mean that I’m a failure.” Boxing has only solidified this mindset for Rachel. She was nervous and afraid to try it, but with the support and encouragement of those around her, she is now thriving. When Rachel goes to class, she’s the one telling the new members not to be scared and that they can do it.
What’s most important to Rachel is to help other women feel empowered, to help them realize their own strength, and to be unafraid of following their passions in life.
Want to train like a Beauty Queen? Visit www.westendac.com to view the class schedule and select one that you will no longer be afraid to try!
Miss Supranational 2023 and boxer at West End Athletic Club, the future has endless possibilities for Rachel Murgel.