mariamanna2013 Unlimited Woman of Style Award, in Memory of Bonnie Pollard

Maria Manna is the winner of the 2013 Unlimited Woman of Style Award, but if there had been an award for humility she probably would have won that as well.

Manna says she never thought of herself as someone with style. The fact that others regarded her so, came as a huge surprise. That surprise has caused Manna to question how she considered style.

“I’m not very good at putting outfits together, and I don’t claim to be a fashionista, but I guess style is about the whole person,” she says. “It’s not what you wear, it’s what you exude.”

This special award was given to Manna in memory of Bonnie Pollard, who died in August 2013 after a battle with breast cancer. Pollard was a pillar in the community for fashion, style, modeling and acting. Manna is humbled and honoured to be in such company, she says, and to be thought of as a woman who deserves this award’s distinction.

Manna has celebrated her womanhood from the time she was a little girl. Her mother raised her and her sisters as “little women,” with an innate sense of being special because they were female. From the first moments Manna can remember, she’s appreciated everything from “how a lady carries herself” to special accessories, like the white gloves and a handkerchief she used to wear to church growing up.

“I am so proud to be a woman, and I think when you feel that way, it does show. It’s not about your size, or where you buy your clothes — it could be Macy’s or Kmart — the way you carry yourself will make you look like a million bucks.”

While many know Manna for her musical career and her involvement in the Victoria Gospel Festival as well as the Victoria Conservatory of Music, others know her as the woman that created Maria Manna Life Spa — now growing as Sapphire Day Spa, by owner Heidi Sherwood. Some even know her for the Maria Manna Etiquette and Finish School she opened in 2000. Last year, she was also honoured with the 2013 Governor General Caring Canadian Award of Western Canada.

One thing Manna cares deeply about is how women see themselves. Too often, she experiences women comparing themselves to what they see in magazines, or even to each other. It’s a recipe to leave you continually lacking, she says.

“If we were all the same, no one would see us. You must love you for who you are, because we are all different, and you wear your security. The sexiest thing a woman can do is walk into a room like she owns it.”

Manna says a few simple things made a huge difference in her life. First, no comparing. She accepts who she is and finds beauty where it lies. Second, she finds one or two highlights that pop out. Manna says focus on the two things you love about yourself most — whether it’s your striking eyes, great teeth, small waist — and find a way to accentuate that.

“Men love us at a size 2, 12 or 22,” she says. “We are the only ones who care about the number. Think about that.”

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