MIAMI - Chanel Beckenlehner is hoping to take home the crown at the Miss Universe pageant, but win or lose, she's scored big buzz around the world for an outlandish hockey-themed costume.
Beckenlehner, who is representing Canada at the competition, said she didn't have access to her phone during rehearsals on Thursday and was unaware of the online chatter related to her outfit, which featured a locker's worth of hockey gear including sticks, padding and netting.
Images of Beckenlehner's costume blanketed Twitter, generating a mix of praise and pans for the outfit, which she wore during a preliminary Miss Universe competition.
Beckenlehner said there was an audible reaction when she stepped on stage.
"There was a really big gasp... which was kind of cool," Beckenlehner said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
"It was just a surreal moment when I got on stage, and I felt like I was representing my country well; and no matter what happened, I knew that I loved it. I'm just hoping that the concept was clear and I think it was."
The Caledon, Ont., native said she met last August with Alex Kavanagh, a Toronto-based film and TV costume designer, to discuss preliminary ideas of what Canada's national costume should be.
From 30 different concepts, Kavanagh sketched six and Beckenlehner was tasked with selecting the final design. Outfits inspired by the Canadarm and Hudson's Bay were among those in the running before she settled on Canada's pastime as the theme.
"Hockey is basically the heartbeat of Canada. It's Canada's pulse, really," said the Toronto resident, who supports the hometown Maple Leafs.
"So I wanted to present that and showcase that we can make it glamorous and pageant-friendly and beautiful at the same time, showing how dedicated we are to that sport."
Beckenlehner said the costume took Kavanagh and her team about five months to produce.
It includes a corseted bustier emblazoned with a black and white Maple Leaf. The back of her voluminous skirt features blue lines and faceoff circles representing a hockey arena.
The 26-year-old also wore custom-made knee-high, lace-up boots with heels meant to mimic a skate blade, and wore a replica of the Stanley Cup as a head piece.
Beckenlehner capped off the towering ensemble with a functional electronic scoreboard created by Toronto special effects company Acme FX.
"It was done to be lightweight and flashy," said Beckenlehner.
"The whole costume weighs about 20 pounds, and what's really neat and what people didn't get to see — because it's underneath and I'm corseted in — is that I had a custom moulding made of my back in order to support the scoreboard."
Beckenlehner could be a double winner in this year's Miss Universe competition.
Her outfit was selected among the top five national costumes alongside contestants representing Argentina, Germany, India and Indonesia. The public can vote for their favourite costume by tweeting using the hashtag #MissUniverse along with the contestant's home country.
— By Lauren La Rose in Toronto.
Follow @lauren_larose on Twitter