Exclusive: Canadians Kelly Lovell and Gunjan Mhapankar on meeting the 'down-to-earth' Queen

The novelty of visiting the Queen at Buckingham Palace never gets old - just ask David Beckham. "It gives me goosebumps just driving through the gate," the soccer star said, despite having visited numerous times. Most recently, he joined Prince Harry and princesses Beatrice and Eugenie at the Young Leaders Awards, where 60 winners from around the commonwealth were recognized for their leadership efforts - including Canadians Kelly Lovell, 24, and Gunjan Mhapankar, 21.


Gunjan (in grey suit) and Kelly (in floral headpiece) also visited landmarks like 10 Downing with the Young Leaders

"It's absolutely magnificent," Vancouver community activist Gunjan told Hello! about Her Majesty's home. "Everything is gold-embossed. It's really quite intricate and really splendid on the inside." After meeting the monarch, she said, "I was expecting her to be like a queen but she's actually very sweet and humble. She's very down-to-earth and very one with the young people, which was quite surprising and quite lovely."

Youth engagement coach Kelly was also struck by the Queen's kind nature, telling Hello! that "she makes you feel very comfortable when you're around her, and immediately at ease."

"I’m speechless to be honest, it’s definitely an unforgettable moment," said Kelly of meeting the Queen

Kelly's trip to London also inspired awe within her family, especially her grandmother. "My nana’s been watching the Queen for so long because she’s the same age," she said of the longtime volunteer, who she credits with inspiring her community service. "She’s never understood the work I do, like entrepreneurship... but she understands what it means to meet the Queen. So she’s kind of like “Oh, I finally get what my granddaughter does!'”

But what does one wear to meet the Queen? Gunjan chose to give visibility to homegrown designers. "This dress is by Arti Gogna, a French-Canadian designer based in Montreal. It was made and designed in Canada, so I’m representing! I’ve got my maple leaf [brooch] and maple leaves in my hair!"

Gunjan opted to wear Arti Gogna, a French-Canadian designer based in Montreal, and Maple Leafs in her hair

The pair were also pleased to meet Prince Harry. "He was very encouraging to young people and he was telling us to not give up," said Gunjan. Addressing the honourees, Harry made it clear that his grandmother is as much "an inspiration" to him as to all the young leaders she deemed worthy of this year's honours. "She is the example I aspire to and the standard by which I will judge my contribution.

"She’s lived through so much change and challenge throughout her lifetime," Gunjan said after their meeting. "It’s quite incredible just to be part of her legacy, to have her name attached to mine."

And what of future leaders? "Anything is possible with passion and drive," Kelly advised. "Too often in life we let other people determine our limitations in what we can and can’t do and instead we need to believe in ourselves."

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