After winning the 2006 Miss Universe Canada beauty pageant, she advanced to the top ten in the 2006 Miss Universe pageant.
She studied journalism and English at York University in Canada and won the 2006 International Queen of Coffee pageant in Colombia.
At six feet tall, she became the tallest national beauty pageant winner in Canada's history.
Born in Sofia, Bulgaria, to a family of both Bulgarian and Armenian heritage, she relocated to Canada at the age of five.
She succeeded Natalie Glebova as Miss Universe Canada and came close to securing back-to-back Miss Universe wins for Canada (Glebova was the reigning Miss Universe when Panikian participated in the national pageant).