Miss Texas International Taylor Ashworth Encourages Everyone to Stay Heart-healthy

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Some members of my family have had of heart-related issues over the years.  This is partly because so little was understood about the effects of poor diet and bad habits in past years; but that has changed now.  My parents educated me on the importance of maintaining a heart healthy lifestyle and I try to follow their lead.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a heart health fanatic; far from it.  However, I do work on maintaining a healthy body and mind.

I don’t smoke.  By never smoking, I have reduced my chances of having a heart attack by 70%. 

If you smoke, then stop smoking now.  Just twelve months after you stop smoking, you can cut your chances of having a heart attack in half.  That’s a great return on any investment.

Good eating habits.  I enjoy burgers, steaks, spaghetti, enchiladas, and the Texas Lumberjack breakfast; but not every day, or for every meal.  I eat smaller portions of these foods and if I have a burger at lunch, then I try to have a salad or sushi that evening to balance my daily intake.

For snacks I eat try to eat fruit instead candy bars, vegetables in place of potatoes and nuts & seeds over chips. 

I also eat fish on a regular basis with tuna & salmon sushi among my favorites.  Both are great for your health.  I think fried fish is delicious; but it’s not a healthy fish meal; so eat it in moderation only.

I avoid salt whenever possible.  I don’t add salt to my meals and I even try to limit my salt when eating out.  Did you know you can ask for fries without salt and that most places will make a special order for you?  This not only reduces your salt intake, but has the added benefit of getting you very fresh & hot fries. Yum!

Drink lots of water, avoid sodas (regular and diet) and limit your alcohol intake. 

Exercise regularly.  I’m into full-blown workouts where I push my body and mind to their limits.  It’s great for me, but not for everyone.  If you can just walk quickly for 30 minutes a day, you can cut your risk of heart attack by a third.  Try to use the stairs instead of the elevator, walk the dog around the block or try taking a brisk walk to the mail box instead of just driving there.

Find something that’s fun for you and make time in your life to do it.  For social interaction and good fun I like yoga, cycling and aerobics classes.  You get to exercise in a fun way and you can often make new friends.

Reduce your stress levels.  Be as calm as possible in your life and work toward reducing the stress in your life.  Having friends and family that support you and listen to your problems is a big help.  I have someone that makes me smile and laugh and this is great for reducing stress and maintaining a healthy heart. 

Small changes in your lifestyle can pay big divides in your overall health; so get out there, be active and have some fun!

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Miss Texas International Explains Pride in a Job Well Done

Taylor May

My college job doesn’t define me. I’ve worked as an employee of Rudy’s BBQ for two years now. As my parents have said, “Its my college job.”

The answer to your question is no, I am not ashamed of selling BBQ.

Many kids have set in their minds that if they worked in the food industry that they have “failed.” Well, I’m here to tell you as your Miss Texas International that I work in a BBQ restaurant and have not failed, but rather, have succeeded in finding an awesome college job.

Two years ago, my best friend, Shelby, trusted me enough to help me get a job at Rudy’s. To this day, I still can’t thank her enough for giving me a chance. The first time I met people there, apparently my appearance gave the impression of “Oh that girl wont work hard; she’s too girly.” Soon, they found out that not only in previous jobs did I sell firearms at Academy Sports and Outdoors, but I also worked customer service at Gander Mountain. I’m a girl that knows sometimes you have to work hard and I’m not afraid of getting my hands dirty. Rudy’s has been so understanding of this whole pageant process. Not only do they sponsor me but also anytime I need time off for an event, they are so completely understanding. I know that no other job would do that for me.

A couple of months ago I tried to apply at a boutique to do something “fun and girly,” or at least that was my initial thought. After applying and not hearing anything, I decided to make an effort to talk to the manager. Upon meeting this fellow women, she first told me that they believed I wasn’t a good fit. She then proceeded to go on about how I wasn’t “girly enough and that maybe I try a hardware store.”

Because obviously because I had sold firearms and BBQ that was my next step in life.

I couldn’t believe what I had just heard.

I went to my car and honestly I cried. A fellow female had just basically told me I wasn’t girly, and she didn’t believe in my ability to chase my dreams.

After 30 minutes, I called my parents who made me realize that I am not what that women said. I may not have the most “girly” work history, but I’d probably work ten times harder than any other employee in that entire boutique just from the compassion and work ethic I’ve learned working at Rudys and other jobs throughout my life.

It made me proud to work at Rudy’s. I’m not defined by my job but rather by what I put into it. I go into work every day ready to work and ready to work hard.

Don’t let people belittle you or put you in a box because you are so much more than that. Your job doesn’t define you, but how well you do it does.

Thanks for reading,

Taylor Ashworth

Miss Texas International 2016

Becoming a Texas Queen: Miss Texas International Taylor Ashworth Talks About Her Journey

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Taylor Ashworth is crowned Miss Texas International 2016 during the Texas International Pageant, held April 10th at the Granville Arts Center.

I know the title of this blog may lead you to believe that I’m giving tips to how to become a queen. The truth of this article is that the road to Texas International, was just a journey of personal growth.

As a 7th grader I remember crying to my mom and asking her “Why couldn’t my life get better? Why do people pick on me? Why can’t I transfer and run from my problems?”

My mom would tell me that no matter how hard people want to change me that I should never stop being me. That I should never stop being Taylor.

I never truly understand what she meant until high school when people’s opinions of me and their “expectations” of what I should be started not to matter to me anymore. In high school, when I would fail at something I let that motivate me to try again to better myself from it.

It took a lot out of me sometimes not to throw my hands up in the air and say “God why me? Why now?”

Cause there were plenty of times I wanted to quit. There were plenty of times I felt hopeless that things were ever going to get better.

I found comfort in prayer and volunteering. It filled my heart and let my mind rest. One of my bad habits is I tend to overthink situations.

When I started college in 2013, I was still learning and discovering who Taylor exactly was. Was she a graphic designer? Was college even for her? How do I make friends after being in a private school most of my life.

As of spring 2015 Taylor was a Miss Texas International 2015 2nd runner-up and a business major. She was 19, happy, and finally almost to where God wanted her to be. That summer I changed majors to Sports Management and honestly it has been one of the best decisions I have made in my life.

That fall I was finally in a major I loved and gained a whole new group of friends. I will graduate next to 300 fellow recreation majors and friends.

I am your Miss Texas International 2016 but, I’m still Taylor. I’m still a full-time student working part-time at Rudy’s BBQ. I’ll still be walking around campus with a Peace Tea and a bag of Miss Vickie’s Jalapeno chips. And you can definitely still find me at home games wearing my boyfriend Garrett’s name on my back cheering for him on the field.

I’m looking so forward to this year and sharing my journey with all of you.

Life it doesn’t get easier but it definitely gets better.

Dream Big.

Thanks for reading!

Taylor Ashworth

Miss Texas International 2016

Texas International Names 2016 Queens

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2016 Texas International queens were named April 10th at the Granville Arts Center.  Gracie Hunt (left) was crowned Miss Teen Texas International, Taylor Ashworth (center) was crowned Miss Texas International, and Kori Zwaagstra (right) was crowned Mrs. Texas International.  All three ladies will represent Texas at the International Pageant in Jacksonville, Floria, in July.

Kori Zwaagstra Crowned Mrs. Texas International 2016, Taylor Ashworth Crowned Miss Texas International 2016, and Gracie Hunt Crowned Miss Teen Texas International 2016

2016 queens will represent the Lone Star State at the International Pageant in July

After a weekend of sparkles and speeches about service, Texas International has named its 2016 queens. Kori Zwaagstra, a mother of two from the Lubbock area, was crowned Mrs. Texas International.  Taylor Ashworth, a student at the University of North Texas, was crowned Miss Texas International, and Gracie Hunt, a student at Ursuline Academy, was crowned Miss Teen Texas International.  All three ladies won their respective divisions during the Texas International Pageant, held April 10th at the Granville Arts Center in Dallas.

Zwaagstra competed among accomplished married women from all over the state of Texas to win her title.  Areas of competition included interview (both on-stage and personal), fitness wear, and evening gown. The Mrs. Texas International system is the premier pageant competition for married women in Texas and emphasizes a woman’s ability to serve and lead her community, as well as inspire other women. Zwaagstra is a dedicated wife and mother whose family includes her husband, Jake; and two boys, Zayne, 7, and Gage, 4.  She is a health and fitness coach.

As Mrs. Texas International, Zwaagstra will promote her platform, “Beyond the Baby Blues,” which raises awareness for the most common complication of childbirth, postpartum depression. Zwaagstra’s goal is to bring visibility to perinatal mood disorders among women, their families and also the medical community. Zwaagstra uses her personal story about her struggle with postpartum depression to break the stigma associated with this disorder that one in seven women will experience. She chairs the Climb Out of Darkness event to educate and provide access to outreach resources for women struggling with postpartum depression.

Zwaagstra will represent the Lone Star State as she competes with women from across the U.S. and countries around the world for the title of Mrs. International July 22-23rd in Jacksonville, Fla

Taylor Ashworth competed among accomplished young women from all over the state of Texas to win her title.  Areas of competition included interview (both on-stage and personal), fitness wear, fun fashion and evening gown.

As Miss Texas International, Ashworth will promote her platform, “The Power of Pink,” to stress the importance of early detection through self-exams and regular mammograms. After seeing several family members successfully battle cancer, and others lose their battles, Ashworth is committed to improving awareness for all women.  She plans to travel the state talking to women about the positive impact of early detection and raise funds for breast cancer research and awareness.

Ashworth is in her final year of study at the University of North Texas, where she majors in Sports Management, a field in which she plans to pursue a career.  She serves as the photography chair for Susan G. Komen of North Texas, as a “You’re the Cure” advocate for the American Heart Association of Dallas, and a marketing assistant for Habitat for Humanity of Denton County. Ashworth has received the George R. Eastman Young Leaders Award from the University of Rochester.

Ashworth will represent the Lone Star State as she competes with women from across the U.S. and countries around the world for the title of Miss International July 29-30th in Jacksonville, Fla.

Gracie Hunt competed among accomplished teenagers from all over the state of Texas to win her title.  Areas of competition included interview (both on-stage and personal), fitness wear, fun fashion and evening gown.

As Miss Teen Texas International, Hunt will continue working with her platform, “Breaking Barriers Thru Sports” to help level the playing field for those with intellectual or financial disadvantages by inspiring participation and inclusion in sports.  Hunt serves as a partner player and halftime advocate for the FC Dallas Special Olympics Team, an ambassador for the Special Olympics and a volunteer leader for Rays of Light.  Her goal is to raise awareness for the importance of respect and inclusion, and she plans to travel the state during her reign, bringing visibility to causes that accomplish these goals.

Hunt is a junior at Ursuline Academy of Dallas, where she plays on the varsity soccer team. She is a member of the National Honor Society, Support Our Troops and Special Olympics. In addition to volunteering and sports, Hunt enjoys playing guitar and hiking with her family. She is the daughter of Clark and Tavia Hunt

Hunt will represent the Lone Star State as she competes with teenagers from across the U.S. and countries around the world for the title of Miss Teen International July 28-30th in Jacksonville, Fla.

The International System was established more than 20 years ago to adhere to a higher standard than other systems.  Texas International seeks more than a pretty face: winners have beauty and depth, and are committed to their communities. Like all pageants in the International System, contestants compete in fitness wear rather than swimsuit. The emphasis is on healthy lifestyle choices in accordance with the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign, with which the pageant system holds a national alliance.

For more information on the Mrs. Texas International pageant system, please visit www.mrstexasinternational.com, www.misstexasinternational.com, or www.missteentexasinternational.com.

To schedule a speaking engagement or appearance from any Texas International titleholder, please contact Rachel Hedstrom at texasinternationalpageant@gmail.com.

Traveling as a Pageant Queen! Tips from Miss International Elise Banks

Traveling is a way of life for Miss International Elise Banks!

Traveling is a way of life for Miss International Elise Banks!

For the last 6 months, I have been doing lots of traveling as Miss Texas International and now as Miss International! I thought I would share some of my tips for those of you making appearances around your city or state!

  1. Make sure to plan out enough travel time. One piece of advice that I received that I will never forget is “If you’re early, you’re on time. If you’re on time, you’re late. If you’re late, why bother showing up.” Always plan for potential traffic or lines at the airport. It’s better to be early and have time to adjust your crown, than to be running in late having to apologize!
  1. When traveling for appearances where you need to pack:
  • Make sure to pack your essentials and toiletries
  • Always bring an extra outfit (you never know if you’ll have a wardrobe malfunction or if an extra event is planned while you’re in that city)
  • Bring shoes that can go with several outfits to reduce how much you’re packing
  • Carry your crown/sash with you on the plane (just in case your luggage gets lost, you don’t want those two things to be in your suitcase)
  • Have all the contact information for the places you will be going while in town, make sure you know what type of transportation you will need (driver, taxi, subway, Uber), and again account for the fact that you are in a different city.. So leave early!
  1. Make sure to get plenty of rest, water, and vitamins! Traveling can take a lot of energy out of you. With the hustle and bustle of catching planes or a lengthy road trip, make sure to let your body recuperate.

    4. Travel safe! If you are able to, have your pageant director, family member or friend accompany you on the trip. If you have to travel alone, make sure that someone knows where you will be and where you are staying. Safety is always the priority.

    5. Capture the journey! Your year as Miss ___________ (fill in the blank!) will flash before your eyes. Make sure to take lots of pictures of the events that you attend. One of my favorite things to do is go back and re-live the appearances I have been doing. I also encourage you to journal about your experiences. You will meet so many people and have so many great opportunities during your year, writing about them is a great way to “pen” down how you were feeling during that moment!

    Wishing you much success and safe travels as you venture across your city, state or country spreading awareness to your platform!

    All my Texas love,

    Elise Banks
    Miss International 2015

Miss International Elise Banks Visits the Alzheimer’s Association

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I recently made at trip to the Alzheimer’s Association offices. Going into this appearance, I had mixed emotions as the subject of Alzheimer’s is not always easy for me to talk about since my Grandmother passed away from the dreadful disease when I was only 9 years old. However, knowing that I can have even a small impact on the research and awareness that is being done so that hopefully there will be a day where no one will have to go through the devastating times my family had to go through during the last few years of my Granny’s life.

While visiting the office, I was able to find out more about what services they provide for the community. The people who will benefit the best are those who are in the early stages of the disease. Support groups are provided for these individuals and their families/caretakers. They also provide different activities and events which allow opportunities for these individuals to work to keep the memories that they have left.

Being able to get involved with this organization has been such a blessing. Back in April of this year, I went to Austin to talk to our state representatives about the importance of the passing of the bill UAGPPJA (Uniform Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction Act). While at the offices, I found out that more of our elected officials are signing on to this bill which will be a huge step forward for the lives of families having to transport their loved one from state to state. I also can’t wait to join the organization in a few of their walks this year as this is always a huge fundraiser for the organization to be able to continue to fund the resources they provide and to continue the research that is being done!

Continuing to break the stigma,

Elise Banks
Miss International 2015

Elise Banks Reflects on the Moment She Went from Miss Texas International to Miss International 2015

“And the winner is….” Every pageant girl I know is hoping that their name, state or country is followed by that phrase. We think about what the moment will be like and work really hard in hopes that it will finally come true. Having won titles in the past, including the coveted Miss Texas International crown, I knew what the feeling was like to have the crown placed on your head and sash draped across your chest. But the emotions that came over me on August 1st, 2015, when Samantha Riddle crowned me Miss International 2015, is like nothing I have ever experienced before. In that one moment, I saw 12 years of hard work, prayers, and determination finally pay off.

Although winning the title was a highlight of my week at nationals, I must say that the other highlight was spending my week with some of the most intelligent, beautiful and passionate women I’ve ever met. I was able to form some close bonds during my week, and I honestly felt like we were at summer camp versus a competition! Of course, it was also amazing having my teen sister queen, Savannah, there that week as we got to go through our competition weeks together. And having my other sister queen, Farabe’, win the Mrs. International crown the weekend before was inspiring and gave me a little extra push as I entered my pageant competition week. I am thrilled to have been blessed with another teen sister queen, Jules, and can’t wait to see what this year has in store for us.

It has definitely been a whirlwind as I transition from being a state titleholder to holding the International crown! I feel incredibly blessed to have such an amazing support system who have encouraged me during my week at nationals and every day since I won. And since I’m averaging about 4-5 hours of sleep right now, their support is appreciated now more than ever! I am also thrilled to have the opportunity to continue the plans that I set as Miss Texas International. The stigma associated with mental illness is very real and one of the main reasons why so many individuals do not get the help that they need. My goal as Miss International is to continue to break this stigma so that every cry for help is heard.

Be sure to follow my journey as Miss International on Facebook (Miss International 2015-Elise Banks or Mrs., Miss & Miss Teen International Pageants) or on Instagram (@MissIntl2015).

Continuing to break the stigma,

Elise Banks

Miss International 2015

Here I am as your new Miss International on the night I was crowned with Mel and Mary Richardson, the CEO and executive director of the International Pageants organization. We are all so blessed to have them running a system that uplifts and inspires women around the world!

Here I am as your new Miss International on the night I was crowned with Mel and Mary Richardson, the CEO and executive director of the International Pageants organization. We are all so blessed to have them running a system that uplifts and inspires women around the world!

Miss Texas International Elise Banks Readies for the Miss International Pageant with Heartfelt Gratitude

My heart could not be more filled and my eyes can not be filled with more tears as I reflect on all the love and support that I received at my send-off party last night. To think of everyone who has been there for me during this experience, that has been 12 years in the making, is overwhelming! This post may be lengthy, but I want to make sure I acknowledge all those who have been such an encouragement to me.

First off, I want to thank my Lord and Savior as He has trusted me with the job of being Miss Texas International. He knew before I was even born that I would have this opportunity, and I feel so incredibly blessed by the people He has put in my life for such a time as this!

To my parents, thank you, thank you, thank you! I couldn’t have asked for better role models as I walked on this earth for the last 27 years. You both have gone over and beyond to help me be successful and I am eternally grateful. My prayer is that I can inspire my future children as you have inspired me. I love you, Mom & Dad!

To my extended family: I love each and every one of you. You don’t get to pick your family, but I’m so glad God put me in this family. From my Edwards side to my Banks side, thank you for everything you all have done for me!

The International System: To the Richardsons- You have created such an amazing and top notch pageant system. I have never felt so welcomed and surrounded with such talented, passionate and intelligent women as I have with he girls of this system!

To my director, Rachel. Thank you for all that you do and all of your encouraging words. You have guided me and continue to help me put things in perspective. I am so glad that you are my director as I couldn’t have a better person to prep me for nationals!

Savannah, Rachael, Whitney, Jahnavi & Alyssa- Y’all left huge shoes to fill! Thank you for the encouraging words you have sent me. I am proud to be in this sisterhood!

To Farabe’ & Savannah: I’m so excited to be sharing this year with you two! You are both such positive and beautiful spirits and I am blessed by your lives and what you have done for our communities.

To my pageant sponsors: Valerie Hayes- you have seen me grown from a shy 16 year old girl to the woman I am today! The foundation of my interview skills came from you and have given me the confidence to walk into any room and know how to handle challenging situations. You always keep me on my toes, and I am better because of it!

Laine Berry- thank you for helping me create the “Sasha Fierce” brand! You challenged me to step out of the box for nationals, and I am so glad that I did! I can’t wait to be on stage with the wardrobe that you helped me put together!

Ms. Rupa- You are truly a gift from God. Your talent is impeccable. You will always have a fan in me! Thank you for making sure all of my wardrobe fits me beautifully!

Sheila- I can’t put into words who amazing you are! Your talent allows me to feel confident on the outside, but you have also given me the tools to feel confident on the inside too! Thank you for always supporting me and encouraging me to go for the Miss Texas title! Love you!

Kerry Beyer- Thank you for the beautiful pictures. You are an awesome photographer! I still look at my pictures and squeal “That’s me!”

Carlotta Lennox- You are gorgeous and striking! I can’t wait to strut my stuff on the runway next week! Thank you for giving me the space to be me while demonstrating the importance of stage presence!

Juan Cao, Joe Farina & the entire staff at Satori: I always love my the days I get to come to the salon. You each make me feel so welcome, and I always know my hair is going to look fabulous!

Suzy Bootz: I really enjoyed reading your book and all of your inspirational messages! May God continue to give you the words to write to encourage others in their preparation for pageants and for life!

To NAMI, H.U.G.S. for Autism, Crisis Intervention, Family Service Center of Greater of Houston and all of the other organizations I’ve worked with, I am honored to be affiliated with such amazing organizations. My platform Healthy Mind-Successful Life is extremely important to me and I’m so glad we all get to collaborate to advocate for mental health.

To my boss, Evan Weinberger: Thank you for everything you do and accommodating my crazy schedule! The work that we do with students is a gift that I am so glad I get to give to others!

To my church family at Lakewood: Your prayers and support have given me peace and the strength to move forward when I didn’t know if I would make it.

To my Friends: You’ve seen my ups and downs but always stand by my side. Thank you for the laughs, the memories, and for everything that’s ahead!

I really hope I didn’t leave anyone out! I couldn’t leave for Florida tomorrow without saying THANK YOU!

Ok Team Texas… It’s time to bring home the crown! Let’s go!

God Bless,

Elise Banks
Miss Texas International 2015

With my #1 supporter, my mom!

With my #1 supporter, my mom!

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Miss Texas International visits Family Service Center

As a part of my Healthy Mind-Successful Life platform, my goal is to provide insight on resources that are available to those who may be struggling. On Thursday, I had the opportunity to meet the staff and take a tour of the Family Service Center of Greater Houston. The experience was very informative to me, as I have always referred my patients there for counseling. However, I found out that they offer many other services that are beneficial for individuals and families. Here are a few that really stood out to me (although all of their programs are amazing!):
1. Caregiver Support Group: As I work with patients, and in the appearances I have been making as Miss Texas International, I recognize the amount of stress that caregivers are under. They are typically overlooked as the majority of the attention is turned to the identified patient. This group is a great resource for caregivers to learn coping strategies and support one another in the difficult work that they do every day.
2. Financial Stability Program: Wouldn’t it be great if money grew on trees? Well, it does not! Which is why it is so important to know what to do with the money you make. This program is for individuals and families of any income. Coaching is provided to learn how to budget, set financial goals and manage debt and stress. An increasing percentage of stress in families and couples is due to financial issues, so this is a great way to help eliminate the problem!
3. Co-Parenting & Family Life Classes: I think it is interesting that people are expected to know how to be a parent and yet instruction manuals are not given to parents when they have their baby at the hospital! These classes provide parents with the tools they need to know how to better communicate with their children, set boundaries and build strong relationships.
There are so many great programs that are offered at Family Services of Greater Houston including veteran services, substance abuse prevention, employment services and support groups. Many of these services are at no cost or are covered by insurance. For additional information, check out the organization’s website at www.familyhouston.org.
I personally want to thank all the staff the work at the different locations. To be able to provide people with their basic needs is truly a special, and Houston is blessed to be able to have such an amazing resource.
Stay healthy!
Elise Banks
Miss Texas International 2015
Thank you for all you do to help people achieve healthy minds and successful lives, Family Services!

Thank you for all you do to help people achieve healthy minds and successful lives, Family Services!

Miss Texas International Elise Banks Teaches How to Deal with Stress in Houston Woman Magazine

Is stress affecting your well-being? Miss Texas International Elise Banks, who in addition to being a beautiful queen, is also a licensed therapist, was recently profiled in Houston Woman magazine.  She offers tips for dealing with stress.

Houston Woman

Click here for the full article: http://www.houstonwomanmagazine.com/index.php/issues/1046-coming-back-from-the-edge-dealing-with-stress