I’m Still Mrs. Texas, Y’all! Kori Zwaagstra Shares Thoughts from Mrs. International Pageant

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I’ve had a week to reflect on my experience at Mrs. International and I would love to share my thoughts with you.  Competing at an International level was an amazing honor and it has taken all of the last week to begin to process the memories, new friends and feelings.

I must start by saying I had an absolutely fabulous week.  Mary and Mel Richardson and their entire team truly run the pageant with organization and efficacy at the forefront.  I, along with all the other contestants was treated with respect and care.  I loved meeting such accomplished women from all over the globe and I’m blessed to have forged real friendships with many.  My roommate, Summer Drake, Mrs. Oklahoma International was simply the best.  We connected through social media a few months ago and even texted the week before arriving in Jacksonville that we were slightly worried about the “roommate thing”—I know God had his hands all over that I couldn’t think of a more perfect lady to share my personal space, makeup and hair products and late night room service with.

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One of the biggest challenges in any pageant is our own personal tendency to play the comparison game.  Thankfully Team Texas has amazing sponsors that help with that aspect too!  Our Texas International interview coach, Valerie Hayes, and I worked on specific tactics to talk myself off the comparison cliff.  Our wardrobe sponsor Laine Berry of the Royal We helped design a look for the week that had me feeling so confident in what I was wearing I didn’t worry about what everyone else was dressed in.

I’m not ashamed to say I had a goal heading into Mrs. International, and that goal was to make the Top 15.  Contestants in the Top 15 give their platform statement on stage and answer a follow-up question.  I’d worked incredibly hard writing and memorizing my platform statement and I honestly felt that when I gave that speech I would be speaking for every woman who had or is currently suffering with perinatal mood disorder.  I wasn’t one of the Top 15 and didn’t have the opportunity to share my platform.  Was I disappointed?  Heck yes!  I’d worked extremely hard since being crowned Mrs. Texas to improve all areas of competition while making meaningful appearances that related directly to my platform.  Did I cry?  Yes.  Was it the end of the world?  No.

For me (and I would assume for many) the best part of competing in pageant is the personal development that takes place long before you enter the interview room or step into your evening gown.  All that self-work actually prepares you and strengthens you to hear your named called—or not.

I continue to be grateful that I represented the great state of Texas on an international stage and just as thankful I will continue to represent the Lone Star State until we crown our next Mrs. Texas International next spring.

Still your Mrs. Texas,

Kori

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Miss Teen Texas International Gracie Hunt Focuses on Her Blessings

This morning, I woke up counting my blessings. I have so much to be thankful for each and every day, but today I am especially grateful for the love and support of my family. As I pack and prepare to leave for the Miss Teen International competition in Jacksonville, Florida, I am continually reminded of the blessing of a strong support system. I am honored to have the opportunity to be a light and have a voice as Miss Teen Texas International this year. I pray each day that I might run the race that Christ has set before me to the best of my ability [Hebrews 12:1]. Each and every person has a platform. A chance to love, serve, and reach out to others. It doesn’t take a title or a special degree to have a voice and make a difference. I think God places people, moments and possibilities in our lives every single day. It is our job to recognize and make the most of those moments.

I am a better person in every way for the road, preparation, and process that pageantry has led me through. I’ve discovered much about myself and caring for others, and the world around me. One of my favorite things about the International system is the focus on service. Breaking Barriers Through Sports is my cause, and I’ve discovered that there is no better exercise for the heart then bending down and lifting others up. I want to thank my amazing state director, Rachel Hedstrom, my sister queens, Kory Zwaagstra and Taylor Ashworth, and Valerie Hayes for all the ways she has poured into me. I also want to thank Mary Richardson for the opportunity that she’s given me and everyone blessed to participate in this system, to better myself and impact the world around me.

I am especially excited to have the chance to meet the wonderful young women who will grace the stage to bring light and awareness to their causes  to be the change we want to see in the world. It’s these new friends who give me inspiration and hope for the future. I know that we will make wonderful memories together and will all go on to impact the world in special ways. Of course, we all hope to win the title of Miss Teen International, but only one will walk away with the crown. The only way for everyone to leave satisfied is to make the most of the experience, treasure the week, and rest in God’s sovereignty and plan.

One woman can make a difference, but together we can rock the world!

Blessings,
Gracie Hunt
Miss Teen Texas International 2016
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Mrs. Texas International Arrives in Jacksonville for the Mrs. International Pageant

Kori Airport Jax

I’m here!!  I am ecstatic to have arrived in Jacksonville for the 2016 Mrs. International Pageant.  It feels hard to believe I was crowned Mrs. Texas four months ago because I’ve been traveling across Texas, New Mexico and Arizona promoting my program, Beyond the Baby Blues, and Postpartum Progress, non-stop!  I can’t wait to meet the other titleholders and see what the week has in store.

I would like to thank our amazing Texas International sponsors for their support:

  • Valerie Hayes– thank you for helping me communicate the best and authentic version of myself. You are THE pageant coach for a reason; you are the best!  I lovingly call you a coach and a friend.
  • Laine Berry– when someone screams with delight at a dress you’ve selected you must be on to something. I can’t thank you enough for developing a signature look that fits inline so well with my own personal style.
  • Sheila Ybarra– sitting in your chair two days in a row was such a treat! Our makeup lesson was a game changer for me and I couldn’t have felt more beautiful for my headshots.  Thank you, thank you, and thank you.
  • Kerry Beyer– thank you for sharing your gift of photography. Each of my headshots is a work of art and shooting with you was a special memory I won’t soon forget.
  • Carlotta Lenox– thank you for your time and talent to perfect my stage presence and walk. You have helped to up my fierceness and grace!
  • Corrie Demmler/Paper Patina– My platform page and ad page for Mrs. International are interesting and visually stunning. Thank you for the high quality of work and the quick turn-around time.

To our director Rachel Hedstrom-

Rachel, you have quickly become a dear friend.  Your deep care for your titleholders and the Mrs. International system is visible in all you do.  Thank you for everything!

Team Texas thank yous wouldn’t be complete without Pam Blacketer-

Queen Mum, I’ve loved getting to know you and because of you my posture has improved greatly and I sincerely thank you!

To my little sisters, Taylor and Gracie-

I adore each of you and I’m so proud to see you each shining your light on the causes that speak to your hearts.  I love our Texas Queens blondentourage!

There are not enough words to thank my three leading men.  Jake, God blessed me with the perfect husband to walk through imperfect life and I praise Him daily for you in my life.  Zayne and Gage, thank you for making me a momma and challenging me with that calling everyday.  I cannot wait to see you in your tuxedos and shiny shoes!

Last but certainly not least to the Richardsons –

Thank you for the International system where women as community leaders are at the forefront.

Make sure you are following Mrs. Texas International on Facebook and the International Pageants Facebook, for all the Mrs. International week updates!

Kori Zwaagstra

Mrs. Texas International 2016

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Miss Teen Texas International Celebrates Independence Day

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Happy 4th of July! July brings back memories of parades, watermelon eating contests, water balloon wars, taking in fireworks with my family, and remembering those who gave and continue to give their lives for something more than themselves. The safety and freedom of this incredible nation are owed completely to the brave men and women who sacrifice so much in order that we might enjoy a free country. The founding fathers established an institution where the people hold the power-but with great power comes great responsibility. As Peter Marshall said, “May we think of freedom, not as the right to do as we please, but as the opportunity to do what is right.” As stewards of the power entrusted to us, it is important to remember to use the voice you have to leave the world a better place than you found it.

As we celebrate the 240th anniversary of the birth of America, I hope that everyone remembers the sacrifice, courage, and hope that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, and others clung to. They believed that “all men are created equal” and “endowed with certain unalienable rights,” including “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Envisioning a country which placed the voice in the voter’s hands was unprecedented at that time in history. And the freedom that our troops fight for is a gift to be cherished each and every day. Enjoy watching fireworks with your families this Independence Day and remember how blessed you are!

Hayden Panettiere’s Public Struggle with PPD is on the Mind of Mrs. Texas International

When news broke last week that Hayden Panettiere announced she was headed back to rehab for her ongoing battle with postpartum depression I had more than one person reach out—had I heard?  I’d be lying if that didn’t make me feel good in a way, that all the talk I do about PPD and maternal mental health is connecting.  I also felt a painful twinge for Hayden, whom I’ve obviously never met.  The same feeling I have whenever I talk with a mom who’s suffering—deep empathy both for how they are feeling and a little reminder of the darkness I walked through.  It takes so much courage to admit that you need help and as a public person who faces public scrutiny that must be ever more difficult.

The real reason I’m sure people are asking my thoughts on her entering rehab is exactly that. Why rehab?  As I said before, I don’t know Hayden Panettiere and can’t begin to imagine her medical history, but my observation is the word “rehab” is somehow more acceptable than “inpatient mental health treatment.” Our culture takes celebrities getting treatment for alcohol and drug addiction with a grain of salt while we are hesitant to discuss mental health treatment. The stigma still hangs heavy in regards to antidepressants. I’m grateful to Ms. Panettiere and all the other women, celebrities or not, who are vocal about their struggles with perinatal mood disorders. Our willingness to share an extremely difficult diagnosis makes it just a little easier for the next suffering mom.

If you are suffering with postpartum depression or anxiety you are not alone and you are not a failure. Help is available and treatment works.

Kori Zwaagstra

Mrs. Texas International 2016

 

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

It’s Time to Take Care of Mom, Mrs. Texas International Reminds Everyone on Mother’s Day

Yellow RosesMay means Mother’s Day and it also means Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month in Texas.  I’m sure you are familiar with Mother’s Day and have your special brunch reservations made and beautiful flowers ordered (if you haven’t, consider yourself reminded).  Maternal Mental Health Month is a little bit less known, but just as important.  We are talking about loving on mom in May!

 

Postpartum depression, anxiety, OCD, pregnancy depression, postpartum PTSD and postpartum psychosis are all mental illnesses that develop either during pregnancy or in the first year after giving birth.  One in seven mothers suffer from a perinatal mood disorder and together they are the most common complication after birth.  These disorders affect women across all ethnic, socioeconomic and cultural lines, often in women with no history of depression or anxiety.

 

One of the most difficult issues when it comes to talking about perinatal mood disorders is that large amount of misinformation.  I encourage you to take a look at the most common falsehoods related to perinatal mood disorders.

 

  • All new moms are tired. You will feel better once your baby starts sleeping through the night.
    • True, the weeks/months after delivery are exhausting, but if you are unable to sleep or are sleeping all the time it may be PPD or PPA.
  • Hormones dip after delivery every mom gets a little weepy from time to time.
    • True, but it you are crying or feeling deep sorrow on a daily basis for more that three weeks it may be PPD.
    • “The Baby Blues” or the hormonal dip after delivery are experience immediately after delivery, while the symptoms of Perinatal Mood Disorders can develop anytime up to a year after delivery.
  • New moms are naturally overprotective when it comes to their baby.
    • True, but if you have severe anxiety over leaving your baby for a short time, you fear your ability to care for them, or if you are experiencing panic attacks, it may be postpartum anxiety or panic disorder.
  • Once your baby turns one, things will get better.
    • Perinatal mood disorders do not just go away with time.  In fact PPD can develop into deep chronic depression if left untreated.
  • Perinatal mood disorders only affect the mom.
    • While the mother is suffering from the symptoms, her entire family is hurting too.  Marriages are stressed when husbands don’t understand what has happened to their wife.  Older siblings are left confused and lonely.  Mother-baby bonding is delayed.

 

The good news…perinatal mood disorders are treatable and DO NOT mean you are a failure as a mom.  I repeat sweet momma:  this is not your fault and you can get better.  If you or someone you know is suffering I encourage you to talk to your doctor.  You can also check out the resources page at www.postpartumprogress.org

Happy Mother’s Day!

-Kori

Kori Zwaagstra

Mrs. Texas International 2016

Miss International Elise Banks talks about conquering fears

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If you were to tell me years ago that I would be doing all the public speaking that I have been doing as Miss International, I would have laughed in your face! You see, the whole reason why I started competing in pageants at the age of 15, was to break out of my shell as “Little Shy Elise”! Although I have accomplished that goal, I am still considered an introvert. I am entirely more comfortable in smaller settings than larger ones. So that is why I have actually surprised myself when I spoke at both the NAMI Gulf Coast and the NAMI Texas Professional Conferences last month. Not only was I speaking in front of hundreds of people, but I was also speaking to men and women who have been in the mental health field for decades. Talk about intimidating!

What helped me during the conferences, as well as other large social settings that I have been involved in is to first, know your audience. When you know the types of people who will be at the event, it helps you prepare for the conversations you could be having. Make sure to have a few “go-to” topics that you can talk about when you are conversing with people you don’t know. I typically discuss latest events in the news or my platform!

Secondly, be aware and mindful of how others may perceive you. When I was preparing for the presentations that I was going to give at the conferences, I knew very well that my older audience (doctors and therapists who are established in their careers) may not fully listen to someone who is still in their twenties! But I decided to use that as a motivator to make my presentation more interesting. I used new technological ways of presenting a PowerPoint, and I used an interactive approach to the presentation that plays to what my generation is known for. To my surprise, I received a lot of positive feedback from my presentations! If you know what your potential weaknesses are, you can spend time turning them into strengths!

Finally, make sure to reward yourself for the hard work you put into conquering your fear. Although I still have improvements to make, I still congratulated myself for taking a bold step in a very intimidating situation. Conquering a fear is never easy, but it must be done in order to fully be the person God made you to be!

Wishing you success as you conquer your fears!

All my Texas love,

Elise Banks
Miss International 2015

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Staying True to Yourself: Thoughts from Mrs. International Farabe’ Algor

Hey Texas! Are y’all busy preparing for Mrs. Texas International 2016? You are one month closer to walking on that great stage in Garland, Texas, and one of you is one step closer to joining the Mrs. Texas International sisterhood. With that being said, it is important that you not only stay focused on you and your goals, but also remember to be you and not to try to fit into one of the past queen’s shoes.

You are each unique and you each have an amazing story to tell (and remember that regardless of your placement). Don’t mold yourself into my look, Whitney’s, Rachel’s, Suzy’s, or any of the past fabulous queens that represented our great state. Each one of us are so different, yet we all had the same drive and goal in mind when we walked into the interview room.

Don’t change your look, the way you wear your hair, or your platform because you think you should pick one that was a “winning platform” in the past. Be YOU! Be the queen that is already representing her town, county or area with style, grace and beauty. Our system truly is one that has a different look each year. Not every system can say that, and you can clearly look back at previous winners and see that for yourself.

Mrs. International 2014 Maggi Thorne and I are not what you would call

Mrs. International 2014 Maggi Thorne and I are not what you would call “twins,” but we share something very important: being true to ourselves as individuals, and to our commitment to serve others. Official portraits by Clay Spann Photography at Competitive Image.

Winning a state title pretending to be someone you really aren’t deep-down will make for a very long year. Compete as yourself. Remember, no one does you better than you!

Until the Mission is Complete,

Farabe’

Farabe’ Algor

Mrs. International 2015

Mrs. Texas International 2015

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