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

IMG_0542

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.

IMG_0505

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

IMG_0495

Advertisements

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
image1

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

Kori arrival Omni

Miss Teen Texas International Celebrates Independence Day

Gracie July 4th

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

Meet Gracie Hunt, Your Miss Teen Texas International 2016

20160410_5783.jpg Gracie Teen First Walk.jpg sm

Gracie Hunt was crowned Miss Teen Texas International on April 10th at the Granville Arts Center in Garland, Texas.  She is a high school student at Ursuline Academy in Dallas.

Hello! My name is Gracie Hunt. I am seventeen years old and attend The Ursuline Academy of Dallas. I enjoy taking my golden retriever puppy running, hiking high mountains, and spending time with my friends and family. In addition, soccer is one of my greatest joys and passions. My dad taught me to play as soon as I could stand on my own two feet. 

Pageantry has been a dream of mine for many years. My Mom has a legacy in pageantry, and I believe that her experience and love for what it taught her kindled my desire to follow in her footsteps. My official training began nine weeks ago, when I decided to compete in Miss Teen Texas International. Through dedication, hard work, and the constant reminder that with God all things are possible, I worked each and every day, preparing myself to be the best that I possibly could. I am so honored, thankful, and blessed to hold the title of Miss Teen Texas International 2016, and hope to use this opportunity to bring awareness to my platform: Breaking Barriers Thru Sports. 

Gracie Hunt

Miss Teen Texas International 2016

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

20160410_5829.jpg Taylor Miss Crowning.jpg sm

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

20160410_5975.jpg 2016 Texas Queens.jpg sm

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.