It’s a Family Affair, Says Mrs. Texas International Kori Zwaagstra

20160410_3055I often get asked why married women would want to compete in a pageant, that is after they say “I didn’t even know married women can do pageants!”.  I always offer the same answer: because competing and winning Mrs. Texas International is hugely fulfilling for my family and for me.

The role of full time wife and full time mom can often become just that, full time everyone else and very little time left for me.  Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t about being selfish, rather carving out time and energy for something that helps me grow, and better myself.  Preparing for Mrs. Texas and Mrs. International requires that I make my health and fitness a priority.  There is nothing like a clearly defined goal to make you accountable to yourself!  I have to set aside time to prepare for my interview and continue to develop those communication skills.  Most valuably, I have a larger opportunity to raise awareness for perinatal mood disorders and offer outreach to moms and clinicians.  All of those things help me be a better wife and mother.  I’m teaching my children the importance of commitment and follow-through, of time management and about giving of our gifts and talents to others.


I didn’t title this blog “A Family Affair” just to talk about how Mrs. Texas International has benefited me.  My family has had some very unique and memorable experiences because of my title.  My sons and I took a step back into the Old West at Wyatt Earp Days in Tombstone, Arizona and our entire family got to attend our first ever Major League Soccer game as special guests at the FC Dallas game.  They have heard me talk about how “sometimes mom’s get sad even thought the love their babies” and know that even though you endure struggles, those challenges don’t define you.  I look forward to husband and I sharing the moment of a lifetime when he escorts me on the Mrs. International stage.

I have the enormous honor of representing Texas as Mrs. Texas International, but all of Team Zwaagstra gets to be part of the fun.

Kori Zwaagstra

Mrs. Texas International 2016



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


So Long, 2015! Miss International Elise Banks Bids Adieu to 2015

So Long, 2015!

It’s hard to believe that 2015 is almost over. It seems like just yesterday I was ringing in the New Year in Tampa with my family! I do not know if it’s just me, but I feel like the years go by faster as I get older!

I’ll be honest and say that I did not have many expectations as I started this year. Coming from the past few years of disappointment, loss and a big breakup, I knew things had to get better, but I had no idea what God had in store! As I look back over this year, all I can say is “Thank you, Lord!” He has given me such an amazing support system in my family & friends, who have carried me through the highs and lows of this year. He introduced me to so many wonderful people in the International system who have touched my life in many ways. He allowed me to represent the International system, both as Miss Texas and Miss International. This is something I could have only dreamed of! He gave me the passion to put into my platform of mental health to hopefully make a difference in the lives of others. He gave me two incredible bosses who allow me to grow in my career, and also support my duties at Miss International. He has also trusted me with the responsibility of living my life in such a way that will bring honor and glory to Him.

As I close the book of 2015, and look ahead into the new year, my heart is full or gratitude and happiness. I end this year with so many more friends and relationships that I can’t imagine not having in my life now.

May God bless you and your family over the holidays!

God Bless,

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 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:

Elise Banks Crowned Miss Texas International 2015

Elise Banks_1829-2Houston-area resident to represent Lone Star State at Miss International Pageant in July

Elise Banks of Spring brought home the crowning glory when she took the top state title of Miss Texas International 2015. She was crowned during the Texas International Pageant, held March 15 at the Granville Arts Center in Dallas.

Banks 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. The Miss Texas International system is the premier pageant competition for young women in Texas and emphasizes a woman’s ability to serve and lead her community, as well as inspire other women.

Banks completed her undergraduate degree from Baylor University and then graduated with honors from the University of Houston, where she obtained her master’s degree. She is a counseling therapist and is a resident of the Spring area.

As Miss Texas International, Banks will continue working with her platform, “Healthy Mind Successful Life,” to help others understand the power they have to create mental health and to help remove the stigma of asking for help. Banks works with middle- and high-school-aged students to give them tools for effectively coping with common teen stressors, and she regularly volunteers with Boys and Girls Clubs, the Alzheimer’s Association and the Talitha Koum Community Center to help further her goal of encouraging others to develop healthy lifestyles that contribute to mental health.

“Elise is a fantastic example of what the Texas International system is all about,” said Rachel Hedstrom, executive director of the Texas International Pageant System and Director of the Year for all Miss and Teen International Pageants worldwide. “She is a passionate advocate for her cause, putting her personal commitment together with her professional expertise to best serve others. She will wear her crown with that unique Lone Star pride that is a true symbol of service for those who need a voice.”

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.

Banks will represent the Lone Star State as she competes with women from the other 49 states and countries around the world for the title of Miss International this summer in Jacksonville, FL.

Applications are now being accepted for Mrs. Texas International 2016, Miss Texas International 2016 and Miss Teen Texas International 2016, to be held at the Granville Arts Center in Dallas, TX, in the spring of 2016. For more information on how to become a local titleholder and begin making a difference, ladies should visit,, or

To schedule a speaking engagement or appearance from any Texas International titleholder, please contact Rachel Hedstrom at