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!

Gracie Hunt
Miss Teen Texas International 2016

Meet Gracie Hunt, Your Miss Teen Texas International 2016

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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

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.

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

Keep Your Furbabies Safe This Holiday Season, Says Miss Teen Texas International Savannah Wahrer

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I’m proud that my family includes many furry friends. Make sure to keep yours safe this holiday season!

Over the holidays it is important to “pet proof” your house. Keeping your decorations away from your animals reach can make the holidays safe and fun for your pets. Here are a few tips to follow.

Keep children’s toys out of your dog’s mouth.  Puppies like to be puppies and might unintentionally destroy the things that they can get to.  It’s a good idea to have a few “pet” toys for them to play with so they won’t get bored.  My dogs love to play fetch in the backyard with tennis balls.  This also helps them to “burn off” the never ending energy that they have!

Decorations can be a hazard for animals. Any kind of string, ribbon, tinsel, or bows could be potential problem. If they swallow these things, it could lead to a visit to the vet to deal with vomiting or digestive issues. If any of these items got stuck in their digestive tract, surgery might be needed.

Some holiday plants can be toxic to your pets. Mistletoe, Poinsettias and Holly are naturally toxic and dangerous for dogs and cats. During the holiday season these plants are treated with chemicals to preserve them, and these chemicals are also dangerous for your pet.

Another potential problem can be ornaments on the Christmas tree. Ornaments are sparkly & shiny, which pets are drawn to, especially cats! The ornaments could potentially be something your dog or cat may want to play with, or knock off with their snout/paws. Keep watch of your pet when they are around the Christmas tree.

Human food can be dangerous for your pets too. There are several types of food that are not good for your dogs and cats like chocolate, so it’s best for them to eat their pet food. Our pets love treats! We always keep a bag of treats available for them to enjoy. Pets stores have some really tasty  treats.

I hope you find these few safety tips helpful in keeping your pets safe.  I hope you and your fur-babies have a wonderful Christmas season!

Saving our best friends,

Savannah Wahrer

Miss Teen Texas International 2015


$70,000 Scholarship for Miss Teen Texas International 2016

Just a friendly note from your director…..

College is not cheap. Right, ladies?? Well, if you are interested in competing for the title of Miss Teen Texas International, one of your many prizes will be something very special: a $70,000 college scholarship to Hollins University, with a minimum 3.25 high school GPA and a minimum 24 ACT composite score or 1100 SAT total score (critical reading and math only).


And it gets even better.  Could there be anything better than $70,000 in scholarship?  Well, yes.  Our next Miss Teen Texas International has the opportunity to represent her cause, travel the state, become the best version of herself while making a difference AND she gets to represent Texas at the Miss Teen International Pageant in Florida in July 2016. That is an incredible opportunity — an honor that will stay with you throughout your life. Whether you place or not, you get a scholarship simply by winning Miss Teen Texas International 2016. Now, if you place at Miss Teen International, you get even MORE scholarship.  And if you win the title of Miss Teen International 2016?  You get a FULL scholarship to Hollins.  As in, all of your tuition is paid. Paid!!!

Talk about being the best, most educated version of yourself!

If you know the International Pageant System, you know it’s about uplifting women and helping them to become even better versions of themselves. What better way for the crown to help you than to give you a life-changing education?

Read this post on the International Pageants blog for all the details: http://theinternationalpageants.blogspot.com/2015/05/miss-teen-international-pageant-hollins.html

Sign up today for your chance to become Miss Teen Texas International 2016!

This beauty can help get you a college education.

This beauty can help get you a college education.

Sparkle and shine, ladies!


Executive Director, Texas International Pageants


Miss Teen Texas International Visits with Girl Scouts

Savannah Sept 1a

I had the wonderful opportunity to visit with the Girl Scouts of Texas Oklahoma Plains for the grand opening of their new facility in Southlake recently. It is such a warm and welcoming place!  During our time together we learned how to tie different knots, participated in arts and crafts (we made some REALLY cool spin tops!), enjoyed some fun experiments, and the girls were able to use their “Cookie Bucks” at the Girl Scout store.

From Daisies, Brownies, Juniors, and Cadettes, to Seniors and Ambassadors, these young girls are doing some awesome things! They have so many wonderful events and camps where these girls can develop their leadership skills, character, and help build their confidence.

Just as service to God and our community is a very important part of the International Pageant System, the Girl Scouts also have this same principle.

The Girl Scout Promise
“On my honor, I will try:
To serve God,
To help people at all times,
And to live by the Girl Scout Law.”

I really enjoyed meeting all of the volunteers, former Girl Scouts, and all the young ladies who are going to shape our future by making a difference in our world!

Savannah Wahrer

Miss Teen Texas International 2015

Savannah Sept 1b Savannah Sept 2 Savannah Sept 4

Miss International Elise Banks Visits the Alzheimer’s Association

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Elise Alzheimers 2

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

Mrs. Texas Becomes Mrs. International 2015

When I arrived, I was able to say hello to Mrs. International 2014 Maggi Thorne, who is always radiant and was so welcoming to all of us.

When I arrived, I was able to say hello to Mrs. International 2014 Maggi Thorne, who is always radiant and was so welcoming to all of us.

Hi Ladies! I wanted to jot down a few things about my competition week at Mrs. International 2015. It was such an amazing journey to finally arrive at the much anticipated International pageant. I was in good hands as I prepared, competed and ultimately won the Mrs. International 2015 title. Rest assured, Rachel is a wonderful director and goes above and beyond for her queens!

Jacksonville is the perfect host city for the International Pageants. They welcomed each of us with open arms and made sure that every need was met. On Tuesday, we had an outing day to St. Augustine, the outlets for shopping, and then a behind the scenes tour of the Jacksonville Jaguar stadium. It was alot of fun to get to know each of the other contestants before our week became hectic with rehearsals, interviews, prelims and finals.

Getting to know my pageant sisters was definitely the highlight of my week!

Getting to know my pageant sisters was definitely the highlight of my week!

photo 3

Wednesday we spent all day and evening in rehearsals, but the day truly flew by and before I knew it, it was Thursday and time for interviews. Our judges were great! Rachel again does a great job of finding similar in dynamic judges for the Texas pageant to ensure the best queen is truly crowned to represent our great state at the next level. After interviews were over around 2 pm we headed straight back to the theater for more rehearsals.

Friday, you guessed it, more rehearsals. Our husbands joined us around 1. We practiced and practiced again, but the pageant went off without any glitches. Friday we actually practiced until 5, ran to get dinner and had to be back ready by 6:30 for prelims to start at 7:30. I can honestly say that I had ZERO nerves on Friday night. I just did my thing. Being on stage is definitely my strong point. Don’t get me wrong, I was a nervous wreck before interviews.

Saturday, after more rehearsals it was time to do it all over again for Finals. After opening number, they announced the Go Red for Women winner (Mrs. India Intl) and the photogenic award. That I WON! I was so shocked! I have never won that before. (The photos from the entire week were judged, along with personal style and not just the photo submitted for the web page). After I made top 16, the rest of the night was a race to the finish line. We had about 5 seconds to change from one area of competition to the next beginning with On Stage Question.

In the dressing room, ready for opening number. So blessed to represent the great state of Texas!

In the dressing room, ready for opening number. So blessed to represent the great state of Texas!

When the top 10 were standing at the end, holding hands, I remember hearing 4th, 3rd, 2nd, 1st and then my name and that’s it. I saw Maggi walking towards me, followed by my husband holding a huge bouquet of flowers. I know I saw my arms, not hands, shaking (haha) and Maggi telling Justin to just smile because he was having trouble placing the crown on my head.

Thank you, Paula Preston Photography, for capturing this amazing moment! This picture was up in Times Square in New York City!

Thank you, Paula Preston Photography, for capturing this amazing moment! This picture was up in Times Square in New York City!

It was the most amazing experience and my reign, so far, has been nothing short of a dream come true. Once a TEXAS queen ALWAYS as TEXAS queen!

Until the Mission is Complete,


Mrs. 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!