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

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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 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

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.

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

Miss International Elise Banks talks about conquering fears

Elise Nov

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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