Sunday, September 27, 2015


I am an eleventh grade cheerleader on the Varsity squad this year. I began cheerleading when I was six-years-old on a competitive team. I can remember as a child in elementary school that I would look up to the varsity cheerleaders and try to be like them. I used to draw pictures of me and the cheerleaders during free time of first grade. Now, I have realized that girls look up to us. Yesterday we had a fun day at our high school with all of our little Cougar cheerleaders. This coming week is Homecoming week and every year we split the elementary up by age groups and teach them a cheer, chant, and dance to perform at our Homecoming pep rally on Friday. We warmed up with a few games and dances. We even whipped and nae naed with them.

I have always had a love for cheerleading. I love feeling the rush of adrenaline when the music starts, the feeling of a stunt finally hitting after several failed attempts, the feeling of obtaining new skills after a lot of hard work and endless practices, and the feeling of hearing the crowd roar after a solid routine ends. After years of participating in this sport, yes it is certainly a sport, I have learned the importance of discipline, commitment, trust, hard work, and teamwork. I want each generation of cheerleaders to feel the same way. Each squad I have been on has been a sisterhood. If one person fails, we all fail, if one person succeeds, we all succeed. So yesterday, even if they did not know it, we tried to instill these values into each one of our little Cougars.

As a “big girl” this year, I want the young girls to have a role model to look up to, just like I used to have as a child. I always smile and say hello to the elementary students during school and on the side lines. I know they look up to all of the “big girls” so I am glad each one of us may inspire them to be anything they want to be, hopefully a cheerleader! To all of you “big girls” out there, it does not matter whether or not you are a cheerleader, there are some little eyes watching you even when you may not know it. Make sure you can be a role model!

“Nothing is Impossible, the word itself says 'I'm possible.” - Audrey Hepburn

Jules Fletcher
Miss Teen International 2015

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

My First Photo Shoot as Miss International!

I just got back from Dothan, Alabama where I was truly treated like royalty during my first photo shoot as Miss International! I really got to know my wonderful director, Mary, and some of our amazing sponsors on a personal level as we spent a few days together! The International system really has the best of the best, and I'm truly thankful that the Lord has blessed me with an incredible pageant family.
My trip started with Ms. Mary and my sister queen, Farabe' picking me up from the airport and taking me to dinner! This was my first real opportunity to talk to Ms. Mary at great length since I won the crown, and she is truly an angel! Of course, any time I have with Farabe' is always so much fun!

It was early to bed for me as I got some much needed rest before my shoot the next day. Joey, from The Competitive Image, picked me up from the hotel and we were off to his amazing shop! There were dresses and sparkle everywhere! What I really loved is how they all took the time to see what would look best on me for the shoot. Then it was off to hair and makeup with the talented Clay Spann! What a joy to work with him! I put my trust in him that he would know what would look best for the photographs, but I also appreciated the fact that he let me have some input as well!

As I looked at some of the proofs, I was floored at what I saw coming through the camera lens. This is definitely not my first photo shoot, but it is my first wearing the crown and title of this magnitude. I got teary-eyed as I looked at the proofs as this has truly been a dream come true and I'm only in the 2nd month of my reign! I can't wait to see how the pictures turn out!

My trip ended with some great quality time with Ms. Mary and then finally getting to reunite with my teen sister, Jules! Being in separate states makes it harder for us to see each other, but I enjoy the moments I get with her!

I want to close by thanking the International family for your hospitality and all that you have already done for my sister queens and I! I am truly grateful!

All my love,

Elise Banks
Miss International 2015

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Supporting One Another

Recently Miss International, Elise Banks, wrote a blog on peoples negative words and I loved it. If you didn’t get a chance to read it please check it out. Not only am I so glad Elise wrote it, I am so glad that we were able to talk, until 3:30 a.m., about how hurtful words can be.

The hateful and disgusting words that can flow out of people’s mouths without them thinking twice is shocking. I have experienced it firsthand and let me tell you it hurts! I’m sure most, if not everyone, reading this can attest to some sort of negativity that was thrown their way at some point in their life. I realize that I am far from perfect and have said things in my life that have hurt another person, but as I have matured with age I have done my best to not take part in the demise of another person. Life is hard enough without someone else trying to make it even harder. On the same note, I have tried to weed out those that continually bring hatred and negativity to any situation. The best way to stay happy is to surround yourself with happy people.

Sadly, the bullying, which is totally what it is, will never end. When something doesn’t exactly go the way we want it to there seems to be a season of lashing out towards others. The best advice I can give you is to pray! Pray hard that God will hold our tongues and keep our words kind. Pray that God will show us the path that He wants us to be on. Although we may not understand why we didn’t win the pageant or get our dream job, trust that the person that God chose is the right person. Congratulate and support that person, not bring them down, no matter how hurt you are.

As women, we need to do more of this. We have so many different hats we have to wear from wife, mother, coworker, chef, taxi driver, and personal assistants to our family. We are all trying to balance life and do so with a smile on our face. Let’s do better about building our fellow sisters up. Pick each other up in a time of need and celebrate each other’s successes. You never know what someone is dealing with on the inside and you could be the one to brighten their day and turn their life around, after all, everyone deserves to be happy.

Until the Mission is Complete,


Monday, September 21, 2015

My First Miss Teen International Photo Shoot!

Being Miss Teen International offers incredible opportunities of all kinds. In the past six weeks I have made so many new friends, developed new hobbies, study habits, and responsibility. On Wednesday I was able to experience a piece of life on my own. I navigated my way through several airports, including the third largest airport in the world, Atlanta International Airport. Luckily, I made it safely to Dothan, Alabama for my first official photoshoot.

I had an amazing time with the one and only Clay Spann. It was such a fun filled day with Clay, Terri, Joey, and Mary. We laughed, giggled, and enjoyed ourselves. Shooting with Clay is always a great way to enhance your inner personalities you did not know you had. For example, did you know the “serious, no smile face” is actually very difficult to execute well. I had some great laughs when Clay and Terri were trying to teach me, but finally we came up with the solution of thinking to yourself, “Did I leave the iron on?”

I want to thank Clay and Terri for all of their hard work prepping during and after the shoot. I loved every minute of being pampered and even getting picked on by these two. Also, a huge thank you to Joey for picking out my wardrobe and helping me find some pieces for Miss Teen International 2016, and of course taking me to dinner and picking me up at 4:30 a.m. to take me to the airport. Thank you guys for your sponsorship and all of my make-up goodies. Last but not least, a huge thank you to our amazing director, Mary Richardson, for making sure the International girls have everything we need and bonding with each one of us.

I know some of the state competitions are coming up soon, so I want to encourage everyone to use Clay Spann for photos and Joey Rutherford for wardrobe at Competitive Image. Not to mention, that Clay also does make-up training sessions. He truly works magic on and behind the camera.

“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says “I'm possible'” - Audrey Hepburn

Jules Fletcher
Miss Teen International 2015

Friday, September 18, 2015

Planning for Success

Hi Everyone!

Have you ever wanted more hours in the day? I think I request this every single day! The interesting thing is that even if we had more hours in the day, we would probably still want more! I have come to find that managing our time is one of the basic life skills that can make all the difference!

Most of you know that when I won the International crown last month, I was not walking in to this title with a clear schedule! I actually have a full time job as a licensed therapist where I see patients for individual, couples and family therapy and am also the school counselor at a private school in Houston. So winning the crown was essentially adding another role to my plate! The thing is, I was ready for it! I learned very early in my high school years the importance of planning out your day and prioritizing what needs to be done. So when I decided to compete for Miss Texas International and eventually Miss International, knowing very well that I was not going to quit my jobs, I knew that now more than ever, I would have to be very diligent in making sure every hour of every day was carefully planned out. 

Here are a few tips that I have found helpful in my own life:
  1. I have two calendars. One on my phone/laptop and a handwritten planner. Both are constantly kept updated and are even shared with my bosses and family so that they know when I am available! Having both calendars has helped in giving me a visual representation as to what my day looks like. 
  2. I always look at my schedule the day (sometimes even 2 days before) to make sure I confirm appointments and that I have not double booked myself. I always make sure I give myself enough time to get to work and my appearances knowing that traffic can shift at any time. One of my favorite sayings is: “If you are early, you are on time; if you are on time, you are late; and if you are late, you might as well not show up”. So it is always best to be early!
  3. I schedule out time to rest! It may sound silly, but I write out when I am going to workout, get a massage, or dinner out with friends! Relaxation time is just as important as other parts of our lives. However, if we do not plan for it, it will not happen. 

Finally, I want to encourage those of you who are wanting to compete next year but may have other obligations (school, work, etc). Do not let that be the reason that keeps you from competing. I was very honest with each of the judges at the Miss International pageant that I had a full-time job. However, I was able to show them through my commitment to being Miss Texas, how I would take on the role of Miss International. It is definitely not easy, but it is doable!

I hope each of you have a blessed and manageable week!

Continuing to break the stigma,

Elise Banks
Miss International 2015

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Queen Makeover

I just returned from my official photoshoot with Clay Spann and my visit to the Competitive Image. Oh my goodness. It was beyond amazing. Before heading to Dothan, I had lots of mommy duties to take care of, which included a 3 page schedule (on my Mrs. International letterhead of course) for my husband, since he was going to be taking care of the kiddos while I was away. Let me say, flying without kids is a breeze and so relaxing!

When I arrived in Dothan, Joey and Clay picked me up and we headed to a yummy California Mexican dinner before they dropped me off at the hotel. I arrived at the Competitive Image bright and early Tuesday morning and could not wait to get started. Mrs. Terri greeted me at the door. After trying on numerous looks, Clay started to work his makeup and hair magic. Ya’ll, oh my goodness. He is SO talented. This was my first time working with him and he not only made me look beautiful on the outside, but made me feel even more beautiful on the inside, which is where it counts the most. If you don’t feel beautiful on the inside, you surely won’t feel your best on the outside.

After 7 different looks we had what we needed for the website, autograph cards, program book and a few more fun things! The behind the scenes photos I saw were amazing! The experience was unlike any I have ever had and I highly recommend working with Clay for your next photography needs, or if you are stuck in a mommy rut and want to feel like the queen you deserve to be, he’s your guy.

The time I spent with Joey, Clay, Mrs. Terri, Mary and Elise were just as wonderful! Jules, I hate I missed you sweet girl. The International system keeps proving more and more to be just like my family. Our values, our conversations, our goals. If you want to make a difference and I know that you do, this is the system for you. Remember, the trunk show at THE Competitive Image is in the spring. They are still working on the exact dates, but I will let you know as soon as I hear. You want this experience, trust me.

Until the Mission is Complete,


Wednesday, September 16, 2015


During one of my English Composition classes this week, my instructor taught me four ways to become a better writer that I have chosen to use in my blogs as well, Voice, Audience, Purpose, and Form.
  1. Voice- Your personal writing style.
  2. Audience- “To whom are you writing?” A good paper, occurs when you are aware of the reader. If you plan to explain college to a six-year-old, you will not be successful if you use a large vocabulary. 
  3. Purpose- “Why am I writing?” When writing a paper, make sure to get your point across.
  4. Form- This is whether you are writing a persuasive, informative, argumentative, or research essay. 
Another student asked how they could become more creative in their writing. He responded by telling the class that there is no such thing as “more creative.” Each person has their own voice which I thought was interesting because in addition to writing voice he also meant no one has the same voice verbally. This makes us all different and unique. He brought to our attention that each of us are creative in our own way. This inspired me to let everyone know that being yourself is a wonderful thing, so be creative and use your voice in your own unique way!

Nothing is Impossible, the word itself says “I'm possible.”

Jules Fletcher
Miss Teen International 2015

Tuesday, September 15, 2015


Since the age of 3, my parents have instilled in me the importance of volunteering. Being so young, I did not quite understand the meaning behind what we were doing, but I saw how important it was to my parents, and I formed new memories that I will never forget. Over the years I have worked with March of Dimes, Susan G. Komen, United Negro College Fund, Habitat for Humanity, and Emerging Young Leaders to name a few. In college, I started volunteering more with organizations in the field that I knew my career would be in. However, there is one volunteer experience that I really feel shaped who I am today.

At the age of 20, I spent the summer in Belize to provide medical assistance for those in the poorest parts of the country. I was away from my family and friends and in a country I have never been to before with people I had never met. It was a summer of growth for me as I went beyond my comfort zone in so many ways. I had to speak Spanish in order to get around, I saw living conditions that were unfathomable, and I was striped away of the "first world blessings" that we Americans truly take for granted. I remember taking some Advil out of my backpack, and a few of the locals staring at me as if I had just pulled one million dollars out. You see, some people had not received medical assistance in 10-15 years, so they learned to live with pain since they never knew if they would be relieved of it. 

The biggest lesson I took from my summer in Belize was how joyful the people were. The children had none of the creature comforts (toys, iPads, Xbox, etc.) that we have become accustomed to seeing children with, and yet they were happier than most children that I see in the states. We taught them how to play "Duck, Duck Goose" and they played for hours! I would go into the homes of some of the families and their houses would be made of materials that birds would use to build a nest, and yet they were so excited to have us come to their home and would have the biggest smiles on their faces as they would show off the little that they had. I walked away from the experience a bit embarrassed about the things I would complain about in my life and what I had been forgetting to be grateful for because I was so used to having it.

My experience in Belize is also what gave me my own reason for volunteering. To be able to pour into someone's life without any expectation from that person is such an incredible feeling. I truly feel that God gives us those opportunities so that we are able to put life into perspective. It is hard to complain about the barista at Starbucks getting your coffee order wrong, the line at the store being too long or having a bad hair day when there are people fighting for their lives and living in situations that no human being should have to live in.

So I remain committed to the service of volunteering, because I feel that in order to make a difference in this world, you have to reach out and take a step. The experience will be one-of-a-kind for you, but it will also be life-changing for those you choose to serve!

Continuing to break the stigma,

Elise Banks
Miss International 2015

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Importance of a Handwritten Note

Do ya’ll love to get mail? I do! Not just packages, from shopping too much, but actual cards and letters from friends and family at times other than your birthday or a holiday. Just as I like to receive them, I probably love to send them even more! My grandmother instilled the importance of a handwritten note when I was very young. I think I wrote thank you’s to people that wrote me thank you’s for thanking me. Ha!

I was so excited when I received my 18 pound box from the International Pageants office that held my stationary in it. I had so many people on my list and couldn’t wait to get started. These days it is so much easier to send a quick text or email to say thank you rather than sitting down and writing out your note, looking up the address and going to the post office for more stamps (because my kids think they are just stickers and put them on anything). I promise you, the extra effort will not only make you feel better, but it will truly brighten someone’s day to know that you are thinking about them. Let’s not lose this tradition. My kiddos know that they have to write a thank you when they receive a gift so start getting your babies in the habit if you haven’t already.

As amazing queens that represent the International System, I know you all have so many friends, family, sponsors and judges you want to thank for helping to get you where you are today. It is never too late to send a thank you. Better late than never, after all. While you’re at it, stick one of your gorgeous autograph cards in the envelope too!

Until the Missions is Complete,


Sunday, September 13, 2015


Since school has started I have realized that procrastination is hard to avoid. Taking two concurrent classes as well as being an honor student definitely fills my weekly schedule, but I have set a new goal for myself to gain the ability to avoid procastination this year. I hope all of you will make this your goal as well. It is much easier to learn how to be prompt on deadlines as early as possible, rather than in a job later on.

I have researched a guide to avoid procrastination and here are some simple things to follow:
  1. Write deadlines in a calender as soon as it is scheduled, this way you will not forget the due date. 
  2. Start on the project a week or two ahead of time and finish bits and pieces of it every night.
  3. Make a “to-do” list to check off each step to finish your project.
  4. Admit to false starts and distractions.
  5. Imagine yourself succeeding.
These can be excecuted for studying, homework, papers, projects, working out, etc. Good Luck and remember these helpful tips to make your school year much easier.

Nothing is impossible, the word itself says “I'm possible.” -Audrey Hepburn

Jules Fletcher
Miss Teen International 2015

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Self Care in Mental Health - Part 2

As promised in my last blog, here are some more tips to incorporate self care into your daily routine. Previously, I wrote about how physical activity, spiritual activity, relaxation and balanced sleep can all play an important role in your mental health. There are some other ways too!

5. Journaling- For you writers out there, journaling is a wonderful way to write out things you may be internalizing or do not have the words to verbalize. Journaling allows you the opportunity to write down the thoughts in your head to give a visual representation as to how you may be feeling. Journaling also provides a way to track your mental health. By being completely transparent when writing, journaling can help you see if you are having consistent thoughts that might be harmful to you or someone else. 

6. Healthy Eating- You know the saying "You are what you eat!"? Well, this is certainly true when it comes to eating for your mental health. A balanced food plan should include fruits, vegetables and lean meats. When we eat foods full of vitamins and nutrients, our body has the fuel it needs in order to function at its best. Although having the occasional sweet tooth is perfectly fine, be mindful that items with refined sugar can cause more harm than good. It has been found that sugar triggers a certain part of our brain that can make it more addictive than cocaine. So the next time you are craving something sweet, try dark chocolate, as it has been found to increase the endorphins in your brain!

7. Reduce Stress- Stress causes our heart rate to increase, appetite to increase or suppress, decrease in sleep, and relationships to suffer, just to name a few. One of the best ways to reduce stress is to manage your time and to stay organized. Procrastination can lead us to be stressed out over a situation we more than likely had plenty of time to handle had we prioritized our schedule better. One great tip is to make a to-do list every day, and write what you can do today versus tomorrow versus next week. Organizing your environment can also reduce stress. You are more likely to be overwhelmed and stressed out if your home, car and work space look like a tornado went through it! Take some time to organize your space which will help with stress and make things easier to find!

I hope these 7 tips will help as you find ways to take care of yourselves. We do so much for other people, but we have to remember to make ourselves a priority!

Continuing to break the stigma,

Elise Banks
Miss International 2015

Friday, September 11, 2015

Where Were You?

Do you remember where you were on that fearful day? The day that our country was turned into a nation of panic, disbelief and grief? THAT day. September 11, 2001. It was my junior year of high school and our bible class had just started. Our headmaster knocked on our door and after a few minutes of a quiet conversation between himself and our teacher the television was turned on. Our class had probably never been that quiet. We watched in complete shock as the scenes from that tragic day unfolded. We were escorted, along with the rest of the school, into the gym where another small rollaway television was brought in. Our headmaster led us in prayer. We prayed for the families, the lives lost, our nation and our nation’s leader. I remember hearing people talk about the unknown and if there were going to be more attacks all over the country on this terrible day. Our parents were called, if they hadn’t already called themselves, and we were dismissed for the rest of the day because frankly no one knew what was happening or what could happen.

Has it really been 14 years since that day? Have you thought about how you would honor those that lost their lives that day? Or our servicemen and women that risked their life to help others in a desperate time of need? What about our military that left their own families to protect us and ours when they were deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan so we could sleep easy at night?

Today I will be surrounded by hundreds of veterans, many of whom served during the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, to participate in Freedom Day. I urge you to seek out, honor and give your time today as well. It can be something as simple as taking a freedom basket to your local fire and police station’s first responders. Google 9/11 events that are happening in your area and actually go. Don’t let today pass you by without thinking about how far we have come from that dreadful day that took place on our doorstep.

Until the Mission is Complete,


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Pageant Tip Tuesday

One of the most important things during pageant week is letting YOUR light shine. There is a certain stereotype of the “trained pageant girl,” but the best thing to do in a pageant is to be yourself. Before competing you might be working with a pageant coach which is great! It is definetly helpful to have a professional tweek your mistakes in different areas of competition, but please do not transform who YOU are. There is no better you than you.

Interview is your time to show the judges what you are all about. The judges want to have a conversation with a real, passionate human being. They are going to remember the delegate that has a good personality as well as a purpose for competing for the title. If you have a witty personality, do not be afraid to throw a little joke into your interview. The judges will most likely enjoy laughing with you and it shows them that you are confident in your own skin.

Onstage question is usually the most nerve racking portion for most people, but please do not be anxious. If you let your nerves get the best of you, the judges will be able to see it. Take a deep breath, LISTEN to the question, pause for a moment to get your thoughts together, then answer the question. The judges will look for your public speaking skills and your ability to remain calm answering an unknown question.

The modeling portions have always been the most fun to me. This your time to shine! I believe the best way to do so is by head movement, facial expression, and walking with confidence. Once again, be yourself! How to pose, spin, and walk is up to you. Be you and nothing but you. Last but not least, have fun!

Nothing is Impossible, the word itself says, “I'm possible.”

Jules Fletcher
Miss Teen International 2015

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Self Care in Mental Health

How often are you deliberate in doing something that would be considered 'self care'? Essentially self care is anything that we intentionally do to take care of our bodies. In mental health, self care can be used to reduce stress, manage anxiety, and reward our bodies for the hard work we put it through.

When working with patients and through the students I talk to, we always discuss ways that they can implement self-care into their daily routines. Even 15-30 minutes of full attention focused on your body's needs can make a world of difference. Here are a few self-care ideas:

1. Physical activity- Whether it's taking a run, swimming, lifting weights or boxing, being physically fit is not only good for your heart, but it is also good for your mind. Working out increases the endorphins in the brain. This is especially helpful for those struggling with depression. It is also great for people who have anxiety or anger issues. It's a safe way to release pent up energy. Like I tell my patients, "It's better to punch a punching bag then to punch someone in the face!".

2. Spiritual activity- This is your spiritual connection with a higher power. This can be done through prayer or meditation. Being spiritually connected to a higher power allows one to find comfort in that they are not alone in this world and that they are being taken care of by someone higher than themselves. Some go to churches, synagogues, mosques and other formal places to be united with others in their same belief system. 

3. Relax & Retreat- Schedule time to pamper yourself! And this is not just for women. Massages are a great way to repair the stress we put on our bodies, specifically our muscles. Massages can also release toxins that have built up in our system. This can also be achieved by spending time in a steam room! But don't think you have to spend a fortune to be able to relax. At home spa days, can achieve the same results. Put a mask on your face, make a bubble bath, light some candles and you have yourself one relaxing time! 

4. Balanced Sleep- How do you expect your body to perform at its best if you are only operating on a few hours of sleep. I'm actually the worst at this since I'm a total night owl, but still have to wake up early the next morning! It's important to get 7-8 hours of sleep to allow our minds to rest. Our brains are like computers, if we keep them on all the time, there will be system failure. If you find that you have a hard time concentrating, become easily frustrated and/or experience fatigue throughout the day, it may be that you are not getting enough sleep. For those who have trouble falling asleep, make sure to turn off all electronics as the light from these devices keep our brains alert. You can also try soft music or spraying lavender (in the essential oil form) on your pillow to breath in.

There are more ways to practice self-care, so stay tuned for my follow up blog!

Continuing to break the stigma,

Elise Banks
Miss International 2015

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Life as a SAHM and Mrs. International

Hey beauties! I just wanted to talk about my two completely different life (styles, literally) that I have going on right now. We have 3 young children that I have been fortunate enough to stay at home with since before they were born. I was on bedrest with the twins for 13 weeks, but that’s another story. I thought it would be fun to know what my days have been looking like since being crowned Mrs. International.

Being a mom and a stay at home mom has been the MOST rewarding job title I have ever had, but there are days when I have to choose to either do my hair or makeup. If we are being honest there are many days when I don’t even get the chance to choose between the two. Between running errands, taking care of the house, making sure everyone has had healthy meals and snacks, playing legos, babies, cars, DIRT, (yes! That’s apparently a game in our house), being a referee, and kissing boo boo’s there is not much left of me at the end of the day. My go to SAHM uniform is workout clothes that I more than likely didn’t get a chance to work out in yet. Not exactly what a crown goes with.

Point made, makeup check, hair bonk! Runny nose and a dance leotard that needed to be changed, but we had to be out the door right then.

Now, let’s turn the page and I’m Mrs. International 2015. I get to put on my full, soon to be Clay Spann cosmetics face, make sure my hair is as close to being perfect as I can get it so that the stunning Mrs. International crown can sit atop of it, wear beautiful dresses and trade in flip flops or tennis shoes for stilettos. Instead of singing the ABC song, I am now having a meaningful conversation with one of our nation’s greatest heroes or in a meeting discussing how to decrease the VA wait time for our veterans. My two job descriptions, and attire, couldn’t be more different.

My husband has a very demanding job and neither of our families live near us. Now that August has come to a close, along with my first month as Mrs. International, people have asked me how we are making it work. One of our judges asked me this same exact question. August kept us all extremely busy. At last count, I made 13 crown and sash appearances. We had and have a plan for our year and if we didn’t, GOD surely did. That’s why it is so important, if you do have children, to have a plan in place. Even if you don’t have children you still need a roadmap to get you from the beginning to the end. We are lucky to have found an amazing babysitter when we first moved to Texas. She has watched the boys since they were 10 months old and was one of the first people I told when we found out we were pregnant with our 3rd. She knew how her role would go from being a once in a while babysitter to being at our house 3, sometimes 4, times a week before I ever left for Florida.

If you are a new contestant, yes Mrs. Mary Richardson has already been conducting tons of interviews for 2016 contestants, or a returning contestant I cannot urge you enough to have a plan in place. Maybe even a Plan B or C just in case Plan A doesn’t work out. I wouldn’t trade either of my titles. They have all made a huge impact on my life and each been a blessing. I am honored to be called mom, mommy, mama and Mrs. International.

Until the Mission is Complete,


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

My Black Ring

Hi Loves! I’ve had a few people ask me what the black ring is that I wear on my right hand “trigger” finger. I’m actually glad people are curious about it because that’s the whole point of the ring. The rings exact name is a 22KILL Honor ring. #22KILL is a global movement that was created by veterans with a mission to honor those who serve(d) , raise awareness to veteran suicide prevention, recruit “Battle Buddies”, educate the public about current veteran related topics and issues and empower veterans from programs at their sister organization- Honor, Courage, Commitment (HCC).

To get the Honor Ring, I made an oath to become a “Battle Buddy”, support each of their missions and do 22 push ups in honor or memory of someone who has served, serving or took their own life. The first time, when I received my ring, I pushed for my husband. I have done my push ups so many times now and at all kinds of events. I should publicly thank the organization for helping me reach my fitness goals for the pageant as well, so thank you #22KILL. Don Nguyen, Director of Operations at both #22KILL and HCC, is the most motivating guy and I can promise you he will convince you to stop what you are doing, right where you are, wearing whatever you are wearing and knock out 22 push ups like its nothing.

Are you wondering why 22? 22 stands for the 22!!!! Veterans that are taking their life each and every day across our world. Can ya’ll believe that number? The number is actually probably even a little higher but that is what is actually reported. 22 men and women each day that are suffering from the effects of a war that was fought to protect us and our great Nation. That is why it is so imperative that we pay attention to the veterans that are in our lives. You never know what kind of internal battle someone is facing, so please reach out and truly think about becoming a “Battle Buddy”. If you are interested in learning more, please reach out to me! It truly could save someone’s life.

Until the Mission Is Complete,


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Choosing Positive Words

I was recently able to have a sleep-over with my sister queen, Farabe’! Through the storytelling and laughter, we were also able to talk about some difficult topics. Specifically, we discussed the power of people’s words and both the positive and negative effect they have had on us.

Over the last few years, I have come to realize that with success and achievement also come the haters! You would think that I would have anticipated this whenever I won the Miss International crown, but I tried to have faith in thinking that I would have everyone’s full support. So you can only imagine how I felt when I found out that there were people who claimed to be on “Team Elise” but did not really have my best interests at heart. It was tempting to get discouraged and think “What did I do to them?” or “What could I have done to make them believe in me?”. But then I remembered a research study that I once read. They found that when a person received 10 comments (9 positive and 1 negative), they would spend most of their time thinking about the 10% of negative comments instead of the 90% of positive ones. Here I was dwelling on the negative comments that I received instead of thinking about all the wonderful messages, emails and texts that have flooded my inbox these last few weeks. I also reminded myself that not everyone is going to support me in my endeavors and that is ok. But I do have an amazing support system filled with family, friends and sister queens who have my back no matter what! God gives us our support system to lift us when our spirits are down!

I say all of this as a reminder to all of us, including myself, that our words have the power to encourage us, but they also have the power to tear someone down. When you talk to others, or about others, think about whether your words will enhance someone else’s life or if they will be destructive.

One of my favorite Christian bands, For King and Country, wrote a song entitled “Light It Up”. The song was actually written for the band’s friend who suffers from depression (so if you know someone with depression, pass this song along to them!). As I was listening to the lyrics, there was a part of the chorus that I thought was applicable to my blog. They sing:

“Light it up and let it go, Don’t you see that you are not alone!”

In my own way of interpreting this song, I think it encourages us to use our words to glorify God and brighten people’s spirits, let go of the negative words that people try to send our way, and remember that we are not alone!

Let’s continue to build each other up!

All my love,

Elise Banks
Miss International 2015