Wednesday, February 24, 2016

On the Other Side of the Table

Shortly after I began my reign, I was asked to judge the North Dakota International pageants. I was so excited to get this opportunity, even if it was in January. I was interested to see exactly what it would be like to sit on the other side of the interview table. Honestly, I was nervous for the girls and maybe even a little nervous for myself because I knew I was going to have a hand in changing the lives of these women. They also had a Junior Miss Teen division, which was so precious. It definitely brought tears to my eyes as these sweet girls were escorted out during the evening gown competition by their adoring fathers.

Receiving the contestant binders before the pageant was so helpful as I was able to go through and narrow down the questions I wanted to ask each contestant. Five minutes goes by so quickly, so I made sure I was prepared. Digging down and asking questions about their platforms and how they planned to spend their year, while also asking what they were going to bring to the International system was important to me. I knew whomever was going to represent the state of North Dakota was ultimately going to be vying for a chance at mine, Elise, and Jules’ crown. Ensuring that our legacy and the International legacy was in good hands was my ultimate goal.

Being able to travel with Elise and spend time with her during our weekend judging experience was so amazing. Jules, we missed you and I can’t wait to spend time with you soon! Ultimately, the great state of North Dakota crowned 4 amazing young ladies and women. They are lucky to have them represent their state in July! There were so many deserving women and we truly wish they could have each received a crown. The International system is so much more than winning a title though. It’s about the sisterhood, support and work we all do for not only our platforms, but also the help will lend for our sisters and their platforms. I know everyone had a wonderful experience, judges and contestants, they will all be back!

Until the Mission is Complete,


Thursday, February 18, 2016

Safe Travels

I absolutely love traveling, especially through airports. One of the many great things about being Miss Teen International is that it gives you this opportunity. Whether you’re flying alone for the first time (I had never traveled alone before winning the title), or you are a seasoned traveler, It’s so important to be extra cautious when traveling alone as a teenage girl to insure your safety.

Here are some must know tips to be prepared when traveling alone:

1. Give your family your contact info, flight info, and itinerary. This will give you and your parents peace of mind.

2. Stay connected. Have people you trust on speed dial in case you feel unsafe or need reassurance. I regularly check in with my parents when I arrive at my gate, get seated on the plane, and land at the next airport, etc. I must admit, this is more for my mom’s peace of mind than my own, but it does make me feel safe knowing that we are in touch all throughout my trip.

3. When you’re a teenager, you’re usually not considered an unaccompanied minor but you should still let the flight attendant on your plane know that you are under 18 and flying alone. They will check on you and make sure that everything is going okay.

4. Dress appropriately. Yes, I know we want to look cute and fashionable, but make sure that you dress in such a way that you don’t get negative attention.

5. Make sure that you have all the appropriate identification for your flight and make sure to have your passport, ID, boarding pass etc. ready so you don’t keep any airport attendants waiting.

6. Keep your wits about you. Venturing into unknown territory is one of the thrills of travel, but don’t let yourself get so distracted by sights and sounds that you let your guard down. Of all the travel-alone safety tips, this is the most important. Don’t leave your common sense at home.

7. Just using these simple safety tips, my trips have gone amazingly well, and most of all I have learned that I enjoy traveling by myself, and that, more importantly, I am confident traveling by myself. I never compromise my safety and most importantly, I realized that I could travel on my own.

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

Jules Fletcher
Miss Teen International 2015

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Who Is Your Stylist?

My Mom and I joke that I am her stylist since I don't allow her to go shopping unless I am there to "approve" her outfits! Of course she is old enough to do her own wardrobe shopping, but for some reason she will come back with some..let's just say interesting... outfits! When I go with her, I pick out what I think will look best on her, encourage her to try styles that she wouldn't normally go for, and provide her with an external perspective that would be difficult for her to give herself.

While recently having a shopping excursion with my Mom, it made me think. How often do we spend time with the "stylist" in our lives? Someone who will bring out the best in you, who encourages you to try things that will improve your life, and provides you with feedback that is different than the introspective thoughts we have about ourselves. This person can be a family member, a friend, or a therapist. But it's important to have at least one person in your life that can be your "stylist" and gives you a fresh look at your life every now and then! Now that 2016 is well under way, I encourage all of us to spend more time with those who lift us up to be all that God created us to be! Because after all, that's the best look you can ever have on!

Continuing to break the stigma,

Elise Banks
Miss International 2015

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Thomas Dunn Studios

After winning Mrs. Texas International, I dove head first into preparing for Mrs. International. One of the first things that I did after the dust settled and I slowly began to float down from cloud 9 was to begin researching hair and makeup artist near Jacksonville. As one can imagine being completely new to the International system before competing for the Texas title, I was concerned on how to get the perfect pageant look every day for a week.

A few weeks in to my Texas reign, my official contestant handbook arrived. I remember opening it for the very first time and thinking “Oh my gosh! I can’t believe this is really going to happen.” As I began flipping the pages, I was so glad to see the official list of International Pageants sponsors and even more thrilled to see someone listed under hair and makeup! I knew my troubles, or at least my hair and makeup worries, for the week would be over. I jumped on the phone, probably during the kids’ naptime, and called Thomas Dunn Studios. Guess who took the call? Sweet Thomas himself!

I was lucky to be able to book with them for our competition week. I would recommend using them for so many reasons! Your week is going to be extremely busy while in Jacksonville. I promise having Thomas, Drew or their staff of wonderful hair and makeup artists, will make your week less crazy! They will give you your specific time, each day if that’s the package you choose, and that’s one less thing you need to think about doing. Plus, you get to sit down and let them fuss over you and you will be glad to have that time off. Dunn Studios is the ONLY hair and makeup team that is allowed backstage as well which is another reason to use them. Often rehearsals run over on preliminary and finals night. The last thing you will want to worry about is do I have enough lipstick on or is my hair big enough for stage. They are right there to not only make you look your best, but to also calm you down. I had the pleasure of being in Mandi’s chair last year and I laughed the entire time. It truly was a wonderful experience and I can’t thank them enough for helping me to look my best throughout the week.

Until the Mission is Complete,



It’s already state, region, and country competition training season for the International system and I could not be more excited to meet the 2016 class of titleholders! You girls are in for the ride of a life time. Rehearsing the opening number, rushing backstage to change between phases, and holding hands at coronation is indescribable to experience with your friends. Another experience that is fun to spend with friends is working out. Fitness is an important stage of competition in the international pageant system, with someone to workout with and motivate you, fitness is a synch! Here are some tips for your training season.

1. Get an app on your phone that tracks the calorie intake that is proper for your body and the amount of time you have to get to your desired shape.

2. Eat three low calorie meals a day with two healthy snacks between.

3. As long as you are eating lightly you must lift weights (Your body will feed off of your muscles before fat and you don’t want to lose those guns!)

4. Walk/Run for 30 mins to an hour as well as find a cardio circuit on the internet (Cardio is great for burning calories fast) Make sure to get cardio in at least 30 mins a day.

5. You could always get a trainer/nutritionist to guide you through the proper exercise and diet for your body type and join a spin or aerobics class at your local gym.

6. Throughout the weekend of competition do a few squats, push-ups, crunches, and calf raises before you go to bed.

7. Backstage before the fitness competition do a few squats, push-ups, crunches, and calf raises to make those muscles more defined as well as to get you pumped!

Set a timer for 30 mins on your phone and repeat this circuit until it finishes.

This was taken after I did my mini workout right before fitness wear.

I always felt like fitness was a huge struggle for me, but I met a great trainer that made working out fun! (Thanks Mrs. Julie, love you!) I am not going to lie, the workouts were very hard, but every time I felt like giving up I thought, “You WANT these abs, you NEED these abs, NEVER give up!” Mrs. International 2014, Maggie Thorne, made an impact on me to never give up as well. Yes, turning down my favorite fattening food was hard but it was the thought of what I needed to look like in front of the judges that kept me on the right track. Now, I know how to live a healthy life style. Keep up the hard work girls. Better sore than sorry!

Mrs. Julie, my trainer, and I at Miss International 2015 prelims.

“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible.” – Audrey Hepburn

Jules Fletcher
Miss Teen International 2015

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Heart Health Month

The month of February is not only all about cupid’s love and candy, it is also about hearts. Not just paper hearts and candy hearts, but your real heart. The very thing that keeps beating day in and day out without us having to tell it to. The organ in our body that is responsible for pumping blood into the other parts of our body and the very center of our circulatory system. Your heart is vital to your health and nearly everything that goes on in your body. Without the heart's pumping action, blood can't move throughout your body.

A healthy heart supplies your body with the right amount of blood at the rate needed to work well. If disease or injury weakens your heart, your body's organs won't receive enough blood to work normally. Heart disease can disrupt a heart's normal electrical system and pumping functions. Diseases and conditions of the heart's muscle make it hard for your heart to properly pump blood.

As you know, the International system partners with the American Heart Association’s campaign Go Red for Women. I encourage each of you to browse the American Heart Association as well as the Go Red for Women websites to find out more information on simple ways you can live a heart healthy lifestyle. Make sure that you are encouraging those around you to do the same.

Until the Mission is Complete,


Friday, February 12, 2016

Valentine's Day

With Valentine’s Day coming up, I thought it would be appropriate to discuss the impact of encouraging words and positive actions! There is a Christian radio station in Houston (89.3 KSBJ) that starts a “Love Notes” initiative around Valentine’s Day week! Essentially what you do is carry a pad of sticky notes with you, and whenever you think to write someone an encouraging word, you write it down and stick it on their desk, door, window, etc. With Houston being one of the largest cities in the country, it is so cool to be running around town and finding these notes in strategic places! I have gone to the ladies’ room at Starbucks and have seen a “You are beautiful!” sticky on the mirror! Last year I saw one that said “God loves you!” at the grocery store. Whether you give these notes to people you know, or find creative ways to leave them for strangers to find, I think it is a great way to uplift others and also have some fun during this special holiday!

On the same note, if you are not a big “words” person, do not think I left you out! Your actions go a long way too! One fun thing I like to do is to pay it forward. Sometimes I will pay for the person behind me in the drive-through lane, or bring someone a special treat that I know needs a lift in their spirits. It is always neat to think that if I can add some positivity to someone else’s day, they will hopefully pass it on to someone else. Can you imagine what the world would be like if we did this all the time? It is definitely easier said than done, but Valentine’s Day is great time to show others that they are loved, and you can do this with small acts of kindness! 

So as you spend the day of love with your significant other and/or family and friends, don’t forget to extend yourself to those who may need a little extra love on that day!

LOVE Always,

Elise Banks
Miss International 2015

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Don't Forget to Have Fun!

I know many of us have set goals for the new year and that is awesome. We have to have goals and work hard and stay focused in order to achieve them, but don’t forget to have fun along the way. Remember you can be dedicated and hardworking without being serious all the time. Try to be flexible when working towards a goal because you never know where life is going to take you or why it is taking you there. We all know the old saying that life is about the journey, not the destination. When you take detours, you get more comfortable with life’s little surprises and sometimes it turns out even better than what you had planned.

Look for opportunities to laugh! There can be so much humor in most situations and it just seems to make everything a little bit easier. Surround yourself with fun but supportive people who understand your goals and want you to succeed. Make sure to take time for fun activities with friends and family. While goals are great and necessary and I’m a big believer in setting them, don’t forget to HAVE FUN, BE HAPPY and ENJOY LIFE!

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

Jules Fletcher
Miss Teen International 2015

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

2016 Trunk Show

Hi ladies! You may have recently seen the flyer come out with information about the upcoming Trunk Show at the Competitive Image. I hope all of you that have already been crowned to represent your state, region or even country are already making plans to attend! I promise you won’t be disappointed! For those of you that are still waiting to compete for your state title that may not be until after the trunk show has passed, you can still make plans to attend. Yes, you may already have your evening gown, but you can still work with Joey at Competitive Image, Clay for makeup lessons or photographs and Suzy to help perfect your interview skills.

These couple of days, set aside for YOU and the International Pageants, will be unlike any other experience. Where, and when, can you be in the same place with every single person that you need to help you prepare for Mrs., Miss and Teen International? Joey knows exactly what the judges are looking for when it comes to not only your personal appearance and style during competition week and on stage. The wardrobe that he can help you select for that week will ensure you have a consistent branding, one that compliments your platform. Also Sherri Hill and Stefanie Somers will be on hand to design your exquisite evening gown and perfectly complementing jewelry for that one of a kind look.

Appointments can be made with Suzy Bootz for a one on one coaching session to ensure you know how to answer the difficult questions. You don’t want to sound like the lady sitting in the chair five minutes before you and Suzy can lend her expertise and also give you an idea as to what your week will look like. Her calming nature is something you will want during competition week so make sure you get on her schedule fast! Her appointments are limited so hurry.

Have you seen previous year contestant head shot photos? If you loved them, chances are they are done by none other than Clay Spann. Trust me when I say you want him shooting your headshot for the website and platform sheet. Clay has an impeccable eye and makes you not only look like a billion dollars, but also feel like it too, which is even more important. He also offers makeup lessons and has his own line of makeup that ROCKS! I’m sold on it for sure.

Are you not sure where to begin with designing your platform sheet? How do you organize all of the work and appearances you have done throughout the year? Susan Botek will also be in attendance and can help you get started! Remember the judges will have your sheet weeks before the pageant. It will be the first thing they have and how they begin to form their judges questions for you! Make sure you make a good first impression.

I can’t wait to see everyone there and hear all about your experience!

Until the Mission Is Complete,


Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Respect & Sportsmanship

The Super Bowl is over, which means we can finally focus on more important things… like basketball! No matter what sport you prefer, there are so many life skills that can be learned from having the opportunity to play in individual or team sports. After watching the Super Bowl, I kept the TV on to look at some of the post-game interviews. I was shocked when I saw an interview being done with Cam Newton, quarterback of the Carolina Panthers. For those who do not know, Mr. Newton is the current MVP of the NFL and a Heisman trophy winner. He definitely knows a thing or two about winning and success! So, I was very disappointed to see his attitude after losing the Super Bowl.

Being aware that a “poor sport” is not something that you learn overnight, it made me think about how many times in Cam’s career did he have poor sportsmanship when not getting the results that he wanted. I’m sure there were games when he was a little boy that he did not win. Did he throw a tantrum then? Did his parents or coaches every talk to him about how to handle disappointment?

As I took this interview in, it made me think of our youth today. Someday, the next generation will be on their own making decisions that will reflect their formative years. The lessons they are learning at home and school, shape their character, which ultimately creates the adult they will be. As a therapist, I talk to children about “owning up” and taking responsibility for their actions, however these years are still considered a time of training. Here are some things to think about as parents and people of influence to children:

*Does your child respect authority?

*Does he/she say “Please”, “Thank you”, “Yes Ma’am”, “No Sir”?

*Does your child know how to be a good sport, whether he/she wins or loses?

*When your child is faced with adversity, does he/she know how to find the positive and pick oneself back up?

These are the years to teach our youth how to handle themselves during the times of success and failure. Although their name is on the line, how they respond in situations is still a reflection on how they were raised. As parents, educators, and mentors, we owe it to them to give them all the tools they need, and teach them how to use them, so that they will have the skill set to appropriately use these tools for the rest of their lives!

Continuing to break the stigma,

Elise Banks
Miss International 2015

Monday, February 8, 2016


I am constantly striving to see the positive in all aspects of my life, but it is not always easy. My life – and all of our lives- is filled with challenges that make it difficult to stay positive all the time. However, when times are tough, I know that being positive and making the best of whatever situation I am in, makes even the most challenging circumstances easier to handle. Teaching myself that positivity is a choice has been one of the greatest decisions I have made for myself. Now when I find myself in a bad situation, I know that I have to look for the good. Sometimes bad things happen, but it is up to me how I will react to it.

Once we start thinking more positively, we will find that we have to make it a priority to reinforce these thoughts in ourselves. You have to tell yourself, “I did a great job.” This will help you have the confidence it takes to succeed. Tell yourself, “I am awesome!” Because you are! We can use our positivity to radiate to our peers to also be optimistic. Remember, being positive is not just a nice way to live, it is the way to live!

“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible.” – Audrey Hepburn

Jules Fletcher
Miss Teen International 2015

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Working on Your Fitness

A new year of course brings new resolutions. I’m willing to bet that one of the top resolutions is to lose weight and get into shape year after year. I have always had a long and lean build that I get from my mom and her side of the family. In fact, it’s actually hard for me to gain weight, which has its benefits, but like everything else also has its downfalls as well. For example, when you are trying to grow a baby, or babies. After each pregnancy, I was ready to get the baby weight off as fast as I could, like most women. I just didn’t feel like myself, in hind sight it could have been the lack of sleep from three children two and under.

The International pageant is 6 months away so it is the perfect time to start focusing on that aspect of the competition. The fitness portion is 25% of your score and while it does not account for 50% of your score like interview, the fitness score can definitely keep you out of the top 15. During competition week, there is little to no time to go to the hotel gym, not to mention you will probably be too exhausted to go after a full day of rehearsals or appearances.

With so many different work out routines easily available these days you just need to determine which one fits your style. For me personally, I need more of the structure of a class. I love Pure Barre! I was a competitive dancer until I graduated from High School so doing any kind of work out with a ballet barre was exciting to me! My first class, I left shaking! I also made sure to get to the gym about four times a week leading up to the pageant. Being non stop with the kids all day everyday helps immensely as well!

While you are focusing on your body, make sure you are putting healthy things into your body. Afterall, there’s little point in working out so hard if you are just going to go eat fries and greasy food.

Until the Mission Is Complete,


Monday, February 1, 2016

Picking the Right College

This time of year is both an exciting and stressful time for high school seniors. They are the big kids on campus and more than likely fully in "senioritis" mode! But they are also about to make one of the most important decisions of their lives. And that can cause a lot of anxiety. It was not too long ago when I had to make the important decision of where I would spend a chapter of my life. Deciding where I was going to go to college and graduate school played a huge part into the person I am today. So I wanted to encourage those who are in this phase of their life with a few tips!

1. Visit the colleges/universities you are interested in and see which one makes you feel at home. All of the schools that I applied to were important to me for different reasons, but Baylor was the only school that made me feel so comfortable that I could envision myself investing a few years of my life. Feeling comfortable at the college you end up going to is important so that when you come across those difficult days... And you will!... You don't regret the decision you made to go to that school in the first place.

2. See which school pursues you! Although it may seem that you are waiting for the school to decide if you are qualified enough to meet their academic standards, remember that the decision is ultimately yours. As a student, your success makes the school look better and become ranked higher. So when you are deciding which school to pick, look to see how hard they are willing to work to get you there. Are they offering you scholarships? Are they willing to work with any accommodations that you may need for your learning style? Are the professors passionate about helping you succeed, or are you just a number in the system? These are questions you should ask yourself when making a final decision.

3. Getting a higher level of education is not cheap. It actually makes me sick to my stomach to think about how much it will cost whenever I have kids that age! When making a decision about college, make sure that you make a decision that is financial responsible. Although it may sound good to go to a big named school, remember that typically comes with a big price tag. So unless you are receiving lots of scholarships, be prepared to be committed to the finances that come along with your decision. I personally came across this when deciding between Pepperdine University and the University of Houston for graduate school. Although I really wanted to move to California, I would have absorbed a tremendous amount of debt to attend that school. So I had to make a "big girl decision" and decided to stay in Texas. I ultimately finished my master's degree with no debt as I was able to work while completing my degree. It's one of the best decisions I ever made.

I would love to talk to anyone who is needing help making the decision that will steer the rest of their education and career. Hopefully these tips can help you! I also recommend staying in prayer as the Lord will guide you to where He knows you will be able to fulfill His plan!

Continuing to break the stigma,

Elise Banks
Miss International 2015