Wednesday, April 27, 2016

D.C. Day 1

Our vacation in Washington D.C. began as soon as we landed. I absolutely love history so seeing the beautiful, old, ornate buildings is a dream come true. My parents and I were given a private tour of our Nation’s Capital building shortly after we settled in our hotel. I have seen photos of the inside of the Capitol in my history books, but they do not do it near enough justice. I could only imagine the officials who had walked the same halls as I did. Our tour guide, Charlie even took us through the underground tunnels that connect the House to the Capitol.

I was a special guest of Congressman Bruce Westerman and was able to spend time in his office with his Chief of Staff, and other staff members. Sitting at his desk was an unforgettable experience.

One of the coolest places I toured in the Capitol was the Whispering Room. There was a plaque marking where John Quincy Adam’s desk once sat. When we stood in that spot and our tour guide walked to the other side of the room, keep in mind this is a very large room, and whispered very softly, we could hear him as plain as day. Legend has it, Adams would lay his head down and pretend he was asleep so he could hear everything the employees were saying.

Our tour guide, Charlie. 

On top of the dome of the Capitol sits Lady Liberty. I never knew a sculpture of a person stood there until I saw an incredible replica. Once we were able to see the exterior of the Capitol’s dome I could identify Lady Liberty, symbolizing our freedom, resting there on the top.

Pardon the construction.

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

Jules Fletcher
Miss Teen International 2015

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Spring Cleaning

Spring is here! Flowers are blooming. The weather is turning warmer. And for me, allergies are on full attack!

The Spring is a wonderful time of year as it often symbolizes a re-birth. Plants and vegetation start to come alive again, and there is the symbolism that the old is gone and the new has arrived! There are many areas in our lives that we can use the this philosophy. I call it “Spring Cleaning”! Here are some suggestions:

1. Spring Clean Your Closet: Every year I do a huge overhaul of my closet. I go through each article of clothing and shoes to decide whether I will actually wear it again, or if I should donate them to someone who will. It is a taxing project as I typically try to justify why I should keep something purely based on the memories that I made while wearing the outfit! However, I always feel better after donating my clothes knowing that new memories will be made in them from another individual. Cleaning out your closet not only provides you an opportunity to give back, but also allows you to de-clutter.

2. Spring Clean Your Home & Office: Spring is also a great time to make changes to the places you work and live. Organizing is key in helping you stay focused and present. Also, moving furniture around can make you feel like you have a brand new space…creating an environment to spark new ideas! 

3. Spring Clean Your Relationships: Are there some relationships you need to work on? Are there people in your life that you would be better off without? Use this time of year to not only clean your material possessions, but also clean out what affects you mentally and emotionally. If you need to ask for forgiveness in order to repair a relationship, find the courage and do it! If you have a friend that is a negative influence, start to put some distance in that relationship. Ultimately cleaning out your personal relationships will help you in other areas of your life too! 

Here’s to a fresh, clean start!

Continuing to break the stigma,

Elise Banks
Miss International 2015

Monday, April 25, 2016

Win or Lose

We have each experienced the feeling of accomplishment and defeat. If you haven’t experienced the latter, you are lucky and you should spread your luck to me. But seriously, at some point in our lives we have all been disappointed with the outcome of a situation that wasn’t in our favor. We also have all experienced the opposite end of the spectrum and felt the joy of winning, whether it be a pageant, an important game, a job or marrying the man of our dreams. We each know how to react to both negative and positive ends.

That is until you didn’t win the game or until you didn’t get the job you thought you deserved. Worse yet, until you didn’t win the pageant you had spent the last year preparing for. Then comes the heart break and disappointment. After you have felt those emotions, often enough your alter ego decides to make an appearance and before you know it, out comes angry and evil. Mean takes over. You aren’t happy for the person that worked just as hard as you and wanted it just as bad as you did. You can’t see that because you knew you were going to win and you hadn’t prepared your mind to accept anything other than that.

Perhaps, you are the one person that had their name called last at the end of the night. In pageant land, we all know that’s the winner. The one that will wear the crown for the next year. You are filled with happiness and tears of joy. You poured your heart and soul into preparing for that big night and now you can celebrate. You don’t understand why everyone else is sulking in the background when you are on cloud 9. You keep going on and on about how you knew you were going to win because you deserved it and you worked harder than anyone else.

Ladies, don’t be either of those people. Please! We each have all worked our hardest to prepare and be the best version of ourselves. Unfortunately, there is only one crown. Only one person is going to walk away with the title. If it wasn’t your time to win, I promise it is for a reason. You may not even realize it for years to come. If you win, it is also for a reason and one that is far greater than you may ever understand. My favorite new song by Tim McGraw says it perfectly, “Always stay humble and kind.”

Until the Mission is Complete,


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Freedom From Regrets

Have you ever regretted a decision that you made? Did you wish you could have a “re-do” to something you said or did. Since I consider myself to be a perfectionist (yes, I’m working on this!), I use to live a life full of regrets from behaviors or decisions that I did not think was… well, perfect! I quickly learned that no one is perfect and to try to be perfect will set you up for failure. However, a bigger lesson that I learned was to let go of regrets. When someone asks me if I regret making a certain decision or could change something about my past, I say “No!” You may think I am ridiculous, but this has actually been the most freeing feeling. You see, without all the twists, turns, ups and downs of life, we would not be the person we are today. There are great parts of my life that I wish I could re-live in a second! There are also moments in my life that were not my finest. Although there are times in my life that I am not proud of, I have been able to learn valuable life lessons from them.

For example, I will never forget my junior year of high school. I was on the basketball team and was one of the starting 5 players. Since I am competitive, I always took the game very seriously and wanted to perform at my best with my team. During one game, there was a girl that did everything in her power to make sure I could not dribble, pass, or shoot. More than that, she was obnoxious and being inappropriately aggressive on the court. By the 3rd quarter, I was fed up! So when she had the ball and was going in for a lay-up, I pushed her really hard, to where she fell and twisted her ankle. I got a technical foul (my first and only my entire basketball career). Although that situation would typically be put under my “Regret List”, I used that as a teaching moment. In that moment, I allowed someone to control my emotions so much so that I behaved in a way that was uncharacteristic of me. Although I know that I can’t be perfect, I have done my best to never let something like that happen again.

It would have been easy to have taken my basketball situation and turn it into a regrettable moment. Instead, I chose to learn from it. In the same way, I encourage each of you to think about the times that you wish you could erase. Instead of being ashamed or discouraged by them, think of the lessons you can learn from it. Instead of thinking “I wish I had never done that” ask yourself “What could I do differently next time?” Having freedom from your regrets will take such a weight off your shoulder. You can learn so much from your past to make your future even better!

Continuing to break the stigma,

Elise Banks
Miss International 2015


Dear Pageant Sisters,

I have met so many amazing girls through entering the International Pageant system and I have been so blessed to get to know many of you. One thing that many pageant girls have in common and some have shared with me is that a lot of their peers don’t understand or support their pageant goals and some have even been bullied as a result of being in pageants. You may think, “Why? Why me? What did I do?” You may ask yourself, “What is wrong with me?” Well, I’m here to tell you that there is absolutely nothing wrong with you!

In most cases the person or people bullying you are just intimidated by your success and secretly wish they could achieve all that you have been able to. I have learned along the way that being confident in myself, my values and what I stand for makes me my own unique person. I don’t expect everyone to like me, however, I know that when I surround myself with people I share common interests with and who I can learn from like each of you, I am a better person. I have worked so hard becoming who I am and on what mark I want to make on this world. If you are bullied for being who you are, then be you even more. YOU are the one with the power, not the bully. We all want to be liked and accepted but the reality of life is that there will always be those who feel the need to pull someone down. It’s up to us to fix the cycle by looking more closely at ourselves, realizing our self-worth and our positive impact in this world. 

Some people think pageantry is kind of this cliché thing and we're all pageant girls, but the life-skills, and interviews, and confidence, all of those things I've gained from pageantry and I know they're going to help me as I move forward in my life. Whether you like to sing, dance, draw, write, or volunteer like me, focus on YOUR happiness. Don’t give your bully one more second of power. Sooner, rather than later, I promise you will realize that the hateful words that once hurt you so deeply have become the very words that will motivate you to carry on just as you are. Now, put on your crown and rock the world!

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

Jules Fletcher
Miss Teen International 2015

Friday, April 8, 2016

Who Will You Carry?

Now that Easter is over, we can all sit back and ‘rest’ for a hot second before the next holiday approaches. I feel like January until the end of March was a blur with all of the holidays back to back. New Years, 2 birthday’s, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s day and Easter all back to back. I’m glad there isn’t anything I need to decorate for in April. April, I’m sure will come and go just as quickly as the first three months of 2016.

Aside from Mother’s Day (May 8), Memorial Day is the next big holiday that we will celebrate. A lot of people think of Memorial Day as another day off of work that will make for a long weekend. Others think of it as the beginning of summer. I, too, once looked at Memorial Day as both of those things in the past. Of course, that was before I began dating Mr. International. While, I am grateful for a Monday in May off, I am even more grateful to understand and celebrate the true meaning of Memorial Day.

Carry the Load is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to restoring the true meaning of Memorial Day. The organization aims to connect Americans to the sacrifices of the military, law enforcement, firefighters and rescue personal who dedicate their lives to keeping our country safe. Carry the Load provides an interactive way for our nation to remember, honor and celebrate Memorial Day in dedication to those who sacrifice for us daily.

Americans are encouraged to form teams to walk in respect for the fallen and there is no fee to participate. The East Coast relay will start on May 1st and end May 29th making it a 29 day, 2,300 mile journey. It begins in one of our favorite spots, West Point, New York and end in Dallas, Texas. This year, The West Coast relay will begin April 27th and end May 29th. Traveling 4,300 miles from Seattle, Washington to Dallas, Texas. As you can see, Dallas is the finish line. On actual Memorial Day, May 30th there will be a 20 hour 16 minute Memorial March.

We are looking forward to this event in a few short weeks. Justin and I, as well as many of you, have lost so many that have fought to protect us. Carrying them and their memory on Memorial Day is the least we can do. I hope you will consider joining a team, starting a team or simply remembering the true meaning of Memorial Day. To find out more information on Carry the Load, click here.

Until the Mission is Complete,


Thursday, April 7, 2016

Team Building

I recently went with some coworkers to Escape The Room! They have different rooms set up to where you are locked in and use clues to find a key to get yourself out. It is so much fun, but it can also be used as a team building experience, which is why we were there! My team and I decided to do two different rooms, and then the staff would debrief us on our strengths and where we could improve. When it was time for my team and the staff to evaluate me, I was named the "supporter" of the group. At first, I was disappointed that I did not get named what I thought to be a more "important" role. To me it seemed like being named the executive or the thinker would be more significant. However, when I listened to what my coworkers had to say about why I was helpful to the team, I realized that my job as supporter was just as important as all of the other roles.

In life, we are put into different "teams". It can be a team at work, at school, or within your family. It is important to learn what your role is in that team. There may be times that you think your role is insignificant. However, every person on the team is important. Without your contributions, your group may not be able to achieve as much or have the same impact. So I encourage you to spend some time thinking about what role you play on the different teams of your life, and how you can continue to use your strengths to make a difference!

Continuing to break the stigma,

Elise Banks
Miss International 2015

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Thomas & Drew 2

Trying to get your make-up and hair just right to go on stage can be difficult. It never turns out just like you want it, so you give up and perform poorly because you don’t feel confident. You end up with that one side of your hair that is teased more than the other side, so you look lopsided. Then, you try to do stage worthy eye shadow and you end up looking like a clown. You can’t forget about the temper tantrum you throw before your mom comes to the rescue. Trust me, every pageant girl has been here.

Well, have I got news for you! Thomas Dunn Studios will be at the International Pageants Trunk Show April 20th-23rd offering thirty minute consultations and a full hair and make-up run through. Thomas and Drew will have you looking fabulous to rock the stage. Plus, they are the only hair and make-up artists with backstage access. So, it is very important to use these great guys so you will be absolutely stunning throughout the whole competition with no worries!

Make your appointment now for the International Pageants 2016 Trunk Show in Dothan, AL and have all of your questions answered about hair and make-up for the Mrs., Miss, or Teen International 2016 pageant with Thomas and Drew by emailing or calling them.

Thomas Dunn Studios contact info: Phone # 540.444.9991 website INFO@THOMASDUNNSTUDIOS.COM

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

Jules Fletcher
Miss Teen International

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Evening Gown Image

With state pageants beginning to start and the countdown to July not too far away, I wanted to talk a little about gown choices. We all have our dream gown ideas, right? Some of us think a form fitted gown is what the judges want to see, while others think that a full ball gown skirt is what the judges envision as the winning gown. Have you ever heard that only winners wear white? Yes, I have too!

Each of you should remember that we all have different tastes. We each have our own look that we want to portray, not only during the evening gown portion, but also during the week as well. Keep that in mind, too, when choosing your evening gown. If you want glitz and glamour for evening gown, make sure to carry that same theme out for the entire week for rehearsals and your outing day. The last thing you want to happen is to show up for evening gown portion and the judges wonder where that woman has been all week.

Another thing to keep in mind is to love the gown you choose. Don’t feel pressured into buying something that you don’t feel your best in. Everyone else can absolutely love the gown on you, but if you don’t feel the same way when you put it on, especially for the first time, you won’t feel as confident as you truly are on stage. The judges are judging you, not the dress. If you fall in love with a hot pink and purple polka dot tulle dress with butterflies all over it, by all means girlfriends get it and rock it. No one can do you better than you!

Until the Mission is Complete,


Monday, April 4, 2016

Encourage Yourself!

The International pageants will be here before you know it! There is so much to get done to make sure you are competing to the best of your ability come July. From picking your evening gown, working out to look your best in the fitness competition, and practicing interview questions, it is normal to get overwhelmed and feel that time is not on your side. However, there is one part of the preparation that I highly recommend that you make a priority. Find ways to encourage yourself for what will be a physically and emotionally draining competition week. You will have the time of your life while you compete with girls from all over the world, but you will also need some encouragement to keep you going through the week.

As I was preparing for competition, I made a playlist of songs on my phone that I knew would encourage me during the week. I had songs that were inspirational, others that gave me energy for those early call times, and some that helped me calm down before bed. This playlist of songs were so useful during my week of competition. I also had my journal with me. I have been journaling since I was 18 years old, so it is very natural for me to write a couple of times a week to tune in to how I am feeling. During the week of competition, I wrote down a journal entry after each day to fully capture the events of the day and how I was feeling. It was a very therapeutic to be able to put to pen and paper what I was keeping in my head.

I also had the most supportive family and friends who came to support me at the pageant. Having them be in the audience, gave me the extra boost that I needed to finish the week on a high note! However, my support system came through for me in another way. At my send-off party as Miss Texas, my Mom had 8x11 pieces of paper where attendees could write notes of encouragement to me. She ended up making a book out of all of the notes for me to read while I was in Jacksonville. I would read a few every day during that week. Some made me laugh, others made me cry, but all of them showed me that no matter if I won or not, I was still loved by so many! 

As you prepare for what I hope will be one of the best weeks of your life, remember to find ways to encourage yourself during the week of competition. I would also like to encourage you and say that the crown does not define who you are. You are a winner no matter what the results of the competition are. I have watched so many members of the class of 2015 go on to do amazing things, and they did not have the International crown to do it. So as you prepare, ask God to show you what His purpose is for being in this competition. His plan is always the best!

Continuing to break the stigma,

Elise Banks
Miss International 2015

Sunday, April 3, 2016

St. Jude Visit

I recently had the pleasure of spending the day at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. It was a truly a life changing experience for me and one I will never forget. I was greeted by Mrs. Sarah Wright, Sr. Specialist of Youth Development Programs for St. Jude and she was an amazing hostess.

Me with Mrs. Sarah Wright, my hostess for the day

My favorite part of the day was the Meet and Greet where I was able to spend one on one time with the patients and their families. It was such an amazing experience to see how strong the children are as they face such a scary time in their lives and they were such an inspiration to me. "Your child has cancer." No words strike more fear into a parent's heart, but all of the parents were so upbeat and encouraging for their children and I’m so thankful that I had the opportunity to witness those moments. They have forever changed me.

Following the Meet and Greet, I was given a tour of the hospital. My amazing tour guide, Mrs. Amy Stack, took me to every part of the hospital and explained what happens in each department. She began the tour with the history of how the hospital came to be and it reassured my faith in God and that everything happens for a reason. Unsure of his life’s direction, a young Danny Thomas sought guidance from St. Jude Thaddeus, the patron saint of hopeless causes. If the saint would point to the path he should take, Danny vowed to build a shrine in his name, and boy did he ever! He would build a haven for the helpless. A place of compassion that would treat children regardless of race, color, creed or their family's ability to pay. Danny Thomas officially opened St. Jude Children's Research Hospital on February 4, 1962, with the unveiling of the statue of St. Jude Thaddeus. The hospital celebrated the 54th anniversary of it’s opening the day before my visit.

Me with statue of St. Jude Thaddeus

Me with my amazing tour guide, Amy Stack and her assistant, Lauren Price

In the early 1960s, being diagnosed with childhood cancer meant almost certain death. The overall survival rate was less than 20%; for the most common form of childhood cancer, acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), it was 4%. I was so happy to learn that childhood leukemia now has a 94% survival rate. It is so exciting! Unbelievable advancements have been made in all areas of cancer research and it is all shared freely worldwide with other institutions which is awe inspiring. The true measure of success will be the hospital’s ability to give children the lives they deserve: that first step, first day of school, first date, first job. A lifetime of everyday moments. That is the legacy of St. Jude.

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

Jules Fletcher
Miss Teen International

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Farewell Speech

Before long, I will be writing my farewell Texas speech. The pageant is the weekend of April 8-10. I honestly feel like I have just submitted my application to compete and thinking “what am I doing?” It has been a journey, but an extremely fast journey. You know the rides that you stand in line for a really long time and then you get on and the ride is over 20 seconds later? Even though, I didn’t register until literally the last day, I had been preparing for it for a huge chunk of my life. It is finally coming to a halt.

Writing a good farewell speech is so important. You will obviously include your family and loved ones that supported and encouraged you throughout your reign. You will include your sponsors or businesses that helped you to get where you are and also your friends, sister queens, and even those that competed against you. Definitely, thank your director because without his or her guidance, let’s face it you would probably have felt clueless when preparing for Mrs. International and not have known where to begin when you were working hard to get appearances lined up.

Aside from the thank you’s, think about telling your audience what you spent your reign doing. Try to remember an estimate of how many appearances you did. Did you help to get a bill passed or raise money for an organization? Let them know. After all, they may not have had the chance to follow your journey. Your farewell speech is going to be your last chance to speak as Mrs. So and so International. Make it memorable.

Until the Mission is Complete,


Friday, April 1, 2016


This year is a big year for our country as we pick the next president of the United States. No matter what party you support, it is important to vote in the election so that your vote counts in sponsoring the person that you think would be the best fit in running our country for the next four years. I thought it would be helpful to add a few tips in getting ready for the 2016 Presidential election.

1. Do Your Research - - I can not tell you how many people have told me that they support a particular candidate, but could not tell me why. As you decide who to vote for in November, make sure you have done your research. Look at every candidate, see what they support, look at what positive changes they can make for our country, and also look at their weaknesses. When you take the time to get to know the candidates and what they stand for, you can make a well informed decision when you are at the polls.

2. Your Vote Counts - - It is easy to think that your one vote will not make a difference in the election. However, voting is such an important process in our country. When you go to the polls to cast your vote, you are essentially saying that you care about who will be in one of the most powerful positions in the world. I always say, “If you do not vote, you can not complain with the results of the election”.

3. Be Respectful - - Politics can be a very touchy subject. Some people are very passionate about the party/candidate that they support. Remember to be respectful to other people’s views and opinions. Although you may not agree with the party that they are in, or the candidate that they are voting for, that is no excuse to be rude or demeaning.

4. Privacy - - Do not feel that you have to share your vote with other people. There are some who will never understand why you voted the way that you did. Although it is extremely common for people to make public statements on their social media or at social engagements regarding their voting choice, do not feel obligated to do the same. Sometimes it is better to keep your vote confidential so that you do not have to deal with the stresses of people attacking you for how you voted.

I am excited who will be our next President. Until then, make sure you do what you can to make a well-informed decision at the polls in November.

Happy Voting!

Elise Banks
Miss International 2015