Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Preventative Screening

There is a debate going on as to if primary care physicians should screen for potential mental health issues during annual medical exams. As I have stated before, people are generally more willing to go see a medical doctor for their physical concerns before they will see a mental health professional for mental/emotional concerns. So does it make sense for physicians to start screening for any potential mental health concerns? Some say doctors, mental health professionals and specialists should all stay in their own field. I think differently.

When I am working with a patient, I believe in the whole person. So when they sit down to see me for the first time, I do an evaluation that is comprehensive and reviews every part of the person. I do this so that I can get a snapshot of that person’s story. Part of that evaluation does address medical issues. Because medical issues can affect mental health and vice versa, I need to know if there are any medical concerns that I should be aware of. If they are already working with their doctor on those medical needs, then sometimes I will ask for consent to speak to that doctor so that we can work as a team for that patient. However, if the patient has never addressed their medical issues with a physician, I ALWAYS recommend that they see their doctor. Since our bodies work as one system, it is very difficult to try and treat one issue if there are other issues in the body getting in the way of the person’s recovery.

Because of this, I do think that primary care physicians should screen for mental and emotional issues. This way patients can be referred to get the help that need. They may also be more willing to see a mental health professional if their doctor recommended this type of care. So what do you think? Should doctors screen for mental health disorders? I would love to know your thoughts!

Continuing to break the stigma,

Elise Banks
Miss International 2015

Family Time

The past couple of years have been busy for us. Not only are our kiddos at that very busy, non-stop aka no nap age, but life has just been going at lightning speed. My reign as Mrs. International seems to have gone by in a blink of an eye. With all of the hustle and bustle that happens in all of our lives, it is so important to remember to spend quality time with those that we share our lives with. Quality time with those that we love are what fills our memories.

This spring, we have been so lucky to have lots of visitors come see us in Texas. My mom has been with us since April and it has been amazing! We have done so many fun things while she has been here and are so gracious for her help. My best friend, Shelly came for a long weekend. My brother was here, then my wonderful in-laws came. Elise has flown in from Houston a few times and to finish out our spring and help us bring in the summer, my first cousin and her two girls drove out from South Carolina to spend a week with us. Having family around truly is what makes me the happiest. We love sitting around and talking about funny things that happened in the past and creating new memories together that we will talk about in years to come.

My little cousin was up late with me one night, as I was writing this and decided to help me write my second blog. 

No matter if your family lives right around the corner or around the world from you, taking the time out of your life to nurture your relationship with them is important. Remember, family doesn’t just have to mean blood, I have so many friends that are more like family to me. Soon, you will each meet a set of new family members in the International system.

Until the Mission is Complete,


D.C. Day 2

Our second day in Washington was one of my favorites. We started off the morning at Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home. Aside from the gift shops and restaurants, I loved imagining GW’s peaceful way of life. We walked to every corner of his now 500-acre property. The mansion, salt house, spinning room, blacksmith shop, wash house, slave barracks, tombs, memorials, museum, barns, movie theater, and visitor’s center. Needless to say, we got our exercise. The view from Mt. Vernon as it looks out over the Potomac is too beautiful for words to adequately describe.

Before we made it to Mount Vernon we paid a visit to George Washington’s church, Christ Church in Alexandria, VA. It had a gorgeous sanctuary filled with so much history. I was able to sit on the very pew that George Washington sat every Sunday. He actually had a box that all of his family sat in. That same box has been sat in by Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Eleanore Roosevelt, and many other world leaders. Robert E. Lee also attended church here. When he was a boy, he actually helped decorate the sanctuary for Christmas and I was able to stand right where he stood when he was confirmed.

Christ Church still has an active congregation of 1,600 members attending three separate services every Sunday.

The outside of the church is virtually unaltered except for the addition of the tower seen here.

Me sitting in the exact spot where George Washington sat every Sunday.

We wrapped up our second day in Washington, DC by visiting Arlington National Cemetery. The sheer number of graves was overwhelming. More than 400,000 people are buried here and more than 4 million people visit the cemetery every year. I was able to attend the Changing of the Guard ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and it was awe inspiring. The tomb is guarded 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The Arlington Estate was originally owned by George Washington Parke Custis, the adopted grandson of George Washington. His daughter married Robert E. Lee and Arlington House is now a memorial for Robert E. Lee. I have such a love for history and so much appreciation for our nation’s veterans. I have been visiting veterans at hospitals around the country the past several weeks for National Salute to Veterans and being able to visit the graves of so many of the soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery was something I will never forget.

Tombstones of many soldiers buried at Arlington National Cemetery with Arlington House, Robert E. Lee’s home in background.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier 

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

Jules Fletcher
Miss Teen International 2015

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

One Month Away

We are one month away from the Miss and Teen International pageants! I am sure all kinds of emotions are running through you as you go down the checklist of all that has to be done before you get to Jacksonville. I thought I would share a few tips to keep in mind over these next few weeks:

1. Workouts / Eating Habits: It is now crunch time to look your best for the fitness competition. What I love about the International system is that they focus on ladies being healthy and fit versus skinny. This is not the time for crash diets. Make sure to continue eating healthy foods with smaller snacks between your larger meals. Bring healthy snacks to Jacksonville so that when you get the munchies, you do not feel tempted to head to the vending machine. As for your workouts, use this as a time to focus on a body proportion that is well suited for you. If you have never been a size 2, this is not the time to spend hours at the gym to achieve a goal that may not be the healthiest for you. The judges are looking for healthy bodies. There is a gym at the hotel if you want to pack some workout clothes. However, do not necessarily count on there being a lot of time. I was only able to workout once at the gym and a couple of times in my room last year. The week is packed with events, so getting your rest is more important to be able to get through the week!

2. Beauty Appointments: From your nails to your hair and body, you want to make sure you look your best for competition. There will not be much time (if at all) to get your nails done in Jacksonville. So make sure to do this before you fly/drive in. I recommend picking a neutral color that will look good with your entire wardrobe. Some of you may be getting your hair professionally styled during pageant week. Your hair will only look its best if you take care of your pretty locks before you arrive. Make sure to book your appointments for color, cuts, or treatments so that you hair will look fresh! I got my hair color, highlighted and trimmed a week or two before the pageant. I also got a keratin treatment. Coming from a humid environment, I knew this would be helpful during my week in Jacksonville. And believe me, I would have looked like a lion had I not done this!

3. Get Your Team Together: Although all your family and friends may not be able to support you in person, you still want to have some people in the audience while you are competing! Make sure to give your loved ones the information they need to purchase tickets to the shows and our host hotel. I was so grateful to have “Team Elise” screaming loud and proud during prelims and finals night. Having your team there will give you that extra boost you need to feel your best!

I can’t wait to see all of you soon!

Continuing to break the stigma,

Elise Banks
Miss International 2015

Organization for Nationals Week

I hope you were able to catch our, Jules, Elise and myself, blogs on what we wore for National’s last year. Honestly, it was so much fun to look back on the pictures from that week and reminisce. I loved every outfit I wore and enjoyed seeing what Jules and Elise wore, too, since I wasn’t able to get back to Jacksonville until their prelim nights. Have you started packing yet? The countdown is on, ladies!

Now that you have an idea on the type of clothing to choose, you need some sort of system to remember what shoes and accessories to wear with each dress. For those of you that are working with Thomas Dunn Studios, you will have early call times each morning for your hair and makeup. The last thing that you will want to do is shuffle around at 4:30 A.M. looking for matching earrings. Think about taking pictures of yourself in the dress/outfit complete with accessories and shoes so you can easily look back on it. I also bought a plastic container that had different sized compartments in it for my earrings and other jewelry. I labeled each compartment so that I knew which dress it went with. It made it easy and effortless each morning, or rushed afternoon, when I was getting ready.

I know you will each look beautiful every day. I can’t wait to see what brands you are putting together for yourself! Now, if anyone has any methods for packing a car for 6 weeks on the road with 3 kids send them my way.

Until the Mission is Complete,



At Nationals you will have an absolute blast and you won’t want it to end. Unfortunately, the week will go by in the blink of an eye, but nothing goes by faster than the short amount of time you have to change backstage between phases of competition. On preliminary night there will be over 30 girls in one dressing room with about a 1ft. x 1ft. make up area and just enough room for your competition wardrobe on the hanging rack. But have no fear! Organization is here!

I just took a picture of this because I thought it was really cool that my name was printed out on something. Anyway, this was my counter space and you can see how close I was to my neighbor. 

I suggest taking a small to medium size suitcase over to the auditorium with ALL of your pageant necessities, such as shoes, undergarments and caboodles. Once you get there you’ll probably want to push it under the counter to save room in the aisle. I cannot stress enough how much labeling your items comes into play backstage. If you follow these tips you should be stress free backstage.

So this is how much space there is between chairs and the hanging rack. So saving as much space as possible is vital. 

1. Keep two caboodles. One for jewelry and one for make-up.

2. Put your jewelry in separate labeled zip lock bags in your caboodle or you could hole punch the bags and put them over the hanger of the outfit they go with. (only take competition jewelry backstage. Leave jewelry from activities during the week in the hotel room.)

3. Once you change for one portion of competition go ahead and get the next outfit out and lay the jewelry out that goes with it. For example: after you change for opening number, lay out fitness wear, tennis shoes and fitness earrings. Once you get back in the dressing room and change for fitness, get your fashion out of the bag and layout shoes and jewelry. If you do this, it should keep you one step ahead of the game and stress free.

4. Do a double take. Sometimes in the chaos of the dressing room you could forget to change your jewelry.

5. Write your name in everything you own! Because of the tight space, girls’ possessions get overlapped. Plus, you all will have the same opening number dress, shoes, and earrings and the same fitness wear and earrings that are different sizes so it is important to keep up with yours.

6. Stay calm. You will have time to touch up make-up and hair if you need to. Thomas and Drew are backstage as well and will be willing to help you with touch ups.

7. There is an intercom in the dressing room so you can hear what is going on onstage.

8. Help the girls next to you! In pageants the phrase, “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine, becomes “I’ll zip your dress if you zip mine.” Also, let them borrow something of yours if they can’t find theirs.

9. The top 10 will be announced on stage after opening number on the final night, so there will be a lot less girls and body heat in the dressing room throughout the rest of the competition.

I never dreamed when I took this photo it would come in handy for a blog in the future! But this is an example of having your dress ready for the next phase. This photo was taken before I competed in fitness and as you can see I had my fashion dress ready to go for when the fitness phase was complete. 

Sometimes, chaos brings people closer. So use this experience to bond with your sister queens, and it will certainly give you something to laugh about later! This is a once in a lifetime experience, so don’t feel like you are there for one reason and one reason only. You are already successful just by winning your state, region, or country title. I wish you all the best of luck and I am SO SO excited to meet y’all! The most important thing is to have fun and take lots of pictures, because you never know if they’ll come in handy for future blogs! ;)

Jules Fletcher

Monday, June 27, 2016

Hold On To What's Important

“May you have the fortitude and faith to hang on to what’s important when others have let go.”

I recently went to see the movie ‘Miracles From Heaven’. If you have not seen it yet, grab your Kleenex and prepare yourself for a well done portrayal of a true story. I was reminded of two important lessons. First, do not take your life (especially your health) for granted. Our physical and mental health are truly blessings that we tend to overlook when we are not in pain or in crisis. However, things can change in an instant. We all know stories of someone who was perfectly healthy, and then got in an accident that paralyzed them, found out they had a terminal illness, or learned that they had a mental illness. At that point, their life forever changes and they wish they could go back to a simpler time. It is important to remember that our bodies are gifts from God that should be treated with respect. Never take for granted the blessing in having your health.

Secondly, I was reminded that we have to hold on to the people who mean the most to us. In a day where accidents happen and attacks are occurring to innocent people, we never know when someone’s last day could be. Instead of letting that create fear within us, we should use that fact as a gentle nudge to appreciate the family, friends, and special people that you hold dear to your heart. If you are at odds with them, be the bigger person and fix the relationship. If you haven’t seen them in awhile, take some time to grab coffee or lunch. Never be too busy to spend time with the ones you love!

I hope these reminders will give you appreciation for what you have around you!

Continuing to break the stigma,

Elise Banks
Miss International 2015

A Letter to My Younger Self

Dear young Farabe’,

I am you, just a much more confident woman. There was never any need to worry about fitting in. You always fit in, regardless of if you felt it or not. Your younger friends actually looked up to you because you can easily talk to anyone. You often thought of that as a way to over compensate. You were always enough though. You never needed to worry or be self-conscious about your tall, yet thin frame. There was no need to wear a jacket tied around your waist every single day in middle school and in to jr. high because you were self-conscious. Your body was able to carry three beautiful and healthy babies. You also found a husband who adores you and couldn’t care less that you don’t have much of a booty on you.

Speaking of your husband. Sweet young girl, you had to go through many frogs to find your prince. That’s okay, you found the one. He was the only one that you could truly be yourself around. You feel safe and protected, because he makes you feel that way. You don’t have to second guess anything he says or does. Remember, that every broken heart you thought you had lead you to him.

Your friends have stood by your side through thick and thin. In fact, twelve of them stood by your side on your wedding day. You have had the same best friend for 22 years! You will always have a girl friend to confide in. You have the most amazing bond with your mom. You don’t take her for granted anymore and certainly appreciate all of her hard work and the things she did for you. You appreciate it and understand her sacrifices so much more now that you are a mother yourself.

People will say hurtful things. You will cry. You will say hurtful things to others and you will cry at the thought of saying them. You finally learn to say I’m sorry and truly be sorry. Don’t worry about things that are out of your control. In fact, just don’t worry because it doesn’t cause anything but wrinkles. Everything worked out the way it was supposed to.

You have accomplished so much in just 32 years. Be proud of yourself. You still have a lot left to do in the next 32+ years, but you have made a great start.

Until the Mission Is Complete,


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Go Red, Get Fit

As Miss Teen International, I have learned so much about living a heart healthy lifestyle. The American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women Campaign is the national platform of the International Pageants and I am so thankful for the opportunity I have had to share their message and encourage others to live a healthier lifestyle as well.

Getting plenty of exercise is one of the best ways to live a heart healthy life. We all know that getting regular exercise is good for us. It gives us increased energy, reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke, and makes us feel better overall. According to the American Heart Association’s website, 80 percent of Americans don’t make exercise a regular part of their daily lives. As a cheerleader, I generally get lots of exercise, but I have gone through phases where I was really motivated to exercise and then I would get a little lazy and slack off. I could tell such a difference in my overall attitude when I didn’t make exercise a part of my daily life. No matter how much you enjoy an exercise routine, you may find that you eventually lose interest in it. That’s the time to shake things up and try something new.

Here are some tips to help you incorporate exercise into your life and even make it fun:

1. Make it a game – any activity based video game such as a Wii can be a fun way to exercise. There are so many “exergames” that simulate dancing, bowling, tennis, etc. One of my favorites is the Zumba Core Workout on my Wii. It is a great cardio workout and I love doing all of the different styles of dance. Believe me, it can definitely burn just as many calories as walking on a treadmill and is a lot more fun!

2. Make it social - exercise can be a fun time to socialize with friends and working out with others can help keep you motivated. For those who enjoy company, you can join a running club, water aerobics class, dance class, or join a sports team if you like a little healthy competition.

3. Think outside the gym - For many, simply getting outside makes all the difference. You may enjoy running outdoors, where you can enjoy alone time and nature, even if you hate treadmills. Being outdoors is by far my favorite way to get active and horseback riding, swimming, tubing, and snow skiing are just some of the activities I enjoy. You could try rollerblading, hiking, or kayaking, just to name a few.

4. Get the whole family involved - Family walks in the evening are one way to get active and it gives you a chance to catch up all what’s going on with everyone. It’s also lots of fun to ride bikes as a family. What’s more, kids learn by example, and if you exercise as a family you are setting a great example for the younger members of your family to live a heart healthy lifestyle as well.

The main thing is to find activities that will keep you moving. Some people may say that walking is good, and maybe jogging is better, and maybe running is best. But it should be our goal to make physical activity something we do consistently. Movement is key, so identify those activities you find enjoyable, and just make the choice to move.

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

Jules Fletcher
Miss Teen International 2015

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Miss International Wardrobe

Well, since my sister queens did such a wonderful job showcasing their outfits from last year’s pageant, I guess it is my turn! I had so much fun picking out my wardrobe for the pageant. I had all my outfits divided by days, and I had an Excel spreadsheet / number system to organize my heels and accessories for each outfit. This sounds ridiculous, but let me tell you, it made the week so much easier as I did not have to think about how I was going to coordinate my outfits each day.


This sun dress was sponsored for my arrival to the hotel! First impressions are lasting impressions, so make sure to pick an outfit that you feel comfortable in and will stand out to anyone you might bump into in the lobby!

Mrs. International Pageant:

I drove into Jacksonville a few days early, so that I could watch the Mrs. International pageant. I wanted to be there to support my sister queen. I am so glad I did, because she won! I choose to wear a cocktail dress for the pageant. This was a dress that I already had in my closet. Remember ladies, do not feel that you have to buy every single outfit. I am sure there is plenty in your closet that will be perfect for certain events!


My “brand” for the pageant was “Sasha Fierce” aka Beyonce! I wanted to make a statement as I knew this would be the first time I would meet most of the contestants and sponsors. I decided to do a jumpsuit. I absolutely loved this outfit! It was so comfortable and is a classic piece that I can wear for years.

Outing Day:

Dress for the weather! Coming from Houston, I already knew I needed something fashionable but light and airy. This was an outfit that I also had from my closet. You will be doing a lot of walking, so be mindful of this when you are picking shoes for this day. Although you can wear sandals and flats, I choose to wear heels. They were a comfortable pair, but it was important to me to already see myself as Miss International. And knowing that I would be wearing heels a lot during my reign, I figured I should dress the part!

Formal Dinner / Group Picture:

This is one of my favorite evening gowns! I already had this gown from a previous pageant that I competed in. I am glad that I choose this gown as our group picture was taken outside, and once again, it was really hot! So be mindful of this when you are selecting your gown for this fun evening!

PACE Center:

I am so glad that we were able to visit the PACE Center for Girls. It was one of my favorite parts of the week. I decided to wear a simple sun dress that I found online and some wedge heels. I did not feel the need to spend a lot of money for this look, because I knew the demographic of girls that we would be with. I wanted the girls to feel like they could approach me versus intimidated by my fancy outfit. With all this in mind, you still want to look professional and like you are ready to be the next Miss International!


Another one of my favorites! My Mom’s company sponsored this entire outfit (getting a company to sponsor an outfit is definitely an option if you are looking for ways to help financially). Since the interview portion is worth 40% for the Miss division, I wanted an outfit that would stand out and make a statement. I chose this Victoria Beckham dress that fit like a glove…I mean really! I could not eat until after my interview to make sure this dress fit beautifully! The shoes were simple to not be too distracting. 

Teen Preliminary Pageant:

I wore a black evening gown that I already had. I wanted a dress that would be comfortable sitting in since I knew I would be in the audience watching all the teens compete. This is also another chance for the judges to see you while you're cheering on the teens! 

Judges’ Rehearsal:

I wanted a dress that would be dressy, since I knew the judges would be at this rehearsal. The funny thing is, I do not think the judges came to this rehearsal! They came to another rehearsal, so make sure all of your rehearsal outfits are “judge approved” as you never know when the judges will be there! 

Evening Gown:

By now, I know you have seen plenty of pictures of my actual competition wear…especially my evening gown. But I thought it was important to share a fact. This was my first crown to win in a dress that was not white. So first let me say, although white gowns win a lot, it is not the only color that can win. Secondly, I was having second thoughts about my dress hours before the final show. I brought the gown I won Miss Texas in as backup, but unless your gown tears or goes missing, you have to stick with the gown you registered. After talking with my family, state director and one of my sponsors, I realized that this was all a mind game. A dress alone is not going to win you a crown. Once I changed my attitude, I walked on the stage that night like I was on the Victoria’s Secret runway! Not only did I end up winning the crown, but I tied for best evening gown! 

Contract Day / TV Interview:

The day after you win, you sign your official contract. You may also have a TV interview. I brought a few extra dresses during my week, and I wore this for my contract signing and TV appearance due to the bright color!

I can’t wait to see what you ladies pick to wear for your week in Jacksonville! See you soon!

Elise Banks
Miss International 2015

International Queens in the News: Part 2

Mrs. Indiana International 2016 - Laurie Balla

Mrs. Iowa International 2016 - Rosanne Plante

F4T: Mrs. Iowa's Green Initiative (KWIT FM 90.3)

Mrs. Massachusetts International 2016 - Melissa Novaco

Canton Mom Crowned Mrs. Massachusetts International (TPN News)

Miss Michigan International 2016 - Hailey Ubach

Gearing Up (Grosse Pointe News)

Mrs. Montana International 2016 - Sara Dukart

Fergus Graduate Named Mrs. Montana (The Daily Journal)

Mrs. Nevada International 2016 - Aquillia Vang

A Special Meal at the Reno Ronald McDonald House (KOLO ABC 8)

Mrs. New Mexico International 2016 - Tamara Thornell 

Former Liverpool Resident Named Mrs. New Mexico International (The Independent)

Mrs. New Mexico International is a Granada High Graduate (Livermore Patch)

Mrs. New York International 2016 - Faudia Silletta

Mrs. New York of Westchester Aims for International Title (Geosnews/The Greenburgh Daily Voice)

Miss Texas International 2016 - Taylor Ashworth

Humble Resident Named Miss Texas International (The Humble Observer)

Humble Resident Named Miss Texas International (The Atascocita Observer)

Miss Teen Texas International 2016 - Gracie Hunt

Miss Teen Texas Intl Comes from HP (Park Cities People)

Mrs. Texas International 2016 - Kori Zwaagstra

Pageant Queen Uses Spotlight to Draw Attention to Postpartum Depression (Lubbock Avalanche Journal)

Miss Teen Utah International 2016 - Ansley Funes

Ansley Funest Crowned Miss Utah Teen International (

Service-oriented Teen Crowned Miss Teen Utah International (KSL)

Mrs. West Virginia International 2016 - Amanda Duffy

Go Red Girlfriends Commercial (Go Red for Women)

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

What I Wore

It is almost time for you to start packing for your week at Mrs. International. I’m sure most of you have all of your wardrobe planned, but for those of you that may still be lacking a few things here and there I thought I would give you an idea on how I dressed each day. Planning my outfits for each day was so much fun! I could hardly wait to get to wear them!

Arrival Day - I came in the day before orientation. We only had a short drive, about 4 hours, from South Carolina where we had been for a few weeks leading up to the pageant. I stopped outside of Jacksonville and put on a dress before I arrived at the hotel. You never know who will be in the lobby when checking in so make sure you are dressed accordingly.

Orientation - I wore the white dress that I wore for my Mrs. Texas Interviews. It is one of my favorite dresses! You will notice a theme that I wore nude shoes almost the entire week. It was part of my branding look that I wanted to go for. Orientation will be the first time you will meet the other contestants.

Outing Day - You will be traveling to St. Augustine and you will be hot! I made sure to plan ahead for the heat and wore a cute 2 piece outfit. The more flowy skirt definitely helped to keep me cool. I wore nude wedges that were actually very comfortable. You will be doing a lot of walking so make sure your shoes don’t hurt your feet. It’s always a good idea to bring a bag and umbrella with you everywhere you go this week. Summer in Florida means you can almost always guarantee a rain shower. I wore my hair in a low side pony tail to keep my hair off my neck. After the outing is over, you will have dinner and a hotel rehearsal. While you certainly don’t have to change, I did. I can’t find a picture, but I wore a navy blue dress from BCBG.

Hotel Rehearsals - I wore a hot pink dress and again nude shoes for one of our hotel rehearsals. Make sure to bring your competition shoes (opening number shoes, white tennis shoes and evening gown shoes) with you in a bag to practice in.

Interview - I wore a white dress with a cape sleeve. I wanted to stand out amongst my group of 5 and make a statement. I loved my dress! Remember, you don’t want the judges to stare at your feet so in my opinion keeping your shoes toned down is the way to go. You guessed it, I wore nude shoes again. White and nude were part of my branding look.

Theater Rehearsal - After interviews are finished for everyone, you will have rehearsals in the theater. I wore an amazing black 2 piece outfit that had a nautical twist to it. Don’t forget your umbrella and competition shoes. I also had a jacket with me in case I got cold.

Gala - Thursday evening, you will attend the gala. I wore the dress I won Mrs. Texas International in.

Prelim Day Rehearsal - I wore another 2 piece white outfit. I made sure that as the week went on, my outfits became a little dressier. I also made sure that my theater rehearsals were dressier than my hotel rehearsal outfits.

Judges Rehearsal & husband’s rehearsal - This was my dressiest dress that I wore all week. It even had the dangling beads on it that my evening gown had.

I packed a few extra dresses just in case that I ended up wearing if we had time to change, which is very limited. I also packed a dress to wear for my official first meeting as Mrs. International if I won! My last dress, I threw on before we left the hotel and headed to Disney for the week. The nude shoes came off as soon as I sat down in the car!

Until the Mission is Complete,


Thursday, June 9, 2016

Body Confidence for Kids

As a therapist, I am blessed to work with a wide age-range of people. Since August, I have spent more time working with children since I started working at a private school. Playing in the sandbox with my 2 year olds, to discussing the latest relationships in the 8th grade world, I wake up not knowing what new thing I will learn about children! Being so involved in their little worlds, now more than ever I can’t seem to understand why anyone would want to destroy their innocence. Although it is important to know how to recognize child predators and their typical behaviors, I also think it is important for children to be taught confidence in their bodies and skills so that they can advocate for themselves.

First, it is important to call body parts by their biological names. Most of us were probably taught some sort of nickname to make it “age appropriate” and cute, but this actually creates mystery towards our God-given body parts. If children know the name of their body parts, and who is allowed to touch them (parents, pediatrician, etc.), they will know when there is someone around them who does not have the best intentions. Also, the faster you teach your child to be self-sufficient in the bathroom, the quicker they will no longer need help in this area. Child predators know that they easiest way to get personal access to a child is be involved in any of their bathroom activities. If a child knows how to do this on their own, they will not need to ask for help…which ultimately decreases your child’s chances of being in a situation with a predator.

Secondly, create a “No Secrets” rule in your family. Starting this at a young age will definitely help when they become teenagers! However, this will also help so that if a stranger ever tells your child to “keep this a secret”, your child will know that something is wrong and will hopefully tell the first trusted authority figure that they see.

Third, never force a child to hug or kiss someone. Especially a person they do not know. Society often tells us that if we do not respond with a hug or kiss, then we are being rude. However, there are plenty of ways to be kind without forcing such a personal gesture. Smiling, waving, and fist bumps are just a few ways. If a child is taught that they will never be forced to hug or kiss someone, then they will not feel any pressure to accept an invitation from a potential predator.

Hopefully these tips help create the confidence our kids need to trust their instincts and know when they are being violated.

Continuing to break the stigma,

Elise Banks
Miss International 2015

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

What to Wear

Your Nationals Wardrobe will set the tone for the entire week. It’s important to be comfy, but cute, and to dress according to the various events and activities you will be participating in throughout the competition. There are plenty of ways to piece your wardrobe together stress free!

1. It is completely fine to reuse pieces you wore in your state pageant.

2. Finding the right jewelry and shoes to accessorize will make the perfect outfit!

3. Be confident in your clothes!

Here are a few ideas and examples of my wardrobe to help you decide what to wear during the week of Nationals:

1. Plane ride/arrival.

I chose to wear a bright colored dress. Wear something comfortable for the plane and car ride but make sure it’s cute and stands out. I wore wedges, but kept a spare pair of sandals for the walks from gate to gate in the airport.

2. Orientation.

I chose to wear a turquoise fit and flare dress. It is my favorite style of dress and my favorite color. It is important to choose something that expresses who you are because this is the first time you will meet all of your fellow delegates. As you can see in the photo, I chose an outfit that looked more Teen, while my Arkansas sister queen, Ciara chose a Miss look. There will be a little bit of everything at Orientation.

3. Day Out.

This is definitely a day you need to be all about comfort! There will be a lot of walking and stairs. Wearing a romper kept me cool and I didn’t have to worry about packing another outfit with multiple pieces. I started off the day in wedges, but I quickly switched to sandals. During one portion of our day out we went through a CPR class and made blankets for the Children’s hospital, both of these activities required us to sit in the floor, so this might give you something to think about if you’re planning on wearing a dress. Remember to take a bag with you during your day out to keep a spare pair of shoes, maybe even an umbrella just in case, and any other necessary items. It will be a long week full of heels, so you don’t want to tire out your feet just yet!

4. Photo night.

Really, you can go any way you’d like on photo night. You are welcome to choose a two piece, high low, ball gown, mermaid, etc. My dress had a train, so I found it a little difficult to cross the street to the theater. You also need to make sure your dress is the right length with the heels you choose to wear because you don’t want to trip on it.

5. Interview.

I chose a tailored, hot pink dress with a rhinestone neckline. This is the first time the judges will see you in competition so it’s important to make an impact. Try not to draw attention to your feet, so try to stay away from black or bright colored shoes for this phase of competition. When you walk up to their table you don’t want the judges to be staring at your feet. Also, try to look your age. I tried to choose something that put off a mature, teen vibe.

6. Rehearsal after interview.

Afternoon- I stuck with a floral, summery dress with fun shoes. Remember to take a bag with all of your competition shoes, so you can practice and get the fill for the stage.

Night- After coming back to the hotel for dinner, I changed into a comfortable warm up and tennis shoes. You, along with your feet will be tired so this is your chance to get comfortable.

7. Judges rehearsal.

There is a rehearsal that judges will be attending, so it is important for you to stand out! As you can see Miss Teen East Coast, Serena and I chose to wear bright colors! I also wore this to and from Preliminaries Thursday night, but it is up to you if you would like to wear something different.

8. Teen Free-day.

On Friday, it is up to you if you would like to spend your free-day resting or touring Jacksonville. I actually have family in Jacksonville who hosted me to lunch!

9. Miss Prelims.

You can wear any type of gown or short dress as long as it is formal. You will be getting in and out of isles and sitting in a chair for a few hours. My ball gown was a little difficult fitting into the isles but it was comfortable to sit in.

10. Morning of Finals rehearsal.

I wore a pinstripe jump suit, and I apologize for my hair! Thomas and Drew were in the middle of fixing it for Finals! The reason I chose something strapless is because, Thomas and Drew were pulling girls out of rehearsal to do their hair and make-up, so I knew I would have to wear something that was easy to get off without going over my head. Anytime you go get your hair, make-up, or spray tan done it is important that you wear something cute but easy to remove without messing up your artist’s hard work.

11. Finals.

If you are in the top 5 in your division, you are required to wear your competition gown to the coronation ball. If you are not in the top five, you are still welcome to wear your gown or change into a different dress of your choice.

And last, but certainly not least, the most valuable piece of your wardrobe is your bright smile! Judges will be in the hotel lobby and are always watching, so show your pearly whites at all times!

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

Jules Fletcher
Miss Teen International 2015