Interview with IJM Texas Ms – Hannah Bott
Firstly thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions about your pageant journey for my pageant lockdown blog it’s lovely getting to know fellow pageant queens and more about the systems that they represent.
What made you enter pageants ?
I was 14 when I entered my first pageant. I was a shy, bullied, jaded teen, but I received an advert in the mail for a pageant that was happening and I just remember really, really feeling like this was something that I needed to do. My parents were divorced, and I needed a father or other “important male figure in your life” to escort me for the gown portion of this particular pageant, so I asked my Dad if he would please take me to this, “new thing I just heard about!” and be my escort. I was also in dance, so I was really intrigued by the talent portion. The only stipulation that my father made upon me entering was that I had to enter the “speaking” portion (what would now be considered Spokesmodel or something similar). I was terrified, being a shy kiddo, but I wanted to compete more than I wanted to succumb to that scared feeling. I remember walking into the ballroom for orientation, sitting down, and saying “Hi” to the person next to me, something I rarely did. Then I continued to say hi to more and more people, by the end of the pageant, I didn’t win the crown, but I did win the “Personality” (I.e. congeniality) award. I was hooked from that moment on. Pageants became my super power and I could easily be the person I felt I was on the inside when I was in a pageant. I haven’t stopped since. I’m a perpetual “Positive Pageant Patty” when it comes to competing and seeing the value and the strength that it truly brings young girls and women alike.
Can you tell us about your pageant journey so far including any major titles ?
Oops, I think I answered that above :). I will say that although I haven’t received many (if any) major “titles” up till now, what I have received is the “Miss Congeniality Award” on many occasions. For a kid who felt like nobody liked her, wanted her around, or wasn’t worth much, these awards, which came from my fellow pageant contestants, meant the world to me and still do. Pageants gave me strength to be vulnerable and allowed me to connect with people in a unique way. I’m forever grateful for that. For me, my “winning” isn’t defined by the crown, but by the resiliency and perseverance that every new pageant journey symbolizes for me.
What made you decide to compete in the IJM system ?
I got an opportunity to volunteer last year at the Texas State pageant. I LOVE volunteering backstage at pageants, the energy backstage is always amazing. Anyway, the dedication and love that is poured into this system by the director and all those involved in putting on this event is amazing. After competing as a Mrs. for several pageants, I decided that I was going to expand my reach by looking into Ms. pageants (that didn’t offer a Mrs. division). I’m overjoyed at being able to represent my state of Texas and continue to advocate for mental health, especially through the IJM system!
What the best thing that pageants have taught you ?
Wow, well, what haven’t they taught me is a better question :). I’ve learned to be myself, brave, daring, reflective, determined. I’ve found strength within myself, and have used the goals in pageantry as a positive coping skill throughout some of my hardest times. It’s taught me how to standup for something I believe in. How to be a part of your community in a positive and impactful way. It’s taught me that being unique is not a weakness. It’s taught me that a single meeting can make the biggest impact. It’s taught me a lot :).
What’s your pageant platform and why ?
Speak up. Speak out. : Encouraging others to share their journey about mental health, while speaking up to educate ALL of the importance of THE mental health conversation, because EVERY story matters.
To break that down a bit more, I’m a mental health advocate and a Peer mental health Speaker/Presenter with NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) North Texas (Shoutout to my Dad who MADE me do the “Spokemodel” competition at my very first pageant). I use my personal story of struggle to talk about mental health conditions (specifically C-PTSD and the related traumas associated with my story, Anxiety, and Depression) and how they have affected my life, both for the negative and the positive in my life. I speak to students, teachers, and families through our Ending the Silence Program; police officers through Crisis Intervention Training; and other members in the community to educate them about the stats and facts and warning signs of someone struggling with their mental health.
What’s your dream title ?
I am truly, truly loving my current state title, but I would love to be IJM International Ms. (And I have hearts in my eyes while I”m typing that)
If you were to win IJM International Ms. what would it mean to you ?
Firstly, I look forward to promoting the Ms. division and showing the pageant community how important and relevant a Ms. titleholder truly is. I think we’re a dying breed in a sense and would love to continue to be able to offer these titles to other women in my season of life and age group. Not only do we have so much to offer, but we Ms. aged women have so much to gain. Secondly, it’s about the mental health education for me. As a former high school teacher, my heart is with the many MANY young adults who go through these struggles and never reach out for help because they feel ashamed, alone, or just not aware that the way they’re feeling can be treated with a proper treatment plan and support.
What’s the best advice you have for fellow pageant contestants ?
During a pageant, my number one to ANY one competing is to HAVE FUN. You will only get out of it what you put into it and each pageant experience is a unique opportunity to connect with people JUST like you. Pageant girls have a special bond. Only we pageant girls know truly how hard it is to get Butt glue off before gown and what bandaids are really used for…that’s a truly special type of sisterhood right there, lol.
If you’re preparing for a pageant, I highly recommend getting a good pageant tribe behind you. If you don’t know where to start, find a great coach or use a pageant website, like pageantplanet.com, and listen to pageant podcast as much as possible. I LOVE that there are so many great resources for pageant girls these days.
What have you been doing in the run up to your pageant final ?
When I won my state pageant, I was so excited, but also knew that it was time to buckle down and really put that opportunity to work. I’ve continued to make virtual appearances and to give important, relevant mental health information through social media. My end goal is to get our Youth Program, Ending the Silence, in areas that don’t have a local NAMI, starting with the small towns in my state. Now that we can offer these presentations virtually, I have the ability to offer these presentations throughout the many rural areas of my state.
What’s your favourite ever appearance ?
Anytime I get to go on FB live to talk about mental health with my friends Jen, Founder of Don’t Quit (a mental health 5k), and Brooke (One of our young adult presenters at NAMI NTX)
How has the lockdown due to COVID19 effected your pageant journey ?
My entire state pageant was virtual and it was a super fun experience. Especially for me, someone who loves pageantry so much, it was really neat to be a part of something so different, so new.
What makes a good pageant role model ?
Someone who is able to be humble enough to learn and listen from others and see other people as though they are the “role models”. It’s the same principal I applied when I was a teacher, my passion was in LEARNING, not TEACHING, and that helped me forever grow.
What’s your favourite pageant round ?
Ok, so not a pageant round, but you know when you’re waiting backstage RIGHT before opening number, or swimwear, or gown, or any of the stage competitions, and the music is blaring and you and the girls around you and whispering, “Good Luck” and singing/dancing with the music and making sure we all go on at the right time? I just really love that moment! It’s the best feeling! I’ve had some of my best memories and met some of my closest friends within those moments.
How do you deal with pageant nerves ?
Backstage dancing, or deep belly breaths before interview and saying the same mantra over and over again. I get really nervous before interview, so I really have to make sure my heart rate in slowed down and that I’m focusing on not speeding up my words.
I just have to give a shout out to my incredible husband, daughter, mother, and pageant coach! Talk about an amazingly support group of people, wow! My husband hasn’t missed a pageant since 2010, and my daughter is incredibly insightful and encouraging at just 7 years old!
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions about your pageant journey it’s been lovely getting to know you, your system and your platform. I wish you all the best at IJM International Ms. Much love Charlotte, Ms Diamond South Yorkshire 2020.