Monday, November 30, 2009

A Courageous Beauty Interview: Mrs. Alaska America 2009-Erika Bennett

Angie: What interested you in pageants?

Erika: When I was nine years old my mother was Mrs. Alaska-America 1980, that left a lasting impression on me.  She proceeded to become involved with the Miss Alaska scholarship pageant system for many years after that and also opened a talent agency in Alaska.  I saw the good that can come out of pageants and know they can be fun, so I entered a few teen pageants (didn’t win any). 

Angie: What is your platform?

Erika: I don’t have a specific platform per se, but I am interested in promoting fitness in the family and also am very involved in aviation advocacy in Alaska.

Angie: How do you build your platform and promote your work?

Erika: My interests are fueled by my passions.  I feel that the more active the family is, the healthier the nation becomes.  We need to teach our kids that exercise is a normal everyday part of life and can be really fun if you take the right approach.  I am interested in partnering with the YMCA and the National Park Service to help engage more families in outdoor activities and educate parents on how to integrate exercise (disguised as fun) into their daily routines. 

My passion for aviation stems from my career as a professional pilot.  I am on the board of directors of the Alaska Airmen’s Association, a non-profit aviation advocacy group that promotes, protects and educates about general aviation issues in Alaska (a state that relies heavily on air travel to access its lands).

Angie: Why did you decide to compete?

Erika: I competed for Mrs. Alaska-America three times.  I think the main reason I tried the first time was because of my mother.  Each time I had so much fun and really had a chance to focus on myself for a change that I ran again.  This year (2009) I competed mainly to help “force” me to get back into my pre-baby shape and allow myself some “me time” after having my daughter.

Angie: How do you handle stage fright?

Erika: I have been in front of large groups of people either for a theater production or pageant for nearly twenty years now and have not had a hard time doing it.  I think my mother had something to do with my being so confident on stage, as she encouraged me and helped coach me for monologues or recitals.

Angie: What personal fear did you have to overcome? 

Erika: My biggest fear was always not remembering a line on stage for a play or missing a dance step for a pageant.  But when I realized that the audience only knows when you’ve messed up when you show it, I quickly became good at improvising when I got tripped up.  I am a fanatic “rehearser” though, so I have a tendency to remember what I’m supposed to be doing rather than not.

Angie: What did you have to learn to compete?

Erika: Dancing in four-inch high heels was a bit of a challenge when I did my first Mrs. Alaska-America pageant, but I think that’s the case for everyone except professional dancers.

Angie: Please tell us about a goal, why it's been a goal, and what it means to you?

Erika: A goal of mine is to be less “wound up” about things when they go a different direction than I had planned.  It’s been a goal because I realize that when I learn to “go with the flow” things usually turn out the way I’d hoped anyway.  Being able to devote less energy towards stress and more to enjoying life means a happier everyday existence for me!

Angie: Who do you most want to emulate?

Erika: I really admire Barbara Washburn, wife of the late Bradford Washburn.  Barbara was a devoted mother of three and still managed to find time to travel and climb with her adventurous husband.

Angie: Do you have a mentor?

Erika: I don’t have a single person I could call my mentor, but rather a cadre of people who I can go to when I need advice or help.  My mother and father are at the top of the list.

Angie: How do you handle the feelings of disappointment?

Erika: Whenever I feel disappointed, I usually have little time to wallow in my feeling because of the busy life I seem to lead.  I have a loving, cheerful and happy little girl who always makes me smile and a supportive husband who can pull me out of a funk with just his smile.  I am a very fortunate lady.

Angie: What kind of an education do you have or are you pursuing? 

Erika: I hold a bachelors’ degree in journalism and public communication with a minor in anthropology.  I became a professional pilot about four years after obtaining my degree through self-study and private training.

Angie: Do you have other creative talents you pursue?

Erika: I am an avid outdoorswoman who likes to climb, ski and enjoy the wilderness with my husband and daughter.

Angie: Do you think it is important for a person to look their best?

Erika: I feel that when a person is directly representing something or is in a position to be a public role model, then that person should put the effort in to be well groomed and look as good as they can for whatever the occasion may be.  I also feel that anyone should be able to throw a pair of comfy sweats on, put their hair up in a ponytail and go out with no makeup and not be criticized for it either.

Angie: Would you share about your fashion favorites, flair, or a tip that makes you feel beautiful?

Erika:  My advice to feel beautiful is to stick with being yourself and don’t attempt to be someone you’re not – even if it seems as if the rest of the world is telling you differently.

Angie: What compliment do you receive most often?

Erika: Physically I am complimented on my eye color the most.  I inherited very blue eyes from my father.  Otherwise I get compliments on my ability to organize the most.

Angie: What are you most confident about?

Erika: I’m most confident about my ability to handle any situation, good or not so good, and to make the most correct decision at the time that I know of.

Angie: How did you earn that sense of confidence?

Erika: I have to have that kind of confidence as a professional pilot, because everyone on my airplane entrusts his or her life to me for the duration of the flight.  You earn confidence as a pilot through training and experience and then you can apply that confidence to the rest of your life.

Angie: What would you like to share with interview readers?

Erika: If you’d like to read more about my exploits as Mrs. Alaska-America 2009, go to

Angie: What a fun and unique interview! Thank you so much for being with us today, Erika.
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