Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Courageous Beauty Interview: Mrs. Oklahoma 2009-Rachel Benke Roberts

Angie: I'd like you to meet Rachel. She blows away the idea of fluffy dancer because she is a woman of substance!

Angie: What interested you in pageants?

Rachel: I participated in pageants for a little while in my early teen years but stopped because I began focusing more on dancing. I have always maintained an interest in pageants and as a dance teacher, I have coached many local, state and national level pageant contestants. When the opportunity presented itself to compete in Mrs. Oklahoma International, I jumped at it. I competed for the state title in 2007 and did not place, then came back in 2009 and unexpectedly won!

Angie: What is your platform?

Rachel: My platform is Postpartum Depression Awareness. I chose this issue because when I was diagnosed with PPD after the birth of my daughter in 2006, I had little to no understanding of this illness or my options for treatment. I was fortunate to have family members that noticed the symptoms and a doctor who was very knowledgeable on this subject. Most women do not have that support system. I want to educate women and their families on the symptoms of PPD and the treatment options. I also want to encourage women who are going through PPD to get help and to know they are not alone and should not be ashamed.

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

Rachel: I have been building connections to many local, state and national organizations who are already working on educating and helping women. These wonderful organizations have given me resources and materials to distribute in my area. I have also spoken and given presentations at conferences, support groups and family organizations. Sharing my story can be a difficult thing at times, but I look back and realize that my experience is a blessing in disguise. I believe God never gives us anything we cannot handle. I am so fortunate to be able to use my experience to help others.
In the works are some other ideas that I have had and am now able to implement. Creating awareness about PPD is my number one priority. I have begun to focus more on this but working with the Parent-Child Center of Tulsa to create a tangible gift to distribute to new mothers at local hospitals that has PPD symptoms listed on it as well as where to go for help. I am so excited about the project and the opportunity to reach so many more new mothers.

Angie: Why did you decide to compete?

Rachel: Pageants have always been an interest to me and once you are bitten by the pageant bug, it is difficult to not want to compete. The International system was an excellent fit for me because of all of the platform work. I love to volunteer and help others. I began trying to do this before I became involved in the International pageant system. When I asked organizations if I could make a presentation about PPD, some did not understand who I was or why I had an interest in sharing my story with them. I know that having a title helps me get my foot in the door to places that normally would not be as receptive.

Angie: Was/is competition scary?

Rachel: As a dancer and performer, I have learned to be comfortable on stage. This made competing in pageants a very easy thing for me. Of course I have butterflies sometimes, but I feel like they only help me do my best. If I ever stopped having butterflies, I would begin to get worried. I have also been taught that I only need to compete with myself. My focus should always be doing better than I did the time before. I do not have to be THE best, I only have to be MY best. Then I know I will walk away with no regrets.

Angie: What personal fear did you have to overcome?

Rachel: The biggest personal fear I had to overcome for the Mrs. International pageant was the fact that I am not a girly-girl. I had been told that the week of Mrs. International is very glamorous. I am SO not glamorous! I don't wear heals and curl my hair on a daily basis. I went into pageant week knowing that I wanted to stay true to who I was. I felt good about the way I presented myself the entire week and I actually had a great time dressing up and getting to see the "fashion show" that took place in the lobby at least twice a day. Every contestant had their own personal and unique style. EVERY contestant was beautiful in their own way. I really felt that we all knew that and respected that about each other. It was a very "girly" week for me, but in the end, I LOVED it!

Angie: What did you have to learn to compete?

Rachel: I really had to sit down and learn about myself. I wanted to make sure I always stayed true to who I was and what I believed. To prepare for the pageant, I focused on finding these answers. I can be an very indecisive person and I knew I needed to take a side on different subjects and ideas. This has not only helped me in the pageant world, but also in life.

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

Rachel: I competed in pageants in my early teen years. By the time I was old enough to compete in the Miss America and Miss USA systems, I was focused on other things. Once I began coaching students for these pageants, I realized how much I missed the opportunity to compete as well. I knew that I wanted to compete and win at the state level and go on to represent my state in a national or international pageant. I competed in 2007 for my state title and did not place. I had a wonderful time and knew I wanted to be Mrs. OK Intl. I took 2008 off from the pageant to focus on getting into better shape and really working on my platform. The time paid off because I went back in 2009 and to my surprise, I won! I could not believe it! This is what I have always wanted to do and competing at nationals was the icing on the cake! My experience in Chicago was one of the best in my life. I was nervous going into it because I was scared of what the other contestants would be like. I was so wrong to be scared! It was wonderful being around so many beautiful ladies and knowing we were all there because we wanted to make a difference. This year has been an experience I will never forget.

Angie: Who do you most want to emulate?

Rachel: There are so many people I want to be like. I guess I have taken bits and pieces of people I have met, read about, or seen and emulated them. What is more important to me is to have a kind and loving heart. I want to be a genuine person who respects others and who is responsible and trustworthy. I think everyone is their own person, and the best thing we can all do is set an example. One act of kindness can inspire another person to change and be kind to others as well... kind of like a huge ripple effect.

Angie: Do you have a mentor?

Rachel: I consider my parents to be my mentors. They are my best friends and both have given me so much advice in different areas over my lifetime. Being an only child forced me to become and stay close to my parents and I am so grateful for our relationship. I feel I can go to them for anything.

Angie: How do you handle the feelings of disappointment?

Rachel: Since I can remember, my favorite quote has been, "When God closes a door, He opens a window." My parents taught me this and it is what I live by. I believe everything happens for a reason, and when I become disappointed, I know there is a reason why things did not work out. Yes, I sometimes feel sad, but I know it was not meant to be. Sometimes overcoming the sadness is easier said than done. That is when I take a deep breath and move on. Another saying that I found and enjoy is: "God has three answers for our prayers... 1.Yes 2. Not Yet 3. I have something better in mind."

Angie: What kind of an education do you have?

Rachel: I have a Bachelor of Science in Entertainment Business from Oklahoma City University.

Angie: What is your "day job?"

Rachel: I am a mom, wife and dance instructor. I love all three of these roles for so many different reasons!

Angie: Do you have other creative talents you pursue?

Rachel: I love to dance and choreograph. Music is another passion for me. I love to listen to all styles, especially ones that I would not normally listen to. I also enjoy photography and elementary graphic design.

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

Rachel: Sure! I know I always feel better about myself when I look my best. Don't get me wrong, one of my favorite things to do is lounge in my PJs and no makeup at home, but I always have more confidence when I take the time to do my hair and put on some makeup. I don't think looking your best always means dressing up. Sometimes I feel I look my best in jeans and a top. I think "looking your best" is a very individual thing and it means different things to different people.

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

Rachel: I love being comfortable and cute. I am a jeans and a top kind of girl, however I have found a new love for getting dressed up once in a while. Besides that I really don't have any fashion advice... I am usually the one asking for the advice, not giving it. :)

Angie: What compliment do you receive most often?

Rachel: Probably my long eyelashes are what people compliment me on the most. I am so blessed to take after my mother in this area!

Angie: What are you most confident about?

Rachel: This is a difficult question for me because I never feel like I am 100% confident about myself. I think what I am consistently most confident about is the ability to make people feel good and comfortable in different situations. I try to always encourage others. Maybe this comes from being a dance teacher. :)

Angie: How did you earn that sense of confidence?

Rachel: Honestly, I don't know. My parents always encouraged me, which made me feel like I could do anything. I guess I try to pass that on to others.

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

Rachel: I am so thankful for the opportunity to be Mrs. Oklahoma International and travel to Chicago to meet and spend time with so many amazing people. Not only were the contestants wonderful, but so was the International pageant staff, the other state directors and the production crew. Everyone had a part in making my experience the best it could be. Every single person touched me in a way that they will never know and I am so grateful for that!

Angie: Please include your web sites and charities web sites.

Thank you so very much, Rachel, for championing the cause of PPD! And thank you for visiting with us today.
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