Beth Isbell never had the confidence to enter a beauty pageant as a child, much less win one. As a victim of bullying as a young girl, she didn’t have the confidence to stand on the ultimate stage and inspire young women to make a difference.
A graduate advisor and program coordinator for distance education at East Central University’s Shawnee location, Isbell was crowned Mrs. United States in Las Vegas, Nev., in July.
“Serving as Mrs. United States is honestly a dream come true. I didn’t compete in pageants growing up because I never had the confidence to do so,” said Isbell, who represented Texas at the national pageant.
Though Isbell lacked confidence as a youth, her personal drive and willingness to step up to a challenge as a young adult hasn’t.
“Entering my state pageant (as Mrs. Austin County) was a way for me to challenge myself and step out of my comfort zone,” she said. “It allowed me to become the best version of myself, mentally and physically. Past that, after winning and preparing for the national pageant, I was pushed even harder.”
As Mrs. United States, Isbell’s obligations require her to fulfill the traditional responsibilities of beauty queen, such as making appearances, hosting and participating in fundraising and charity events and volunteering to name a few.
Ingrained with those responsibilities anyway, it was a natural fit for Isbell, whose list of interests include youth programming and mentoring, along with sharing her faith with others.
“I am extremely passionate about being a role model and inspiration to children that struggle with bullying,” said Isbell.
Isbell, who grew up in a small suburb of Houston in Channelview, Texas, joined the ECU staff in March when her husband, Brett, accepted a job in Norman. Prior to that, she served as 4-H extension agent for Austin County (Texas) while attending graduate school at Texas A&M University. Growing up and participating in the 4-H program, in Isbell’s estimation, was critical in her capturing the national crown.
The pageant contestants were judged on personal interview, swimsuit, evening gown and an on-stage question. According to Isbell, the personal interview was a panel-style affair in which she had four minutes to answer as many questions that the judges could ask and she could answer within the allotted time. After competing in the interview portion, the swimsuit and evening gown competitions were conducted. The judges then selected a top 10 for an on-stage question.
“I feel as if my strongest suit was the personal interview. I grew up in the local 4-H program where I participated in many public speaking competitions, so public speaking comes natural to me,” she said. “I love talking to people and showing others who I really am and where I come from. Not to mention, I went through several interview coaching sessions with some of the best coaches in the nation. I felt like the interview was a breeze.”
Isbell’s on-stage question was “What was one negative experience that you turned into a positive?” Her answer was, “Growing up, confidence isn’t something I came by very easy. I was the nerdy country girl who sat in the back of the classroom. Of course the other kids noticed and that’s where the making fun of me began,” she declared. “Although I didn’t realize the lessons I was learning at the time, I am now an advocate for bullying and youth mentoring because of my experience growing up.”
The Mrs. United States Pageant got its start in 1986 and is described by the Las Vegas Sun as the “premier event of its kind” because it celebrates the achievements of married women through the 50 states and territories.
“It recognizes a woman’s ability to integrate intellect and beauty. The entire week is so much fun and I was inspired by so many women who competed. One of the highlights was just meeting so many successful, intelligent, beautiful women from across the country and learning about each one of their stories. It was so inspiring and motivational,” said Isbell.
As she embarks on a year serving as Mrs. United States, Isbell has learned that there are no limitations on what a person can accomplish.
“I can only hope that others are inspired to do the same,” said Isbell. “I feel as if this experience will benefit me in every aspect of my life. It gave me more confidence. I learned so much about myself that I didn’t know before. I learned how to communicate with others and how to learn from those around me. These skills and lessons I feel will stay with me throughout my entire life regardless of which aspect I am focusing on.”