Kelsey Craft: Miss International 2017 & Ambassador, Blue Zones Project

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Kelsey Craft, Miss International 2017, currently resides in sunny Southwest Florida where she is a practicing physician assistant. Since being crowned on August 5th, Kelsey has traveled to twenty-one states and seven countries to spread her message of preventing chronic diseases and childhood obesity through healthy active living. To support her platform of “making the healthy choice the easy choice”, Kelsey is an ambassador for Blue Zones Project, a well-being initiative aimed at increasing the longevity of our citizens. The project is based on nine commonalities found amongst the world’s longest lived people. By implementing these principles in cities across America, Blue Zones Project has lead to a decrease in obesity and smoking rates, and millions of dollars of savings in healthcare costs. Kelsey also proudly represents International Pageants’ alliance with American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women by attending Heart Walks across the country, speaking at Go Red luncheons, and educating people of all ages about the important health numbers that impact an individual’s risk for heart disease and stroke. During her last few months as Miss International, Kelsey will continue speaking to various organizations about healthy behaviors while working towards her goal of being the first Miss International to travel to all 50 states during her reign. When she is not traveling, Kelsey enjoys working out, spending days on the boat, and participating in charitable fashion shows. You can follow her journey on Instagram at @missinternational17 and @intlpageants.

How did you get into the industry?

I consider myself a late bloomer when it comes to pageantry. I did not compete in my first pageant until the age of 20. When I moved to Florida to attend graduate school, I wanted a way to get involved in the local community. I heard about International Pageants being a platform based system and knew this would be a great fit for me. Being “platform based” means that all of the contestants use their year for service and to promote a cause they deeply care about. As a physician assistant turned beauty queen, I wanted to use the crown to speak to the public about healthy behavior choices.

Any emerging industry trends?

One of the biggest trends happening now is the women empowerment movement. It has been really fun to watch many women and girls find their voice through pageantry.  With the ever-increasing presence of social media, ladies in pageants will have a stronger ability to spread positive messages and continue to make a difference in their local communities through education and advocacy.

Any industry opportunities or challenges?

There are countless opportunities that have been afforded to me as a titleholder. I have been able to travel to all 50 states as well as internationally spreading the message of “making the healthy choice the easy choice”. When women use their crown as a microphone, it makes the messaging that much stronger. It has opened up conversations with strangers and has been a vehicle for me to help decrease rates of preventable chronic diseases and childhood obesity.

The biggest challenge I personally faced was understanding the role of social media. I usually tend to be private with my personal life, but being a titleholder comes with the reality that people are watching. They want to see what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. This was definitely an adjustment for me.

I also was challenged to maintain healthy interpersonal relationships. As a titleholder I’m constantly surrounded by people. It was important to make it a priority to call my friends and family after long days. My advice is to remember that seeing and liking your friend’s posts on social media should not replace those precious face to face interactions.

Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?

My inspiration has come from what I have seen and experienced in the healthcare setting. Too often I have taken care of patients and thought, “this could have been prevented”. In healthcare we are often trying to fix a problem. My vision is that we focus more on prevention. I have used this vision and inspiration during my year as Miss International by focusing my time and energy on speaking engagements to educate the public on how to take their health into their own hands. My greatest vision is that we all will continue to make an impact on decreasing the rates of heart disease, the number one killer of women.

What's next for the Business in the near future?

A new Miss International will be crowned on July 28th in Charleston, WV. Although I’m sad to see my year come to an end, my hope is that I’ve paved the way for each titleholder to be better than the previous. In a few short weeks we will get to watch the next Miss International begin spreading awareness of her personal platform on an international level.

I also love that every year International Pageants continues to build upon our alliance with Go Red for Women and in the future I anticipate this only getting stronger.

Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?

A titleholder must have a good standard of communication and commitment. For the overall success of pageantry, a key initiative should be the continuation of opportunities for young women. We should encourage participation from anyone interested and help them find the right system for them. Pageantry should promote high standards, community service, overall health and wellness, and a group who want to make a difference.

Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)

My most difficult moment happened when I was not crowned Miss Florida International the first year I competed. In that moment I felt that I was not good enough. After some important self reflection and revamping of my plans, I realized that some moments in life are based on timing. Had I won Miss Florida International that year, I would not have been prepared to be the best representative of the crown. I was distracted by school that year, which was probably reflected in my interview. Turns out, the judges knew best and I was able to become a big fan of the girl who won. Then, when I was ready to give 100% dedication I was able to return and be crowned the following year.

Ideal experience for a customer/client?

The ideal experience for my audience would be an “ah-ha” moment. My goal has been to make being healthy interesting, realistic, and fun for all ages. My hope is that when I speak, there is a take-away message... something they haven’t heard or understood before. Health is not a one size fits all experience. I want people to learn from me that the healthy choice can be the easy choice.

How do you motivate others?

I motivate others by leading by example. I’ve always promised to not make excuses. I share my personal story of the adversities I have faced and how I have overcome them through hard work, goal setting, and a strong support system.

Secondly, I motivate others through words of affirmation. Sometimes a simple “thank you” or “good job” can make a world of difference.

Career advice to those in your industry?

Celebrate others’ success. When you think of pageantry (or any competition), sometimes your first response is to compare yourself to those around you. Don’t do this! Be an encourager! You don’t shine any brighter by dimming someone else.