A Special Queen
by Michele Elyzabeth
Pageants have always fascinated young girls and women around the world. Ever since I can remember, being a ‘Miss’ for me was synonymous with a beautiful girl, wearing a beautiful gown with a shiny crown. For others, it meant hoping to compete in pageants one day, hoping that they could become that girl. And for guys, it mostly meant watching the girls and wishing that they could date a girl like that. I had never met a ‘Miss’ until recently when I crossed paths with Carla Gonzalez, Ms United Nation International, who holds five titles in total. Though it looks glamorous and effortless, in many ways, it is not what it appears to be.
As we know, people have a tendency to judge a book by its cover. If the girls are pretty then they must be shallow, with little common sense, and not very smart. Call it jealousy or stupidity if you wish, but that is a reality. This could not be further from the truth when it comes to Carla.
A native of Oklahoma, she holds a master’s degree from the University of Oklahoma in Clinical Social Work. For the past 20 years, she has been employed as a social worker for the Oklahoma State Department of Health. She has received a national certification in Bullying Prevention and spends a large amount of her time providing Bullying, Cyber Bullying, Internet Safety and Teen Dating Violence prevention education presentations in schools across Oklahoma. She has a National Certification in Grief Recovery and is a national certified Anger Management Specialist. She is also certified as a Prevention Relationship Enhancement Program (PREP) facilitator through the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative. She is currently working on becoming a National Life Skills Coach. As if this was not enough, Carla is a member of various organizations helping others by raising funds and conscientiousness among the community. She regularly travels across the US, making appearances and speaking about Anti-Bullying prevention. However, Carla also has a profound interest in Empowering Women, which she has added to her platform. She is determined to be an example to women of all ages. “Accomplishing your dreams is all that matters and yes you can!”
Carla is a board member of the Single Parent Support Network organization and has been named Honorary Chair. Her own story as a single parent was published in the book titled Wingspan. She serves on the Oklahoma Sexual Violence Prevention Advisory committee and the Violence against Women and Girls subcommittee. She is also a member of the Oklahoma Human Trafficking task force.
However, she has a hobby close to her heart, she loves competing in pageants and as we have come to know, she is good at it.
We spent time talking about what all this means to her and how she uses her title.
You are Ms. United Nation International 2014. How many years have you been doing pageants and how did you get involved?
My pageantry involvement began when I competed and won my first title at the age of nine. My dance teacher at the time had a history of competing and she would periodically ask my parents if I could compete. I always enjoyed performing and entertaining for an audience, so after a few pageant prep lessons, I was ready to hit the stage to compete in my first pageant. This was the beginning of many to come, continuing the journey through high school. I then took a break to focus on raising my son as a single parent while going to college and working a full time job. I found myself entering my first pageant after a twenty year break and thoroughly enjoyed myself and mainly enjoyed all the friendships I made with the other contestants. My competing was part of the plan I created to help inspire and empower women, showing them that life doesn’t have to end at 40. We can be moms, wives, employees, etc… and still do things we have interests in that maybe we didn’t get to do when we were younger due to other things taking precedence.
How many titles have you held and what are they?
I have competed in numerous pageants throughout my life and while I have had the honor of capturing several titles, I’ve also had to experience being a runner up, finalist, and/or not placing at all. I consider every aspect of competition a win-win situation. Even during the times I didn’t capture the crown, because every situation is an opportunity to grow and learn and to be able to take something away that can be shared with others. This is part of my journey that enables me to mentor, help, teach, counsel and coach others who may struggle with their own personal journey’s in life. I will say that I am very humbled to have been able to capture my third big title as a competitor in my 40’s, making me a triple- crown title holder. My titles are Ms. US of America 2011-12, Ms. America International 2012-13, and Ms. United Nation International 2013-14. I am honored to have achieved this success, but my main goal for this achievement is to help inspire, encourage and empower women of all ages to never give up on their dreams and never stop working towards their goals.
What is the role of a Board Certified Life Coach?
Life coaching is a practice with the aim of helping clients determine and achieve personal goals, using multiple methods and focusing on the clients current and future behavior.
How did you choose your profession?
I obtained my master’s degree in Clinical Social Work from the University of Oklahoma. I always knew I wanted to do something in the helping field because even as a young girl I had genuine compassion and empathy for people. I also have an interest in mental health and human behavior so the social work path allowed me to utilize my natural skills combined with my education to do the work that is fulfilling, challenging and rewarding.
How do you juggle your profession and your duties as a title holder?
Women in today’s society have mastered the ability to juggle multiple things at once. The strength, courage, determination and perseverance are just a few of the qualities successful women have in common. This certainly doesn’t mean the juggling is easy… I’ve just been able to find a good balance for myself and do what I can when I can.
Is it because of your job that you are involved with anti-bullying and how did your support of the cause come about?
I have worked as a public health social worker for over twenty years. This time was spent doing many different things, mainly working in the clinics and providing counseling services. I devoted several years of my career studying, researching and training in the domestic violence area and began my work with students in the schools providing Teen Dating Violence Prevention education while also volunteering my time at the largest domestic violence center in Oklahoma. I was eventually approached and asked if I would preside over anti-bullying. I had been hearing more and more about the issue, but once I started doing my research I was overwhelmed with the information and statistics. I knew this was something that definitely needed to be addressed but what I didn’t know, is what was about to unfold right before my eyes once I started going into the schools to talk about this topic. I had kids open up and talk about their personal experiences with being bullied. I would have at least one to five or more kids want to stay and talk to me after I finished presenting and most of these kids would break into tears from the suffering and pain they were presently enduring. This was happening in every school, affecting kids of all ages. This was enough for me to make anti-bullying prevention my top priority and take it on as my platform to bring more community awareness and education to an issue that affects each and every one of us because we all have children in our lives whether you’re a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, school official, friend, neighbor, etc…
Do you speak in various schools across the country and have you done so in the past?
I have spoken in several schools across Oklahoma and was invited by a State Representative to speak at our State Capitol during a bullying rally event. I was a keynote at the National School Discipline conference in Florida and have spoken at several different events across the US, while making appearances to support my title and my platform, Anti-Bullying. I have actually spent more time in California these past three years, attending events and supporting different organizations and charities.
What is your goal?
My goal is to expand my anti-bullying prevention effort to more schools across the US and eventually expand to other countries. If I can touch one person and make a difference, I’m doing and accomplishing what I want to accomplish, but my desire and passion is to touch thousands across the world. Every child deserves to live bully free.
The other part of my goal is to continue my classes to become a Board Certified Life Coach and finish my training as an Anger Management Specialist. I’m also taking acting & hosting lessons in LA, pursuing a career in TV/film, hosting and modeling.
As for her future goals, Carla hopes to open her own counseling/education center helping others by advocating and being a voice for those who are unable to speak up for themselves. She is also pursuing her acting career, currently taking private acting lessons in LA from renowned actress and Golden Globe recipient, Sally Kirkland and whatever else she can find a little time for.