Crystle Stewart attending the 2019 Miss Universe Pageant in Atlanta. (Picture: Paras Griffin/Getty Photographs)

When Crystle Stewart was a younger woman rising up in Texas, she recollects a good friend suggesting she begin doing pageants.

“I by no means wished to compete within the pageants, to be trustworthy … I used to be a tomboy,” Stewart tells Yahoo Life. “I checked out her and I stated, ‘Man, I’m not .’” However Stewart’s good friend was relentless, and ultimately, she gave in and entered an area competitors.

“I grew a lot and discovered a lot about myself — my tenacity, my perseverance, as a result of it took me some time really to win my state pageant,” she tells Yahoo Life. “I simply ended up getting hooked on it. And right here I’m as we speak.”

The place she is now couldn’t be a lot farther from her “not ” starting: President of the Miss USA Group. As such, she is the primary Black girl to helm the Miss USA and Miss Teen USA pageants, and the primary individual to ever license the pageants from the Miss Universe Group.

“It’s an honor,” Stewart, 41, says of her place heading into the 2022 Miss USA pageant in Reno, set to stream on Hulu Stay TV and air on the FYI Community on Monday, Oct. 3 at 8 p.m. ET, and through pay-per-view on the Miss USA web site. “It is a privilege to be, hopefully, a task mannequin to different African-American younger ladies or minorities … We want extra ladies in these management roles. And to have this chance to showcase that, to set your targets and purpose for that success, is a dream come true.”

Host Steve Harvey speaks to Miss USA Elle Smith during the Miss Universe pageant in the Red Sea resort of Eilat, Israel December 13, 2021. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Host Steve Harvey speaks to Miss USA Elle Smith in the course of the Miss Universe pageant in Israel in Dec. 2021. (Picture: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)

Her journey to this place is actually well-earned: After successful Miss Texas after 4 makes an attempt in 2008, she went on to win Miss USA. She then went on to create a pageant teaching firm known as Miss Academy (“I simply consider it as a modern-day ending college,” she says) and infrequently works as an actress, amongst different associated endeavors.

“I’ve competed, I’ve judged, I’ve directed an area pageant. And so, I really feel I do know what these younger ladies are wanting, all the way down to the main points of how a lot sleep they want! But in addition taking simply my expertise, the sources, the instruments, the networking alternatives I’ve had … I am making an attempt to place extra of the deal with the contestants and the alternatives that they’ll have, as properly.”

Miss Texas Crystle Stewart poses after being crowned Miss USA during the Miss USA 2008 pageant at the Planet Hollywood hotel and casino in Las Vegas, Nevada April 11, 2008. The show, hosted by brother and sister duo Donnie and Marie Osmond, was broadcasted live on NBC. REUTERS/Steve Marcus (UNITED STATES).  FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS.

Crystle Stewart poses after being topped Miss USA in 2008 (Picture: REUTERS/Steve Marcus)

Her purpose, as a mentor, is to information contestants in a method which may appear antithetical to pageantry: “To guarantee that simply magnificence is not on the forefront,” she says, however to assist them determine, “What depth do it’s important to supply to the world usually — to your job, to your relationship, to your loved ones, to your mates? Simply serving to them navigate life, and utilizing pageants as a platform.”

Not less than a part of Stewart’s inspiration has come from yet one more big endeavor: motherhood. She is the mother or father to a son, 2, and a daughter, 5, and whereas the balancing act of labor and mothering has been “difficult,” she says, it retains her centered.

“That is on the forefront after I get up within the morning, ensuring my children are happy with me and the legacy I can go away behind, and that I’m a task mannequin for them,” she says. “If I hold them on the forefront, it makes issues go smoother as a result of they’re my precedence.”

Stewart’s daughter, who has autism, has particularly taught her lots about resilience and expectations. “It was difficult at first, after I first came upon,” she says about her preliminary analysis. “You assume the factor you dreamed of to your baby is over, nevertheless it’s not, and that’s one thing I’ve discovered as she grows older: The identical goals can nonetheless come true.” And whereas which may embrace pageantry, admits Stewart — who as soon as discovered her woman “strolling like a professional in my heels … she was 4!” — she says, “I wouldn’t push her to do it. It must be one thing pure.”

In fact, all the pieces from elevating her children to competing herself has knowledgeable her imaginative and prescient of Miss USA, which she calls “pageantry reimagined,” with an purpose to reject the “stereotypical” picture of what it’s all about. “The stereotypical picture is that cookie cutter picture — it’s important to be a sure sort, your journey’s created for you,” she says. “And that is the picture I do not need folks to have, simply to interrupt into the American viewers extra and make it much more relatable.”

It’s a tall order for a pageant that’s been owned by former president Donald Trump, at instances been mired in controversy and was really created to be a advertising and marketing platform for swimsuit firm Catalina in 1952, main many to think about it as being a strict magnificence pageant as in comparison with Miss America, which has ditched the swimsuit competitors whereas working laborious to reposition itself as a scholarship contest.

However, says Stewart, “I do not assume that is a good evaluation in any respect. With Miss America, they carry out a expertise … I assume the distinction with Miss USA, is that they do not carry out a expertise. However we gave $25,000 within the scholarship to our Miss Teen USA winner and in addition upped the wage of Miss USA as a job. This can be a working girl, you understand. She’s not simply doing picture shoots all day.”

It’s true that Miss USA has expanded its horizons in some ways lately, together with with high-profile contestants who’ve made impacts by way of carrying their hair pure, talking out about points akin to bipolar dysfunction, Down syndrome and going through homelessness, and by being bisexual or transgender.

“We wish all ladies of all shapes, colours, creeds to hitch the pageant trade,” Stewart says of her imaginative and prescient for Miss USA. “And so they outline their journey: What’s your platform? What are you interested by? What do you love to do? That is what we deal with now. Serving to them outline their journey within the pageant trade.” She stops brief from calling Miss USA a “feminist” endeavor, however solely as a result of the phrase “can have this unfavourable connotation to it,” she says, noting, “It’s ladies empowerment.”

She factors out that among the many tasks of reigning Miss USA Elle Smith has been working with charitable associate Smile Prepare and giving motivational speeches. “We transcend magnificence and look into depth. Is she a stunning girl? Yeah. Does she put herself collectively? Does she work out? Is she bodily wholesome? Is she mentally wholesome? Sure. These are the issues that we encourage.”

Together with in terms of the swimsuit competitors, she says.

“Completely. They’ve a swimsuit competitors. I do know what it did for me. I used to be very insecure about my physique sort … However going into it and successful the swimsuit competitors in my first pageant made me really feel extra assured about my physique, made me wish to deal with it extra. I began consuming higher, understanding … and simply being one of the best model of myself. So, it isn’t only for males to take a seat on the market and take a look at you want, ‘Ooh.’”

Her purpose is to open the pageant up extra to “totally different physique varieties [while] selling a wholesome life-style,” she provides. “And that doesn’t imply it’s important to be a measurement two.”

One other aim is to carry extra younger viewers into the fold — one thing that was prime of thoughts when redesigning the Miss USA web site with a decidedly influencer really feel, embrace its millennial-pink coloration scheme.

“Once I consider the reimagining, I consider the entire shebang. I am very detail-oriented. So not solely did we alter the web site, however the social media platform … that was very, very, essential. And since Miss USA is an influencer they usually go to those totally different digital platforms, we now have to ensure it is arrange [for that] and will stand as much as subsequent to what we have been talking about with reimagining,” which included, she says, going “with a blush tone” and “skewing to that youthful demographic.”

As for who would possibly win the Miss USA crown, she emphasizes, “It isn’t simply bodily magnificence … however the entire bundle,” as “poise and charm” within the night robe competitors is simply as necessary because the swimsuit portion and the interview. “All issues are scored equally,” she says. “So it’s important to be simply as lovely as you might be clever and capable of converse confidently as properly. We wish well-rounded younger ladies.”

Wellness, parenting, physique picture and extra: Get to know the who behind the hoo with Yahoo Life’s e-newsletter. Enroll right here.