5 QUESTIONS: Kristina Adrienne Ortiz, Ms. Columbus Plus America 2013

January 27, 2013 

How did you become Ms. Columbus Plus America 2013?

I heard about the Miss Plus America Pageant from a co-worker. She encouraged me to apply, saying it would be a great way for me to be a voice for animals. Ten states (Georgia included) have a statewide pageant before the national competition. There are several different age groups -- teen 13-17, Miss 18-29, Ms. 30-plus and a Mrs. 20-plus (which is only open to married women). I will be representing the city of Columbus in the Ms. category. If I am fortunate enough to be crowned Ms. Georgia Plus America 2013, I will go on to the national pageant in June.

Why do we need a Miss Plus America Pageant?

The average American woman is a size 14, according to information from Houston-based Plunkett Research Ltd. that's cited in a September 2012 Bloomberg News article. It adds that "plus-sizes, often classified as 14 to 34, account for 67 percent of the population."

Many of those women have low self-confidence and a poor self-body image. The Miss Plus America Pageant believes that all women are beautiful, inside and out, and every woman deserves a chance to promote the causes closest to her heart with a title worthy of her representation.

The Miss Plus America Pageant is an organization devoted to celebrating the essence of the full-figured woman by providing a traditional beauty pageant competition for those teens and women ages 13 and up, sizes 14W and up.

Some people equate "plus-size" with "unhealthy." What's the difference between the labels?

That is a very common misconception. A lot of skinny people are unhealthy. I exercise at least three times a week and watch my daily caloric intake. Even if I were just bones I still wouldn't be a single-digit size.

I suspect that if any overweight woman could snap her fingers and become a healthy size five, she would do it. But some of us just can't. Contrary to popular belief, the word "obese" does not equal the word "lazy."

I refuse to hide in a closet because society says I am not acceptable to experience all that life has to offer because of my size.

Your platform includes educating the community about animal welfare and responsible pet ownership. Why did you choose those issues?

I have been in the animal care industry for 18 years. I have worked in veterinary clinics, as a pet sitter and in doggie daycare/boarding facilities. I have always had a passion for helping animals. They give you unconditional love and ask for nothing in return. I have seen firsthand how they help the wounded heal, the sick feel better and the elderly feel young again.

There is a huge population of homeless pets, and many end up in a local animal control facility, where most are euthanized. According to estimates from The Humane Society of the United States, "animal shelters care for 6-8 million dogs and cats every year in the United States, of whom approximately 3-4 million are euthanized." My hope is to turn Columbus into a no-kill city.

What's the best-kept secret in the Chattahoochee Valley?

I grew up in Columbus but moved to Atlanta for 10 years in 2001. Through the grace of God (and mutual friends on Facebook) I was introduced to a wonderful man in 2011 and moved back home to start a new chapter in my life. I couldn't believe how much my city had grown!

There is always something going on for every age group. It seems like every day there is something new opening up like great local shops and delicious places to eat. We love going down to the RiverWalk for a stroll with our dogs. I enjoy going to the Market Days on Broadway with friends. The Springer Opera House and RiverCenter are always bringing new and exciting shows to town, and I can't wait for the whitewater rafting to begin down the Chattahoochee. If you haven't been to the National Infantry Museum, you have to go. Fort Benning is such a huge part of Columbus, and we love our troops! Opportunity abounds in the Chattahoochee Valley.

View Kristina's official Facebook page here.