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her Q&A: Ms. Columbus Plus America 2013 Kristina Adrienne Ortiz

Beauty comes in all sizes.

Kristina Adrienne Ortiz is a perfect illustration of that belief. As Ms. Columbus Plus America 2013, she'll compete in April for the title of Ms. Georgia Plus America 2013.

She knows beauty is more than what's reflected in the mirror. Kristina has used her title to educate the community about responsible pet ownership. She encourages each woman "to promote the causes closest to her heart with a title worthy of her representation."

Kristina recently chatted with us about pageants, pets and the social stigma that often surrounds the term "plus-size." This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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 toughest part of the pageant experience?

Finding the right balance between family, work, and appearances has been tough, not to mention the financial requirements. I want to attend every adoption event and fundraiser that the city has for our rescue organizations but due to my work schedule or family obligations I can't be at each one.

I have started $5 Fridays through my Facebook page where I ask people to skip their daily Starbucks treat and donate that money to the rescue group of their choice. I am working with Animal Ark Rescue to help them open their new facility in the old Animal Control building off Sacerdote Lane. They are in need of a lot of donations so it's hard to ask others for monetary donations to help me get to the state (then hopefully national) pageant.