For the first time in the 40-year history of the Mrs. Alaska-America Pageant, a woman from Kenai has taken the crown.
Tesa Sturman, 35, won the title earlier this month with her husband of nearly 13 years and their three sons cheering her on. The winner of the pageant, designed to celebrate and encourage married women, gets to tour for a year and represent the state at Mrs. America Pageant in August.
This was Sturman’s second year participating in the statewide competition. She won first runner up last year, and so was given the option to compete free of charge this year if she wanted. After seeing her in action last year, Sturman said her boys and husband were supportive of her second run.
“They are all on board,” she said. “I grew up doing pageants but hadn’t done one in about 16 years.”
It all started with Sturman’s husband, Steve, wanting to know how his wife competed in pageants.
“I had made a bet with my husband, and I lost,” Sturman said of entering the Mrs. Alaska-America Pageant for the first time.
Sturman began competing in pageants when she was 5 years old as a way to do something special with her mother. After so long away from the game, the Mrs. Alaska-America Pageant was different, she said.
“For me, it was different because, being in the younger pageants, the main focus of those is to win scholarship money for college,” Sturman said.
The winner of the Mrs. Alaska America title spends a year visiting around the state and volunteering in at least 50 events, Sturman said.
As Mrs. Alaska America, Sturman has the choice of raising awareness of the organization’s charity, or choosing her own. She will focus on bringing awareness to the option of donating organs.
Sturman’s mother died when she was 19, and donated some of her organs. She and Steve also lost their eldest child eight years ago during a surgery. His heart, liver and kidneys were all donated, and Sturman said she has since kept up with the families of the people they went to.
“Really it’s an opportunity and forum to talk about organ donation,” Sturman said of her upcoming yearlong tour.
In addition to the top title, Sturman was awarded a few other individual honors. These included Business Woman of the Year and recognition for selling the most tickets to the event in Anchorage. She and her husband, who she described as an entrepreneur at hear, run three separate businesses together, starting about 10 years ago when he quit his day job to pursue other interests.
The pair are setnetters who sell their fish to co-ops around the country. They also handle the business side of the Nikiski location of Circle M Farms Organic Worm Castings, which they run with Sturman’s father-in-law. She also does the bookkeeping and technical work for another business venture, T.C.O.B. Hot Shot Oilfield Services.
“For us it was really special because it’s not just for me, it’s for my husband and I,” Sturman said of the award.
Preparing for this year’s round of evening gown wear, interviews and judging was a bit easier since Sturman had already gone through it the year before, she said. It helped that her family was so supportive.
Sturman said a group of close friends she grew up with were also instrumental in her road to the competition. Whenever she had a question or wanted a second opinion on an answer to the questionnaire she sent in prior to the pageant, she could count on feedback from one or more of them, she said.
“It’s been a really fun experience just to have a group of friends to do it with,” Sturman said.
Sturman said it meant a lot that so many friends and family members supported her. Her father brought with him to the pageant a photo of himself escorting her across the stage at her very first pageant when she was 5, she said. She also stopped at her mother’s grave on the way home from the competition to take a picture there with her banner, since it was her first win without her mother.
The pageant itself is a great way to network with women from all walks of life, she said. Sturman recalled a contestant who worked as a firefighter, and another as a nurse. The contest is more relaxed in Alaska, she said, and she has made many friends throughout her pageant days.
“Alaska woman are just so nice and laid back and down to earth that it makes them very enjoyable to be a part of it,” Sturman said.
Sturman said she is thankful for her many personal and business sponsors who made the competition possible for her.
Reach Megan Pacer at firstname.lastname@example.org.