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2017 Woman of the Year Peta-gay Ledbetter Mrs United Nations 2016
I was born in Kingston, Jamaica and immigrated with my family to the US when I was 8 years old. I have Dual PhD’s in Educational Psychology and in Individual Differences, a Master’s in Education in Counseling, a Bachelor’s in Psychology, and degrees as both a Registered Nurse and in General Science. I am currently the Director of Clinical Services at Alliance for Multicultural Community Services, an Associate Adjunct Professor at the University of Houston, as well as the current titleholder of Mrs. United Nations 2016.
World Class Beauty Queens Magazine would like to congratulate Peta-gay Ledbetter Mrs United Nations 2016 on being chosen as 2017 Woman of the Year.
Name: Peta-gay Ledbetter
Title: Mrs. United Nations 2016
Pageant: United Nations Pageants
Zodiac sign: Scorpio
Hobbies: Singing, dancing, skydiving
Platform: Raise Awareness about Sexual Assault and Human Trafficking.
Years competed: 2 years
Countries visited: Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Jamaica, Costa Rica, Mexico, China, Germany, Poland, Italy, Bahamas, and Canada.
Likes: Traveling, Honesty, Fundraising, Galas, Teaching and Public Speaking.
World Class Beauty Queens: Hello Peta, thank you for taking the time to Interview with us. Tell us about yourself.
Hello and thank you! I was born in Kingston, Jamaica and immigrated with my family to the US when I was 8 years old. I have Dual PhD’s in Educational Psychology and in Individual Differences, a Master’s in Education in Counseling, a Bachelor’s in Psychology, and degrees as both a Registered Nurse and in General Science. I am currently the Director of Clinical Services at Alliance for Multicultural Community Services, an Associate Adjunct Professor at the University of Houston, as well as the current titleholder of Mrs. United Nations 2016. I remain on several Speaker Panels, giving presentations nationally as both a survivor of Sexual Assault and Professor.
World Class Beauty Queens: Please tell us about your platform.
As a survivor of sexual assault myself, it has been my life mission to raise awareness of the rates of sexual assault and human trafficking because the rate has only increased, not decreased in the last few decades! Rape Culture is a huge problem and normalizing of sexual assault has contributed to this problem. As a survivor who is vocal, I hope to decrease the stigma of being a survivor and to bring to light the atrocities of Modern Day Slavery that continues to occur every day in every country. It is truly an International problem!
World Class Beauty Queens: Tell us about your Appearances.
This past year has been very busy with appearances, presentations and fundraising events for many charities. Although I was not able to capture photos at every single event, I tried! There were many more jeans and t-shirt events than there were gowns and tiaras. My favorite events were:
1. The Abandoned Little Angels gala which raised funds for abandoned and vulnerable children in and orphanage in Vietnam. Having been to Vietnam, I saw child sex trafficking for myself and this is a very important charity.
2. The most fun was the APAHA gala, where I got to compete in “Dancing with the Stars” as a local celebrity! The Asian Pacific American Heritage Association promotes Asian and Pacific Islander heritage in Houston by sponsoring local festivals, presentations of art and dance, cultural educational events and awards.
3. The Mayor’s annual Houston Consular Ball was the most sophisticated events, filled with foreign dignitaries and foreign Ambassadors! The black-tie affair was just after the hurricane Harvey and the original venue was flooded. Mayor Sylvester Turner changed to theme to Houston Strong to celebrate the resilience of the city.
4. The event closest to my heart was Elijah Rising’s inaugural gala. Elijah Rising has the only local residence shelter for sex trafficking survivors in Houston. I recorded a PSA for this agency a year ago and I was very proud to be on film increasing awareness for this issue and the shelter. Many beauty queens attended this event.
5. The Leading Ladies is a group started by a young lady while still in High School. The group involves ladies from multiple area High Schools that come together to do good deeds for Houston. They raise money for breast cancer, for scholarships, for underprivileged classmates and help to mentor new designers by having an annual fashion show put on by the girls themselves. I am on the Advisory committee.
6. Each year the International Focus magazine holds the G7 awards ceremony where they honor the local community leaders that promote international business and philanthropy. IF magazine is internationally published and focuses on the bigger worldwide issues that affect business as well as Houston. I am honored to be a contributing author for an article on the Houston Consular Ball.
7. Redeemed Ministries is a long-term residential treatment facility north of Houston, for Adult survivors of sex trafficking, residents can live there up to a year. The gala was planned as an annual event, however, the safe house sustained damage from hurricane Harvey. Survivors were able to tell their story and how Redeemed Ministries help her to recover and get back to a healthy life.
8. United Nations Day is every year on October 24th. The United Nations Association, Houston Chapter held a dinner to commemorate the day and recognize community leaders for lifetime achievements. The UN Children were also present to recite a poem in all of their native languages and to present dances.
9. My crowning achievement for the year however, was being a speaker at the National conference on Sexual Assault. Attendees came from all over the US, Canada and a few from overseas to learn about the most recent advances in treatment, updates on legislation and prevention strategies for the future.
The PSA I recorded for Texas Association Against Sexual Assault (TAASA) was previewed by the audience and then I got to tell my story and answer questions. The campaign, “Speak Up, Speak Out” involved having my headshot up on a billboard as well as the PSA being broadcast on many different media, cable, social media and public television.
World Class Beauty Queens: Tell us about your community service.
Although not as glamorous, community service is a very important part of anyone’s reign. For this past year, I went on a mission trip to Cambodia, Vietnam and Malaysia where I was able to do hands-on missionary work with the girls who were rescued from sex trafficking. The trip to Asia was 10 days long and involved multiple trips by air and bus to travel between countries. I and my fellow missionaries were able to live with the girls in the safe house, we cooked, cleaned and walked them to school in Vietnam, where the girls were age 3 years old to 17 years old. In Cambodia, we able to take the girls to the beach and most of them had never been before. The sheer joy of splashing in water and being safe was worth the 5 hour bus ride each way. I was able to speak to the women in the detention center and the Children in the kids center about staying safe and what human trafficking was. The children ranged from 3 months old to 17 years old. While the women were 18 years old and up.
Other community service projects I participated in this year did not involve traveling but were just as intense. Doing community groups with school-aged, teens, adults and seniors are a weekly event for me. As an educator and psychologist, I often encounter trauma at all ages. Education about health issues and staying safe are always a priority topic. With the recent hurricane Harvey in Texas, I have been to south Houston to a community in Rosharon multiple times. Nicknamed, “Little Cambodia” there are many refugees from Cambodia living there and all their homes were flooded. Rebuilding is an ongoing process, but the danger of human trafficking is a risk in this vulnerable community. I have also volunteered at the NRG Center shelters and George R. Brown Convention center shelters during the aftermath of Harvey.
World Class Beauty Queens: Tell us about your community services hours in 2017.
I really have not kept track of how many hours I have volunteered this year. It is too many to count, I’m sure! Also, while I work in the nonprofit world, I volunteer through many other agencies such as Child Advocates, The Houston Area Women’s Center, the Women’s Home, Planned Parenthood, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, the Bayou City Performing Arts, Crosspoint Church, Sagemont Church and One Body Village. I also serve as an Appointee on the Ryan White Planning Council for the Houston area. This is my 4th year serving Judge Ed Emmott as an appointee.
World Class Beauty Queens: Tell us about your awards.
I received the Aga Khan Foundation Ambassador Award this past year, I was honored to be a Celebrity Dancer for APAHA, and I have my Ten-year Service Pin from the Houston Rodeo.
World Class Beauty Queens: Tell us about your appearances or accomplishments as World Class Ambassador.
As an Ambassador, I have tried to continue to make appearances at as many Internationally attended events as possible. United Nations Day, The Mayoral Consular Ball and International Focus magazine events were a few. I was also able to go to multiple events that were more fun such as the Dragon Boat races, where I said the Pledge of Allegiance. I was also able to attend many other pageants and fashion shows where I represented at the World Class Ambassador. Crowning the new Mrs. UN pageant winner in July 2017, did not mean that my duties as an advocate for sexual assault awareness ended. As a World Class Ambassador, it means that my primary responsibilities continue as a I now represent a broader platform and have greater responsibilities.
World Class Beauty Queens: To our readers that are unfamiliar with United Nations Pageant tell us what is the system about.
The United Nations Pageant system is unlike any other, in that it is diverse and welcoming to all types of women, there is no age limit in the Mrs. Category and there is beauty in all body types and ethnicities. I believe that this system looks for women of accomplishment that have demonstrated real work in the community. The one thing that really stands out for me in this pageant is the fact that the winner and all the runners-up get their own crown. That allows those of us to represent the pageant and our platforms and to be the winners we truly are, not just a plaque or a sash. Everyone leaves a winner and my fellow winners and I have all gone on to do wonderful, very public events proudly wearing our crowns! There is a multi-colored, an emerald, a gold and a black diamond crown. We are all queens and we are able to show that, no matter the color of the crown! No other system, I know of does that!
World Class Beauty Queens: What made you decide to compete in Mrs. United Nations title?
I researched many systems before deciding that this was the right fit for me. I had experienced only one other past competition, but I learned what kind of system that I wanted to represent. United Nations truly is an international pageant, winners come from many different countries. The integrity of the judging is beyond reproach. I was looking for a title that I would be proud to represent internationally, to have the opportunity to travel to different countries and a Director that truly cared that I felt supported in what I was doing. The fact that it was in my home country, didn’t hurt my decision to travel for the pageant!!
World Class Beauty Queens: What are some major accomplishments as Mrs. United Nations 2016?
There have been so many opportunities that I have had due to the notoriety of my title! I am most proud of traveling internationally to Vietnam, Cambodia and Malaysia recently to present on my platform of increasing Awareness of Sexual Assault, Human Trafficking, and HIV/AIDS! I was able to give formal presentations to both the Children’s Detention Center population and the Women’s Detention Center population and staff in Malaysia. I am also proud of filming the 2 PSA’s for Elijah Rising to promote awareness of Human Trafficking, and the one for TAASA to promote awareness of sexual assault!
World Class Beauty Queens: What made you decide to compete in pageants?
I first became interested in 2015 due to a friend who competed and won a state title. She was able to increase awareness of her platform and encouraged me to compete to do the same for my platform on Sexual Assault awareness. I joined as a local delegate for Pearland where I lived and after the first article in the Houston Chronicle, I was able to see the benefits of have a title to promote a worthy cause. Although I had already done TV interviews, a PSA and several presentations on the subject as a Professor, I realized the power of the crown as a megaphone to reach a wider audience with my message. It was never about the “Beauty or Brains” for me, it was more about helping others in a wider venue.
World Class Beauty Queens: What would be most heart-warming mentoring story you have.
While I was in Cambodia, I met a 7 year-old girl that was sex trafficked by her own parents. She was in a safe house with staff and 20 other girls but I could tell she didn’t feel special or especially cared for by anyone, including her own parents. While she remained standoffish with others, she took to me, coming up to sit in my lap or give me random hugs, even though we could not communicate. She knew I truly saw her and cared about her as a special girl. Before I left, using a translator, I promised her I would be her “Auntie” from now on, I would come back to visit her and I would write to her alone. We both cried when I left Cambodia. I will keep my promise to financially sponsor her, and I will be visiting annually to make sure she is okay as she grows up. I will write to her often and she promised to do good in school and to learn English so she can write back to me. I made a commitment to her and myself to be the one person who will love her forever and I do it with a great sense of responsibility and joy.
World Class Beauty Queens: You also have a title of a Doctor please tell us about it.
I hold 2 PhD’s, one in Educational Psychology and one in Individual Differences. Educational Psychology is regarding the study of learning and how different programs of education are effective based on the target population. Individual Differences is the study of how individuals who may grow up in the same home, or experience the same school or program of training, even experience the same trauma, will react in a different manner or learn in a different manner. Many of us are “visual” learners versus reading something or trying it for ourselves, it is just how we best learn.
World Class Beauty Queens: Have you been awarded for your volunteer work?
Yes, many times! I have been honored to be an Ambassador for Asian America Family Services, an Ambassador for the Aga Khan Foundation and multiple service awards such as 10-years on the Houston Show and Rodeo Safety committee as a Medical team volunteer. But I volunteer for the altruistic rewards, not for the recognition, plaques, certificates, etc.
World Class Beauty Queens: Fun part of the competition is national costume tell us how did you represent your country and why?
I loved my national costume because it was hand-made, head to toe in sparkly rhinestones and had the colors of the Jamaican flag incorporated! The meaning of Jamaica is “Land of wood and water”! It has a headpiece that is made from real sea shells and the sparkle of the rhinestones represented the beautiful crystal-clear water that is found in and around Jamaica. The shawl has both driftwood and sea shells attached to a net, representing the wood element but also the net is our diversity, for we are “Out of many, one people!” The skirt has the Green, Gold and black of our national flag! The overall effect was meant to capture the “Carnival” feeling of Jamaica as well!
World Class Beauty Queens: Tell us about all the activities you’ve done during the competition.
Pageant week is hectic and fun! Fun activities included going shopping for fun and groceries for the Cook-off, going to the famous Dunn’s River Falls, going out to eat at several authentic Jamaican cuisine restaurants, and an opportunity to meet the PM that was unfortunately rescheduled. We had multiple photoshoots for active wear, evening gown, National Costume and just having fun! We got to introduce ourselves and or platforms and to video why we had chosen United Nations Pageants! We got to go and do service for the Jamaica Boys Home, both to paint and to cook as well as entertain them! We also got to practice walking, practice posing, practice for the show, practice speaking, lots of practice! We got up early and went to bed late every day, but it was rewarding and fulfilling and we all got a bit more in shape!
World Class Beauty Queens: What charity work have you done in Jamaica during the competition.
During the competition, we went to meet the boys at the Jamaica Boys Home, we got to help paint their home with a fresh coat of paint and then we had a cook off and fed them lots of yummy food! I continue to be in touch with one of the boys, but I am also in contact with the Jamaica AIDS Support for Life organization.
World Class Beauty Queens: What was your onstage strategy to win the judges over?
I think walking properly is important, but eye contact and conveying confidence with a smile is more important. We had already had our interviews and so how we presented ourselves, our stage presence was a priority.
World Class Beauty Queens: What does the crown and sash symbolizes to you?
To me, the crown and sash symbolizes my thriving, not just surviving after my assault. It is my hope that it has the same symbolism for other survivors. They also symbolize success and hard work and a sense of accomplishment. It garners respect and admiration, but it is a reminder to me to always put my best foot forward.
World Class Beauty Queens: Why should every girl compete in pageants?
Competing in pageants will build your self-confidence, your self-esteem, your ability to speak publicly, improve the way that you carry and present yourself. It will grow your sense of self, who you are, your sense of fashion, your standards for those around you. It will help you to help others and to be an ambassador for charity, kindness and caring. Having others look up to you will make you act better as a person and learn to be immune to those who judge you unfairly. I recommend this learning experience to any girl.
World Class Beauty Queens: What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind?
I hope I am a role model for healing and wholeness beyond just survival, but thriving beyond what I might have been, if I had not been assaulted. My assault affected my life in ways I cannot explain. But, it is the reason I became a Registered Nurse, the reason I became a Counselor and Psychologist, the reason I am an advocate for survivors, the reason I speak out and continue to be a voice for the voiceless. It is the reason I decided to compete, to be a bigger, international voice for the 1 in 3 women that continue to be
assaulted in her lifetime.
World Class Beauty Queens: What is the happiest memory you took with you after the competition?
After the competition, my family and I had a family reunion and vacation in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. My husband and I also renew our wedding vows on the beach surrounded by family as July is our wedding anniversary month!!!
World Class Beauty Queens Magazine would like to say thank you to 2017 Woman of the Year Mrs United Nations 2016 Peta-gay Ledbetter for this amazing interview.
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Interview by Owner/Editor in Chief Derek Tokarzewski