Chris Collins
The Baker City Herald

Misty Anderson is stepping into the spotlight herself with a walk down the runway as Mrs. Baker County in the Mrs. Oregon America competition later this month to bring attention to mental health issues.

This is the 33-year-old’s third pageant. Her first was as an Idaho representative in an international pageant for married women. Last year she represented Baker County for the first time in the Mrs. Oregon America contest. Another Baker City woman, Lori McNeil, also competed as the Eastern Oregon representative in the Mrs. Oregon America pageant.

McNeil later resigned her title in that pageant to compete in the Mrs. Oregon United States contest. McNeil was crowned Mrs. Oregon United States and will compete in the Mrs. United States pageant in Orlando, Florida, in July.

Anderson and McNeil both promoted early childhood literacy as their platform in last year’s Mrs. Oregon America.

This year, Anderson has switched her focus to mental health. She says she believes that advocating for mental health services better serves the entire community.

The Mrs. Oregon America pageant will begin at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, March 25, at the West Linn High School Performing Arts Center.

Anderson says she’s always dreamed of competing in pageants and thanks to support from her husband, Monte Anderson, a physician assistant at St. Luke’s Clinic, she’s been able to realize her childhood dreams.

She’s also motivated by the desire to be a positive role model for her three young daughters.

“It’s about being my best self,” she said. “I have three impressionable young daughters who are watching what I do.”

Anderson said she hopes to show her daughters that even though she’s a mother and a wife she can continue to pursue her goals and be her own person.

To promote her mental health platform, Anderson is working to establish a Baker County chapter of the Oregon National Alliance on Mental Illness.

“I’m the forerunner to blaze a pathway to get a chapter established,” Anderson said.

To accomplish her goal, Anderson has been meeting with representatives of New Directions Northwest, which provides mental health services in Baker County.

And through her work with the Baker School District as a paraprofessional teacher assistant at the Haines preschool, Anderson has completed mental health first aid training to certify her as a mental health responder.

“They informed us in the warning signs of attempting suicide in the school system,” she said.

Anderson also is speaking to public service organizations about her work to establish a NAMI chapter. During speaking engagements, Anderson is decked out in her sash, touting her title of Mrs. Baker County America and wearing a special pin representing the organization.

To qualify for the pageant, in addition to promoting her mental health platform throughout the county, Anderson must complete an application process, pay the fee ($550 last year and a reduced fee of $450 as a returning contestant this year), meet with the director and commit to promote the title and the Mrs. America pageant throughout the year.

Contestants will meet with pageant sponsors the day before the big event, which begins with interviews on Saturday morning. The interview is 50 percent of the scoring.

The official pageant begins at 5 p.m. on Saturday. Although it will not be televised, it will be recorded and shown later on YouTube.

While on stage, the contestants will perform an opening dance routine. They then will “strut their stuff,” Anderson said, in the swimsuit and evening gown portions of the contest — each worth 25 percent of the scoring.

Contestants are judged on their “poise, elegance, confidence and how you present yourself on stage,” Anderson said.

“You are not only promoting your personal platform, you’re promoting the (Mrs. America) organization and yourself,” she said.

See more in the March 20, 2017, issue of the Baker City Herald.