For many, perceptions of beauty pageants are largely formed by shows such as “Toddlers & Tiaras” or beloved blockbusters like “Miss Congeniality.” We associate pageants with overbearing stage moms or unlikely contestants of the Gracie Lou Freebush variety.
But for Allen resident Annika Hinton, it wasn’t a thirst for fame or an FBI cover that led her to compete for the Mrs. Texas crown in 2022 – it was the advice of her therapist.
Following the birth of her first child, Annika joined the estimated 10 to 20 percent of mothers who experience postpartum depression. She sought the help of a therapist who advised her to find something to do just for herself.
“Being a mom, you give 100% of yourself to absolutely everything else – whether it’s work, your child, your husband – so she told me to find something I could do just for me.”
That same week, a friend sent her a link for the Mrs. Texas Pageant. Her mom agreed to watch her son, and Annika decided to go for it.
She never anticipated she would win Mrs. Texas.
She saw the experience as a fun excuse to get her hair and makeup done and spend a weekend away with her husband in San Antonio.
Her platform since day one has been to spread awareness about postpartum depression and anxiety. At the Mrs. Texas Pageant, Annika’s hair and makeup artist heard her speech on the subject. The next day, she shared something with Annika she had only shared with her husband: she, too, was battling postpartum depression.
Annika’s speech inspired her to seek help.
At that moment, Annika told her husband, “I don’t care if I win. I did my job. I got to one person that needed to hear that message.”
As if Annika herself weren’t enough to dispel the misconceptions many hold of pageant participants, she’s quick to note the intelligence, depth, and generosity of her fellow competitors. Many are doctors or lawyers, and all of the participants have a cause they support passionately. In Annika’s experience, most competitors are there for the adventure, though some are very motivated by a desire to win.
As she puts it, “You’re never going to have that many women who are competing so heavily against each other, but yet are just so supportive of each other.”
When asked in her interview how she would handle a loss, Annika, who admits she’s a little sarcastic, responded, “Well, the way I look at it, today’s Saturday. On Monday I have to clock into work at 8 a.m. if I win and I have to clock in at 8 am. if I lose.”
But Annika did win.
After being crowned Mrs. Texas, she competed in the Mrs. International competition in Las Vegas. As runner up, she was crowned Mrs. United States and has been using her crown for good ever since.
In addition to increasing awareness about postpartum depression, she founded an organization called “Love and Letters.” Each month, the group collects thank you notes from local schools to give to a group of modern-day heroes. Annika, who is the assistant director of a preschool, says all of the children at her school participate, from infants who contribute handprints to two-year-olds who write scribbly letters up to preschoolers who write their own notes.
Annika, who is expecting her second child in late May, will compete in the Mrs. International Competition again at the end of July. Whether or not she wins the crown, she wins the hearts of all who meet her and makes our community better by giving back.
“I don’t care if I win. I did my job. I got to one person that needed to hear that message.”