Christabell Nuñez has always kept herself busy – as a wife, small-business owner and community advocate. But recently, her life has been a lot busier.
In a small hotel ballroom, Christabell was named Mrs. Texas Plus America. And with the title came a lot more recognition and volunteer engagements.
Prior to the Plus America pageant, Christabell says she had no interest in pageantry – a practice she called “demoralizing” until a chance encounter changed her mind.
“It wasn’t until I met the former Mrs. Texas Plus America, Nikki Levario-Canchola, at an event in Houston and I was like, ‘wow there is a woman who looks just like me: gorgeous, confident, she’s loving her body,’” Nuñez said. “And I told her, ‘I’m proud of you.’ Never knew her, but I was proud of her for doing the representation that’s needed within my community.”
It was ultimately Nikki that encouraged Christabell to sign up for the Mrs. Austin Texas Plus pageant and put her on the journey to becoming the new Mrs. Texas Plus America.
“She goes, ‘I told the directors all about you, I think you’d be perfect’, and that’s how I got started.”
And within her first year, she would be competing on the national stage. But Nuñez’s journey to being confident in her own skin was not easy.
At 19, she was diagnosed with a pituitary tumor and three surgeries later, she still lives with a small tumor. But the initial symptoms sent her into a downward spiral.
“It was crazy. I went from weighing 104 to 220 in a matter of six months,” she said. “Of course, I was going through all the emotions of, ‘oh my God, what’s happening with my body? I don’t fit in the clothes I used to.’ So I went into a depression and I felt so alone”
And her upbringing made her shy away from seeking therapy or taking care of her mental health. Now, she works to combat these ideals within her community.
“Being Latina, mental health is something that kind of goes swept under the rug, and it’s like ‘get over it, people have it worse than you,’” she said. “While that may be true, that still does not downgrade whatever it is that I may be going through. So opening up those taboo topics in my culture is something that’s super important to me.”
As for the typical bells and whistles that come with pageantry, Nuñez says that this is another challenge for the women in the Plus America circuit.
“Being in pageantry, it’s all about fashion. We have gowns, we have elegant pant wear, but it’s so hard to find outfits,” she said. “A lot of our items have to be custom-made or tailored in and it’s very upsetting to see.”