Inspired by Past Hardship, an Unexpected Pageant Queen Gives Back
Image credit: DazzleShot Images
An interview with the incomparable LaSonya Alexander Frazier
LaSonya Alexander Frazier is the Solo Mom of seven children, founder of Momscandoit2, and crowned winner of Ms. Illinois American Elegance Lady 2017. She will be competing for the national title on Sunday, November 12, 2017, in Itasca, Illinois, at the 19th annual American Elegance Pageant. ESME caught up with her between a dress fitting and a radio interview with Alyssa Gallarneau of WLRL 98.3’s The Aly G Show.
Q: How did you get involved in a beauty pageant?
A: It was the craziest thing! Pageant director Lauren Ransom saw my Facebook page and reached out to me. She said I was gorgeous and doing great work in the community, so I should be part of this pageant system.
Q: What did you say?
A: I said, “Lady, don’t you know I’m plus-sized and I’m 40? Aren’t pageants for skinny, pretty girls?” She laughed and said, “Just come to boot camp, and you’ll see why you need to do this pageant system.” So I did—and I was in awe. When the other women got up and shared their amazing stories, passions, and platforms—I realized I could do this. But I didn’t think I’d win the title. I never thought that!
Q: Did you have a platform?
A: Yes. In 2009, I had started Momscandoit2 (although it was Momscandoittoo) when I lived in Vegas. So I was already on that path, but the pageant gave me more courage. At first I was just trying to help a few people out, but my director said, “LaSonya, this is huge. What you are doing is amazing; you need to step it up, and we will help you. American Elegance will back you up and support you.” I’ve been on cloud nine ever since.
Q: Tell us more about Momscandoit2.
A: In 2009, my brother gifted me a $2,500 ticket to go to a training led by motivational speaker James Malinchak. The first day of this training, Malinchak asked me, “What are you good at?” I said, “Well, people always call me for help with their problems.” He told me, “Before you leave here, I want you to come up with the name of your organization because you have a gift, and you deserve to be highly compensated for it.” I will never forget that. By the second day of the training, I came up with the name “Momscandoittoo.” I had that for a while, and I got my website. One day, I couldn’t pay for my domain renewal and a lady took it. I became so depressed because this lady took my name. I shut down for two years. But one day, I thought, You know what? People continue to talk about Momscandoittoo, and I continue to do training all over Vegas—that’s my name! I need my name! I’m going to continue to use it and put the number 2 at the end because moms are doing the job of two parents!
Q: Heck ya, we do! What do you do through Momscandoit2?
A: The biggest thing I do is teach women how to return to the workforce after going through domestic violence, tragedies, incarceration, an illness, etc. I give them interview clothes, do their hair and makeup, make their résumés, and train them in how to interview. I let women know there are resources out there and where to find them. I’m taking my life’s journey and using it as a tool to help guide other women. I not only help with getting a job but also with sustaining a job. For example, I help them with HR issues and child-care issues.
Q: Is there a mom who really moved you?
A: I was very excited about a mom who had just gotten out of jail after four years. She didn’t have any work clothes, and she said that she had trouble going to interviews because she didn’t know how to talk through them. She was a little embarrassed. She came with her daughter, and we got them both clothes and did their hair and makeup. I try to keep it fun. A lot of women who have gone through a tragic situation have a hard time reentering the workforce. Take me, for example. I was homeless, I had to pull myself together, pull myself out of a shelter, find a job, find another home for my family, and start my life.
Q: Will you tell us your story?
A: It started when my son attempted suicide. Afterward, he had to attend therapy. At that point, I had been with my company for four years. Companies love it when you can be there front and center, but when you have to put your family first, that’s when the breakdown happens. I had to make a decision to be with my son for therapy and that caused a conflict with my job. I ended up losing my job. When that happens, it affects your income, you can’t pay your rent, and you lose your home. I ended up in a shelter. Everything was a trickle effect. My company didn’t realize that I should have been more supported. It offered me therapy for free, but you have to offer the whole package. You can’t just say “We’ll pay for therapy, but we won’t let you take the days off to do it.”
Q: How was your experience at the shelter?
A: MorningStar Mission is a shelter in Joliet, Illinois. It is beautiful—it looks like a hotel. With me were six out of seven children and two grandchildren. They took all of us in and gave me two rooms together. We ended up staying there for three months!
Q: How did you eventually get out of the shelter?
A: During the time I was there, I got my insurance license so I could sell insurance. Throughout, I was also in contact with Catholic Charities because a counselor at my son’s school had put me in touch with them before I had found the shelter. I was so grateful to her for doing this. Eventually, Catholic Charities helped me find a home for my family.
Q: So there are resources out there to help a Solo Mom in need?
A: Yes! But moms either don’t know about them or they are too ashamed to ask. The biggest thing is the shame. The funny thing is that I used to volunteer at a shelter and wonder how the people there had ended up there. How does a mom with six children end up in a shelter? Well, now I know. It’s no particular person. You never know how life will turn. When we lived in Vegas, I had a good job, we lived in a 4,000-square-foot home, and I was very proud of what I had accomplished for my children. When I brought them back to Chicago, they were very angry with me, and I know that was a big part of what happened with my son. Everything went downhill after I came back. But I came home because a loved one was having health challenges, and I had to.
Q: What was your low point?
A: When I woke up sleeping in a truck looking up at the sky, I thought, How did this happen? It was the worst feeling in the world. I thought, I’ve got to fix this for my kids. I don’t know how, but I’ve got to. And I did. I just pushed through. That’s what I try to encourage mothers to do. I don’t have a lot of degrees and all that stuff. All I have is genuine experience and encouragement from my heart. I think that’s what I give that’s unique because I can really speak to tragedies. When people hear that you’ve been through it and lived through it and you are still OK, that’s what’s really important.
I share my story about my child attempting suicide, too, because we need to talk about it. I want to share what I have learned through this terrible experience. As moms, we don’t always see it. Going through counseling afterward, I learned the signs and the triggers. They were all there. The thought of my child wanting to leave the world still brings tears to my eyes. I tell moms not to take any of it for granted. It’s hard for any Solo Moms, but if you have multiple children, it’s especially hard to make sure that your children are actually doing well. I try to show moms ways in which they can touch each child.
Q: Is the goal of the American Elegance pageant system to validate, support, and showcase badass women like you?
A: Yes! This pageant is about beauty from the inside out. They are looking for giving, unselfish women who carry themselves with a certain class. The women who are part of the system have very high standards in life, are active in their communities, and are family-oriented. If you have a platform, they will help you push it. If you don’t, they will help you develop one. The sister queens are all incredible, and I’m so honored to be in their company. This is why I’m so proud of this pageant—it really gave me a reason to hold my head up high.
Do you know an amazing Solo Mom whom we should feature? Let us know.
Mika Yamamoto has successfully nurtured two children as a Solo Mom and now hopes to achieve the same results as a plant nanny.
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