On August 14, Kama Montermini was so ecstatic that her close friend Derozette Banks was named first runner-up at the Mrs. Washington America pageant that the thought of who would win the title slipped her mind — until her name was called. At the age of 58, Kama became the oldest woman to win the crown.
The Olympia beauty queen’s pageant history is long, having been a competitor since she was 14, but the purpose that drives her runs deeper: Now 59, Kama hopes that winning the Mrs. America crown in Las Vegas this Saturday will open the door to establishing a chapter of her nonprofit organization, Survive, Strive, and Thrive, in every state across the U.S.
A beauty queen’s journey
Kama first entered the world of pageantry through the Ms. Washington Teen Queen pageant. After winning, she kept joining more competitions through the years with the aim of securing scholarship funds for college. She said she has since participated in “maybe seven or eight pageants.”
The beauty queen said she has pageantry to thank for the lifelong friends she has made and the opportunities that have come her way.
“When it's just Kama Montermini trying to go out to the world and, you know, get doors opened, the doors aren’t opened as much,” she told The JOLT. “But when you have a sash and a crown, it's like people want to know what you have to say.”
When she learned about the Mrs. Washington America competition in 2020, she saw it as a chance to better herself after years of raising three children, including one son who has special needs,who are now adults.
Kama started getting healthier and more involved with her community. She was named third runner-up that year.
“What it did was it helped me kind of find myself again,” she said. “You really need to make sure that your vessel isn't empty. When you operate from an empty vessel, you don't have as much to offer.”
As Mrs. Thurston County America in 2021, Kama decided to compete in the Mrs. Washington America pageant again to enjoy the “full experience,” which she said last year’s competition lacked due to pandemic-related restrictions that prevented a live audience from watching.
“I was told that I would probably never win this pageant because they've never had anybody win the pageant that was my age and so I thought, ‘Well maybe I'll prove them wrong,’” she said.
“I had to work harder, show better to prove that I deserve the title over some of these young beautiful women that don't have wrinkles and don't have to overcome some of the things that I've overcome in my life,” she added. “I felt like my maturity helped, my confidence helped, but that was all built by paying the experts that knew how to get me there.”
A mother with a mission
Montermini uses her platform to raise awareness about Survive, Strive, and Thrive, the foundation she launched two years ago that provides an exclusive community, scholarships, and grants to siblings of people with special needs.
She says she was inspired to establish the nonprofit by her two older sons who witnessed the growth of their youngest brother who has special needs.
The foundation “addresses the siblings who are going through all the things that parents have to go through, but they don't have that maturity to be able to process the emotions that they're feeling,” Kama said.
“These siblings aren't getting the attention that they need. There are traumas that they’re experiencing that the parents never notice or see because they hide it from them because they don't want to add any more burdens to their parents and their needs are getting unmet.”
Last year, Kama also published a children’s book titled “Special Elliott: The Story of a Sibling with Special Needs,” which teaches kids “to be more inclusive and more loving and accepting of those who are different than they are.” Proceeds from the book go directly to the Thank You! Eli Scholarship.
Kama is grateful to her youngest son, Eli, whom she described as a delightful person and a joy to be around despite the challenges that he has had to face throughout his life.
“He's my hero,” she said. “He just inspires me to be a better person every single day and to not be as judgmental as we can get sometimes, so I have to remember that we're all people and we all go through things, and we never know what somebody else is going through.”
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here