To compete for national title in August
By Don Rush
There’s a little bit of royalty right here in Oxford. On May 6, in the little town of Plainwell, located between Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids Kelly Westbrook, 35, was crowned Mrs. Michigan. As Mrs. Michigan, in late August she will compete with 51 other women for the title of Mrs. America in Las Vegas.
“The judges first called the fourth runner up,” she said, “then third, then second and then first runner up. Then they called my name and, holy moly. Oh my gosh.”
Now, the wife, mother of two and full time Oxford Downtown Development Authority Executive Director will go into “prep mode” to prepare for the Mrs. America Pageant at the Westgate Hotel in Las Vegas. “The last night of the pageant is August 26, but I leave to go out there on August 17,” she said.
Between now and then she will make personal appearances at festivals and parades across the state as Mrs. Michigan. “It’s nice because I get to pick and choose what I can do. They know I have a family and full time job. One of the biggest things I will be doing is on June 10, the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation asked me to emcee their Taking Steps event in Southfield. They asked me before I was Mrs. Michigan, I was just a UC (ulcerative colitis) Warrior, so this is really neat because I can emcee as Mrs. Michigan,” she said.
As the old saying goes, this isn’t Westbrook’s first rodeo, nor her first experience in the pageant world. She was first runner up for both the Miss Michigan pageant in 2010 and Mrs. North Carolina in 2017. To compete in this year’s pageant, Wesbrook had to go through interviews with the five judges, who could ask her whatever they wanted. There was both a swimsuit and evening gown competition which narrowed the field of contestants down from 15 to the final eight who went on stage where more questions were asked about each woman’s “platform.”
Westbrook’s platform was “Finding Hope Throughout Chronic Illness.”
“My personal experience with Ulcerative Colitis and being diagnosed when I was 12 inspired my platform,” she said. “Despite enduring three surgeries and having to use a colostomy bag for a year before being reconnected, I remain committed to maintaining a positive attitude in the face of adversity. While my focus is on those suffering from UC, my story of hope and resilience can resonate with anyone experiencing chronic illness.”
Her first surgery for this was in 2021, where her colon was removed. Three months later she had a second surgery to create a “J-pouch”. Four months after that she had her “reconnection” surgery. She wore a colostomy bag for nine months.
“I still battle with UC. It doesn’t go away, but I keep a positive attitude,” she said. “My faith is very strong. I have prayed through everything. But, really just knowing that everybody has a trial they have to go through. Everybody has adversity they have to overcome. This is mine and it doesn’t help to be a Negative Nancy.”
Westbrook, who was raised in Oxford and graduated from Oxford High School, said she was excited to share with the judges everything wonderful about her hometown.
“When I was on stage and they announced the winner, I could hear our section. I could hear my daughter and son screaming, ‘Mommy, Mommy!’And, to see their little faces, for that it was worth it. They were very proud,” she said. “My husband Trevor has been so supportive through the whole thing. He knew that it was always a dream and goal of mine to hold a state title so I could take my platform to a statewide level.”
She said 50 percent of people nationally have some sort of chronic illness. “So, even though my story relates to UC and Crohn’s, my platform is really about finding hope and keeping a positive attitude through chronic illness in general.”
She also has a blog on Facebook called “Kelly’s Belly — No Colon, Still Rollin” which has chronicled her colostomy journey. She is also working with Rise Above Apparel, a Michigan-based company to co-design a shirt that will feature a “Scar” on the lower portion of the shirt to represent where her colostomy scar is. A portion of the sales proceeds will then go back to the Crohns and Colitis Foundation to help find a cure.
Aside from work and family time and volunteering, she is also co-authoring a book with Greg Ruvolo called, Be Kind.
AND . . .
“I am ordering What Would Jesus Do bracelets, 100 at a time and handing them out wherever I am to just spread kindness and keeping Jesus top of mind. My goal is to help as many people as I can and bring further happiness to our wonderful community,” she said.
The winner of Mrs. America will go on to compete at the next Mrs. World pageant.