When Kelsey Prince first heard about Toastmasters, she realized it was something that could help her in local and state pageants. And that’s borne out as Prince, 23, won the title of Miss Portales in November.

However, Toastmasters has also helped her as a dancer and advocate for sexual assault support. Prince, a member of Peanut Valley Toastmasters in Portales, runs her own dance studio as she prepares for the Miss New Mexico Pageant June 15-17.

Prince is a Portales native who played several sports in high school and remains active in golf. Her favorite local course is Colonial Park Golf Course in Clovis, but her favorite course was Hawks Landing in Florida. “I’m not used to water being around, so I lost a few balls.”

How did you first get interested in pageantry?

A few years ago, my mother pointed it out to me that it would be a real opportunity to dance and perform. I used to be a competitive dancer as a teenager, and I wanted to get back into that. It’s always been a passion of mine, and pageants gave me an avenue. The platform aspect is a way to help others and be involved in the community. The other aspects, I’m learning to love those as well.

When you say platform, what do you mean?

It’s what contestants advocate for. My platform is sexual assault support for survivors, or SASS for short. Girls choose everything from body image positivity to mental health to greener resources. Girls can select anything they’re passionate about, want to advocate for and want to volunteer.

How did you decide on your platform?

I wanted to choose support for sexual assault survivors because of personal experiences. A support office called ARISE in town helped me a lot, so I wanted to give back to other survivors. We do a lot of our recovery on our own. Even though there’s a huge community, especially with all of the recent press from women and men who have gone through assault, it’s all about supporting everybody together.

What was the process for being Miss Portales?

In order to have a local title given out, you must have at least four competitors. We ended up doing two local pageants because we had five girls compete. The Miss America organization does not require local competitors to pay an entry fee. Instead, we had to each raise $100 for the Children’s Miracle Network. It’s different in different communities; in the bigger cities, more people show up to compete. New Mexico is so spread out, unlike Texas and New England where a girl can compete every single weekend because each pageant is a 30-minute drive.

Should you win Miss New Mexico, what changes?

Miss New Mexico would be getting ready to compete for Miss America. It gets more serious. As Miss Portales, there’s plenty of volunteering. That happens with Miss New Mexico, but there’s more travel.

James Mamone of Peanut Valley club receives a ribbon for Best Evaluator from Kelsey Prince.

How did you hear about Toastmasters?

It was Jon Barr. We were talking about pageants, and I’ve known him while attending school at Eastern (New Mexico University) and going through the plays. He suggested it and said it would be really beneficial for pageantry, particularly the interview and public speaking portions. I visited and realized what a benefit it is and can be. I decided to join because it goes beyond pageantry. It can help when I’m talking to the parents of the dance students I teach. You’re often put on the spot to answer something.

What brought you back for a second meeting?

It’s the unique experience. There are only a handful of people in each club. Something that’s been said over the last few meetings here is that we’re a group of different people who all want to get better. We all are trying to improve ourselves and our lives in certain different ways. It’s inspirational to come here and get that motivation.

Was there a light switch moment where you realized what you did in Toastmasters affected what you did outside Toastmasters?

It was just a random question I was asked while in sash and crown. The fact I didn’t hesitate to answer … it was on the street and somebody asked me a random question during a fundraiser … led the person to give me money for the fundraising. I’d done this in Toastmasters, and it felt very similar. It goes beyond pageantry; it goes into everyday life.

What goals do you have in and out of the organization?

I actually don’t want to be a Distinguished Toastmaster. I just want to get a better awareness of my strengths and abilities. I would like to be more confident in the preparation of my speeches; I’m very analytical. I also want to do a presentation without using notes.

Outside of Toastmasters, I would like to become Miss New Mexico. I’ve still got two years to compete, and it would be a very fulfilling experience to not only serve the local community, but the state where I am from and I love. Either way, being in the pageant is still a success for me. I want to continue to teach dance at the studio and for the public schools.