Parkersburg woman poised to represent state as Miss West Virginia USA
PARKERSBURG — A Parkersburg native was crowned Miss West Virginia USA on July 11 and is set to compete at Miss USA in November.
Alexis Bland, 22, has competed in pageants since she was a teenager after her grandmother encouraged her to try, and it has been a dream of hers since to earn the title of Miss West Virginia USA.
“Whenever I was 12 or 13, I was dealing with a lot of self confidence issues, and she (my grandmother) would always tell me ‘why don’t you try Parkersburg Homecoming or doing a pageant,'” Bland said as she recalled her pageantry beginnings.
At the age of 16, Bland began to take the process more seriously and earned her first title at the Salem Apple Butter Festival in Salem, W.Va.
“You are able to experience so much, and you get to learn the interview process,” Bland said of her experiences. “When you put yourself in those uncomfortable situations, you are really allowing yourself to grow as a person.”
Bland went on to earn a multitude of titles and represent different cities in West Virginia before her most recent title. She was a West Virginia Three Rivers Festival Teen in Fairmont when she was 17, the West Virginia Interstate Fair Queen in Mineral Wells when she was 18, the West Virginia Association of Fairs and Festivals Queen in Charleston when she was 19, the West Virginia Three Rivers Festival Queen earlier this year and finally her latest accomplishment of Miss West Virginia USA as a representative from Parkersburg.
“The opportunities that opened up for me are what got me hooked to them,” Bland said. “It was very cool to be able to win the pageant (Miss West Virginia USA) representing a place I have called home forever … a very surreal moment.”
Miss West Virginia USA has been around since 1952 and Bland is the third winner from Parkersburg that will represent the state at Miss USA later this year.
Bland emphasized several important parts of her titles in the past and present that have been exceptionally rewarding to her.
“Every girl I know who competes has either hosted some sort of community service event or has participated in others,” Bland said. “And I think that’s what it’s really about, giving back to the place that has given you so much.”
Some events she has participated in that stick out as memorable include her organization of Christmas stocking distribution for patients at WVU Children’s Hospital in 2019 and her participation at Camp Echo for the past four years.
A major misconception about pageantry that Bland hopes to challenge focuses on long-established beauty standards and expectations in society.
“We used to live in a time where we had beauty pageants but we have expanded so far away (from that),” Bland said. “Now, women of all different backgrounds and stories are able to come together to compete.”
Bland hopes that both pageantry and the modeling industry, which she has also begun to delve into through her recent signing with New York Modeling Management, can continue to grow away from classifications of being purely based on “beauty,” and she hopes to encourage acceptance and positivity.
“I’ve seen her as a competitor and when she won the West Virginia Fairs and Festivals title. I saw her along the circuit where she made appearances across the state,” said Randy Sanders, the director for Miss West Virginia USA. “She’s such a classy individual with a great personality … I am anxious to work with her now in the capacity of Miss West Virginia USA.”
The road to Miss West Virginia USA required holistic mind and body preparation for Bland, and the upcoming Miss USA pageant will require the same dedication.
“Not only are you physically preparing yourself for months, but you are also mentally preparing yourself,” Bland said of her experiences with interview coaches, her study of current events, her exercise regime and her wardrobe fittings. “You want to look your best and feel your best.”
Bland discussed her huge gratitude for both her close support system and the community at large as she has pursued her dreams, especially emphasizing her grandmother and her father.
“She (my grandmother) is my best friend, my number one supporter … I am so lucky to have her be a part of it,” Bland said. “He’s (my father) what they call a pageant dad, and he’s the ultimate pageant dad.”
Bland’s grandmother Tanya Moore has been by her side the entire time and further expressed her pride of Bland’s well-educated and well-spoken nature.
“It’s been nothing but joy and pleasure to watch her grow,” Moore said. “She’s pretty serious about it … she’s always been very successful, and she works at it.”
When Bland is not doing pageant work, she fulfills her role as a Real Estate Agent for RE/MAX in Parkersburg and owns an online clothing boutique, Twisted Couture.
As she prepares for the Miss USA Pageant, which will be televised from Tulsa, Okla., on Nov. 29, Bland is now just settling into the reality of her win.
“I just want to go and enjoy the experience because this is something I will look back on for the rest of my life,” Bland said. “I’ve had so many people reach out to me from the community congratulating me. I get stopped in the grocery store..I love that I feel I have support from Parkersburg, because Parkersburg has been my home my entire life.”
Jenna Pierson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org