Original Article by Cheyenne Alexis of the Washington County Pilot Tribune & Enterprise.
Posted Tuesday, June 22, 2021 10:30 am.
By Cheyenne Alexis - firstname.lastname@example.org
From Nebraska to North Carolina, Tara Allmendinger has always wanted to share her journey about self-healing with a large audience. Allmendinger was named Mrs. North Carolina June 12, and will be competing at the Mrs. America Pageant in Las Vegas in November.
Allmendinger started pageantry one year ago, though it's something she's always dreamed of doing. "I did everything I could to prepare myself," she said. "Once I was in North Carolina, I started meeting people that had done it before. I would start to see people and they'd say, 'You should try this.'" Allmendinger's journey began in Fort Calhoun, where she attended school from kindergarten until graduating in 2007.
While at Fort Calhoun High School, Allmendinger competed in cross country and was part of the team's state championship in 2006, which was also the first girls' state championship. Being part of that successful team was one instance of Allmendinger showcasing her leadership skills, which she said she's always taken pride in.
"I've always been a go-getter and had really big dreams and aspirations," she said. After graduating from FCHS, Allmendinger attended the University of Nebraska - Lincoln, where she graduated with the highest honors with a master's in architecture. "That was another moment that I'm very proud of," she said.
Meeting her husband, A.J., a NASCAR driver, was what brought her to North Carolina. Though she has had many opportunities being in North Carolina, one hardship was losing her mother due to pancreatic cancer, and struggling to find a balance as she dealt through that rough patch. Another element Allmendinger struggled to conquer is health-related issues and allergies, which she channeled into her platform.
"I had to dig deep and ask myself a lot of questions like, 'Am I happy, why am I not feeling satisfied and fully happy?' I have things in my life that are great, but there's something that I'm really missing," she said. "Doing that self-work is really hard, but I was able to turn that into a platform and I titled it 'Wellness Warrior,' and that need for constant improvement, not perfection, and being honest with yourself and vulnerable and share my story with other people ... I found there was so much power in that."
Joining pageants was something Allmendinger found to share her struggles and help other people.
"Doing the pageant and having other people say, 'That's inspiring and infectious' is really cool, and has really lit my fire to do more," she said. "Pageants are such a great vehicle for self-improvement."
As an ambassador for the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation, Allmendinger also hopes to use the Mrs. America pageant to spread awareness to water protection, which ties into her health-related struggles. "Where I'm at now is really similar to where Fort Calhoun sits — it's on the river near a nuclear plant, near a coal plant," she said. "For me to talk about water quality and rivers, especially with the floods that have been going on with the Missouri River and North Carolina on the Catawba River, there's a need for a voice for our river, water quality and health. I would not be a Wellness Warrior if I didn't talk about our water.
"If you're not putting good water in you, you are not going to have success in anything you do because your brain and stomach aren't connected, and they need good, clean water."
With her skills in design, Allmendinger said she's taking an extra step in the pageant world and creating a shoe line, called Queen Line, for pageant contestants to feel comfortable and inclusive.
"I just love that I've been able to pivot in an industry that I really love using design skills that I went to school for," she said.
Winning Mrs. North Carolina was a "freeing" feeling for Allmendinger.
"I didn't want to go into it surprised, I went into it prepared," she said. "I thought, 'I feel like a really good candidate and no matter what happens, I love my life, so I don't need this, but I'd love to have this.' Then, when it happened, I felt free and it felt really good to have done something and gotten up there and see it come full-circle."