Erin Engelke, an Oklahoma Christian University alumna, is sharing her platform of mental health awareness through the Mrs. Oklahoma Pageant on March 19 in Guthrie, Oklahoma.
“I want to be Mrs. Oklahoma because I feel like I fully represent married women in the state of Oklahoma,” Engelke said. “I’ve been married for almost 20 years, I have a lifetime of experience and am deeply invested in this community.”
Engelke said she is running on the platform of mental illness and depression due to personal family experiences that sparked her passion for the topic.
“I especially feel that being Mrs. Oklahoma will elevate my platform, which happens to be mental health – particularly depression in relation to suicide,” Engelke said. “Depression runs in my family, it’s hereditary. Depression is something that isn’t talked about enough in society.”
According to Engelke, the issue of mental health includes more than just depression. Engelke said she hopes to spread awareness and treatment of all kinds of mental health disorders.
“Just as much as we need to take care of our organs such as our lungs and our heart, we need to take care of our brain,” Engelke said. “I want to elevate the conversation about mental health issues. I know there are so many people who struggle silently because they feel no one will believe that what they are battling is legitimate.”
Engelke graduated from Oklahoma Christian in 2002 with a degree in public relations and advertising.
Sophomore Molly Patterson, who competes in pageants as well, said having an Oklahoma Christian alumna competing in Mrs. Oklahoma is influential to her.
“It’s great seeing someone who also went to Oklahoma Christian still competing and working hard to become Mrs. Oklahoma,” Patterson, the current Miss Northwest Oklahoma City, said. “It inspires me on my own journey to becoming Miss Oklahoma, and setting high goals.”
Since 2002, Engelke has served in a capacity of different jobs but said Feed the Children was one of the most influential.
“My time at Feed the Children was a learning opportunity,” Engelke said. “I had the chance to experience what it was like to work for a very large non-profit – one that has its hands in programs all across the world. I was their primary spokesperson, so I was in the hot seat a lot of the time. It really developed my ability to speak on camera and to the media.”
Currently, Engelke is the chief external relations officer for Sunbeam Family Services in Oklahoma City. In her current position, Engelke oversees fundraising, marketing, public relations and the volunteer program.
Engelke and her husband, Jason, are members at Memorial Road Church of Christ and have three children.
“I want my children to know that if they have a goal, small or large, they need to go for it,” Engelke said. “They can accomplish whatever they put their minds to, and I hope they have seen that in me throughout this process. I think it has been valuable for them to see their mom go for something she is passionate about.”
Although Engelke only competed in one formal pageant growing up, she said she has been comfortable speaking in front of people for as long as she can remember.
“I have always enjoyed speaking in public and being a spokesperson of sorts,” Engelke said. “Especially during my time at Oklahoma Christian, it had a significant impact on developing me as a student and professional to be.”
Engelke learned about the Mrs. Oklahoma Pageant through friends, and made the decision to compete in 2015.
“This is something that has been on my mind for a number of years,” Engelke said. “But last fall, something inside told me it was time to consider it. I prayed about it and talked to my husband about it, and made the decision to go ahead and do it.”
To be a contestant in Mrs. Oklahoma, each woman must be married and live in the city or county they represent. Engelke currently holds the title of Mrs. Edmond.
“There is a lot of work that has gone into it,” Engelke said. “I’ve been training for the better part of the last 11 or 12 weeks. A pageant is so much more than just about how you look. The judges want a well-rounded woman who can represent the state well, and I feel I can do that.”
In the Mrs. Oklahoma pageant, contestants will participate in three categories. The personal interview makes up 50 percent of the points, fitness and beauty makes up 25 percent of the points and evening gown makes up the remaining 25 percent of points.
The winner of Mrs. Oklahoma will make public appearances across the state for the next year. Appearances include speaking in schools, going to grand openings, participating in parades, among other things. She will then go on and compete for the Mrs. America title in August.
Tickets to this year’s Mrs. Oklahoma competition can be purchased online.