For the latest edition of Rochester Woman Online, we are pleased to be able to feature Bethany Stevens as our latest cover woman. She is a woman who truly wear many “crowns”. She is a wife, mother, entrepreneur, and the current reigning Mrs New York America.

We hope you enjoy our conversation with Bethany and a little glimpse of what it is like to be a modern day woman who can do it all.

Tell us a little bit about yourself. Who is Bethany Stevens?
Anyone that knows me would agree that I am “eclectic”. As a woman who wears many hats and serves in a variety of roles, I’ve always found it hard to pin down the “who are you?” question. As a wife, mom, entrepreneur, community service advocate, and travel lover you could bump into me about anywhere. At the core of who I am, I’m a seeker. I’m always looking for new ways to grow, push my boundaries, and leave the world a better place.

According to your family, you are a superwoman. You are a wife, a mother, a successful entrepreneur, and the reigning Mrs. NY America. How do you do it all?
The biggest lesson that I’ve learned in balancing different activities and priorities, is that you can choose to do it all… but you can’t do it all in one day. I found that setting bigger goals is helpful in defining where I put my energy. From there, I chip away one step at a time. Everything comes back to the “why” behind what I pursue. When you choose to engage in things that light a fire within you, it’s easy to pour your heart and soul into your work.

What and who motivates you?
I used to be highly achievement motivated. I believed that attaining certain levels of success with corporate jobs or degrees would define my worth or value. Over time, my motivators have shifted. What motivates me now stems from a desire for growth and betterment. Whether for myself or for others in my community, I know that I am blessed with a unique set of gifts and believe it is my responsibility to steward them well, striving to leave each space better than I found it.

Tell us a little about how you decided to take on the Mrs NY America pageant, what your platform is, and what your plans are for the future?
Over time I went from giving congressional speeches and sitting at business masterminds to changing diapers and singing the ABCs. While my role as a mother may be the most challenging and rewarding one yet, I felt that I lost a sense of who I was when I chose to focus on raising my kids at home. Yoga clothes, messy hair, and a global pandemic all contributed to a newfound laid-back lifestyle that I can appreciate. At the same time, I lost the motivation and drive that had burned in me before. Entering a pageant was a wild investment in myself. Committing to showing up, serving in a meaningful capacity, and being my absolute best was the carrot I needed to kickstart new habits. My platform, Deserve to Dream was born out of this personal journey.

On my road to becoming who I am, I unraveled who I thought I should be by listening to my instincts about who I wanted to become. I found this process to be so powerful that it is now my goal to share and inspire others to do the same. Whether it’s pursuing a pageant, or starting the business that’s in the back of your mind, I hope to encourage others in taking steps towards the quiet dream that pulls on their heart. I believe we all deserve our dreams and to live a life we truly love.

Who are some of the strong women that you feel have inspired you?
I have countless mentors in my life to whom I am eternally grateful. Having examples of strong women who pursue their passions and share their unique talents in this world has been my biggest inspiration. My mother, for example, at the age of 50 pivoted from a career in academia to pursue a lifelong dream of becoming a pastry chef. Watching her dare to step into the unknown was a reminder of what life is meant to be. We may not have all the answers or every path mapped out ahead, but taking the risk is worth every reward.

What do you feel is the key to women empowering other women?
It can be easy to see empowerment as a gift bestowed on us. I believe, though, that empowerment is not something that comes from another; rather, it’s something that comes from within. Through living examples of what is true to us, we can encourage and inspire others to claim their own power. When people unearth their dreams, I feel we have a social responsibility to help in pursuing them. It is from this place that I offer my personal time, resources, and energy…to ensure that all who passionately define their dreams are capable of pursuing them.

What do you feel makes you a leader, especially within your role as the reigning Mrs NY America?
Having found myself in many roles as “leader”, I find that I prefer to call myself a collaborator and integrator. I know that I can only do so much on my own and we are always better together. I understand my unique strengths and weaknesses, and I’m able to see the strength and gifts of others. My talent as a leader is my ability to see and bring out the gifts of others in a cohesive way. I provide the container in the structure to encourage others to shine. Perhaps my biggest struggle in this entire adventure is allowing myself to enjoy the spotlight.

Tell us about some of your goals and dreams for you personally and professionally.
My personal and professional goals are currently centered around creating more freedom and adventure in our lives. With so much going on, it can be a challenge to create space for new ideas that are just below the surface. I work hard to give myself space and time to simply enjoy, and reflect on where I am in the current moment. Right now I am focused on serving to the best ability within the roles that I’ve been granted. I know that my year as a title holder is short, and it is my goal to have the greatest impact and the few months I have.

Share one quote that you feel defines you and your vision?
Life is too short to not do what you love. We never know the number of our days… it’s up to us to choose living fully each day. For so many of us, we follow paths defined by what we believe our lives should look like instead of honoring what our hearts desire to do. If nothing else, I hope you’ll take this quote as an encouragement to reflect on what you love to do and what your life would look like if you chose to do more of it.

Name a female leader you look up to for mentorship and guidance.
One of my favorite yogis, Stephanie Campanelli, has been a true guiding mentor for me. As a student of hers for years, she was one of the first people to see me through the layers of who I thought I was. She reminded me that I am powerful. She reminded me that I am capable. She reminded me to let go of my fears. I’m so grateful for the subtle nudges she has given me over the years to pursue myself.

If you could do one thing you have never done what would it be and why?
My husband would agree if I set my mind on doing something… chances are I’m going to make it happen. One thing that is calling to me lately is taking our kids back to Rwanda where I have volunteered in the past. I am so grateful for opportunities to show my children the world, to open them to new perspectives, and to remind us all that there are many ways of living life. It’s up to us to find beauty in our days.

How do you balance the hectic life of being a female entrepreneur and being a pageant queen with being a mom and a wife?
Making time for me is the pinnacle of finding balance in our home. I often feel like I’m the captain of the ship, chauffeuring people off in different directions and project managing the day-to-day schedules. To be mindful of everyone’s individual and collective priorities, I know that I need to make time for myself. It’s not always easy, but on the days when you feel like you simply don’t have time for yourself, that is the day you need the time and space more than ever. In this way, I hope that I am acting as a model for my children in that I do not need to be a martyr and sacrifice my own desires for the desires of others. It truly takes a team. All of us coming together, respecting one another, and working collaboratively to support each other’s desires.

What is one piece of advice you have been given that you have never forgotten ?
If you’re scared, do it anyway. My husband has taught me that there are no great rewards in life without great risks. He’s encouraged me to stretch my boundaries and my comfort zone. It is in the times when everything felt so terrifying and unknown that we’ve made the greatest leaps forward in our lives. Trust remains at the core for us. When you trust that you are safe and loved, you can be brave enough to face the scary things in life together.

If you could meet any person in history who would it be and why?
I would love the opportunity to meet Susan B Anthony – a leader of the women’s suffrage movement and icon for freedom, equality, and choice. I admire her bravery and commitment to a cause that was much greater than herself, and that altered the course of history for women across our nation.

What’s the most important risk you ever taken? How did it play out for you?
One of the most important risks I’ve ever taken was choosing to move to New Zealand for a study abroad and teaching opportunity. How I managed to choose one of the furthest points away from home for my first time traveling abroad, I’m still not entirely sure! Taking that risk, however, open to my eyes to a literal world of possibility. Travel has changed me. It has reminded me that though we may live vastly different lives and have differing priorities or values, we are all human beings worthy of appreciation and respect.

How do you continue to constantly grow both personally and professionally? What have been some things that have worked well for you, and some that have not.
I believe that learning is never-ending! Some of my greatest life lessons have come from the tiniest people in my life, my children. There are opportunities to learn and grow every day, and I try my best to embrace them off. I love a good podcast or book and am a self-proclaimed public television nerd. No matter your interests, finding ways to continue learning while building new skills and knowledge is so important to live a fulfilling life.

I am sure you were excited and overwhelmed to take on this new position. What have you found to be challenging? What do you feel you have been successful at?
What a dream come true! Perhaps the most overwhelming part of the experience involved prepping for the national competition shortly after winning the title of Mrs. New York. Being new to the Pageant world, I had a bit of a learning curve to overcome. Through it all, I am so grateful for the incredible support system that has been our New York team. Together we’ve been able to create some magical moments and it has allowed me to enjoy the process as it unfolds. I look forward to partnering with more initiatives across New York and highlighting the hard-working, generous, and committed organizations that work tirelessly to improve our great state.

What is your vision for the future? Where do you see yourself in the next 3 years? What about 5 years?
Daydreaming is one of my favorite activities! I don’t always know what’s next on the horizon, but I am always up for an adventure. We have a family goal to relocate to Europe for a year and I would love to be in an area that is easily accessible by rail. Relocating abroad in the next few years is our way of exposing our children to different languages, cultures, values, and priorities.

Would you say that you are a good role model for your children and for others? What makes you a good role model.
I believe we are on the edge of a new paradigm for women and mothers in particular. For the longest time, a good mother has been a martyr, someone who sacrifices for the sake of others’ needs and well-being. Today, I think the role of a mother is to be a model. Taking the time to fill up your cup, to do the things that make you you outside of all the roles that you assume. I hope that I am being a good model to my children by chasing after my dreams and being an example of what is possible with perseverance.

What do you think is the biggest problem facing young entrepreneurs, especially females today?
Confidence. Many women, myself included, downplay our many talents and skills. We’ve seen the way the traditional world of success has worked in the past and we don’t always see ourselves and that image. Being brave enough to trailblaze a new idea or take on a new identity can be bold and terrifying. To feel truly empowered and up to the task of entrepreneurship, women have to find their voice, their power, and their confidence. Thankfully, there are so many resources out there today dedicated to this cause. Finding a great mentor or cheerleading team that can support you mentally is integral to taking the first steps.

If you could give your younger self one piece of advice what would that be?
Dream bigger. As kids, we think that the world is full of endless opportunities. We write down all the things we dream of being when we grow up. An astronaut, a veterinarian, a teacher… then somewhere along the way, we are told that we have to choose. And that many of our choices are impractical or impossible. What I’ve learned in my life is that some people choose to ignore when they are told no. And those people are the ones that have created amazing and innovative things in this world. You’re never too young or too old to dream big. I hope to inspire others to choose their big dreams.

With the current negative media attention about pageantry, what advice would you give someone on the fence about competing?
Being new to the pageant world, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. What I found, however, is that pageantry is not entirely what I imagined. Beauty can be expressed in so many different forms. Pageantry is about sharing your unique beauty to the world. It’s about shining light on the gifts that you’ve been given and the opportunities that you’ve cultivated. It’s less about the big hair, makeup, and fancy dresses as it is about the sisterhood of supporting and uplifting one another to be your best. I am truly honored and humbled to stand in this role. When you meet a woman in a pageant, know that you are in the presence of someone truly powerful. It takes so much courage to put yourself out there in this way, and every single person who graces that stage is worthy of a crown.

What is your favorite form of social media and why?
Social media is a funny thing. It can be used to help us connect, or it can be used as an escape from reality. I find that I have to play by my own rules on social media platforms in order to keep it authentic. I cannot pretend to be anyone other than me. Lately, I’ve had so much fun with reels and finding creative ways to express the day-to-day happenings in my life.

Tell our audience something people may not know about you?
I simply cannot cook! I am so grateful for my husband to enjoys cooking for our family…and so are our kids who quickly tire of my boxed mac n cheese game.

Where will we see you next?
I’ve made so many wonderful connections across the state and am so grateful for the many opportunities to volunteer my time and energy in this role. Follow along on my social media accounts @2022MrsNYAmerica to stay up to date or reach out to me on my website to coordinate any collaboration opportunities. I can’t wait to connect!