Tell us a little bit about yourself…
I am a native-born Bulgarian, I immigrated to the United States when I was eight years old. I can speak, read, and write my native language of Bulgarian. In my free time I love to travel and experience different cultures. Professionally, I work in experiential marketing, law, and the fashion industry. I am able to work in all fields because I am an independent contractor. The most important things in my life are my family, romantic partner, and my friends.
What is your story?
As I mentioned above, I am a first-generation immigrant. I learned English in fourth grade when my family moved to Vernon Hills, Illinois. One of the most difficult aspects about being an immigrant was “fitting in” with my classmates. I was always made fun of because I wore too much pink or because I was too “girly”. Once I was in my teens though, I learned that being “girly” can come to one’s advantage. I learned how to do great makeup looks and put together fashion outfits which made me stand out in the fashion industry later in life.
You have had incredible success competing in pageants – how did you get started?
Once I was admitted into the University of Illinois at Chicago as an undergraduate student, I began to think about competing in pageants. Shortly after, I competed at Miss America, where I did not place; nevertheless, I never gave up and continued to compete. With much training and guidance, the following year I competed for Miss Earth Illinois. I was able to win the Miss Illinois Earth title in 2018. Then, at nationals I placed top 20 at the Miss Earth US. Shortly after in 2019, I competed for a startup pageant called MCS, also known as Miss Crowd Sourced. I was voted to represent my country of Bulgaria in the United States, which was a very emotional experience for me, particularly because it led me to reconnect with my traditional roots. Towards the end of my reign in 2019, I was invited back to compete for Miss Earth, where once again I was able to obtain the title for Miss Illinois Earth 2020.
How has competing in pageants shaped you into becoming the person you are today?
Competing in pageants has definitely sharpened my competitive skills and has influenced me to take more responsibility in my community. When a candidate is crowned, the crown is a symbol for leadership. Yes, it is shiny and luxurious, but we must remember the meaning and intent behind the crown. You are chosen as an ambassador to represent an organization. This comes with a lot of responsibility, including expressing leadership in our communities in times of hardship.
Not only do you compete in pageants, but you also model, volunteer and will be pursuing a master’s degree – how do you balance everything you do?
I have struggled with balancing all of my activities enormously. However, over time I learned a lot of “life hacks” that have helped me to stay organized and to be on top of all my work. For example, I currently have three calendars. One for volunteer work, one work related, and another for queen appearances and fashion shoots. I electronically enter all my activities into my google calendar to make sure nothing is overlapping. This way, I stay as organized as possible.
What does a healthy lifestyle look like for you? Do you have any tips for self-care and staying healthy?
The road to a healthy lifestyle can be very challenging. For me, converting into a vegan lifestyle for a year was probably one of the hardest things I have ever done. It is a journey that impacts you multiple times on a daily basis. One tip for self-care and healthy eating is to be as stubborn as possible. This means that the time you told yourself you will not eat meat and dairy means you will not give in. I learned that once you say no to meat and dairy a couple times, it gets easier to keep the momentum going.
Have you ever had moments of doubt throughout your journey? How do you continue to push yourself to follow your dreams?
Doubt is a part of life. Even the most talented people undergo this feeling, it is a part of human nature and as a human sometimes we cannot help ourselves but indulge in it. A lot of times when I experience this, I try to see the situation from a third person point of view. Sometimes that can alleviate some of the stress. A lot of times we tend to blow things out of proportion in our minds, when really when you look at a situation from a third person point of view, things are not often as bad as they seem. Another way I am able to move forward in my life is by asking myself “will this really matter five years from now”? I think this simple question allows us to strip the important things from the “not so important”.
What are your future hopes and ambitions?
Given the circumstances we are facing with Covid-19, I am honestly just hoping for humanity to come out of this with more knowledge and experience. We are all at an awful time in history, but we must understand that it’s not always going to storm forever, and that we can take all the knowledge we have from this experience and turn the world into a better place for future generations.
What advice do you have for others that has helped you throughout your journey? Are there any quotes you live by?
My advice would be to live by the day but don’t lose sight of tomorrow.
What does being Simply Unstoppable mean to you?
To me, Simply Unstoppable means undergoing any challenge life throws at you, yet absorbing all the learning components from the situation in order to better prepare yourself for the future challenges to come.
Follow Kristina on Instagram @Kristina.Dechev