Tia Kurek (formerly Tia McDonald) and I have competed in pageants together since we were pre-teens. I remembered as a child she was one of the most beautiful girls I had ever seen. Her face could have been blown up in a movie poster.
But beyond her physical beauty was everything she did to make a difference in the lives of people who needed it most. When she held a pageant title, she would go out of her way to make it more than a crown and sash.
She would host charity events, work with special needs kids, and raised thousands of dollars for worthy causes. After Hurricane Maria hit the US Virgin Islands, she even brought enough supplies to fill an entire plane.
I am so glad we have been able to stay in touch through social media. There is always something exciting going on in her life. I know a lot of incredible people through pageants, but Tia is honestly one of the coolest girls I know. Outside of the pageant world, she has had spreads and covers on Maxim, Sports Illustrated, and Playboy Swim. She was also recently on a billboard in LA for Supermodels Unlimited Magazine. But I must say, the most exciting new chapter of her life is now becoming a mom!
We were able to reconnect last summer when she took her mother to Europe while I was studying abroad, and discussed our goals. I wanted to find a job after graduation, and she wanted to have a USA sash and be on a magazine cover. Low and behold, several months later both our dreams came true! There was an international pageant in China that needed a USA representative and I knew it was meant to be for Tia. Tia actually did an interview with Lady Code when she was Miss Florida United States 2014, so we wanted to publish an update on everything new going on since then!
E: What have you been up to since your last interview with Lady Code?
T: Following my title as Miss Florida US 2014, a lot! I’ve been to 28 countries through modeling and pageants, co-owned a health program that was awarded by Inc. magazine, and am now living in Los Angeles, engaged, and about to have a baby!
E: What do people know you most for now?
T: I would possibly say through one of my covers or spreads in Maxim, Sports Illustrated, Playboy Swim edition or My Coast magazine. Also, I was just recently featured on a billboard through Supermodels Unlimited in LA and walked in fashion shows during NY fashion week, LA fashion week, Miami Swim Week and Cannes Film festival, with top companies like Seafolly Australia (who just got bought out by Louis Vuitton).
E: Were there any obstacles you had to overcome in your path to success?
T: Absolutely! When I was 10, and my brother had just died, my Mom was working 80 hours a week to support us, so I basically raised my other (autistic) brother, and had a lot of self esteem issues growing up. I remember coming home from school crying everyday, because kids would pick on me and was even beat up for the way I dressed and my beauty mark, which is I believe is my driving force to do something more and get out of my small town.
E: How did you reach this level of success?
T: I write down all my goals, or bucket list items, and I take steps to check each of them off.
E: What is your platform?
T: Helping those in need. I started a pageant at age 10 for special needs people, that’s still going strong and has branched into other pageants around the US. Everyone wins a crown, bag of gifts, with hair and makeup being provided by the international academy of hair design. Al together, I’ve individually raised more than $200,000, not including given 5 cars to families in need with hand gas, hand brakes, wheel chair lifts, to make it possible and accessible to get to doctor appointments and go about everyday life. For my efforts, I’ve won the President’s Bronze, Silver & Gold award, Governor’s Point of Light Honor, a proclamation from the mayor, & more.
E: Did you think you would be doing what you do now when you were a kid?
T: Yes & no! I always dreamed of traveling, and taking my Momma around Europe (we made it to Paris, London, Edinburg and Rome last summer for Mother’s Day), but I never knew the extent of the people I would meet, or the places I would see through modeling. I would have never had the opportunity to leave my small town without it, and I’m forever grateful for the life I have created.
E: What do you love most about being a woman?
T: Everything! We live in an age, where we are able to do anything we set our minds to, and it’s so empowering to have the opportunity to live out our dream, no matter what it be.
E: What inspired you to get into pageants?
T: I started doing scholarship pageants to learn confidence, skills and ultimately a way to pay for college. Thanks to pageants, I was able to graduate at age 20 with a double major at University of Florida, while on the Presidents Academic honor and Deans List, AND everything was fully covered!
E: What is one thing you need to share with all the young ladies reading this article?
T: I know it sounds taboo; but never give up. Use any obstacle that comes in your way to become stronger, and prove those wrong, who tell you that you can’t do something.. because you can accomplish your dreams with hard work and dedication!!
E: How do you deal with people that try to put you down?
T: I’ve come to ignore and shut out anyone or anything that doesn’t add value to my life. It took me a long time to realize that only you have the choice to only allow only positivity… and it’s life changing!
E: What do you plan to do in the future?
T: To continue to mark goals off my list, and be the best mother, wife and daughter that I can be. Ultimately, I would love to finish my Masters Degree, but if not, I’m happy with what I have accomplished so far.
E: What is a typical week for you?
T: It varies so much! This week, we were moving so I’ve basically had my hair up, no makeup and scrubs on moving 1000x boxes, but on weekends, I prefer to either be at an awards show, charity event or traveling to Florida (this month we got engaged on a private boat in the Bahamas) or New York (this month we also had our baby announcement on top of Rockefeller center) where my fiancé and I’s family is.
E: Anything else you would like to share with our readers
T: Yes! I just started @LyftedCBD, so keep an eye out for that. I’ve been researching holistic healing from essential oils and herbs for years and have learned that CBD relieves more than 50+ conditions including cancer, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease, heart disease, diabetes, seizures and so much more. We have premium tinctures, medical cremes and disposable pens, and it feels good to know we are helping people find relief who are usually trying an alternative from pain killers.