The MNY Spotlight

Meet Jena Sims, Founder and President of the Pageant of Hope

Introduce yourself! 

Hi! I’m Jena Sims, the Founder and President of the Pageant of Hope, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that aims to celebrate the importance of inner beauty and self-confidence among kids and teens facing challenges. I’m originally from Georgia, but I spent my 20s in Los Angeles pursing modeling and acting. After a successful stint out west, I decided to move to Jupiter, FL to live with my now fiancé, Brooks! When I’m not working, I enjoy traveling and supporting him on the PGA Tour. We have a beautiful black lab named Cove that we enjoy taking on boat rides and to the local dog beach! 

Jena Sims of Jupiter Florida

Follow along at @pageantofhope

What led to the creation of your non-profit organization, Pageant of Hope?

I started this empowering event back in 2005 after seeing the impact winning my first pageant had on my self-confidence and self-worth. I wanted to pass this winning feeling on to kids and teens facing challenges. My favorite part of the event is seeing the transformation the participants experience in just one day! We do their hair, make-up, nails, interview, walk and pose training, and each kid gets to walk the stage as their bio is read. At the end of the day, we have a coronation and every participant leaves with a unique title, crown, and sash. We’ve been fortunate enough to travel all over the world, crowning thousands of deserving kids. 

Why is it important to you to empower children? 

Our participants are of all ages and backgrounds- boys and girls. Kids facing challenges have a special place in my heart. When I was 10, I lost both of my grandfathers to cancer, and it was very impactful for me at such an early age. I started to volunteer with the American Cancer Society and had the opportunity to volunteer at hospitals and meet kids who were sick. I was so touched, and this was what initially what inspired me to start the pageant. Those kids couldn’t play basketball or soccer or even dance or cheer- two things I grew up loving and doing. I wanted an event that was low impact for them (physically) and an event for the families to have an opportunity to support them. It brings happy tears to my eyes seeing the parents network with each other, and form bonds. They show up with posters, flowers, a camera- you name it! It gives me chills just thinking about it all over!

What is inspiring you at the moment as a non-profit founder?

At the moment, I’m inspired to get people back out of the house- now that it is safer to do so. We are adjusting to this post pandemic life and moving forward. We recently held an event in Jupiter, and you could just feel the energy and excitement of bringing people together for live events again! 

How do you interpret “invest in yourself?” and what are the types of things you do to invest in/ empower yourself?

My initial thought about this as I read it is to just take time out of your day to put yourself first. There is magic is pausing and taking a few deep breaths. Putting off a task for 30 minutes- if that is what your body and mind are telling you to do. Living in Florida has taught me how to slow down, thankfully! I’m actually an introvert (shocking, I know-my career involves talking to the camera or to a live audience!) so I’ve always prioritized and understood that alone time is how I recharge. You can’t pour from an empty glass. Investing in yourself can also mean being kind to yourself with your thoughts, going to therapy, learning a new skill, taking a risk- anything with a net positive impact! 

Jena Sims, Founder and President of the Pageant of Hope

Jena wears the Adelina Gown and Magnolia Drop Earrings

Do you have any advice for someone who wants to make a difference and contribute to a cause in their community?

Find a cause that means a lot to you specifically. I donate my time to the Pageant of Hope, but my money goes to various organizations that are also close to my heart. One of my favorite causes is Big Dog Ranch, the largest no kill animal shelter in the country. Another organization I donate to is the Cystic Fibrosis foundation, because my close friend Kristen lost her sister to the disease. Each year the life expectancy increases for those fighting CF due to the funding and research. Do your own research and find out how the funding is allotted, what results from the funding, and make sure the cause is a 501(c)3 nonprofit. CNN has a website that vets nonprofits, and currently they are focused on donations for Ukraine relief efforts. There are other ways to get involved without donating money. Recently, I formed a team to walk for Best Buddies in April. The “Friendship Walk” is the leading walk in the country raising awareness and supporting inclusion for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 

What draws you to the Mestiza brand?

At first, the colors are what drew me to the brand. My closet looks like you’re stepping foot inside of a rainbow- it’s magical! Other than the design and colors of the pieces themselves, I learned about your dress donation program- the missions of both your brand and my charity are closely aligned! We love women supporting and uplifting other women!!

Jena Sims wearing a dress by Mestiza New York
How do you like your Mestiza pieces?! Any details on how it fits or makes you feel?

I love the fun monkey print of my gown! It is so playful- mixed with the sexiness of the open back and the ruffles making it a statement piece that will keep people on their toes! I am going to wear this to a black-tie wedding I have coming up in the Keys. I will get great use of the earrings as well, I love gold- and what girl doesn’t love flowers? These will pair great with my gown, or something as simple as letting them shine while wearing a tank and a pair of jeans. 

What’s the best advice you could give to someone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

Know your worth! Taking risks in your life- whether its career, personal, creative, or otherwise comes with haters and people who will doubt you. Believing in yourself, as cheesy as it sounds, will get you so far. If you’re in a room with people more accomplished than you, or on a big job, know you deserve to be there. Believe it in your bones. I’m a big fan of manifestation and speaking things into existence. If you speak positively to yourself and are kind to your mind, things will happen for you fall into place. Write your goals down and say them out loud. 

You also get to put the work in as well. I started modeling and acting when I was 15, and I said yes to most every opportunity because I believed that it would lead me to the next gig, or maybe I’d make a connection with someone that would hire me down the road. I’ve never put all my eggs in one basket either. Aside from running the nonprofit, modeling, and acting I also create content for 10-12 brands on Instagram a month, I’m a homeowner to a vacation rental in the Bahamas with my mother, I own part of a beauty brand, I travel with my fiancé on the PGA Tour, we are wedding planning, I’m launching a golf shoe with Steve Madden this month…  the list goes on and I hope it never stops. I’m a Capricorn, we are natural born hustlers, and we thrive when we are constantly working on something. Before one job is complete, I’ve already got my eyes set on the next! Maybe I’m just an excellent multi-tasker ☺

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