Crowned Mrs. Texas Plus America, Christabell Nuñez advocates for mental health, local businesses and Latina representation.
By Tess Harmon, Photos by Kieone Young Photography
Over the past six months, entrepreneur Christabell Nuñez has garnered a whirlwind of achievements in the plus-size pageantry circuit. In October, she was announced as Mrs. Austin Plus America, a victory which Lizzo announced on-stage during her tour in Austin. Then in March, she was crowned Mrs. Texas Plus America, running on her lifetime platform of the Hispanic Women’s Network of Texas.
A Latina Austinite and small-business owner, Nuñez discovered the plus-sized pageant system in July, and despite having no prior experience in pageantry, decided to enter the Miss Texas Plus America Pageant after finding that its mission and values closely aligned with her own.
The Miss Plus America Pageantry System gives plus-sized women the opportunity to amplify the causes that matter most to them. The pageant includes three areas of competition: interview, elegant pant wear and evening gown.
Putting My Authentic Self Forward
Nuñez remembers being most nervous for the interview portion of the pageant. This segment requires immense preparation for questions that can span numerous topics, from the war in Ukraine to Roe vs. Wade to gun laws. Not to mention the contestants’ causes and platforms.
“I wanted to make sure I put my authentic self forward but still maintain the level of poise and elegance that needs to be met,” says says. “So, I went into that weekend, had my interview and I came out of that interview so confident. I remember even telling the state director, ‘I don’t think I’ve ever felt more confident than I do right now about winning the state title.’
“Fast forward to the next evening; I end up taking the crown. But I also found out that I got a perfect interview score. The judge that gave me the perfect score has been in pageantry for 20-plus years and has never given a perfect score. I was over the moon. I was excited, and I actually couldn’t even believe that I won Mrs. Texas Plus America. It was like a dream, and I don’t even think that it has fully set in yet.”
In the runway portion of the competition, Nuñez paid homage to her heritage as well as her love for fashion.
“I did an ode to my Latin culture where I wore an amazing hand-stitched skirt,” she says. “It’s a hand-sewn skirt, with a black corset top that my mom actually crocheted the flappers for, to cascade up. My sister and husband created this whole flower crown as well. I won the runway competition as well.”
A Change of Perspective
Nuñez also participated in the spokesmodel competition. She spoke about how she used to hate pageantry, until she started learning more about it a couple of years ago. Throughout the last few years, she has recognized pageantry as a valuable tool for amplifying women’s voices and the work they do in their communities.
“I was a firm believer that pageantry demoralized women and objectified us sexually,” she admits. “I thought that people just see us as beauty, no brains. It wasn’t until I started in the most recent years [watching how]Miss America and Miss Universe were highlighting their delegates and contestants. They were so much more than just a gorgeous set of hair, beautiful features, a crown and a sash. They’re doctors, lawyers, scientists. They’re entrepreneurs, like myself. They have so much more to give within the community. They are helping their local community and even communities overseas, with different initiatives. I was like, ‘Wow, I’ve been wrong this entire time.’ I’ve learned that for myself as well because I’ve been able to raise awareness for different community organizations and be a part of different nonprofits to put them in the forefront.”
Nuñez’s emphasis on community involvement is evident in the extent to which she volunteers her time to organizations and causes that benefit her community, especially other Latinas in Austin. The day after winning Mrs. Austin, she was a keynote speaker at a conference on entrepreneurship for Latinitas. During her campaign for Mrs. Texas Plus America, Nuñez’s platform was the Hispanic Women’s Network of Texas (HWNT), a nonprofit organization which similarly strives to create Latina representation.
Nuñez on Body Positivity & Mental Health
In Austin, Nunez is also a fierce activist for food accessibility. She works with the Del Valle Community Coalition. The nonprofit serves people who have been pushed out of East and Southeast Austin into food deserts. In addition, Nuñez volunteers and donates food to the ATX Free Fridge Project, which combats food insecurity with community fridges. As part of the Austin Latino Coalition, Nuñez worked with the Texas Food Bank to provide her community with necessities during the recent winter storm. Along with her volunteerism, Nuñez speaks at conferences, pop-ups and intimate events where she promotes conversations surrounding mental health.
“When I am talking with different conferences, I discuss how I am such a fierce advocate for body positivity and having discussions on mental health, especially within my community, people of color. You know, my family did not talk about mental health. We need to normalize having these conversations, especially in [the households of]people of color because it’s overlooked. I’m here to talk about it. To break those generational curses.”
Christabell Nuñez, Entrepreneur
Outside of her volunteer work, Nuñez is an entrepreneur and owns three businesses. Continuing these discussions about mental health and body positivity in her podcast “What the Bell,” she works to create a open space for discussion and vulnerability. Additionally, she recently started a community organization called Sis Grow. Drawing from her own experiences as a small-business owner she provides resources for small businesses and up-and-coming entrepreneurs. Nuñez also runs Sis Stop Shop, a size-inclusive boutique and Austin’s first Latina-owned boutique for mid- to plus-sized bodies.
“I have sizes from 6X to XXS, but I heavily focus on sizes that are 10 and up because it is so hard for our bodies to find quality, sustainable, affordable and fashionable clothing. So I make sure that everything I pick is not only hand-picked by myself, but that I know where it comes from. I’m not about fast fashion. But I also like to help maintain the affordable price point. It’s work, but it’s very much rewarding when I see how happy these items make people.”
Nuñez hopes to continue working toward creating a sustainable brand, facilitating conversations about body positivity and mental health and working with small businesses and entrepreneurs to amplify their voices. In addition, she plans to continue competing in pageants. She has her sights set on the Mrs. Plus America pageant, which takes place in Houston in July. In the meantime, she wants to help other women and girls discover the plus-sized pageantry system.
“One thing I am excited to do with pageantry is to amplify the Mrs. Texas Plus America pageant. It is truly a journey of love and acceptance of your own body and being comfortable in the skin you’re in. Seeing that you’re gorgeous. When you’re surrounded by all these equally amazing women who have gone through the same struggles you have mentally and physically with their own bodies and self-worth, it’s just a whole new thing. I’ve gained 14 new best friends out of this competition.”