Rebecca Phillips balances both pageantry and a career in technology.
By Elle Bent
Rebecca Phillips’ journey to become Mrs. Heart of Texas Plus America is an unorthodox one. As a woman working for a tech company in Austin, Phillips signed up for her first pageant at 50 years old, a short time before it began…and with her wedding two weeks before the competition.
“I was like, ‘I wanna do this while I’m still 50,’” she says. “‘I wanna be able to say my first pageant was when I was 50 years old.’”
After watching pageantry for several years, Miss America Plus sparked her interest. So in March, Phillips competed in the Miss Texas Plus America pageant and earned the title of Mrs. Heart of Texas Plus America and Mrs. Austin Plus America.
“I just dove in headfirst, honestly. Didn’t know what I didn’t know, so I just did it,” she says with a laugh. “I had to be in a place with myself to be able to say, ‘I’m gonna get on that stage in front of a whole bunch of strangers and let them judge me.’”
Rebecca Phillips Defies Expectations
According to Phillips, most people wouldn’t expect her to go into pageantry. Diving into Miss America Plus was out of her comfort zone, but as a woman in STEM, breaking barriers isn’t something she’s unfamiliar with. Joining the pageantry community was a way to join a network of plus-size women making positive change.
“One of the biggest benefits of all of this is the amazing sisterhood. You have a bunch of women who have had somewhat similar life experiences to what you had,” she says. “As a plus-size woman you deal with a lot—snide comments, people talking about you, your weight. So we instantly had this common bond. Then we have this other bond that we’re here to break those barriers. We understand there’s a barrier there for plus-size women; we’re ready to knock that thing down, and we’re united in doing that.”
Miss Texas Plus gives plus-size women the platform to promote causes dear to them. For Phillips, this was an opportunity to promote curiosity about STEM for youth and women. With experience in mentoring young people to pave their careers into technology, she was able to use the platform pageantry gave her to launch Robots and Rhinestones, with the mission to make STEM accessible to everyone.
“When I was in high school, I wanted to join the computer club. I was told, point-blank, ‘Girls are not in the computer club,’” she says. “We are in a different world now. Girls are in the computer club; girls learn how to code. We see more and more women going into the industry. But there’s still a challenge: We still see girls get discouraged by others around them.”
Inspiring Young Women FIRST
Phillips spends time volunteering and mentoring students at robotics competitions at For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST), an international youth organization that promotes education in STEM.
“If you ever go to one of these competitions, you’ll never want to leave,” she says. “It’s the coolest experience ever because this is really where those kids who maybe aren’t into sports but are super smart get to have that team experience.”
Alongside FIRST, Phillips volunteers with the Westlake High School and Anderson High School robotics teams to offer guidance and encouragement.
Robots & Rhinestones
Thanks to her pageantry, Robots and Rhinestones is an extension of that encouragement. The name itself encapsulates the idea that you can be feminine and into the sciences and technology. Through her platform, Phillips is currently working on creating social meetups for women in technology.
“We see that women are leaving technology fields because they feel a lack of support, high stress, discrimination, so I really want to create social groups for women to meet and connect,” she says. She’s also partnered with a life coach who can help offer guidance to women who seek it.
“When I get with my girlfriends and we start the conversation, either I need your advice, or I just need you to listen,” she says. “From there we go on, and so I really want these social groups to be the same way.”
Phillips continues to keep up with her own career in technology, her volunteering efforts and the opportunities her title as Mrs. Heart of Texas Plus America has granted her to do the work that’s close to her cause.
“I want girls to still feel like they can ask the why, and it’s okay to ask the why, and they can still stay curious about the things they want to know about.”