Though August is a month to celebrate the legal right American women received to vote, the intricate journey of growth continues for women in the United States. To be a woman today, is to uphold a beautiful complexity of two roles. It is to carry the nurturing elements of a female's nature, and yet, simultaneously, passionately make her mark in the marketplace, as a hardworking professional, and responsible citizen.
Mrs California 2017, is a prime example of this layered approach to womanhood. Kristi Eddy, Assistant Principal of Alliance Cindy & Bill Simon Technology Academy High School in Watts, Los Angeles, has defied the odds of what it means to be a Black woman in America today.
As Mrs. California 2017, Eddy is insistent on using her platform to advocate for women's fertility health. After experiencing non symptomatic medical issues at age 24, one standard doctor checkup led her into an ultrasound room, where the technician discovered a non cancerous tumor on her ovary. After immediate removal, she later discovered a cyst on the other ovary, eventually removing her ability to conceive. Though the news was disheartening, instead of living in sorrow, she decided to be a voice for other women, both those who were dealing with fertility issues, and for women who may not be aware of the risks that they face.
"Over 80% of women will have an ovarian cyst and at least 20% of them will be tumors like mine. I found that there were over one million miscarriages a year, about eight million women living with impaired fertility. It was too late for me, but I knew it wasn't too late for the millions of women out there who statistically are more likely to have a fertility condition than they are to own a home."
Eddy established her nonprofit, The Women's Ovarian & Medical Education Network Inc., in 2016 to serve as a form of non-medical preventative care for women's reproductive health. With no prior pageant experience, she chose to run for Mrs. California as a means to increase the reach of her mission. And she won.
"I can start a nonprofit and rally for help, but when I have a crown on my head, suddenly people pay more attention."
And they have. As the winner and official California representative, she will be participating in the Mrs. America competition, advocating for the same message, bringing women's fertility health to the front lines.
Yet while she competes in this prestigious, televised event, work continues for Eddy. As an Assistant Principal leading a population of hard-working, at-risk students in Watts, a region unfortunately known for its high level of gang violence and the epicenter of the past LA riots, her message of overcoming is not just for women, but for her community.
"Growing up, I never thought I could see myself at this level in Academia. As a child, I struggled with the stigma of being placed in special education, I lived in difficult socioeconomic conditions with a single mother -- by all means, the odds were against me."
Despite the challenges, Eddy eventually received her Masters in Education from UCLA, and worked her way up the ranks as a leader in the school system, -- all in her 20's. Though she is extremely proud of what she has achieved professionally, and personally, Kristi's heart for women extends to the younger generations as well, especially women of color.
"In an era where, despite our progress, African American hair and skin color doesn't fit societal norms of beauty - I have been able to interact with young girls and be a visible example that beauty does come in all colors. Having a crown on top of natural hair leaves a lasting impression on young African American girls. At a recent event a 6 year old girl with box braids came up to me and said, 'You have braids like me!' This showed me that she was looking to see herself as a beauty queen and she was able to see it and believe it because my hair was just like hers."
And a Queen she is, not just on the outside, but especially, on the inside.