Focus on Faces

Cortney Whitley, Mrs. New Mexico 2007 and NMJC Alum

Cortney Whitley, Mrs. New Mexico 2007 and NMJC Alum photo 5/16/2008 2:02:13 p.m. - Hobbs, NM. You don't typically think of "Beauty Queen" and "Nerd" going together in the same sentence, but Cortney Whitley does! Cortney is both Mrs. New Mexico 2007 and a New Mexico Junior College alumnus.

Cortney is not your typical beauty queen. The 5-foot-2-inch married mother of one had not participated in a pageant since she was three years old. Nevertheless, for her thirtieth birthday she decided to become involved in the Mrs. America competition by running for Mrs. Hobbs.

It was her husband who initially saw an advertisement for the program and encouraged her to try. At first Cortney was unsure of running in the pageant because she regarded herself as a shy academic person, a "nerd" in her words, not someone who could get up in front of a crowd in a bathing suit and heels. Obviously she is that someone, because she was first crowned Mrs. Hobbs and soon after crowned Mrs. New Mexico. Not bad for a "nerd" from southeastern New Mexico.

Cortney credits the research skills she garnered in part at NMJC as an aid to her success in the pageants. Going into the program she knew nothing of the procedures or rules involved. To prepare, she researched the three stages that a competitor goes through: local, state and national. All three are one-of-kind competitions for married women, culminating with the nationally televised Mrs. America pageant. Like the Mrs. America pageant, the Mrs. New Mexico pageant requires participation in an interview and on stage in an evening gown and a swimsuit. There is no talent contest because, as Cortney says, "Being married is talent enough!"

After being chosen from twenty-two competitors and crowned Mrs. New Mexico on June 16, 2007, in Rio Rancho, N.M., Cortney only had eight weeks to prepare for the Mrs. America pageant in August. The pageant was held in Tucson, Arizona, at the Lowe's Ventana Resort. Cortney came in as the fourth runner-up, the first time Mrs. New Mexico had been in the top five for the past thirty-one years!

Due to her initial uncertainty about the contest procedures and the amount of investigation she had to do, Cortney wanted to educate others and make their process easier. To do this, she hosted a Mrs. New Mexico Workshop in Rio Rancho, N.M. She stresses that the Mrs. New Mexico pageant is not a malicious battle as beauty contests are often portrayed, but instead as she put it, "You become a family."

Her involvement has allowed Cortney to travel not only to Rio Rancho, N.M. and Tucson, AZ for the pageants, but also to Albuquerque, N.M., for ABC television's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition", Billings, MT, for the Mrs. Montana pageant, and Denver, CO, to visit patients in the Children's Hospital. Yet, she always returns to her hometown of Hobbs where she has made appearances for the Lea County Parade, the Lea County Women's Network, United Way's Stuff-A-Bus Program, Hobbs' Susan G Komen Foundation Event, and New Mexico Junior College's Women's History Month Celebration and open house for the Training & Outreach Facility. She says every appearance has made her a better person.

According to Cortney, being Mrs. New Mexico has helped her grow as a person, a friend, a wife and a mom. Even when her reign is over, she knows that having worn the crown gives her a louder voice to use in giving back to the community. This is exactly what she has planned after her reign. In the near future, Cortney will be teaching elementary students. After watching her own son grow up, she decided she wanted become an educator. Looking back on her own education, she noted the part that NMJC played. "I love New Mexico Junior College because you get a challenging and in-depth education, but the professors realize that you also have a life outside of school and that you are doing your best."

As a wife, a mother, NMJC alum, College of the Southwest graduate, and future educator, Cortney Whitley is much more than a "nerd" or a "beauty queen." She is a talented and caring Mrs. New Mexico who will continue to have much to give after her reign.

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