Written for Latin Business Today


It was November 6, 2022, when Johanna received a Facebook message from Janet Walters letting her know that she was nominating her for the Woman of Achievement Pageant. She couldn’t believe someone thought she was “pageant material.” She had never competed in a pageant — the fact is, she sees herself as a bit of a tom boy all together, so what Janet saw in her she couldn’t quite figure out.

Johanna calls herself a YES girl, her thoughts are that life is to be experienced, so when unique opportunities present themselves, she usually jumps to it. But this was different. This is a pageant, and there is so much to learn and prepare that she had to really think about it.

She got on the phone with Marlena Martin, the founder of the event, and had her preliminary interview, to see if she would be a good candidate. After the interview she was sent an application that would be reviewed and judged before she would even possibly be invited to participate, representing her home of Puerto Rico. This WOA Pageant focuses on the impact women are creating in the world, so she knew that Yoga would be her platform. But how could she relate the importance enough to make her life’s mission understood and supported by the judges?

To be a winner, you’ve also got to look the part.

Most women spend all year getting ready for a pageant, and she had two months. She dove into YouTube university and figured out how to stand, walk, and of course dress. Stepping out of her comfort zone, she began to contact potential collaborators and sponsors for the event and was so pleasantly surprised at all the support that she received.

She contacted Luis Lopez, a fashion designer for Mrs. Universe gowns and he agreed to let her wear one of his gowns. She contacted an old friend Namibia Viera and Ropajes Inc. and received two of her outfits from them. She shopped until she dropped, and her husband bought her the red gown that she would first take the stage in the day of the event.

Hair and makeup are a crucial component of these type of events, so she contacted her old colleague Gisell Jarquin (who owns a makeup school) and she herself came to her rescue to get glammed up all weekend long.

Johanna knew it was an honor to represent Puerto Rico, so with the help of Turismo de Puerto Rico and Discover Puerto Rico she got goodies for the judges and could demonstrate her country’s support of her competing and representing them.

Even winners can doubt themselves — and that’s ok.

When it came time for the pageant a bit of imposter syndrome set in. She had never in her life even pondered the thoughts of being in a pageant and being nominated to Woman of Achievement meant that many of these women have accomplished incredible things in their lives… What can a yoga teacher compete with that?

But with the help of her family, she overcame those thoughts, as her loved ones reminded her of all the things she herself had accomplished… working with Hispanic mothers to translate WIC programs for them, helping raise funds to educate children in Nicaragua, eco-conservation efforts in Costa Rica, working with previously incarcerated individuals in California and so much more.

After taking 6 weeks to write her speech and get clarity on her platform, she was as ready as she would ever be to embark on this unique and once in a lifetime experience.

It was grueling — She had 4 outfit changes, and completed the personal interview, was indeed crowned Mrs. Puerto Rico!

…and that was only on the first day! The second day she performed her speech and her platform interview and then spent the evening practicing for the final event and having a PJ party, getting to know the rest of the girls better.

Sunday, she woke up a woman on a mission. She knew her speech had gone well but had no idea how she had done in any other of the interviews or what the judges thought of her choice of outfits and most importantly what she stood for through her platform Creating Inner peace though yoga philosophy.

Gisell Jarquin, her makeup artist was incredible! She had made her seem regal all weekend and the finale was no exception. Johanna was starting to really feel like a queen. After the introductions, it was time to start announcing the winners. She was called up right away as the top winner of the speech category. Her night was already complete she thought! She couldn’t believe she had won the speech and that really completed this experience for her. Until she was called again as one of the three finalists for platform awards and then to receive the top platform award!

The finale was entirely unexpected.

It started to dawn on her that she had a chance to win! When they picked her a winner for the fitness portion of the pageant she was beyond words. She didn’t know she had won because she did not understand the point system, but all the other girls knew. They would say “I see a crown in your future” or “Congratulations” before the night was even over!

Once all the contestants got on stage and the runner ups began to be called, she was just happy for everyone else. When it came time to announce the winner everyone was looking at her, so when her name was called the only one so shocked and surprised was her.

The weeks of planning, preparing, and obsessing about every detail had paid off and she would be taking home the crown! Johanna recognizes that her winning was a team effort. Without the support of her sponsors and her family (especially her husband who sponsored a gown and part of the competition for her) she should have never been able to come out on top.

She was asked what she will be doing now that she has the crown, and her answer was simple “creating a greater impact and elevating the state of humanity, it’s what I live for and the reason I get up every morning and feel like a have a meaningful and purposeful life.