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Big voice, big heart
Cristie Kibler sings, crusades against cancer, mentors young girls and competes in beauty pageants. Did we mention that she’s also a full-time honors student?

Breast cancer prevention and country music are Honors College sophomore Cristie Kibler’s twin passions. Both are rooted in her relationship with her Aunt Janet, and both play significant roles in her singing and beauty pageant endeavors.

Cristie Kibler Sophomore Cristie Kibler's interest in cancer prevention stems from her Aunt Janet, a breast cancer survivor. Kibler publishes an e-mail newsletter, The Crusader, that promotes healthy life choices.

“She is probably the most platform-driven contestant I have ever seen,” Miss Southlake Pageant Director Heather Bruce said.

That platform is breast cancer.

Kibler, whose parents divorced when she was a preschooler, grew up with her father and her aunt, a two-time breast cancer survivor.

“My aunt keeps apprised of new developments in the field through lots of medical publications,” she said. “So I started taking that information and publishing The Crusader. It’s an e-mail newsletter dealing with breast cancer issues and healthy life choices.”

An advocate for increased awareness, research, early detection and medical treatment for breast cancer survivors and patients, she developed an education program called Cristie’s Cancer Crusaders. She teaches children about good habits, including diet, exercise, coping with peer pressure and making the right choices. She hopes to be an avenue of support for children with a loved one battling cancer.

By middle and high school, she says, a girl should be aware of how to conduct a breast self-exam. She encourages young people of both sexes to be “informed consumers” and active participants in their health care choices.

Kibler also volunteers and sings at cancer fundraisers like Relay for Life and Race for the Cure. And when she sings, the selections are most often from her All Things Country CD.

As a child, she abhorred country music. When she was 6, her father told her they were going to move. She showed her displeasure by retorting that he was probably going to make her listen to country music, too. That was the worst fate her young mind could conjure.

But shortly after the move, she accompanied her aunt to see Reba McEntire, and her taste in music took a U-turn.

“It was just after I had finished chemo after the first time I had breast cancer, and we were taking a vacation, just the two of us,” Janet Kibler said. “We were actually headed to San Antonio to see the Alamo, but the first night we went to Dallas and saw Reba McEntire’s show. Reba puts on a fabulous show: She flies through the air and wears all these beautiful costumes. Cristie was just fascinated.”

From that day on, whenever Aunt Janet went to her office on the weekends to catch up on work and she took Cristie, the child always brought Reba CDs and sang along with them. Within a couple of years, she was performing at local opry houses in Wylie, Stephenville and Garland.

To the senior citizens in these towns, the opry was more than entertainment. It was like a family.

“I had 50 sets of grandparents wherever I went,” Cristie said.

The opry circuit intensified during her junior high years. She sang at the Stockyards Opry in Fort Worth at age 13, and Star-Telegram critic Perry Stewart dubbed her “the little girl with a big voice.” When she moved on to Birdville High School in North Richland Hills, where she graduated in 2005, Kibler performed in show choir and All-State Choir and in beauty pageants, winning the Miss Teen Southlake competition in 2004, Miss Southlake in 2005 and Miss White Settlement in 2006.

In 2005 and 2006, she won both the Miss Texas State Community Service Award and the Miss America State Community Service Award and is now in competition for the National Miss America Community Service Award. This honor is based on community service hours and leadership, among other criteria. The Miss Texas award is selected by a committee in Texas, and the Miss America award is selected by a scholarship committee hired by the Miss America Organization.

Kibler has also won awards for her work with the Lone Star Princesses, a mentoring program for 6- to 12-year-old girls. For a fee of $395 to the pageant organization, Lone Star Princesses receive a crown, T-shirts, pageant tickets and other perks, and they participate during the Miss Texas Pageant in Fort Worth. Most importantly, local pageant winners serve as mentors to the “princesses.” And that, says Judy Hartt of North Richland Hills, has proved very positive for her daughter, Autumn, 10, whom Kibler has mentored for two years.

Hartt said Kibler tries to pass along the self-esteem and confidence she has gained through competing in pageants. Autumn plans to compete for Miss Texas someday and has begun competing in youth pageants.

“The time and energy she devotes to those girls is awesome,” Hartt said of Kibler. “She wants to spend time with them and encourage them, and the girls really look up to her.”

Kibler even hosted a sleepover for her five girls in Kalpana Chawla Hall, where she was involved in Freshman Leaders on Campus (FLOC) last year and serves as a peer counselor this year.

KC Hall is one reason she became a Maverick. On her first trip to the Miss Texas Pageant, she placed in the top 10. Her awards included a $1,000 scholarship to UT Arlington. Though she hadn’t considered Arlington, the scholarship enticed her to check out the campus.

One visit and she made a U-turn like the day she discovered Reba McEntire. She was amazed, she said, at the beauty of the campus, the Honors College and the superior student housing.

“All of my family went to Baylor,” she said. “But we were blown away by the residence halls at UTA.”

While she hasn’t completely mapped out her future, she plans to complete her degree at UT Arlington and continue to sing at venues like Johnnie High’s Country Music Revue and compete for the Miss Texas title.

And keep up her crusade against cancer.

— Sue Stevens

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