ST. LOUIS – Catherine Bush, like many others, did not know that plus-size pageantry exists until she Googled it.

“I feel like people don’t know because it’s not known. Plus-size models and beauty queens are not known in Missouri,” she said. “And we need to get it out there. Being that every size is beautiful.”

Bush will be representing Missouri for Miss Plus America Pageant, which runs from June 27 to July 3.

She wants plus-sized pageants to be in Missouri since other states have them.

Bush, who has been modeling for two years, can remember when a man called her fat and laughed during her first casting call. She said she does not get discouraged when people criticize or comment about her weight.

“I like my body. God made me beautiful. So, I just keep my head up strong, knowing that I’m happy and they’re not going to steal my joy,” she said.

As a member of the healthcare field, Bush worked long, stressful hours when COVID hit in 2020. She applied for the pageant in 2021 to take a break from it all.

“I put an application; because you just can’t get accepted. You know and tell them about me. I mean, I am a mental health provider. That’s what I do. I’ve been doing it for the last 12 years,” said Bush.

After a series of interviews with the pageant directors and executives, Bush was accepted as a competitor six months later.

Bush received advice and help from the director of Miss USA, who helped find her a coach and prepared her for the interviews and pageant walk.

There is no director in Missouri for plus-size pageants, so Bush was happy that the director of Miss USA helped her. She said it was stressful practicing and preparing by herself.

Bush said when she called Miss USA and other pageants “the skinny girl pageant,” the director told her it was rude because there are no height or weight requirements to compete in those pageants.

“I didn’t know that, because in the beauty pageant world, they usually are skinny and tall. So, I assumed that they were, you know, just looking for skinny women,” she said.

Bush said pageantry is about sisterhood and more than just beauty; it’s about the service.

“So, I feel like if I win, it’s because of my personality and my service. Yes, I got my dress and I got my pants. I got all that ready. But I feel like it’s more to that,” she said. “You have to just show that you got it. You are happy. Your personality is up there, up high. Everything comes above being beautiful to me. That is nothing and anybody can put on makeup.”