Pick a volunteer organization to support. Wellness is about body, mind, and soul. Giving back can bring peace and value to your life and connect you to others who believe in similar causes! Volunteer to walk dogs at your local shelter, deliver meals on wheels, get involved in a restoration project, or be a mentor to a child in need.
For my series on strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Libby Hill, Miss Earth USA.
Libby holds a Bachelor of Science in Human Biology and is pursuing a second degree in Nutritional Sciences/Dietetics at the University of Texas at Austin, where she is currently completing her dietetic internship. As a certified personal trainer and future registered dietitian, she plans to establish a private nutritional counseling practice with the mission to educate others on health, body kindness, and sustainable food sourcing practices. Libby is the reigning Miss Earth USA and is using the title to promote her platform of coastal preservation and educate future generations about the importance of sustainability by partnering with organizations that focus on environmental advocacy, animal welfare, and veteran communities.
Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
I actually didn’t grow up competing in pageants! In high school I was a competitive dancer and ran the school television station. After receiving my first degree in human biology, I went to work in psychiatric direct care and neurological research, which showed me the importance of preventative care. After recovering from an eating disorder, I decided to return to school to become a registered dietitian and help others find peace with their bodies and eat to support their long-term health. At that time, I was working as a math and science tutor when one of my clients encouraged me to take a shot at the Miss Texas USA title. I decided to compete, placed top 15, and absolutely fell in love with pageantry. From there, I did my research and found out about the Miss Earth pageant. I’ve always loved working in nature, camping, animals, and learning about environmental science. Additionally, my mom raised us to practice sustainability so the system immediately felt like home.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your reign as Miss Earth USA? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?
We’re all in novel times with the COVID-19 pandemic, but I found myself on a pageant trip to Hawaii for service and media tours in the midst of the escalating panic. I ended up cutting my trip short in order to get home before things worsened but it certainly changed the whole trajectory of my reign. Suddenly all of the trips, appearances, events, and restoration work I had lined up for the next few months came to a halt and I had to figure out how to make my reign meaningful without ever leaving my house. I shifted my focus to education — speaking on podcasts and remote media appearances on sustainability and climate change. I turned some service projects virtual, and used social media to share how to support the planet from home. My main takeaway is that your reign is what you make of it and queens don’t quit when things get tough. No matter your circumstances, you can have an impact if you’re flexible and committed.
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The biggest mistake I made when starting pageants was trying to tease my own hair. Y’all, I was NOT qualified. In all honesty, I’ve made a million little mistakes along the way from tripping over my shoes to giving a less-than-perfect response during the interview. Of course, the details matter — but your reaction to unexpected or imperfect situations is one of the most important things a queen can develop. As a titleholder, you don’t know what interview question is going to be thrown at you on live television, how the weather will play out during an appearance, or how slippery a runway may be, but no matter what, hold your head high. I learned it’s okay to laugh at yourself when things don’t go perfectly, but never lose confidence in yourself and always learn from your mistakes.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My greatest supporters have always been my family members, especially my parents. I came to them with the idea to compete in a pageant, and their first reaction was to rally behind me and get involved in every step from dress fittings to community service projects. One of the biggest reasons I loved competing is because it unexpectedly provided more common ground with my 6’3” former football-playing, criminal prosecutor brother — who could not only quote the regulation heel height for an on-stage event, but what section and paragraph it came from in the rule book (true story). Pageants show you who is on your team through all the stress of preparation, and who cheers the loudest for you, win or lose.
When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
Our environment is closely tied to our health, so in many ways the better we do for the planet, the better we do for ourselves. I’d like to hope that everyone imagines living in a world with access to nature, wildlife, clean air, and a stable climate that doesn’t lend to magnified natural disasters. The coastal restoration work I’ve done focuses on keeping the coastlands free of litter and protected from erosion, supports water quality, and maintains habitats for wildlife. I love that these projects get people immersed into the environment we’re trying to save and get fresh air and physical exercise! While I’m landlocked in Austin for school, I have started developing sustainable recipes that are easy, diverse, seasonal, and provide educational tips on nutrition and sustainability. These recipes focus on using every part of a food item to reduce waste and working with local produce and sustainable protein. The fewer greenhouse gasses we emit through the food production and supply chain and the wasting of food, the slower climate change will progress.
Can you share your top five“lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.
- See what you can add to your diet instead of what you can restrict. It’s much easier to try to add fresh fruits and vegetables or glasses of water to your routine than it is to start restricting all the things you love. Chances are, if you add these three things into your lifestyle you’ll start to feel better and be inspired to continue to make positive choices on what you put in your body.
- Practice joyful movement. Stop comparing your workout routine to your friend, your trainer, or anyone on social media! Each body is built differently and wants to move differently. You don’t have to be a runner or a weightlifter to be fit — you can go salsa dancing or do yoga, or hike. If it makes you happy, you’ll show up; and the only exercise program that works long term is one you stick to.
- Set a morning routine. Structure is key in the morning, because it sets the tone for the whole day. I start my morning by waking up with enough time to make tea and breakfast, catch up on social media, review my calendar, and set a to-do list so I feel relaxed and prepared for all to come.
- Pick a volunteer organization to support. Wellness is about body, mind, and soul. Giving back can bring peace and value to your life and connect you to others who believe in similar causes! Volunteer to walk dogs at your local shelter, deliver meals on wheels, get involved in a restoration project, or be a mentor to a child in need.
- Find a creative outlet. Whether it’s painting, dancing, crafting, singing, or just reading a good book, it’s important to unplug from social media and let your mind wander and create every now and then.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I would start a movement called “The Best is Your Best” to encourage others to personalize their self-care routines. Wellness goals can feel overwhelming at first, and it can be defeating when our goals are set unrealistically high for a beginner or we don’t have the tools or knowledge base to follow through. Wellness is really a personal experience, and respecting what you need and what you are capable of at a certain point in time is far more important than keeping up with the picture society paints of self-care. You don’t have to do yoga daily, be perfectly vegan, and squeeze in that 12-step skincare routine each morning to feel well. My biggest advice is do the best you can with the time you have and don’t be afraid to lean on others or even say “no” every now and then. Taking a step back and accepting “your best” can bring more peace and more change in the long run than chasing “the best.”
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
Wow, I could write a paper on each of these topics and their interplay, but if I must pick, I would say sustainability. I think it’s better to focus on things we can control day to day, instead of the environmental changes that can feel distant and overwhelming. Living sustainably helps to slow the progress of environmental changes, and in my opinion, actually simplifies life. You become more conscious of what products and chemicals you’re using, where the food you’re putting in your body came from, how much trash you’re generating, and how much you’re on the road! Little changes add up to a big impact if we all take part, so start recycling, say no to plastics, turn off the lights and AC when you leave the house, support local business, try out a farm-to-table restaurant, and feel good about your choices and what they’re doing for the planet. The action we take today determines the state of the world our children will inherit.
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