Being crowned Mrs. Haiti International has been just the beginning for heart disease crusader Andrea Graham. Born in Port-au-Prince, Graham immigrated to New York City at 13. She’s not just a beauty pageant queen. She is a graduate business school graduate. She’s mom to four boys, wife to her husband Terrance, and an entrepreneur. She’s the founder of IndiMich, a personal development company that sells services and products to those wanting to advance themselves professionally. And to top it all off, she works for a well-known pharmaceutical company.
After losing her father to cardiac arrest in the mid-2000s, the health enthusiast seizes every opportunity to educate communities about high blood pressure, and living a healthy lifestyle in general. She is super-active where her community is concerned. She has been involved with such organizations, events and fundraisers as Toast to Hope, Go Red for Women Day, Silent No More Conference, Toys for Tots fundraiser, City Year Corps, the Susan G. Komen Foundation, MS Walk Big Brother Big Sisters, American Cancer society. The beauty queen has been a participant at Atlantic City Fashion Week, Mercedes Benz Fashion Show and was featured in Dr. OZ, The Happy Ever After Documentary, Bella Magazine, and Nouveauté magazine.
Kreyolicious:How did you learn about the Mrs. Haiti International?
ANDREA GRAHAM: A good friend attended the International Pageant shared with me and she met Miss Haiti International—who at the time was—Hermanie Pierre. She then suggested that I get a chance to meet Hermanie. For some reasons, when you are Haitian and someone meet another Haitian, they sometimes assume we know each other. I was considering going at large the following year since there were not a Mrs. Representative for Haiti. To my surprise, the international pageant has announced a new director. I always wanted to represent my birth country but 2015 was the year I competed in the Haiti pageant and accomplish my dream.
Kreyolicious: Can you take us through your pageant experience?
ANDREA GRAHAM: I am no stranger to pageantry, having previously competed in various systems throughout the Pennsylvania-Delaware-New Jersey corridor. I am honored to have been crowned Mrs. Haiti International 2015, Mrs. Pennsylvania America 2013, Ms. New Jersey East Coast as well as placing second runner up in Mrs. New Jersey United States. My goals are to remain promoting and educating the public on the importance of healthier living.
Kreyolicious: The singer Madonna once said in an interview that people were always calling her a whore, and this was while she was still a virgin. Have you ever been a victim of naysayers and vicious gossip?
ANDREA GRAHAM: I do not waste time with the naysayers. Madonna is an awesome performer-entertainer—but whatever you portrait your image to be—people are going to label you by the way you dress and carry yourself. That is just the nature of society. You can overcome it by knowing who you are. And when you are confident with who you are, it will not matter what people think of you.
Kreyolicious: What would you say to someone who’s going through that?
ANDREA GRAHAM: You have to be your own uniqueness of individual and rise above any naysayer or any negativity and keep pressing forward. I am a firm believer of self-image. If you portray yourself as classy and very lady, that is how people will remember and relate to you and that is what my parents have taught me and I will pass that along to my children. I’ve been blessed with great parents who have instilled confidence and self-respect.
Kreyolicious: How do you maintain your physical and mental self?
ANDREA GRAHAM: I maintain my physical and mental self by living a life of purpose. We all have a purpose and my mission is to live by example and to make this world a healthier place.
Above: Mrs. Haiti International Andrea Graham at an American Red Cross event, supporting a mission close to her heart.
Kreyolicious: Were you told you were beautiful growing up?
ANDREA GRAHAM: Growing up, my parents did not believe in outer beauty. They treated us like we were more than beauty and since my parents did not have a college degree. My parents always made sure we focus on education and they strongly believed beauty will shine once you are successful.
Posing with other Mrs. representatives, including the very kreyolicious Mrs. Brooklyn International/Mrs. New York Marjorie Vail.
Kreyolicious: A pageant win is considered to be a stepping stone by some. What should we expect from you at this point?
ANDREA GRAHAM: Yes, it is a stepping stone. However, I do not need pageantry to validate me. I have been very blessed and fortunate to know who I am. I am a Christian, a wonderful mother, an excellent wife and I’ve made some incredible friends and unforgettable memories. As far as expectations, I will continue to work and raise awareness about the silent killer—also known as high blood pressure and being very visible to my community where others will want to be part of the Haiti pageant.
Kreyolicious: What are some the lessons you’ve learned in life so far that you’d like to pass on to others because you don’t want them to learn them the hard way.
ANDREA GRAHAM: Michelle Obama once said on Black Girls Rock, “Challenges and Failures are necessary components of success”. I am the true example of that statement. When time gets rough and you fall, and fall again, you need to pick up yourself. Keep trying, and keep on moving forward. Ecclesiastes 9:11 states: “The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all”.