Herriman teacher finds healing and hope through the Mrs. Utah America pageantJan 05, 2024 10:16AM ● By Peri Kinder
Mrs. Daybreak Amanda McCombs poses for her first Mrs. Utah America photo shoot. She credits the pageant with helping her work through trauma, loss and grief. (Photo courtesy of McCombs/Whitney Faith Media)
It took less than a year for Amanda McCombs’ life to turn upside down. Following a stressful winter where she processed past trauma, she developed a debilitating case of shingles in her sinuses in February 2023. Later that month, her mother and stepfather’s home in Idaho burned to the ground. Her mother lost her dog, her farm animals and her Steinway piano.
Six months after the fire, McCombs’ mother unexpectedly passed away, leaving the family devastated, and sending McCombs spiraling into depression. She recalls the last conversation she had with her mom when she talked about her job as a first grade teacher at Advantage Arts Academy in Herriman.
“I was so exhausted because it was the first week of school and I was sitting in the bathtub and telling her how hard it was to be working with all those cute little kids because they just suck all your energy out,” McCombs said. “She talked about how she wasn’t feeling very good and kept telling me to remember to take care of myself. And that was the last phone call I had with her. I had planned to go visit her that weekend. Instead, I ended up going to her funeral.”
McCombs said her physical and mental health continued to deteriorate. She couldn’t eat, she couldn’t sleep and she had no hope for what the future would hold. She would put on a happy face and pretend everything was okay, even when she was suffering.
But then, she received a surprising lifeline. Jessica Stelling, a local realtor and organizer with Mrs. Utah America, suggested that McCombs apply to be part of the pageant.
“She sent me the application and I don’t know if she knows it or not, but she might have saved my life,” McCombs said. “It’s been this healing journey. I have people supporting me, just incredibly supportive, and things are falling into place. She told me anyone with a voice should be a part of the pageant because it amplifies the voice you have.”
McCombs got word that she’ll represent her community as Mrs. Daybreak in the upcoming Mrs. Utah America pageant. To prepare for the pageant in March, McCombs hired a personal trainer, which she never would have done if it wasn’t for the competition. Moving her body and seeing its transformation has helped pull her out of her deep depression.
It’s also been a way for her to connect with her mother, who modeled and competed in pageants many years before McCombs was born. She’s working on her platform for the event which will be “Take care of yourself - Love, Mom.” It will include information about processing trauma and PTSD and valuing self-care.
McCombs said she’s not going to be quiet anymore and wants people to see they aren’t alone in their suffering or their pain, that it’s okay to ask for help.
“Since I started this pageant, there’s been this incredible community, it’s like us against the world,” she said. “We’re showing you can go through these things and still be a capable, amazing person. You can’t let it stop you.”
McCombs and her husband Leigh have a blended family with five children. They’ve lived in Daybreak since 2019. The Mrs. Utah America pageant will be held at Murray High School on March 22-23. For information, visit MrsUtahAmerica.com.
“We’re showing that it’s okay to be vulnerable,” she said. “Don’t wait to start setting goals for yourself and start making yourself better.” λ