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Illinois pageant winner empowers women

Crystal Cavey, Mrs. Illinois America 2016, addresses an audience during the Women’s Empowerment Banquet on Wednesday.
photo by Sammantha Dellaria

Members of the Bradley community gathered Wednesday to honor the successes of women through the first Women’s Empowerment Banquet in the Hayden-Clark Alumni Center.

The event was a collaboration of efforts from the Bradley colony Sigma Lambda Gamma and Women Who Empower. 

Joselin Saldana, the community service chair of Sigma Lambda Gamma, said the purpose of the event was to celebrate women.

“We had the idea since last semester to bring a women’s empowerment banquet to campus,” Saldana, a senior social work and Spanish double major, said. “I think it is important to empower other women, obviously, but also create a community where we support each other. So it is not just women, it is men and women coming together.”

The night included poem readings from members of Sigma Lambda Gamma to encourage a tone of confidence at the event. However, the main purpose of the evening was for keynote speaker Crystal Cavey to share her message.

Cavey, who is Mrs. Illinois America 2016 and placed in the top 15 in the Mrs. America pageant, said she has spent the past year traveling the country and speaking about the strength and abilities of women. 

“Through this journey, I inspire thousands of women across the globe to do more, be more, give more and lead more,” Cavey said. “[When I won the title of Mrs. Illinois], I knew God had given me the opportunity to change lives, and that’s exactly what I have done. So when given your opportunity, follow it.”

Cavey said she is the first person in her family to graduate from college and the first Puerto Rican woman to be named Mrs. Illinois, also making her the second latina to hold the title since the pageant’s inception in 1952. 

In addition to serving as Mrs. Illinois, Cavey founded Ladies of Leadership, an organization that has reached and empowered 10,000 members around the world to share their personal journeys.  

Cavey said she also works as a nationwide pageant coach and mentor, professional motivational speaker, a certified life coach and more. These titles and experiences demonstrate a long journey from her days as a student leader on Northern Illinois University’s campus, Cavey said. 

“Life has a way of change and putting you exactly where you belong if you work hard for it, draw up a plan and make it happen,” Cavey said. “I will tell you, nothing will fall into your lap. No matter how much you think it will.”

It was her time spent in Sigma Lambda Gamma at NIU that Cavey said allowed her to help her find herself as a person.

“I joined a multicultural sorority, which taught me about my culture,” Cavey said. “Coming from a mixed family, being half Puerto Rican and half Italian, I didn’t know a ton about my culture my whole life, so Sigma Lambda Gamma quickly taught me.” 

Members in attendance said they enjoyed Cavey’s message and felt they were able to identify with her experiences.

“I came because I wanted to support Sigma Lambda Gamma because I think they have done a really great job of boosting their presence on campus because they are very new,” Kamren Coutee, a junior management and leadership major, said. “[The event] exceeded all of my expectations. [It] was a lot more emotional than I thought it would be because I connected with her on so many different levels. It is amazing how someone so ordinary can do something extraordinary.”

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