On Saturday, January 6, 2018, REALTOR® and HAR member Logan Lester was crowned as Miss Texas USA 2018. Some might brush this achievement aside as “just a beauty pageant,” but for Lester, it has been a long journey to self-confidence and self-awareness, and one that has helped shape her career in real estate.

Houston REALTOR®: This wasn’t your first time competing for Miss Texas USA. How many times have you competed before and what do you think was different this time?

Logan Lester: This was actually my fourth attempt competing for Miss Texas USA. The first time I went in, I was the third runner-up. I just approached that as an opportunity to have fun and to see if I could even hang with the older girls. To my surprise, I made it up there. Then, the next year, I was a semifinalist in the top 15. Last year, in my third attempt as Miss Houston, I was in the top 15 as well. This year, obviously, I went in as my fourth time and I won.

I’ve done a lot of reflection on what the difference was. I knew going into it how I was different, but I didn’t know if that would pay off. Honestly, that hotel is like a home away from home for me. The Miss Texas USA pageant is held at the Hilton Houston Post Oak, which is also where the Miss Houston pageant is held each year. I walked through the doors and everything just felt different this year. I look back on my life and so much has changed with me. I’ve graduated college. I’m established in my career now. I live on my own away from my parents. I think that financial stability that I have within myself… I know that I’m a woman. I have a career and take care of myself. That kind of gave me some extra confidence.

HR: You needed some confidence because how many women competed for Miss Texas USA this year?

LL: Ninety-eight women competed, many of whom I have known for years and consider friends. Texas is one of the largest state pageants in the country.

This year, I went in as Miss Harris County. I didn’t have any required people I had to work with or opinions I had to listen to like I did in prior years. In the previous pageants, I had different sponsors and different opinions and different people who were relying on me, so that put a lot of pressure on me. Really, the only person I had to make proud was myself this time. I think going into it this time it was just very authentically me. I chose my own gown. My interview outfit, whether people agreed I should wear it or not, I wore it because I liked it.

HR: Those seem to have been a good choices…

LL: Fortunately, yes. Same thing with my mentality. I went in and had to be really mentally tough, and so for months in advance I started doing visualization and meditation, which is something I’ve never done before. But I would visualize the weekend from the very beginning—walking in to orientation and putting on my Miss Harris County sash, going through rehearsals, prelims, performing in swimsuit, evening gown. I visualized every single moment, so when I was doing it, it just felt like deja vu and very natural. I didn’t have to think twice because I had thought about how I would smile and walk and pose. I even imagined, crazy enough, being crowned Miss Texas USA. I imagined the crown on my head and the sash and what that would feel like and where I would put it in my room the next day. I had to convince myself because I thought if I don’t believe in myself, then how will I convince the judges to believe in me. That was very different for me this year. I wasn’t going to let any naysayer or anyone who might have doubted me. I wasn’t going to let that stop me from believing in myself.

HR: Since we are actually friends in real life, I know that we had discussions about you not going for Miss Texas USA again and ending your pageant career. What changed and made you decide to try one more time?

LL: That’s very true. I was pretty much done. I wasn’t going to compete. I just thought I had a good run and that pageants had done all that they were going to do for me, and I was satisfied. Then, I went to Miss USA 2017 to cheer on Miss Texas USA 2017 Nancy Gonzalez, and I was re-inspired. I reestablished my vision and my purpose of why I wanted to compete, so I decided to go for it. I’m glad I did.

HR: Clearly, it was a good decision.

LL: Then, there was the halt of Hurricane Harvey because the pageant was originally scheduled for Labor Day weekend, which was right after the hurricane hit Texas. All of us girls were texting each other talking about when we thought it would be because we had all been preparing mentally and physically. We thought it might be a week or two later, and then we received the email about a week later saying January 5 and 6, 2018.

HR: That’s a long time to wait. Since, as you mentioned, it took you four times before you were crowned Miss Texas USA, what has that taught you about perseverance, and does that translate to your real estate career?

LL: It definitely translates to my career. One of the qualities that serves me well that my parents instilled in me is determination. My dad always said, “It’s always a no unless you try or you ask.” So many things in my life…you know, when I was in high school, I tried really hard to get on the varsity track team. I didn’t make it the first year, but I tried really hard until I made it. Same thing in college. I didn’t make it into the exact school I wanted to, my first semester, so I worked really hard to make a 4.0 until I got into the school I wanted. The same thing in real estate. I hear “no” every single day, but if I sat back and said, “Woe is me” and make myself the victim, that won’t get you anywhere. So I think determination has really served me well, and it motivates me. Same thing with Miss Texas USA. I was re-inspired at Miss USA 2017 and revisited my purpose and why I wanted to compete and why I even wanted to do this in the first place. That sort of balanced my thought process and got me excited to say, “You know, I’m not going to give up on this yet.” There’s a reason God put this dream in my heart, so I’m going to keep pursuing it until it’s no longer in my heart. I knew it was still there. I didn’t want to take the easy way out to just finish and settle. I think it was worth it to me to just try one more time to just see what would happen.

HR: And what was that original reason you got involved with pageants?

LL: There are several reasons, but I think one of the main reasons I got into pageantry was for the service. I have always been extremely servant-hearted, but I’ve realized as I’ve gotten older that there is so much substance and depth that has to be there in someone like Miss Texas USA. You know, I’m still the same person whether I am Miss Texas USA or just Logan Lester. But with a title like Miss Texas USA, you have a bigger voice and stage to represent what you are all about and how you can help others. My goal this year is to try my best to make the next eight months—because I only have eight months as Miss Texas USA—not about me but make it about other people. Make it about the precious kids I like to spend time with at the Ronald McDonald House, or…

HR: I saw that they just posted a congratulatory message to you on Facebook…

LL: Yes, they did. It was so sweet. I want to get in classrooms and auditoriums and talk to kids about self-esteem and accepting themselves and being nice to others. I think that’s something that makes me relatable to a lot of people. Despite what I may look like or what you might think about me by just looking at me, I have a lot of scars that I carry. I think that makes me relatable because I have a lot of experiences that I could kind of get on the level with children but also adults.

HR: Again, since we are friends, I know you were bullied when you were younger.

LL: Yes, I graduated from high school in three years because I didn’t have a favorable experience. I was picked on. I think the word bullying is used so much that it almost doesn’t mean as much anymore. But I went through some really hard times in high school…so much so that I left early. I knew I wanted to make it my social responsibility after that to spread kindness and acceptance of all kinds of people.

HR: “Because Nice Matters…”

LL: Exactly. And that’s my life motto: “Because Nice Matters.” It’s not necessarily about just always being nice. More so about making people feel like they matter. Because nice can be translated into a fakeness, but that’s not what I mean by that. I mean it in a way that you can do something so simple and genuine by smiling at someone or saying hello to them and making them feel important—like they matter. I can change their whole day or their whole perspective. You never know what people might be going through. That’s something I would like to remind the state of Texas and the whole world. We all matter, and we all have a purpose. Whatever dream is inside your heart or goal or whatever adversity or challenging time you have gone through, you can overcome it because I’m living proof of that. So just never give up on yourself.

HR: The world would probably be a much better place if people were just nice to each other. I would solve a lot of the problems that exist.

LL: Exactly. It really would.

HR: So what does being Miss Texas USA 2018 mean to you?

LL: Wow. That’s actually a hard one. It’s really hard to put into words. I think I’m still processing it. When you work so hard for something for so many years. Because before I did Miss Texas USA, I competed in Miss Texas Teen…

HR: And it is work. People don’t understand how much goes into it.

LL: Yes, when people ask me, “Why do you do pageants?” or “Why are they even relevant?,” I just tell them about the work I did as Miss Houston. I tell them about working with so many different organizations that you really do make a difference. I have received letters and emails from moms and parents thanking me for my time helping their children with whatever it was. For me, it was an appearance. I go and spend some time with these precious kids, but to them that’s everything. That’s what the perspective is all about.

On top of that, I always encourage young ladies to get involved in pageantry. It changed my life. It really did. At 15 years old, I’m not the same Logan that I was then. I have the same heart, but the confidence wasn’t there. I didn’t know how to put myself together. Pageants have given me the tools, not just to compete at Miss USA and then Miss Universe, if I’m successful there, but these are tools I can translate into my day-to-day life. I think that’s why being a REALTOR® and passing out my business card is easy for me. Interviewing or just talking to strangers is easy because I have learned those skills preparing for pageantry and Miss Texas and Miss Houston. I’m still Logan…just with a title now.

HR: What does being a REALTOR® mean to you?

LL: It means a lot to me. Growing up, I never really knew exactly what I wanted to do. It wasn’t until high school when my parents sold their house. I’ve known Lizz and Chris [Sansone] for a long time, but that’s where we sort of connected. I didn’t understand the home buying process. I was about 15 or 16 years old. I didn’t know what all was involved, but it made me curious. I started interning for Lizz and Chris and learning the business.

I think that being a REALTOR® is really exciting because you can help educate so many people. Buying a house is one of the biggest things you’ll ever do in your life. People aren’t buying or selling a house every day, so the fact that I get to be an educator to first-time homebuyers or help people in tough situations is amazing. Most recently, it has been so special using my career, and I think a lot of REALTORS® can relate to this in Houston. After Harvey, I had so many clients asking me for help like where to get FEMA information, being the source for the source, or I need a contractor because my house had two feet of water in it. I had the expertise and the knowledge to help people.

That’s what makes being a REALTOR® so special. It’s relational, and it’s about the people. That’s how my heart is, so I just love helping people. The fact that every single day I get to help people, even if it is just educating them about some small thing. That goes a long way with people. I think that’s my favorite part. Handing the keys over to people and seeing their faces light up. Because they don’t know everything that goes on behind the scenes, and it isn’t always great. Sometimes transactions are crazy. But for the most part, it is great.

HR: You became a REALTOR® right out of college after graduating from Texas A&M University, which is relatively uncommon to happen. Why did you choose real estate?

LL: I did all of my education while in college because Texas A&M doesn’t have a residential real estate program. It does have a commercial real estate master’s program but not a residential one. Once I started doing it, I knew I loved it. I would work for the Sansones during the summers and shadow them. Lizz and Chris Sansone are amazing, impeccable REALTORS®. I’m really lucky I get to work with them. They’ve taught me pretty much everything I know about real estate. They are all about education, and I think that’s extremely important.

Because I was 21 years old when I got my license, sometimes prospects or buyers look at you and say, “Well, you are pretty young, so why should I let you help me with this transaction?” I like to prove that I’m worthy of representing them just by what I know and educating myself. I made sure I was educated so that I could provide quality service because that’s what the clients expect and deserve.

Knowing your market and knowing the contracts can get you a long way no matter how old you are. I haven’t let being young stop me though and have tried to turn it into as asset.

Logan Lester is a REALTOR® on the Sansone Team at RE/MAX Fine Properties. She was also a 2017 HAR 20 Under 40 Rising Stars in Real Estate honoree. She will compete for Miss USA 2018 in May/June 2018 (date has yet to be announced) in Las Vegas. The pageant will be broadcast nationally on Fox.