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Mrs. New Mexico America 2020 contestant overcomes drug addiction

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Jacqueline Devine, Las Cruces Sun-News
Published 2:46 p.m. MT July 13, 2019

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LAS CRUCES – Growing up in the Deming area. Tara Escalante competed in fair and rodeo pageants and respected the law — she came from a family of law enforcers. 

But one day, when she was in her 20s, Escalante found herself on the wrong side of the law. She had been using drugs and was now in custody being questioned by an officer that knew her family.

“He said, ‘What are you doing here? This isn’t you, whats going on?'” Escalante recalls.

That’s the moment she cleaned up her act, she said.

In decade following, Escalante dropped the loser boyfriend and married a supportive husband; she followed in the footsteps of her grandfather and father in attaining a criminal justice degree; and she returned to pageantry. 

Now 35, Escalante holds the title of Mrs. Southwest New Mexico America 2020. 

She hopes her story can be one of inspiration for others battling drug abuse. She said if she can conquer her obstacles then anyone can. 

Pageantry 

Escalante, a 2002 Deming High graduate, describes herself as a loving military wife, farmer and rancher. She enjoys making jewelry, country western dancing, fishing, camping and rescuing animals.

She’s no stranger to pageants, having competed since she was a teenager. When she was in high school, Escalante competed in the Miss New Mexico Teen USA pageant.

“Pageants have always been kind of a hobby for me. It helps me get involved in my community to help others and I can have an impact,” Escalante said.

Nowadays, Escalante’s goal is to capture the Mrs. America crown.

She’s come close. In 2018, she was first runner-up in the Mrs. New Mexico America pageant. The winner goes on to compete at the national level; and that winner than competes globally.

Contestants in the Mrs. pageants are married and range in age from their 20s to 50s.

Escalante has been married for six years to her husband and biggest supporter, Jose Escalante. She said they would like to have a family one day. 

Overcoming adversity 

Escalante said she’s passionate about helping community members overcome adversity and the pageants can be a springboard toward that service.

“I want to show people that they can overcome it and keep at it if they just try,” she said.

Escalante said her drug addiction began when she was a young adult. Her drug of choice? Crystal meth, which she describes as “a deadly and silent destroyer of families.”

“At the time I had a significant other, he was the one using and that’s how I got involved. Having those negative influences was a gateway to my usage,” she said. 

It wasn’t until Escalante had a run-in with the law that she realized she needed to quit before she ruined her life, or worse, lost it. 

Escalante thanks her support system for helping her get out of that difficult situation. 

“Your support system can be a huge group benefactor to help you if you take time to meet with them one on one,” she said. “I did go to counseling as another support system for me. This is how I overcame it and some other resources that are available. My faith was the key to helping me to be successful and get out of that situation as well.”

Once she got away from those negative influences, Escalante enrolled in New Mexico State University and in 2011 earned her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and minor in psychology.

Seek help

Escalante said if you or a loved one is facing drug addiction there are several ways to get that support system.   

Mrs. New Mexico America

To follow Escalante’s pageant journey, visit Mrs. Southwest New Mexico America 2020 on Facebook or www.pageantplanet.com/profiles/tara-escalante. To help financially support Escalante, visit www.gofundme.com/f/mrs-new-mexico-america-2020

A date for the 2020 Mrs. New Mexico America competition has not yet been set, but will be held in Albuquerque sometime next spring. For information, visit www.mrsamerica.com or www.facebook.com/Mrs.NewMexico

Jacqueline Devine can be reached at 575-541-5476, JDevine@lcsun-news.com or @JackieIsDevine on Twitter.

More: NMSU student wins Miss New Mexico 2019 pageant

More: Miss New Mexico runner-up in Miss USA competition

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