Busta’s Ladies of the Week: North Carolina pageant queen first Native American to hold title

Busta’s Ladies of the Week: North Carolina pageant queen first Native American to hold title
August 04
10:54 2022

On March 21, 2022, Aja Ivey celebrated being clean and sober from drugs and alcohol for five years. Now she’s on an amazing journey and there ain’t no stopping her now. 

This past January, Aja became Mrs. Fayetteville Plus America. On March 11, I was one of the judges at the Hawthorne Inn Conference Center in Winston-Salem, that witnessed Aja receiving her crown as the inaugural Mrs. N.C. Plus America. On July 2 the inaugural moments continued at the Omni Hotel in Houston, Texas. It was the first time in the history of the Miss Plus America pageant system that three N.C. Mrs. division delegates earned a spot as one of the top five in the finalist competition. 

N.C. Mrs. Plus America, Aja Ivey, was crowned as the first Native American to become Mrs. Plus America Elite. “I was in disbelief and amazement! When that robe was placed on my shoulders in front of all of my peers who were clapping and genuinely happy for me … it was breathtaking and humbling,” said an emotional Aja. 

Mrs. Plus America Elite is the NATIONAL title, and it is awarded to the queen with the highest score in the entire pageant. The wife and mother of one is beautiful both inside and out. 

Because of her unwavering faith in God, she gives of herself without expectations. Aja runs two charities in Robeson County, North Carolina, and also hosts events for the homeless and victims of addiction. “I collect gifts for children stranded in the hospital every Christmas holiday. After winning the Elite title, I have decided I just need to do more. So, I’m challenging myself to have a community service event every single month.”

I personally love pageants and fashion shows that spotlight plus-size women. Yet, I believe it’s time for all pageants such as Miss America, Miss USA, etc., to take the focus off the body and face and focus solely on the woman. I asked Aja to share her thoughts as well. “A lot of amazing people that are making a huge difference in their communities are over-shadowed and ignored because of looks. Some people feel that because we’re plus-sized women, we don’t take care of ourselves. The truth is we take great care of ourselves. We’re not celebrating obesity or large women. We’re celebrating the capabilities of a plus-size woman.”

As a young lady, Aja developed an eating disorder due to insecurities. “I used to believe if I was bigger than a size 6, I was too fat and ugly. But now I have more confidence about who I am than I did 20 years ago,” shared the beautiful reigning Mrs. Plus America Elite 2022-2023.

“A lot of the other delegates in the pageant focus on health and wellness, because that is a top priority for us as well. We are women that are just as beautiful and do extraordinary things as well,” shared Shamale H. Crawford. She added, “Last week during church service, they made an announcement about my reign as Mrs. N.C. Plus America. After service this lady stopped me and said, ‘You do that?’ I said yes. I told her I’m also a mom, a wife, and manager for one of the top 50 leading corporations in the country. So yes, I do all of that.” 

While Shamale was speaking, I sat in awe of her confidence and resilience. Yet, I was heartbroken about how the media continues to control the narrative of how beautiful and handsome is supposed to look. But it doesn’t control Aja nor Shamale. You go ladies! Shamale Crawford is the 1st place runner up and People’s Choice winner in the 2022 Miss Plus America Pageant. This Saturday, August 6, during an intimate ceremony, Shamale will be crowned as the new 2022 Mrs. N.C. Plus America.

I would be remiss not to mention N.C. Plus America Pageant Executive Director Dr. Stephanie B Hurt. She fought long and hard to bring the inaugural N.C. Plus America Pageant to Winston-Salem. “With this being the City of Arts, it made sense to start it here. I wanted to make sure I did it successfully, because there were no conversations about this plus-sized system in North Carolina. I work with a lot of beautiful plus-size women in my plays, who have platforms, doing amazing things, and they need to be noticed. They have advocacies because of their triumphs in certain areas. That’s the purpose of the crowns,” said Dr. Hurt. 

The N.C. Plus America registration is now open for the 2023 pageant season Aug. 1 – Dec. 15, 2022. For more information on how to register, visit the website at 

My phenomenal Ladies of the Week are Aja Ivey, Mrs. Plus America Elite 2022-23, Mrs. N.C. Plus America 2022-23, and Dr. Stephanie B Hurt, N.C. Plus America Pageant executive director.

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